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Doug McSchooler | Indianapolis Star
Students from SENSE Charter School in Indianapolis perform during a school choice rally at the Statehouse that included a pep talk by Gov. Mike Pence.

School choice advocates step out

– Supporters of alternatives to traditional public education took to the Statehouse on Monday to encourage lawmakers to continue the fight for school choice.

Along with parents and teachers, hundreds of Indiana schoolchildren missed a day of school to participate in the public process that included a pep talk from Gov. Mike Pence and former Indiana Pacers player Jalen Rose.

“We are here to stand with these beautiful children and our colleagues in the General Assembly to say education reform does rock in Indiana,” the governor said. “For the sake of the kids, we demand great schools in every community.”

Most of the children attending were from public charter schools or private schools accepting public vouchers.

Several speakers focused on how far Indiana has come in those two areas but said there is more progress to be made.

“This is all about empowering parents, empowering students,” said GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma. “We will fight hard to let you go to your school of choice.”

He mentioned a bill under consideration that would expand the voucher program, which currently spends about $38 million in tax dollars to provide vouchers to 9,300 children attending private schools.

House Bill 1003 would increase the amount of the voucher and open up eligibility for some students who haven’t first attended public school for a year.

“Choice in education creates competition,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “Competition creates a better product, a better outcome.”

There were several student performances during the event, including singing of the national anthem, dancing to “This Girl is on Fire” and choral singing punctuated by a young rapper asking whether you were “down with the G.O.D.”