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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Club sponsors event on school choice

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

School Choice Indiana Executive Director Luke Messer met with Clay County residents Wednesday to discuss the state's school choice movement. Jason Moon Photo. [Order this photo]
To Luke Messer, it's simple.

All families should have a choice.

"What's wrong with more choices, more options," Messer said.

On Wednesday, the School Choice Indiana Executive Director was the guest speaker for a Teens for Liberty Generation Joshua Club sponsored event at the North Meridian Street Church of Christ, 1524 N. Meridian St., Brazil.

Messer was on hand to discuss his organization's desire to let families decide where their children will attend school.

"People who are involved in education reform all love public education," he said. "Having a thriving, successful school system is vital."

Messer said several have choices, including wealthy families, those who choose to home-school and those who move to different district. However, he said some do not have those options.

"Many families have school choices," he said. "What this debate is really about is what we're going to do for everybody else."

According to Messer, a former state representative and current Executive Director for the Indiana Republican Party, school choice would provide parents with options while creating an environment that would "motivate students and allow parents to choose the school that best suits their child's needs."

He said Indiana House Bill 1003 is the starting point for this possible process.

HB 1003 would essentially allow vouchers to be available for students to leave public schools to attend private schools.

According to the bill's synopsis, the bill "increases the school scholarship tax credits that may be awarded for donations to a scholarship granting organization. Allows scholarship granting organizations to grant scholarships to families with income that is not more than 250 percent of the amount required for the individual to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program. Provides scholarships to low income students to pay the costs of tuition and fees at a public or private elementary school or high school that charges tuition."

"We believe HB 1003 is the start of this process," Messer said. "The bill creates a set of tuition tax credits and helps kids get to those schools. To me, the issue is one of fairness."

During the meeting, Messer fielded questions from several residents. One asked about the possibility of "decimating the public school system" through the bill, which Messer said he believed would not happen.

"The focus needs to be on the family," he said. "We believe this program empowers families. If a family decides there is a better option for their child, they ought to have the right to do that."

He added the program has worked in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

"We're not here to bash our public schools," he said. "I think it's important to recognize we're not doing a perfect job. We can do better everywhere. This is about families having the right to put their child where they will do the best."

Messer said he believed Indiana has been a model across the country for home-schooling and the state was on "the cusp" in doing that with the voucher program.

"This could create opportunities in every community," Messer said.

HB 1003 was approved by a panel of state representatives Feb. 16, and is up for a full house vote.

"The bill, it will be a close vote," Messer said. "Legislators need to hear from their communities that there are folks on both sides of this issue. We all have to speak up now if we want these options. We've got to stay at it."

More information on Messer's organizations may be accessed at www.SchoolChoiceIndiana.org or www.WhyNotIndiana.org.

For more information on Teens for Liberty Generation Joshua Club, log on to www.Teensforliberty.org.

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