Efforts to keep state funding out of schools that discriminate against staff and students are back at the Statehouse.
Indiana’s first openly gay state senator, J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), filed the bill for the second year in a row, this time with support from the state’s schools chief.
Ford and a representative in the House filed similar bills last year, but both measures died. The legislation was filed after Roncalli High School in Indianapolis fired an LGBTQ guidance counselor in 2018. The school has received nearly $5 million through state vouchers since 2016.
Ford is proposing the bill again this year, and says legislative leaders should offer a chance to at least discuss the issue.
“And really just allow the people of Indiana to weigh in on this. I think that’s the most disappointing piece of this is that last year it didn’t even get a hearing,” he says.
Indiana Superindentent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick is joining Ford to support the legislation, along with a Roncalli alumnus, Dominic Conover, who co-founded an advocacy group on behalf of the first guidance counselor who lost her job at the school over LGBTQ rights, Shelly Fitzgerald, called Shelly’s Voice.
But advocates of school choice pushed back on the bill. Betsy Wiley, president and CEO of the Institute for Quality Education said in a statement following the announcement the bill is an attempt to roll back school choice in Indiana.
“Vouchers are not about endorsing or condemning the views and policies of the institutions at which they are used,” she said in the statement. “Instead, they are about giving power and opportunity to families and students to attend the school that best meets their educational needs.”
But Ford says the bill will ensure fair use of taxpayer dollars in a school choice program funded by everyone, including Hoosiers facing discrimination in those schools.
“I know other folks on the other side of this aisle say ‘well it’s not really directly from the state because the family is giving the money to the school,’ but where is the family getting the money? And that’s–the genesis of that would be the state budget,” he says.