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Judge Upholds Indiana Voucher Program

From the Associated Press:

An Indianapolis judge has upheld Indiana’s school voucher law, rejecting opponents’ arguments that it unconstitutionally used taxpayers’ money to support religion.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger says opponents will appeal today’s ruling.

Institute for Justice attorney Bert Gall calls the ruling a major victory for parents and students. He represented two parents in the lawsuit.

The Indiana attorney general’s office had no immediate comment.

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Local News Politics

Judge Hears Arguments In Indiana School Voucher Suit

A judge is expected to rule within 30 days whether Indiana’s new school voucher program violates the state constitution.

The program allows income-eligible parents of public school students to use taxpayer funds to send their children to private schools.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Michael Keele heard arguments today in a suit backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association. It claims that the law violates the state constitutional by allowing public funds to be sent to religious institutions.

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Local News Politics

Indiana Voucher Opponents Will Continue Legal Battle

Some opponents of Indiana’s new school voucher program say they’ll press forward with their lawsuit against the state, despite being dealt a setback last week.

A Marion County judge refused to grant an injunction halting the program, which allows middle and low-income families to use tax dollars for private school tuition. The judge also said the plaintiffs had little chance of winning their overall suit.

One of the plaintiffs is Teresa Meredith, vice-president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. She says they won’t appeal the injunction ruling but plan move ahead with their case.

We believe that it definitely has merit, and our position that it violates the state Constitution —in more than one place in the Constitution. We believe we do have enough to warrant us moving ahead,” she said.

The ISTA contends the voucher program is a violation of the separation of church and state and deprives public schools of sorely needed funds.

“It would be nice to have that money that’s been set aside for the vouchers put into programs or ways of improving the schools that already exist. If there’s a problem in our public school, let’s address it. Let’s peel back the layers of the onion, find the problem, and let’s address that,” Meredith said.

Supporters say vouchers give parents more education options.

More than 3,000 have signed up for school vouchers this year. Most of the participating schools are religion-affiliated.

No hearing date has been set on the lawsuit.

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Local News Politics

Union Mulling Next Move In Indiana Voucher Dispute

Leaders of the Indiana State Teachers Association say they will take a little time to decide whether to continue pursuing their case against the state’s new school voucher program.

Marion County Judge Michael Keele refused this week to issue an injunction halting the program, which allows parents who meet income guidelines to use public funds to send their children to private schools. He said he believes the suit has little chance of success.

Supporters say vouchers give parents and their children more education options.

Opponents, backed by the teachers union, say in a lawsuit that the program is unconstitutional and siphons funds away from public schools that are already struggling financially.

The voucher program was approved this year by the Republican-led Indiana General Assembly.

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Local News Politics

Judge Refuses To Halt Indiana Voucher Program

From the Associated Press:

A judge has denied a temporary injunction that would have blocked Indiana’s broad new school voucher program.

Marion County Judge Michael Keele sided with the state in his ruling today and against a group of teachers and religious leaders backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association.

They tried to block the measure passed this year by the Republican-dominated General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Attorneys for the state argued before Keele last week that granting the injunction could force students who received vouchers to leave their private schools just as the instruction year is beginning and scramble to re-enroll in public schools.

Keele ruled only on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. Their complaint challenging the law hasn’t gone to trial yet.

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Indiana School Voucher Challenge Set For Hearing

An Indiana judge is scheduled to hear arguments tomorrow  in a suit challenging the state’s new school voucher program.

The program was created by the Republican-led 2011 General Assembly and allows parents who meet income guidelines and are unhappy with their public schools to use taxpayer dollars to send their children to private schools.

Critics say the program runs counter to the Indiana Constitution’s guarantee of a “uniform system of common schools”

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On a recent afternoon in front of the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library, Sherry Pfund explained why she wants to use the voucher program for her granddaughter, McKenzie.

“Her father is a single parent, and you know, he’s struggling. And he wants her to have a very good education and this is a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

McKenzie transferred this year from a nearby public school to St. Mary’s Catholic Academy, where she just started third grade, and Pfund has applied for a state voucher to help cover tuition.

“You know, there’s a lot of things that the public schools are not offering anymore, and if we can get it, she deserves it, the kids deserve to have that kind of education.”

McKenzie’s family is among more than a thousand across Indiana to seek vouchers during the program’s first year. About 200 private schools are participating—nearly half of them religion-based institutions.

Supporters say the program offers low and middle income families access to good schools they otherwise could not afford to consider. Students can receive up to $4,500 annually toward private school tuition

But others are calling the program unconstitutional and bad educational policy.

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Local News Politics

Teachers Union Challenges Indiana School Voucher Law

A lawsuit has been filed that seeks to block Indiana’s new school voucher law.

The Indiana State Teachers Association says the lawsuit was filed in Marion County on Friday, the day the new law took effect. Union spokesman Mark Shoup says the more than 10 plaintiffs include teachers, school administrators, clergy and taxpayers.

The suit argues the voucher law violates state constitutional provisions that safeguard taxpayers from supporting religious institutions, ministries and places of worship.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly this spring approved the nation’s broadest private school voucher plan. It was signed into law by GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels on May 5.

State schools superintendent Tony Bennett says the lawsuit was expected. He says he’s confident the courts will agree the law is constitutional and in the best interests of Indiana students.

Daniels issued this statement in response to the suit:

“There the union goes again, putting their financial self-interest ahead of the interests of children and Indiana’s low-income families.

The bill was drafted from its inception with the state and federal constitutional law in mind. This suit will lose as emphatically as their recent school funding suit did.”

The governor is referencing the Bonner v. Daniels case about school funding.

(Some of the information for this story came from the Associated Press)