Thursday, May 29, 2014

ISTA Action Alert: Board Votes to Deprofessionalize Teaching

Reposted from ISTA

May 28, 2014
  • Despite being against common sense and the wrong thing to do, they voted for it.
  • Despite studies showing that setting higher bars and training for teachers is best for students, they voted for it.
  • Despite overwhelming opposition from public forums held throughout the state, they voted for it.
Voting in support of the career specialist permit aka the "adjunct permit" in REPA III is wrong on many levels. However, 6 members of the State Board of Education did so earlier this month.

We believe that our students deserve teachers who are trained in areas like child development, child psychology and how to run a classroom.

We believe that student teaching under an experienced mentor in a real classroom environment should be required for the sake of our children’s education.

We are not the only ones who believe this. Leaders from more than 10 professional and parent organizations concerned about educating Indiana's children joined with ISTA to oppose the career specialist permit in REPA III.

Please thank these members of the State Board of Education for their opposition to the career specialist permit:
More importantly, please email these members asking them to reconsider their vote in support of the career specialist permit.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #179 – May 21, 2014

[NOTE: You can contact State Board of Education Members by clicking on this link:]

Dear Friends,

On May 14th, the State Board of Education in a close 6-5 vote made a fundamental error in lowering the standards teachers for a teaching license in Indiana. Indiana doesn’t need lower standards for teachers.

By the Board’s close vote, the concept is still alive in the REPA 3 package of licensing rules to allow graduates with no teacher training or student teaching to get a two-year renewable license to teach secondary students in Indiana.

After noting the discussion points below, I urge all advocates for strong public schools to contact their State Board member and all State Board members to register your surprise that the idea of giving a teaching license to untrained teachers is still alive in REPA 3. We need to maintain our current standards for teachers and not to lower them.

Proposed by Dr. Bennett in 2012, the pathway to a teacher license without first studying how to teach is still alive.

REPA 3 Discussion at the May 14th Meeting

Jill Shedd of the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana and Keith Gambill of the ISTA started the meeting with public comments opposing the Adjunct Teaching license. Both articulately explained that Emergency Licenses, Advanced Degree Licenses and Transition-to-Teaching Licenses provide all the flexibility and alternative licensing pathways that administrators or future teachers need.

After considerable discussion which included changing the name from “Adjunct Teacher” to “Career Specialist”, Superintendent Ritz moved to strike consideration in REPA 3 of the Adjunct Teacher license which could provide a renewable license to graduates who have had no teacher training or student teaching. After a lengthy debate and a roll call vote, the motion to strike failed 5-6.

Proponents: Six Votes For the Adjunct License Proposal

Of the six votes for retaining the Adjunct license concept, three were appointed by Gov. Daniels: Dan Elsener, B.J. Watts and Tony Walker. Three were appointed by Gov. Pence: David Freitas, Andrea Neal and Gordon Hendry.

Proponents glamorized this proposal as a new pathway for teachers. Dan Elsener said we should “respect superintendents.” He said, as quoted in Eric Weddle’s story in the Indianapolis Star (May 15, 2014, pA10), “I like opening up the field. I think it is opening another option, and no one has to do this. The quality and type of training in a professional growth program is a local option. If they find a new and better mousetrap to develop a teacher, I like that innovation.”

I imagine the teacher training programs of Indiana really love to be compared to “mousetraps.” He also seems unaware that funding for local professional development programs is a huge problem since the state zeroed out its professional development budget four years ago.

Andrea Neal pointedly demanded to see the research that teacher training programs did a better job in prepping teachers than on-the-job mentorships.

I imagine that same question was asked by naysayers in 1918 when my first alma mater became Ball State Teacher’s College.

Have the 100 years of experience in training teachers in Indiana been worthless? Some want our citizens to think so. I certainly disagree.

Brad Oliver, in response, asked Andrea Neal for the research that a simple mentorship program would be as effective as a teacher training program. Later Board Member Neal cited a study that she said favored mentoring, not indicating whether the study was about mentoring that was completed before the first class was taught, which is the point of this controversy.

Opponents: Five Votes Against the Adjunct License Proposal

Of the five votes to strike the Adjunct license concept, two were appointed by Gov. Daniels: Cari Whicker and Sarah O’Brien. Two were appointed by Gov. Pence: Brad Oliver and Troy Albert. The latter two are the only members of the board with significant public school experience in hiring secondary teachers. The fifth vote was by Superintendent Ritz.

