This letter is written by the Warsaw Community Schools Board of Trustees. We are so proud of Warsaw Community Schools and all that has been accomplished in our 176-year history. After the most recent year of 2020, we are reminded of the importance and value of our schools. This value is seen in extraordinary in-person education, social emotional well-being, physical health, and extra-curricular activities (as participants and spectators.) Not only did WCS open our doors, we have kept them open for our kids and our community. With all of this to celebrate, we are deeply troubled with events at the Statehouse in Indianapolis last week.
Last week, a key bill passed out of the Indiana House Education Committee to be heard on the floor. Two similar bills are pending in the Senate Education and Career Development Committee. As introduced, House Bill 1005 will cost more than $200 million over the next two years, consuming most of the $227 million increase in education funding proposed by the governor. This $202 million will be diverted to private, unregulated and DIY (do it yourself) educational options like parent pods and micro-schools. Over 90% of Indiana’s children attend public schools and less than 10% attend private schools, yet this legislation allows for the smaller group to receive the larger increase in funds.
This is not about school choice. Parents have always had the ability to choose the type of schooling for their children in Indiana. This issue is about how we fund our schools and taxpayer accountability (private and unregulated home schools do not have to report their expenditures of public funds nor do they need to employ licensed teachers.)
All of these bills will have an immediate and profound financial impact on our schools. Specifically, we would like to highlight several key provisions included in the House and Senate bills. The Education Savings Account (ESAs) program in HB 1005 will provide parents who opt out of public schools with a taxpayer-funded debit card loaded with an estimated $5,000 to $7,000 to spend however they want on a private school, home school, tutoring or other private education services. HB 1005 would also allow more families to receive vouchers to send their children to private school, with voucher eligibility expanded to include a family of four earning $145,000 and a family of five earning $170,000. (The state’s median family income is $75,000.)
As introduced, Senate Bill 412 calls ESAs “Personalized Educations Grants” (PEGs) and appropriates an additional $11 million to the Indiana Treasurer to manage and market the program. It is important for all to understand that within these ESA/PEG and voucher programs, the taxpayers of Warsaw Community Schools and Kosciusko County also have to support someone living in Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis or any other town outside of the county, who chooses to send their child to a private school. This further dilutes the available amount for public schools, including our own.
Indiana just completed a pay study for teachers which finds Indiana teachers are below the average in pay (ranked 38th in the country and last when compared to bordering states.) Since resources are already scarce, why would these bills be the priority of both the House and Senate in Indianapolis? Who are Indiana representatives and senators serving? These bills hurt Warsaw Community Schools and our entire community.
Our representatives need to hear from you. Let’s recognize the importance of schools to this great community of ours. Encourage Representative Curt Nisly, Representative Craig Snow and Senator Ryan Mishler to courageously act in our students’, teachers’, and community’s best interests. Call, e-mail or write to tell them to please vote “no” on HB 1005 and SB 412 and 413. We need your voice.
With gratitude for your support,
Warsaw Community Schools’ Board of Trustees
Heather Reichenbach, President
Randy Polston, Vice-President
Jeremy Mullins, Secretary