By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
Indiana, with the nation’s most expansive school voucher program, is at the center of a national debate, so perhaps that’s why Indiana House District 30 candidates Chuck Sosbe and Mike Karickhoff spent most of an hour Thursday on that subject.
Or at least that’s what it seemed like, as the candidates found plenty of common ground apart from the voucher issue.
Sosbe, a retired Kokomo firefighter, and Karickhoff, the Republican incumbent, took the League of Women Voters sponsored debate Thursday as a chance to answer questions in a civil fashion, on topics ranging from public employee pensions to taxation.
Karickhoff is a proponent of vouchers, praising the new system for making public schools more competitive and giving lower income families education choices.
Sosbe advocates abolishing the vouchers, saying the state needs to replace funding cut from public schools over the past two years, and let families who opt for private schools to pay for it themselves.
But it’s also a reflection of how far the education debate has come that neither candidate adheres to strict party-line orthodoxy on the issue.
Sosbe said he supports the current system of allowing kids to choose which public school they’d like to attend, regardless of former district boundaries.
And Karickhoff bucked some in his own party last year, in pushing to require schools to take all interested students, as space allows.
Currently schools can pick and choose which out-of-district applicants they take, and don’t have to explain their decisions.
“I don’t hear much [complaining] about vouchers, but what I do hear is that public schools pick and choose which kids they want to take,”
Karickhoff said. “Hopefully we’ll see an affirmative vote this year so kids can be free to go anywhere regardless of grades or other circumstances in their lives.”
On immigration, also, the two candidates found differences, with Sosbe saying immigration policy should be left to the federal government.
“We can’t help it if the feds haven’t dealt with it to our satisfaction,” he said. “I think we should leave it alone.”
Karickhoff, who authored a bill to deny in-state college tuition to undocumented residents, differed, saying “the state has a right to try to step in and make a difference.”
On taxes, Karickhoff said he’d like to find some way to more equally distribute local income taxes to commuter areas like Kokomo, which see a net outflow of citizens when each workday ends.
Income taxes are paid where someone lives, not where they work, Karickhoff said, which penalizes places like Kokomo, where so many commute to work each day.
Sosbe said his main priority would be restoring education funding cut in the past biennium.
“They need to put it back; if not higher, then at least to the level it was before the cuts,” he said.
Scott Smith can be reached at (765) 454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.