Brad Oliver led off the discussion expressing his opposition. He said as a former member of the Professional Standards Board, he could not support the Adjunct concept. The Star quoted him as well: “We are the last gateway to make sure that anybody that is in front of a child has had at least modern similarity of standards. I am not saying they have to go through a full program to get into the classroom… but how do we ensure quality and what are the quality controls that people in front of our students are well prepared?”

He said if there were no current “flexibility”, he might support this step, but he cited the three current pathways to alternative licensing as sufficient. He called the Adjunct proposal an “unregulated alternative pathway to what we already have,” one in which principals would make the decision about allowing an untrained teacher to get an initial license.

Later he cited the General Assembly’s work to make teacher education programs more accountable by tracking the outcomes of their graduates. He said that trend doesn’t square with this move to let untrained teachers get a license.

He has accurately described the huge disconnect between closer regulation of teacher preparation by the General Assembly led by Senator Banks and deregulation of teacher preparation via this move by the State Board.

Troy Albert emphatically said that the Adjunct proposal is “repetitive in my opinion. Going further would be a mistake.” He said that already every person who wants to teach can get in through one of the existing pathways.

Cari Whicker emphasized the importance of student teaching and said teachers should have some pedagogy training before teaching.


What is new in the flawed proposal to lower standards is that a two-year license would be issued to teachers prior to any pedagogical training and to any student teaching. Every experienced teacher knows that the most important hour of any class they are teaching is the first hour when rules and expectations of the class are made clear. The tone and standards of the class are set. A new teacher has to be ready for Day One or the productivity of the class may be damaged for the enter semester. This proposal overlooks that crucial point.

It also overlooks the way principals rely on the track record from student teaching and from teacher training to hire the best teachers. Members of the State Board who favored this flawed proposal spoke glowingly of the freedom principals will have to select new talent for their school. As a former principal, I can tell you that principals are too busy to independently investigate the abilities of teaching candidates who do not have any record of teacher training. Selecting such a person would be an inappropriate gamble. We should not experiment with the education of Hoosier students. We should continue to require all who stand before a classroom on the first day of school to be trained and ready to teach.

Finally, the State Board’s proposal sends a disrespectful message to all currently licensed secondary teachers, telling them that this board thinks that they didn’t really need to study teaching and pedagogy to be successful teachers and that learning about child development, curriculum, assessment, differentiated instruction and cultural differences can easily be learned on the job as the school days roll on.

Current college students may fall into the trap of thinking that they can easily be successful teachers without a serious study of how to teach. We need new teachers who have made a commitment. This experiment with our students ignores over 100 years of experience with teacher training in Indiana at our institutions of higher learning, experience which tells us that the best teachers are well-trained teachers who are ready from Day One.

What You Can Do

It is heartening to think that in 2012 there were only two votes against the Adjunct Teacher proposal and now there are five. One more vote is needed when the final language comes back to the State Board for approval in June or July.

There seems to be no pattern in the voting based on instructions from Governor Pence. The Pence appointees voted 3-2 against striking the Adjunct concept, and the Daniels appointees also voted 3-2 against. This suggests that every member is voting based on personal experience and may be persuaded by advocacy before the next vote.

It is notable that all five of the opponents are veteran teachers or school administrators, while of the six proponents of the Adjunct concept, three have no K-12 teaching experience.

I urge you to contact State Board members on this issue. Let them know that you think the alternative pathways we now have are flexible and sufficient and that we should never allow a teacher to get a license and teach students without any pedagogical training or any student teaching. That is simply not right.

Your messages on behalf of public education make a big difference. Thanks for participating! Please keep up your steadfast support of public schools!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is now over. Joel Hand did an excellent job representing ICPE throughout the session. We need your membership to help pay the bills for ICPE lobbying efforts. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew by going to our website.

We have raised the needed money in past sessions, and we must do so again. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thank you, Hoosier Educators

To the educators and school personnel who make Indiana's public schools such wonderful places for our children to learn:


As this school year comes to an end, please know that your professional organization knows that every single day you and your colleagues do more than you have to for the children in your care.

Despite all of those tiresome comments about educators' jobs "being easy," remember there are people out there--parents, community members and your Association--that are thankful that Indiana has such talented and qualified people in our public schools.

