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Buchanan: Parents should have choice in educational options

Parents should have choice in educational options

By State Sen. Brian Buchanan (R-Lebanon)

Regardless of an individual’s career ambitions or desires, education is a necessary pillar for success.

There’s no doubt that teachers and school administrators play an extremely important role in educating Hoosier students. The positive impact a teacher can have on a young person’s life often lasts a lifetime. However, I believe parents are best situated to make educational decisions for their children. After all, it is the parents who know their children best.

In Indiana, we take an “all of the above” approach to education, not a “one size fits all.” More than a decade ago, Indiana’s legislative leaders established a policy that requires money to follow the student. This allows parents to choose which school a child attends—whether that be another public school, charter school, or in some cases, a private school.

This year, I authored Senate Bill 305, which would expand eligibility opportunities so more students can participate in the Indiana Education Scholarship Account program.

ESAs were created in 2021 by the Indiana General Assembly to offer students with disabilities the chance to be educated in an environment that best meets their needs—specifically giving parents the ability to customize their child’s education. By expanding the ESA program to allow more families to participate, we can ensure that Hoosier children have even more opportunities to be successful in school.

The ESA program is built around accountability and transparency. While the parents control how the money is used, they never actually receive it. Instead, funds flow directly from the state to approved educational providers, which are vetted by the Indiana state treasurer and Indiana Department of Education.

The debate over school choice in Indiana is often turned into a matter of whether you support traditional public schools or private education. But why can’t we support all forms of K-12 education?

My wife and I send our children to a traditional public school, and we are very happy with the education they receive. However, I fully recognize the traditional format might not be suitable for all students, which is why additional opportunities should be provided. Supporting school choice doesn’t mean we are anti-public school; it means our state supports both public schools and educational choice for families.

In the state budget approved in 2021, Indiana invested an additional $1.9 billion in K-12 education, and 94% of the new dollars were projected to go to traditional public schools. Further, I strongly believe our public schools will always educate the vast majority of young Hoosiers.

Living in an ever-changing, fast-paced world, we must continue to adapt to different educational opportunities. That’s why I believe Indiana should continue to fully support both traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities, so parents can make the best choice for their children’s education.