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Indiana Legislation to Support Vouchers on the Move

The Indiana House of Representatives has given its blessing to a sweeping voucher measure, which is being billed as an attempt to create the most ambitious program of its kind in the country.

What makes the measure so far-reaching?

Most voucher programs in existence today set relatively restrictive eligibility requirements that target the flow of public money for private school tuition to needy students and families. The Indiana legislation, in contrast, would give a relatively wide range of participants access to taxpayer money for private schools—potentially opening the program up to middle-class applicants. It is sponsored by Republicans, who control both legislative chambers in Hoosierland.

For instance, while the program is set on an income scale, families with incomes of up to about $60,000 would qualify to receive state money. During the first year of the program, 7,500 scholarships would be provided through the programs, and 15,000 would be provided after that. Students in 1st grade through 8th grade would be eligible for awards of up to $4,500 per year, and for older students could receive 90 percent of the per-student home school corporation state tuition support. Kindergarten students are not eligible.

"The goal is to make sure as many kids as possible get choice," said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice, which backs the measure.

His group said the Indiana bill, if it took effect, would become "the nation's broadest voucher program."

In recent months, Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott caused a stir by voicing support for the idea of vastly expanding eligibility for vouchers in his state, long a laboratory for school choice. But that measure has appeared to have not gained much momentum.

Does the Indiana measure have better odds? We'll soon find out. It now moves to the state Senate.

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