Please know that as you begin to pack up for the summer, as short as it might be, ISTA will continue to fight for you and for the schools in which you work and teach. As ISTA president, I know how much time you spend away from your own families to work for our children--I know about the days you stay late, come in early and leave in exhaustion. I also know about all of those weekends spent grading papers and planning for the week ahead.

ISTA and I appreciate:
  • the endless hours you spend in meetings, planning, discussing, preparing and learning;
  • your expertise and the training that make you so qualified to do the difficult work that you do;
  • your willingness to deal with all of the questions, concerns, emails and calls that come from parents and guardians;
  • the personality, the joy and the love you bring to work each day;
  • the example you set for all children;
  • every bathroom break you don't get as you struggle to meet the demands of your day; and
  • the time you take to make sure that our children know their value is much, much more than a test score--even when those scores can affect your own evaluation.
As a kindergarten teacher I spent a lot of time every summer getting ready for the next school year: reviewing standards, creating lessons, building lesson enhancements, studying data and more, all in the name of doing what was best for my students. I know you do as well. But remember to take time to let your Association help. Meet with us in June at ISTA's Summer Leadership Conference in Indianapolis. Days are set aside to help with leadership training, bargaining expertise and political activism. And take time to see how ISTA can be your source for professional support.

For more info on our summer conference, go to:

Thank you, Hoosier educators. You are the capital that makes Indiana great. Your work does not go unnoticed and it is appreciated. Have a great summer.

Thanks for all you do.


Teresa Meredith

Monday, May 5, 2014

ISTA President on Teacher Appreciation Day

An Open Letter to Indiana's Public School Teachers For Teacher Appreciation Day

by Teresa Meredith, ISTA President.

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you. Despite all of the obstacles thrown in your professional path by corporate "school reformers" supported by many of our state's policymakers over the last few years, you continue to work magic in Indiana's public school classrooms in every community across our state.

Despite some legislators and other "education experts," who not surprisingly spend little or no time inside our public schools, lashing out at you after the release of the new teacher evaluation data, I know first-hand that you are passionate about our children and our profession. You are, indeed, highly effective.

One legislator, in particular, called that data "skewed."

I'd like to remind him and other naysayers that "effective" simply means "successful in producing a desired or intended result."

So, let me share with you some information provided by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education about results in our public schools:
  • ATTENDANCE RATE - Hoosier public schools have successfully raised daily attendance in 17 of the past 23 years. The latest 2011-12 rate of 96.1% repeats the highest level ever reached in 2008-09.
  • GRADUATION RATE - A new cohort method shows 88.4% graduated in four years or less in the Class of 2012, up from 85.7, 84.1%, 81.5%, 77.8%, 76.4%, and 76.1% in the last six graduating classes. The dropout rate was 6.1% for the Class of 2011, improving from 6.4%, 8.7%, 10.3%, 11.9% and 11.2% in five previous years of the new system which tracks every student.
  • ACT COMPOSITE SCORES - Indiana's composite score on the ACT remained at 22.3 in 2011-12, the highest mark in state history. Indiana ACT scores have exceeded national averages in all 23 years of the study.
  • NATIONAL ASSESSMENT (NAEP) SCORES - On National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) basic scores, Indiana outperformed the nation on all 41 NAEP assessments since 1990. On the NAEP proficient standard, Indiana outperformed the nation on 31 of 41 tests.
  • ISTEP ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS SCORES - In 67 valid year-to-year comparisons over 14 years and 8 grades, 33 (49%) went up, 18 (27%) went down, and 16 (24%) were stable. More went up than down by a clear margin.
  • ISTEP MATH SCORES - In 67 valid year-to-year comparisons, 42 (63%) went up, 14 (21%) remained stable, and 11 (16%) went down, showing a clear trend of improvement.
  • PERCENT OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES GOING TO COLLEGE - The percent of graduates aspiring to college went up 20 of the 21 years to reach 77.0% in 2009-10, the highest level in state history. IDOE no longer has this percent on its website.
  • STUDENTS EARNING ACADEMIC HONORS OR CORE 40 DIPLOMAS - For all 23 years of the study, more students every year earned either the 47-credit Academic Honors Diploma or the Core 40 diploma, reaching a record total of 81.9% in the Class of 2012.
This data clearly shows "desired and intended results" thanks to your hard work and dedication. So I celebrate with you these successes that are often untold, and congratulate you on once again for a job well done.

