Lauer: Bill expanding school choice opportunities moves forward

Posted by: Abrahm Hurt  | Thursday, February 18, 2021

STATEHOUSE (Feb. 18, 2021) – The Indiana House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to advance legislation co-authored by State Rep. Ryan Lauer (R-Columbus) that would provide more families the freedom and flexibility to send their child to a school that best meets their needs.

The proposal would build on a 2011 law establishing Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program. In Indiana, education funding follows the child. Lauer said this enables students to attend a school that best meets their academic, medical or social needs, whether it's a traditional public school, public charter school, virtual school or nonpublic school.

"Families should have access to school choice to make the best decision for their children's education," Lauer said. "This bill will empower parents to pursue the school options that meet their child's needs, and it will also provide direct funding for tuition or education-related services for eligible young Hoosiers who require special education, have parents who are active duty military members, and those who are in foster care."

The state's choice scholarship program helps students from low-income families attend an accredited nonpublic school, and Lauer said the bill this year would eliminate financial barriers by providing 90 percent tuition support for every qualifying family and increasing the income threshold.

Under current law, students can apply for a choice scholarship and be eligible to receive up to 90 percent of their tuition funding to attend an accredited nonpublic school. Scholarship amounts are based on a family's income, so some could receive as low as 50 percent. According to Lauer, a family of four with an income of less than $70,000 may not currently qualify for a choice scholarship at all. Lauer said many families who do receive a partial scholarship may not be able to make up the rest of the cost.

Lauer said the legislation 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. Education funding and payments are currently disbursed to schools by the state on behalf of families, and the 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 can now be considered by the Indiana Senate. Visit iga.in.gov for more information and to watch legislative hearings online.

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State Rep. Ryan Lauer (R-Columbus) represents House District 59,
which includes portions of Bartholomew County.
Click here to download a high-resolution photo.