Indiana Democrats fled the state for five weeks to protest, among other things, a bill that would revamp education in the state, a top priority of Mitch Daniels. Having won some concessions, they returned. And as part of the deal, yesterday Indiana passed the education bill, which still includes a very wide-reaching school voucher program.
The Republican-controlled state legislature handed Daniels a huge victory Wednesday when the House voted 55-43 to give final approval to a bill creating the voucher program that would allow even middle-class families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools.
Unlike other systems that are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools, Indiana’s voucher program will be open to a much larger pool of students, including those already in excellent schools. Families would have to meet certain income limits to qualify, with families of four making up to about $60,000 a year getting some type of scholarship.
Daniels’ agenda mirrors ideas being pushed nationwide by Republicans empowered by 2010 election victories. But Daniels has successfully led Indiana — a conservative state not known for going out on a limb — into uncharted education territory.
It seems that the Democrats got some limits on the amount of the voucher for middle-class families, which will make it somewhat less attractive. But you’re still likely to see a mass exodus from public schools, starving them of revenue. Sixty percent of the school population would be eligible to receive some kind of voucher under this legislation.
Indiana is also on the way to defunding Planned Parenthood:
The Indiana state legislature is on the verge of becoming the first state to block Medicaid reimbursements for low-income patients seeking basic health services at Planned Parenthood clinics.
House Bill 1210, introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) in January, takes a number of swipes at abortion rights and includes a provision that would prohibit the state of Indiana from contracting with “any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.” While the provision does not name a specific health provider, it effectively singles out Planned Parenthood, which receives $3 million dollars a year from the state.
“We have patients booking appointments for pap smears as we speak, but if the bill passes and the intent is met, we would literally have to get in touch with these patients and say, ‘You come prepared to pay for your services, or you will need to find another medical home,’” said Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood Indiana, which currently serves about 22,000 low-income patients under Titles X, V, and XX and through Medicaid.
This will end up as a court battle because of the discrimination against a single provider, and it could also put at risk $4 million in federal family planning funds for the state. But I’m not sure that will deter Indiana’s Republican legislature, which has clearly veered hard right and plans to use that power.
I guess women’s health wasn’t part of the deal that brought Indiana Democrats back to the Capitol.