This week, our state and nation celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. I know that many of you often don't feel appreciated after surviving several years of "education reform-based teacher bashing."

I want to take this opportunity to speak for the busy voices who often forget to take time to thank you for your work - parents, community members and policymakers who do know the true value of public educators and public education in our local communities.

To all of you fellow educators who value opportunities for our children to be creative, to develop critical thinking skills, to demonstrate their knowledge beyond worksheets and standardized tests, we say thanks. We appreciate you and your work.

And we pledge to begin today with a renewed commitment to working on for a better public school system for you and your students - a system respects you and the children whose lives you affect every single day.

In solidarity,

Teresa Meredith
Kindergarten Teacher, Shelbyville Central Schools
President, Indiana State Teachers Association

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

DOE Performance Evaluation Results

April 7, 2014

ISTA released the following advisory to statewide news media today regarding the Indiana Department of Education's release of results for the 2012-13 teacher evaluation findings.

Evaluation Results Show Most Teachers Effective
or Highly Effective

INDIANAPOLIS-The Indiana Department of Education today released the results for the 2012-13 new teacher evaluation models that link teacher performance to compensation based on test scores. The positive data paints an optimistic picture for public school teaching in Indiana. More than 87 percent of teachers statewide received an evaluation rating of highly-effective or effective while less than 1 percent of teachers received an ineffective designation.

There has been no lack of controversy and contention surrounding the issue. Following legislation enacted by the 2011 General Assembly school districts were faced with a major challenge to adapt evaluations. School administrators were required to evaluate every teacher annually--creating a major shift in time spent evaluating versus leading educational programming.

The 2012-13 school year was the first year that the new evaluation model was implemented providing data results in four categories: highly-effective, effective, improvement necessary and ineffective. The results include data for all certified school employees--including administrators--in addition to teachers.

"Hopefully these results show what we have known to be true for some time," said ISTA President Teresa Meredith. "For the most part our teachers are doing a superior job in Indiana schools. Now educators can stop holding their breath and take a look at the results themselves."

The results send a strong message to educators and policymakers throughout Indiana. Hoosier teachers are performing at high levels and are demonstrating excellence in the classroom.

ISTA calls on policymakers to refocus their collective attention on providing resources to teachers, classrooms and student programs designed to help children learn. "With an upcoming and budget-writing legislative session ahead, it is time for legislators to turn from reforms centered on bureaucracy to improvements in learning opportunities for students," Meredith said.

The data from the Indiana DOE can be found HERE.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #13– March 31, 2014

Dear Friends,

The architect of Indiana’s private school voucher law is being challenged in the May 6th primary by a Republican who opposes vouchers. The voters in the Republican primary in Indiana House District 91 will shape the future of public education in Indiana.

Representative Behning is being challenged by Michael Scott. Representative Behning has been the champion of private schools and the sponsor of the K-12 voucher laws. Public school advocates have in Michael Scott a candidate who supports public education.

Will the Republican voters of District 91 choose to continue the demise of public education through the policies of Representative Behning or will they choose to support public education?

[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

A Clear Choice on Education Policy

I have closely observed Representative Behning’s work in the General Assembly since he became the chair of the Education Committee in the 2005 session. After serving as ranking minority member in 2007 when Democrats controlled the House, he returned as chair in 2011. Since then he has been the dominant force in making Indiana an experimental marketplace of school choice in which all schools, public and private, compete for the hearts and minds of parents.

Public money now flows for tuition to private and religious schools, breaking the vision of separation between private schools and public money that lasted for 160 years since our 1851 Constitution. Private and religious schools received $81 million in public tax money in 2013-14, according to a state report issued in January.

I strongly opposed passage of the voucher program and the major expansion of that program in 2013. Besides the $81 million shifted away from the one million students in public schools, vouchers entangle state tax money with religious education in religious schools and also give public money to subsidize private schools including their partisan political activities. Private schools taking vouchers have retained the right under Representative Behning’s bills to be as politically partisan as they want to be.

I continue to believe that when the damage to our democracy comes into clearer focus, the rush to expand vouchers will be reversed. For that to happen, voters will need to elect candidates who will support public education rather than private schools. Michael Scott will support public education.

