Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Associated Press has created an interactive graphic that shows how views on same-sex marriage have evolved over the past 20 years. (Michael Conroy (The Associated Press))
Indiana editorial roundup: HJR-3 and vouchers

Posted on Feb. 5, 2014 at 11:56 a.m.

Two recent editorials from Indiana papers address HJR-3, the proposed amendment that would reinforce the state's ban on same-sex marriage and prevent anything similar to the institution from being formed, and Indiana's school voucher program.

Read them below.

The Herald-Times (Bloomington)

HJR-3, the bill that as originally written would amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, continues to divide Hoosiers and monopolize time at the Statehouse.

Unfortunately, Gov. Mike Pence helped ensure that will continue with comments he made to an Indianapolis television station last week.

The Indiana House of Representatives appeared to tamp down the fire of the debate when it voted last week in favor of an amended bill that deleted a sentence that stated: "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

Thus, the House version no longer pertains to civil unions and alleviated the fears of opponents that the amendment also would threaten domestic partner benefits that are offered now in recognition of the commitment couples have made to each other.

The House change, if approved by the Senate as well, would restart the clock on amending the constitution and put off a potential vote on the matter until 2016.

But last week, the governor said he would favor the amendment as originally written. That would give the people of Indiana the ability to vote on the same-sex marriage question in November 2014. He was clear to say he realizes the decision is up to the General Assembly, and not him, but equally clear he wanted this issue to move forward quickly. He implied voting on the issue would settle it once and for all.

He couldn't be more wrong. ...

A state law already defines marriage as between one man and one woman. This current batch of lawmakers should not be trying to build in a constitutional amendment to solidify what's in place to make it harder for a future legislature to change the law.

This persistence in wanting a constitutional amendment is based on fear that a majority of Hoosiers might soon want to do just that — change the law. Poll after poll shows more acceptance of same-sex marriage, with a generation of 18-to-34-year-olds overwhelmingly favoring giving the same rights to marry that heterosexuals enjoy to gay men and lesbians. ...

And as we've noted before, legislators abandon representative democracy with their intent to let the voters decide to block some from having a particular right through a constitutional amendment. These elected leaders should lead. They shouldn't send Hoosier voters to the polls hoping they'll say the Indiana Constitution should favor the majority and not treat all people equally.

Gov. Pence is wrong on this issue. Senators should side with their colleagues in the House, at least, and mitigate the damage that could be caused by HJR-3, as well as delay a potential ballot question and all of the divisive campaigning that will accompany such a question.

The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)

What does school choice mean in Indiana? It means taxpayer-supported schools that can choose:

  • To refuse admission to students on the basis of religion, economic background, academic record and more.
  • Not to offer instruction to English language-learners or students with severe and profound disabilities.
  • To conduct school board meetings behind closed doors.
  • To teach creationism as science, in violation of federal law.
  • To fire teachers without cause.

Taxpayers spent more than $36 million last year on schools not required to provide many of the services public schools must offer. A report released by the Indiana Department of Education last week showed that 19,809 students are using vouchers this academic year – more than double the number who received taxpayer assistance last year.

The General Assembly has expanded eligibility for vouchers each year so that there are now seven pathways for families to qualify. Almost 40 percent of Indiana voucher students this year were never enrolled in a public school. They didn’t choose to leave “failing” schools; they simply chose to use tax dollars at a private or religious school.

Vouchers are not limited to low-income families. A household with three children can earn as much as $102,000 a year and yet qualify for partial assistance. A quarter of the voucher awards this year are used by families at the higher end of income-eligibility limits. For a family of five, that’s more than $51,000 a year. …

The state report is a revealing picture of the voucher program in terms of its financial cost and who benefits. What’s missing, however, is a credible evaluation of how voucher schools are serving students in academic terms. When they choose to accept public dollars, taxpayers should expect them to play by the same rules as public schools.