(STATEHOUSE) Feb. 18, 2009 - Students, family members, staff and alumni of the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home have cleared the first hurdle toward keeping the facility open. By a bipartisan vote of 9-2 in the House Family, Child and Human Affairs Committee, House Bill 1722 is now eligible for second reading on the House floor.
Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield), along with Rep Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) and Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg), testified before the committee in favor of the bill, authored by Rep. Scott Reske (R-Anderson).
"I want to first and foremost, thank the American Legion and the ISSCH Alumni Association for all their generous support and effort in working towards keeping the Home open," said Rep. Cherry.
"We have to be careful in our actions. We need to find more ways to better utilize this facility, increase enrollment and lower the cost per student. These tasks are easier said than done, but as state legislators, it is our duty to find those solutions."
Testimony about closing the home lasted for more than an hour and included those in favor of the bill and those against.
As one witness pointed out, the current draft of the state's budget appropriates funding to keep the school alive. However, the passage of legislation this session will still be required to keep it open.
"This home is worth saving and should be saved," said Rep. Cherry. "The home not only benefits the students, but it also benefits the community. We have heard too many success stories with children growing up and becoming productive citizens, thanks to the home, for us to give up.
"Children who enter the home are usually failing in school and within two years of working with teachers, students are able to drastically bring up their grades."
The deadline for second reading for the House is Feb. 24, and the deadline for third and final reading is the next day.
Rep. Cherry can be reached by e-mail at h53@IN.gov, by phone at 1-800-382-9841 or by mail at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.