Constitutionally enshrined schools deserve our ongoing protection | Columns

In his letter to the editor on Jan. 14, William Dotterweich stated that The Journal Gazette has an anti-religious bias because the editorial board is against the Indiana voucher program. Obviously, he sees no problem in using public money for religious institutions.

He also stated that the teachers’ union wants a public school monopoly. Public schools are not a monopoly any more than our local police department is a monopoly in comparison to a private security company.

The public teachers’ union is just trying to save public schools from ruin by inadequate funding. No one is saying public and private schools cannot coexist.

It is clear that Dotterweich misunderstands why The Journal Gazette continues its long-standing position. I take that same position in my belief that the Indiana school voucher system is biased against the Indiana taxpayer. I believe that in 2011 the Indiana Supreme Court was incorrect in allowing taxpayer money to support private, for-profit and parochial schools through the voucher system.

The Indiana Constitution of 1816 states:

“Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement, and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.” (Article 8, Section 1)

“No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.” (Article 1, Section 4)

“No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” (Article 1, Section 6)

I have no problem with parents choosing which school their children attend. They have the right to send their children to the school of their choice, be that public or private. I willingly pay taxes to support public school education.

However, I vehemently object that my taxes also are providing vouchers to pay for non-public schools. Every dime that goes to the non-public schools takes money away from education for public schools. At the expense of public schools, taxpayers are paying for a multi-education system instead of the one system, open to all, established by our Indiana Constitution.

I also want to remind Dotterweich what a poor job our Indiana legislature has done in maintaining standards in some of those institutions (for-profit charters).

In February 2020 the Associated Press reported: “The State Board of Accounts review found the Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy [two Indiana online charter schools] wrongly received $68.7 million in state payments by improperly claiming about 14,000 students as enrolled between 2011 and 2019, even though they had no online course activity.” 

So while the Indiana legislature was continuing to restrict public schools through micromanaging those institutions, lawmakers neglected to protect your tax money going to privately operated voucher schools.

Unlike Dotterweich, I believe the public school union and The Journal Gazette are trying to protect both our public school teachers and their students.

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