Representative Behning has favored private education and has hurt public education to an extent not easy to summarize in a brief message. Here are three points for starters, all based on his actions since the last election in 2012:
  • He was the leader in vastly expanding public dollars to pay for private and religious education in 2013.
He sponsored House Bill 1003 in the 2013 session which vastly expanded K-12 vouchers. Ten Republican Senators and thirteen Republican members of the House voted against HB 1003, but it still passed.

This expanded experimental marketplace of schools has already had two harmful effects:

First, the dominant concern for all schools is no longer instruction or curriculum. The central concern now must be: marketing. If each school doesn’t get its message and accomplishments out to the parents who are making choices, the school will wither and die. Marketing programs and marketing budgets have ballooned.

Second, the balanced curriculum of my era is now gone. The competition among schools for parent loyalty is driven by math and English tests. All other subjects are receiving benign neglect as more and more attention goes to math and language arts. Music, art, social studies, foreign languages and even science are slowly fading as financial resources dry up and must be concentrated on what really counts: higher test scores in math and language arts. The intense competition for survival demands it.

Here is where the loss of money makes a big difference in the competition. Representative Behning’s voucher program siphoned $50 million from public schools to private schools in 2013-14 based on 12,000 students who transferred from public to private schools. In addition, HB 1003 created new pathways and a new expense to the state of $31 million for the tuition of 7800 private school students who have always been in private schools and have never attended a public school.

Representative Behning and the leadership can control the competition by controlling how much money public schools get. After this last budget that Representative Behning supported, public school budgets are hurting, and that puts public schools at a great disadvantage in the marketplace of schools brought to life by Representative Behning’s voucher program. The 2013 budget was downright stingy in school funding.

Do the voters of District 91 really support Representative Behning’s goal, stated in the Senate Chamber in a 2013 committee discussion, to expand vouchers until all private school students can get a tax funded voucher, be they rich or be they poor, which he called a “universal voucher”? I am not so sure. This election will tell us.
  • He supported the lowest school funding increases in years while engineering increases in private school voucher payments that were twice the size of the funding increases for public schools.
In the 2013 budget, public schools were hoping to recover some of the funding that had been cut during the Great Recession. Instead, the General Assembly with the vote of Representative Behning, raised school funding by only 2% in 2014 and by only 1% in 2015, the lowest increases in the past 20 years except for the four-year span of the Great Recession when revenue dried up. Revenue was no longer a problem in 2013.

Despite these low increases for public schools, Representative Behning won voucher increases of 4% in 2014 and 2% in 2015, rising from $4500 up to $4700 in 2014 and on up to $4800 in 2015. These amounts for private school vouchers are now higher than the per-pupil funding for several public school districts.

Low funding has hurt the ability of public schools to compete in the grand marketplace of schools that parents can now choose from. Many parents look for low class sizes, but when budgets are kept artificially tight in public schools, class sizes go up, and private schools can keep an edge in the competition that Representative Behning’s work has created.

Do the voters of District 91 really support Representative Behning’s low funding of public schools while voucher payments grow generously? I am not so sure. This election will tell us.
  • He sponsored and passed a partisan bill to rewrite Indiana’s 1999 accountability law, Public Law 221.
Landmark legislation in 1999 started Indiana’s accountability program with bipartisan support. All stakeholders involved in education were at the table and supported the final product for 14 years until Representative Behning rewrote it in 2013 without bipartisan support and without all parties at the table.

He attempted to rewrite it in House Bill 1337, but his own Republican caucus handed HB 1337 an unexpected defeat, 33-61. A total of 31 Republicans and 30 Democrats joined in saying no to Representative Behning’s bill. At the end of the session, Representative Behning worked his changes into HB 1427 which passed on a partisan vote, including a controversial addition to inscribe into state law the labels for school performance, naming them as A through F. The 1999 law had left the labels up to the State Board of Education, but Representative Behning acted to take it out of their hands and write it into law.

Do the voters of District 91 really support Representative Behning’s partisan bill locking into law the labeling of our schools as A, B, C, D or F? I am not so sure. This election will tell us.

A different voice has stepped forward

In the great tradition of our democracy, Michael Scott has told me he is running because he believes most of Representative Behning’s positions on education are wrong. He wants the attacks on public education to stop. He opposes vouchers. He wants to see practicing educators have a greater voice in public education policies, rather than non-educators.

