Educational Choice Position Statement
February 25th 2012
INPEA Position Statement
Educational choice programs must respect the integrity and identity of non-public schools. Participation in such programs should not result in a sacrifice of their educational mission, philosophy, creed or governance.
INPEA supports the natural and constitutional right of parents to choose the school that they believe is best suited to meet the needs of their children. Unfortunately, at present, this freedom depends in great part on a family’s ability to pay tuition to a non-public school or to live in a neighborhood where the public school system meets the needs of their children. In 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed Scholarship Tax Credit legislation which is a beginning step in enabling school choice for lower income Hoosier families. This program must be expanded significantly in an effort to provide school choice opportunities for many more Indiana families. In addition, we must advocate for additional school choice programs to provide choice to families of students with special needs and whose children are currently enrolled in failing public schools. True “Choice” will only be fully realized when tax dollars follow students to their school of choice, public or private.
Since its founding, Indiana’s education system has included religious, independent, home and other privately funded schools as well as public schools, all working simultaneously to provide the best possible education for our children.
In 1925, the United States Supreme Court, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, affirmed as a fundamental principle of liberty that the child is not the “mere creature of the state.” This landmark decision excluded any general power of the state to force children to attend only public schools, consequently upholding the natural right of parents to choose the means of educating their children. In doing so, the Court soundly rejected the prejudice of the times and affirmed that non-public schools served the common good. Seventy-five years later, these schools continue to provide a quality education that is responsive to the rights of parents as the primary educators of their children.
Today, one in four of Indiana’s elementary and secondary schools are privately funded; ten percent of all K-12 students attend them. Strong statements of mission and purpose define these non-public schools. These schools encompass the values and needs of the families they serve and they are accountable directly to their families and sponsoring communities. They are religious and secular, large and small, urban and rural. They serve diverse economic populations and are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.
Most parents who currently choose non-public schools for their children exercise their constitutional right at significant cost and personal sacrifice; they bear a dual burden of paying school tuition while also contributing their share of taxes to support government-funded schools. The education of children in Indiana’s non-public schools provides substantial annual tax savings to the people of this state.
So in conclusion, INPEA affirms the right of educational liberty for all Indiana families. Attainment of full and equitable parental choice in education as well as the protection of each school’s mission and integrity is one of our primary public policy objectives. We advocate the enactment of legislation and policies which will maximize the quality of educational opportunities for all of Indiana’s children – particularly the children of the poor – by insuring that all parents have access to the financial capability to exercise the right to choose the school they believe is best for their children.
To this end, we believe that:
- Any legislation and policy to improve Indiana’s schools must include a commitment to provide all parents true, full and equitable educational choice.
- True choice exists when all parents have strong, quality options in more than one system.
- Educational choice programs must respect the integrity and identity of non-public schools. Participation in such programs should not result in a sacrifice of their educational mission, philosophy, creed or governance.
- Public resources are generated to promote the common good in society. Public officials are entrusted to see that the common good is supported and promoted. Therefore, use of public funds in support of children and families that choose schools, serving the common good in society, is a legitimate use of public funds.
- Any publicly-funded educational choice program must include an option for parents of children enrolled in private and religiously affiliated schools.
- Increased School Choice should be possible without excessive increased regulation.
INPEA provides a voice for the thousands of families who are deeply concerned about the education of their children. These families are looking for leadership that will give them the opportunity to secure the best possible education for their children – whether that is in public, private or religiously affiliated institutions or other appropriate educational settings.
INPEA Board of Directors
Revised: June 10, 2010
Revision Approved November 16, 2010: