Indiana’s schools chief says state money shouldn’t go to schools that discriminate, and that it’s a key message she plans to push during the upcoming legislative session.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick has an ambitious list of goals for 2019. One of those is to make schools that receive state money – specifically voucher schools – open for all, including the LGBTQ community. Right now, she says, the lack of regulation on the issue means school choice is only available to some.
“What we’re saying is this population of students have a choice, and this population of students don’t have a choice, but you’re all under the umbrella of tax money to help you make that choice, and it’s just simply not right – it’s nonsensical,” she says.
It’s about more than just students too. Roncalli High School in Indianapolis receives state money through school vouchers, and administrators put a guidance counselor on leave earlier this year because of her marriage to a woman.
McCormick says the situation brought much-needed attention to the problem, but conversations on discrimination in schools that receive public funding have been ongoing, including at the federal level.
During a congressional committee meeting in May 2017, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was asked about preventing discrimination in voucher schools, with the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington as an example.
“They asked her questions about schools in Indiana that were under the voucher program that were exclusive of the LGBT student population, and that’s unfortunate that we’re being used as an example but that’s the reality,” McCormick says. “It goes back to a conversation about Indiana values.”
The situation at Roncalli spurred one state lawmaker, Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis), to announce his plans for a bill aimed at keeping voucher money out of schools that discriminate. But the House Education committee chair Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) has expressed reluctance to place such regulations on voucher schools.