Despite the bone-chilling temperatures outside, the Indiana Statehouse was filled on Thursday with hundreds of students and parents fired up for school choice. While the cold weather caused 600 registered attendees to cancel at the last minute, the annual Quality Education Celebration still brought more than two hundred school choice advocates from across the state to promote all types of educational options.
Organized by Hoosiers for Quality Education and co-sponsored by more than a dozen other organizations including Agudath Israel of America, the event began with a stirring address from Governor Mike Pence. Governor Pence reiterated his strong commitment to education reform and told the students “if you dream it – you can be it”. Several parent advocates then addressed the crowd and told their personal stories. Students and parents then split into small groups to receive an educational tour of the Statehouse and visit their legislators.
Indiana has a popular scholarship tax credit program and the largest school voucher programs in the country serving nearly 30,00 students. Thanks to those two programs, students choosing Jewish school have received hundreds of thousands of scholarships dollars. In his budget bill, Governor Pence pledged to raise the current $7.5 million cap on the tax credit program and to remove the arbitrary $4800 cap on the elementary school voucher.
Students from the Hasten Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis had the opportunity to meet privately with Governor Pence to express their appreciation for his strong support of school choice. Later, a delegation from South Bend were similarly able to thank Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long for their leadership on this issue.
The South Bend delegation also met with House Minority Leader Scott Pelath who expressed his strong opposition to school choice. Thankfully, Speaker Bosma sets the legislative agenda and has included Governor Pence’s expansion of the scholarship program in the House budget bill HB 1001.