Hoosier School Reform Daddy?: Voucher Plan Advances, Bargaining Bill Signed

Just to be clear up front, I’m not necessarily implying any sort of superiority from the Hoosier State. Not at all. It’s far more about having a little Friday fun with puns. After all, it’s fun to revel in the news from the Foundation for Educational Choice:

The Indiana Senate today passed legislation that would create the nation’s broadest school voucher program, allowing low- and middle-income families to use taxpayer funds to send their children to the private school of their choice.

House Bill 1003, which was approved by the Senate in a 28-22 vote, would create a new scholarship program enabling families to send their children to the private school of their choice. Scholarship amounts are determined on a sliding scale based on income, with families receiving up to 90 percent of state support.

Having the full support of Governor Mitch Daniels and now having passed both houses, the voucher program is sure to become law in Indiana. But HB 1003 has to return to the House first to iron out details. The Foundation explains that the Senate added a “$1,000 tax deduction for private and homeschool expenses” available to all families regardless of income. If that piece survives the conference, then it’s an even bigger victory for parental choice and educational freedom.

The Indiana Senate’s approval of the broad school choice plan comes only one day after Gov. Daniels signed into law a measure that restricts school collective bargaining “to salary and wage-related benefits.” As the Education Action Group‘s Steve Gunn explained in a new email blast, union leaders in numerous Indiana school districts agreed to cost-saving concessions before the bill went into immediate effect:

A very good case study is the Taylor district, where next year’s projected budget deficit of roughly 1.5 million may have forced teacher layoffs and the loss of student programs.

But the local union, faced with the sunset of collective bargaining, suddenly accepted a 2.5 percent salary cut for 2011-12, a salary freeze for the following year, and a suspension of automatic step raises for teachers.

Arizona and Florida are two states that have been pushing hard for the mantle of 2011 education reform leader. Say what you will, Indiana is making its own case to win this year’s crown.