|INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s controversial $500 million private school voucher program is pitting Indiana Republicans against one another as questions about the program’s accountability mount. Republican factions in the Indiana House, Senate and Department of Education have taken up divergent positions on the future of the voucher program.
Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick has been sharply critical of the program, saying: “We [Hoosier taxpayers] are spending $146 million [annually] on a program and not really reviewing it. That is irresponsible.”
Republicans in the state Senate bowing to years of concerted pressure from Democrats and public education advocates, included the amount allocated for the state’s controversial voucher program separate from taxpayer dollars directed to public schools in their budget. The move was viewed as a minor, but positive step toward more transparency for the program. House Republicans had other ideas, though. During closed-door budget negotiations, the separate voucher line-item was eliminated, and funding for vouchers once again comes directly from public school funding.
Republicans in the State House of Representatives have zero interest in shining more light on the performance of voucher schools receiving Hoosier taxpayer dollars. House Republicans’ most prolific privatization cheerleader, Rep. Bob Behning, has questioned the need for any voucher school accountability at all.
The Indianapolis Star exposed a voucher school receiving state funds that failed to pay its teachers and lacked heat and hot water. Responding to that story, Behning defended spending taxpayer dollars with no oversight: “I look at voucher schools, when it comes to financial issues, in a very similar way that I think the state should look at any vendor we do business with. If we receive services, we should give them a payment. How they handle that payment, as long as they’re not doing something illegal, is not in the state’s jurisdiction.”
This all taking place as research is accumulating that suggests students attending voucher schools are not seeing academic benefits. A study highlighted by the New York Times showed students participating in Indiana’s voucher program saw no gains in reading performance and lost ground in mathematics achievement.
And this while a river of campaign cash continues to flow from education privatization advocates to Hoosier Republicans.
This is the voucher minefield Governor Eric Holcomb is tasked with navigating. Growing exponentially and bleeding public funding that would otherwise benefit the vast majority of Hoosier students.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody issued the following statement on Indiana’s controversial voucher program.
“Fueled by outside interests, the voucher program has successfully tapped into a well of taxpayer dollars, operating with little oversight. Pressure is mounting to shine more light on how Hoosiers’ hard-earned dollars are being spent and some in the Indiana Republican Party are feeling the heat. I agree with Superintendent McCormick, the Republican-led Legislature’s failure to provide proper oversight of the state’s voucher program is irresponsible. It’s an insult to Hoosier taxpayers and it sends a signal that Republicans put little effort into being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody issued the following statement after Governor Eric Holcomb’s administration held a meeting to address the state’s opioid epidemic.
“It’s absolutely critical that lawmakers attack Indiana’s opioid epidemic head-on and I applaud Governor Holcomb’s willingness and support for streamlining the needle exchange process. However, it’s near impossible to square Holcomb’s desire to fight opioids and his support for the American Health Care Act. Former Governor Mike Pence estimated nearly a quarter of the 400,000 Hoosiers receiving care through HIP 2.0 suffer from a substance abuse disorder. For almost 100,000 Hoosiers, HIP 2.0 is their best shot at recovery and a second chance. Holcomb’s support for the AHCA puts their treatment and their future in jeopardy. Our state and the Hoosiers afflicted by this scourge need every tool available. If Holcomb is truly serious, it’s time to put politics aside and put the focus back on helping Hoosiers rebuild their lives.”
Mayor Byrum moved a step closer to helping Hoosier women with children break the cycle of addiction, as the Randolph County Commissioners approved his request to help fund a proposed drug treatment center earlier this month.
Byrum, elected in 2015, believes the drug treatment center is about helping put families back on track and will be modeled off a similar program in Indianapolis.
