By Megan Banta
The Indiana State Teachers Association filed suit Friday in Marion County Superior Court requesting a preliminary injunction against Indiana's new voucher law.
The law, which was part of Gov. Mitch Daniel's education reform, establishes the Choice Scholarship Program.
The program allows parents to take some of the tax money that would go to the public school their children attend and use it to pay for tuition at a private school.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller will represent the state in the lawsuit.
"My office has previously defended the Legislature's right to decide school funding and appropriations and will do so again in this lawsuit," Zoeller said in a press release.
ISTA said in its press release that, because the law establishes "voucher entitlements for private, religious and for-profit schools," it is unconstitutional.
"There is no question that this law violates the provisions of the Indiana Constitution that protect taxpayer dollars from being funneled to private, religious and for-profit organizations," said Teresa Meredith, a teacher in the Shelbyville Central School system who is a plaintiff in the case.
Meredith said the law also violates "laws that seek to safeguard Hoosier students."
"This voucher program will provide public funds to private schools that can give individual preference to students based on test scores, disabilities, wealth and personal faith. Such preferences should not be publicly funded," Meredith said.
ISTA said the law could divert up to $65.8 million in funding from public schools in order to finance the vouchers, draining "additional resources away from schools that are already suffering from deep budget cuts."
"This law is also bad educational policy," Meredith said. "How can lawmakers justify draining additional millions in resources from local public schools—on top of the $300 million in cuts made last year?"
Meredith said the new law would not have a positive effect on the education system, despite the governor's claims.
"The implementation of this law will most certainly result in larger class sizes, more teacher layoffs and fewer instructional programs for Hoosier public school students," she said.
In response, Daniels said in a statement that ISTA has self-serving motives.
"There the union goes again, putting their financial self-interest ahead of the interests of children and Indiana's low-income families," Daniels said.
He said there should be no question as to the constitutionality of the law.
"The bill was drafted from its inception with the state and federal constitutional law in mind," Daniels said.
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.