[r91] Rep. Behning's bill increases options for students (3/29/2011)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Start Date: 3/29/2011 All Day
End Date: 3/29/2011
STATEHOUSE-State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) authored House Bill 1003, which provides families, who do not have the financial means, a scholarship to pay the cost of tuition and fees at a public or private school that charges tuition.

"School choice scholarships are an integral part of our quest to create high quality options for all Indiana families," said Rep. Behning. "This is a key aspect of our plan to provide Hoosier students with comprehensive education options that will be instrumental in making students successful for years to come."

House Bill 1003 was frozen on the House calendar for over five weeks due to the Democrat walkout. On Tuesday evening the bill was heard on second reading where over twenty amendments were discussed, and nine were adopted, two of which were Democrat authored.

Throughout the many hours of debate, Rep. Behning strongly defended the merit of the bill.

"This is a major step in providing more educational opportunities for Hoosier students," said Rep. Behning. "I strongly believe that this option is needed for our families. A child's education should not be based on the zip code where the student lives."

The bill creates School Choice Scholarships for lower income families to attend a quality school of choice, either a public or private school, while focusing eligibility on lower income families.

Families at or below the income threshold for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch program approximately $40,000 for a family of four can receive 90 percent of their per student home school corporation state tuition support.

Families with incomes of approximately $60,000 for a family of four can receive 50 percent of the state tuition support amount per student. However, $4,500 is the maximum a student in grades 1-8 may receive. Students must generally have attended a public school for at least two semesters, excluding kindergarten to be eligible.

Eligible schools must be accredited by the Indiana State Board of Education or a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the state board and must fall under the state's accountability standards and administer the statewide ISTEP test. An eligible school must also hold a public hearing and conduct a random drawing, if it has more choice scholarship applicants than available seats.

Caps student participation at 7,500 for the 2011-2012 school year and 15,000 for the 2012-2013 school year. There is no cap on student participation after the 2012-2013 school year.

"With this bill, we are expanding choice options for Hoosier children with the goal of providing a quality education that will serve them well throughout their life," said Rep. Behning.