Indiana lawmakers have approved a bill creating the country’s broadest private school voucher system.

It hands Republican Governor Mitch Daniels a huge victory in his aggressive education agenda as he considers a 2012 presidential run.

The GOP-controlled House voted 55-43 today to approve a voucher plan that would allow families who meet certain income requirements to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools. Supporters say it will give parents more educational options for their children.

The plan is the most controversial part of Daniels’ education agenda that includes merit pay for teachers, restrictions on teacher collective bargaining and expanded charter schools.

Rep. Ed Delaney was one of several Democrats to speak against the bill on the House floor.

“I believe it raises all kinds of problems with church and state, an issue that doesn’t seem to resonate anymore except in the Indiana constitution.   I think it will drain money from the public education system.  I think it literally discriminates against public school parents by saying your expenses for your kids get a tax deduction, but if you send your kid to a private school you get a tax deduction, I’m rather struck by that,” he said.

Republican Rep. Jeff Espich says the state has doing the same thing on the college level for

“Helping kids go to college, a parochial college, a private college, is not a novel concept. We even give kids scholarships to go to private, for profit colleges,” Espich said.

A measure to expand charter schools in Indiana also cleared its final hurdle Wednesday. The House vote was 61-37.

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation."