Ed committee supports Behning's bill empowering more Hoosier families to exercise school choice

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Thursday, February 4, 2021 8:58 am

STATEHOUSE (Feb 4, 2021) – The House Education Committee on Wednesday advanced State Rep. Bob Behning's (R-Indianapolis) legislation that would put more Hoosier families in control of their child's education.

After authoring the 2011 law establishing Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program helping students from low-income families attend an accredited nonpublic school that best meets their academic, medical or social needs, Behning is now working to expand eligibility so more students can excel. 

"We have excellent schools across the state, but it is nearly impossible for them to meet every unique need of every child," said Behning, chair of the House Education Committee. "Because the pandemic has changed how some students attend class, parents began considering other options to educate their students. Many Hoosier families already enjoy the flexibilities of Indiana's school choice program, but there is still a large group shut out of these opportunities."  

Currently, students who attend accredited nonpublic schools can apply for a choice scholarship and be eligible to receive up to 90 percent of their tuition funding. According to Behning, a family's income determines the amount a student receives, so some could receive as low as 50 percent. He said a family of four with an income less than $70,000 could be excluded from valuable educational opportunities. His proposal would eliminate financial barriers by providing 90 percent tuition support for every qualifying family and increasing the income threshold.

"A child's success should not be dictated by their family's income," Behning said. "When we started looking at the current eligibility requirements, we found a lot of hardworking families still could not send their child to the school of their choice. For example, a student whose parents are a bus driver and an auto mechanic, each making under $35,000, would not qualify for a scholarship."  

Behning's bill would also establish the Indiana Education Scholarship Account, which would provide eligible families funding to directly pay for tuition or education-related expenses at an Indiana school. Under current law, education funding and payments are disbursed to schools by the state on behalf of families, and his legislation would put qualifying families in control of these funds, which would be monitored by the state treasurer's office. Eligible students would include those with disabilities, those with parents serving in the military and those in foster care.

House Bill 1005 will now be further vetted by the House Ways and Means Committee. Visit iga.in.gov for more information and to watch legislative hearings online.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 91,
which includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

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