Indiana Lawmakers Express Interest in Education Savings Accounts

Published October 17, 2016

Two bills to create education savings accounts (ESAs) in Indiana garnered little interest in this year’s legislative session, but Republican leaders in the legislature say they’re open to considering ESA legislation in the future.

ESAs grant parents access to a portion of the public funds allocated for their child’s public education, to spend on educational alternatives such as private school tuition or homeschooling textbooks., an education news website, reported in August two bills in the Indiana General Assembly proposing ESAs were not actively considered last year, “but [state] Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) and [state] Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), who serve as chairmen of the Senate and House education committees, said earlier this year that they were open to the ideas in the future.”

Chalkbeat also reported the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), “a conservative nonprofit lobbying group that pairs legislators and business owners together to write model legislation, highlighted the education savings accounts in their yearly summer conference, held in Indianapolis last week.”

“ALEC, strongly opposed by teachers unions and school choice critics, has considerable influence in Indiana, with several key lawmakers participating in the group and elements of the group’s model laws inspiring some of Indiana’s education reforms in recent years,” Chalkbeat reported.  

‘Focus on the Children’

State Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) authored House Bill 1311, one of the failed ESA bills. Brown says children, not the government system, should be the focus of education policy.

“I think you always need to focus on the child and not get hung up on when critics talk about adults or buildings,” Brown said. “You need to focus on the children and what opportunities there are for them.”

School Choice ‘Working Well’

Indiana currently offers three school choice programs: a private school/homeschool tax credit/deduction that allows parents to be partially reimbursed for schooling expenses, a voucher program, and a tax credit scholarship.

Eric Davis, executive director of the Lafayette Catholic School System, says these programs have proven their worth.

“School choice is working well here, and we see first-hand at our schools the impact school choice is having on students who wouldn’t be otherwise able to attend,” Davis said. “We are starting to see students who have been in our schools all five years of the school choice program and are graduating now.”

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.