Indiana school voucher expansion rolled back in Senate plan

INDIANAPOLIS — A proposed expansion of Indiana’s private school voucher program would be scaled back under the new state budget plan from state Senate Republicans, while still boosting the program’s spending by about 25%.

The two-year state spending plan presented Thursday would increase overall school funding by 1.2% the first year and about 3% the second year, slightly more than a plan the Republican-dominated House endorsed in February.

The Senate plan also directs nearly $900 in federal COVID-19 relief money toward several economic grant programs and one-time spending projects. It also drops a House-supported increase in the state’s cigarette tax while backing a new state tax on vaping products.

Senate budget writers reduced the school voucher expansion by allowing for a smaller increase in the family income eligibility. The revised plan is expected to cost an additional $51 million over the next two years — about one-eighth of the total $408 million more the budget would allocate toward K-12 funding.

The school voucher expansion has faced broad opposition from traditional public school supporters, with nearly 150 school boards across the state approving resolutions against it.

Negotiations will continue over the next couple of weeks before the Legislature is expected to vote on a final budget plan.