READ MORE: Winchester mayor gets $118,000 for treatment center
By: Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody
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In their May 6 editorial, the Indianapolis Business Journal applauded the 2,000 jobs potentially relocating to the central Indiana region and noted Governor Holcomb’s “aggressive” tactics to woo perspective businesses. Offering taxpayer-funded incentives to businesses is a tried and true economic development practice but it can under-deliver. It is also important to invest those same resources in the future Hoosier workforce and reap proven, long-term dividends that will ultimately correct Indiana’s stagnating wage growth.
Economic development incentives demand transparency. You don’t have to look hard to find instances of jobs promised that never materialized. Often too, the jobs realized are far fewer than those promised. Worse, governors can find themselves using taxpayer dollars to reward corporations that offshore jobs. According to a report last year, during former-governor Mike Pence’s tenure, the IEDC approved $24 million in incentives to 10 companies that outsourced 3,800 Hoosier jobs.
And at what speed is Holcomb moving to address Hoosiers’ incomes, ranked in the bottom third nationally?
It also doesn’t quite seem that Governor Holcomb is moving at “the speed of business” to help mitigate damage from Carrier, United Technologies and Rexnord’s move to offshore thousands of good-paying Hoosiers jobs to Mexico. And at what speed is Holcomb moving to address Hoosiers’ incomes, ranked in the bottom third nationally?
While we can agree that all investments carry some risk, let’s also agree that we should be more “aggressive” investing in Hoosiers’ educational attainment, starting with early childhood education. Indiana’s current public pre-k program is embarrassingly underfunded, supporting just 1 out of every 20 Hoosier 4-year-old. We know quality early childhood education pays offs and considering Indiana is ranked 41st by US News and World Report in educational attainment, it’s long overdue.
Yes, the potential for tech jobs moving to Indiana is a good thing but the press conference is the easy part. Long-term success will depend on the governor and lawmakers addressing Indiana’s underlying educational issues.
Press conference held hours before vote lays out real-life consequences of Republicans’ healthcare overhaul
INDIANAPOLIS – Hours before Republicans in the House of Representatives, including Congressman Rokita and Congressman Messer, voted to pass a Republican bill to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Hoosiers who have benefitted from the ACA’s provisions called on Republicans not to gut their health care at a press conference this morning.
IDP Chairman John Zody and voters from across the state made clear that the bill would have disastrous effects on their insurance and their well-being. While the latest version of the Republican proposal has been rammed through the House before it can be fully analyzed, an earlier version would have thrown 365,500 Hoosiers off their health insurance.
Unable to pass the bill in its initial form, Republicans moved the bill further to the right in an effort to appease hard-liners in their caucus. The bill now gashes protections for pre-existing conditions and will allow health insurers to charge Americans astronomical rates if they’ve suffered medical conditions ranging from asthma to cancer. Fully 30% of Hoosier adults, including three of the speakers at today’s event, have pre-existing conditions and would face skyrocketing premiums under the new proposal.
Reports today also make clear the proposal may weaken employer-based healthcare plans, which would affect half of all Americans. Additionally, the bill currently provides exemptions for Members of Congress and their staff members so that they’re not subject to the same deregulations that will affect most Americans.
Every single Republican member of the House of Representatives from the Indiana delegation voted for the bill, including Congressman Rokita and Congressman Messer. Any proposal would also have to pass the Senate before becoming law; Joe Donnelly has vehemently opposed the Republican proposal.
“Republicans shoved this bill through the House as fast as they can because every time Americans take a new look at their proposal, they see a glaring new problem. If this proposal is signed into law, not only will tens of millions of Americans lose their health insurance, but countless others will face sky-rocketing premiums due to pre-existing conditions that are no fault of our own,” said IDP Chairman John Zody. “Republicans like Congressman Messer and Congressman Rokita are so desperate to pass this horrifying bill and please their party bosses that they’ve forgotten the very real impact this bill would have on families across Indiana. But the Hoosiers whose lives would be upended if this bill becomes law aren’t likely to forget going forward. They’ll certainly remember the next time Congressmen Messer or Rokita are on the ballot.”