Representative Behning’s changes have had a detrimental impact on public education across our entire state. Michael Scott deserves the support of public school advocates across our entire state.

Representative Behning’s ideas on education are controversial within the Republican Party. There are many strong Republicans like Michael Scott who support public education. Will they show up at the polls on May 6th?

What can you do?

First, public school advocates who live in District 91 and wish to vote in the Republican primary should register to vote. A map showing District 91 near Plainfield in Hendricks County and Decatur Township of Marion County is attached. Voter registration ends on Monday, April 7th, one week from today.

Here is a link that can help with voter registration:

Public school advocates who live and vote elsewhere but want to support Michael Scott can do two things. First, talk with friends and relatives who live in Plainfield and District 91 to seek their support for Michael Scott. Second, go to his website to support his campaign with a donation:

Representative Behning has made a national name for himself among those who support private school vouchers. He will have plenty of campaign money to spend. Michael Scott could use your help.

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #12– March 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

As in 2012, I will be writing commentaries about candidates in the 2014 elections which I call “Vic’s Election Notes on Education.”

In order to get these election commentaries, you may need to send me a different email address. A new law has set new legal rules for emails about candidates. If you are using a school district or state email address to receive this message, you will need to send me a different personal email address in order to receive “Vic’s Election Notes on Education”, an address which is not part of a messaging system operated by a public school district or by any other government employer. This includes all emails ending in

This change was prompted by the 2013 General Assembly in a new law detailed below.

This change does not affect the distribution list for “Vic’s Statehouse Notes,” notes which do not discuss candidates or campaign materials.

The New Law

Indiana Code 3-14-1-17, passed in 2013 after the 2012 electoral defeat of Tony Bennett, makes it a Class A misdemeanor to “knowingly or intentionally use the property of the employee’s government employer” to advocate for or against a candidate or a public question.

Additionally, “a government employee may not knowingly or intentionally distribute campaign materials” advocating for or against a candidate or a public question using “the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.”

A second offense makes these actions a Class D felony.

The full text of IC 3-14-1-17 can be found here. Public school advocates working at the grassroots who want to elect candidates friendly to public education need to be well-versed on the details of this law.

The Supreme Irony

This law reinforces my strong belief that public schools and public equipment should not be used for partisan political purposes. As Caleb Mills recommended in the 1850’s, public schools should be non-partisan forums for the citizenship education of students as they first learn about our democracy. This law follows that long tradition.

The great flaw here is that private schools and private school computers are not covered by this law even though private schools are now getting public money. They may be using their public money to operate computers and email systems to support candidates on a partisan basis, but it is not against the law or against any regulation for private schools to engage in partisan activity.

Private schools have every right to directly tell young students how they should stand on partisan political issues or which candidates they should support. Indeed, a Statehouse rally of private school groups brought busload after busload of students to the Statehouse in 2013 to call for more private school vouchers. Do you think any students were given the opportunity to opt out of going to the Statehouse?

The seeds for the demise of our democracy have been planted in the public funding of private schools and the partisan forum they provide for educating young people. We are now using tax money to subsidize private schools including their partisan activities.

The supreme irony is that the supermajority in Indiana that passed IC 3-14-1-17 to separate public funding from partisan activity also passed in the same session a huge expansion of private school vouchers. Vouchers allow public dollars to go to private schools which have every right to engage in partisan political activity. In contrast, I believe that all public money should be focused on non-partisan public schools.

The Importance of Elections in Building Support for Public Education

The 2014 elections in May and November, as do all elections, will have a tremendous impact on the future of public education in Indiana. While “Vic’s Statehouse Notes” address general policy positions and recommendations, “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” will comment on candidates using my First Amendment freedoms and relying on my deep belief that candidates should support public education as a vital element in the continuation of our democracy.

“Vic’s Election Notes on Education” is a personal effort. It is not linked to any organization. It is not being distributed by me to any organization. It is only being distributed to those individuals who have previously sent personal requests for my commentaries.

If you want to pass “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” along to others, you do not need to ask my permission, but you do need to observe the new law described above, refraining from advocating for candidates or distributing campaign materials using the property of a government employer and refraining from such activities during working hours, as the law says.

If you want to be taken off the distribution list, just let me know. If you know of others who want to be added to the list, just send me an email.

Let me know if you have a different email address to replace a school district or a state government email address.

Thanks for your interest in the future of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.