INDIANAPOLIS– Extra revenue is expected to come to Indiana.
On Thursday, lawmakers announced they’ll have $2 billion more to work with in this budget. Indiana education advocates are already requesting a portion of that money.
The majority of lawmakers wish to expand the school voucher program but there are some on both sides pushing against that idea.
“We continue in this building to pick winners and losers in education and it’s frustrating,” said Republican State Sen. Ron Alting.
“This is the time to act right now,” said Democratic State Sen. Eddie Melton. “There’s no excuse, we have the support of the federal government. We can’t allow that to push us back saying we should not invest as a state in our own k-12 system.”
So far— lawmakers in both the house and senate have proposed budgets to expand school voucher programs. Families making six-figures in the house version can get money from the state to send their kids to private school.
“Look at our public school facilities. Their infrastructures are crumbling, we haven’t given a teacher a pay raise in 100 years, we just keep going around that by putting hundreds of millions into vouchers,” said Alting.
He said that’s wrong. He’s for school choice but believes people making above the average income have a choice and that’s writing a check for private school. He said that’s what he did when he sent his own children to a faith-based private institution.
“I wrote the check, I didn’t make $150,000 but I was proud to write the check because that’s what she [his wife] wanted to do, she was a woman of faith, I was a man of faith and that falls in the best interest of my children,” said Alting. “We act like we are punishing the upper middle class or the wealthy. We are not punishing them we are just trying to use our taxpayer dollars in a conservative way to make sure that we are not forgetting the forgotten ones, the 93 percent that’s left behind that we are trying to educate in our public schools.”
He said teacher pay should be a focus this session. Alting said it makes him sick that teachers in Indiana have to get two jobs to make ends meet.
“You go for dinner that night and the teacher that’s teaching your son or daughter in first grade is waiting tables at Red Lobster. I’ve experienced that to the extent that I can’t eat my dinner,” said Alting.
The Indiana State Teachers Association wants $600 million for teacher compensation.
“The current budget falls well short of this goal. With this new revenue forecast Indiana is now well positioned to go big on K-12 funding and do what is best for our schools, educators and students,” said ISTA President Keith Gambill.
When asked about whether new money will go to education, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray didn’t say no.
“Our priorities are our priorities, they’re not going to change,” said Bray. “Making smart strategic investments. Schools are 50% of the budget so that’s going to be part of the conversation.”
Lawmakers will continue debating education funding and how to spend the extra revenue until a decision is reached sometime next week.