Thursday, September 3, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #226 – September 3, 2015

From Vic Smith...for anyone who might be planning to be near Merrillville on September 10, 2015. ICPE is planning a meeting in Fort Wayne on October 3. Click here for more information.

---

Dear Friends,

After an excellent meeting last Saturday in Indianapolis, the second Indiana Coalition for Public Education meeting will be held in Merrillville on Thursday, September 10th. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has told us she will be there, and a panel of area legislators will also be there.

We hope you and your friends who would like to restore public education to a high priority will be there as well!

The meeting will be on Thursday, September 10, 2015, at 6:30 pm CDT in the Merrillville High School Auditorium, Entrance M, 276 E. 68th Place, Merrillville.


Speakers

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz confirmed her appearance on September 10th in Merrillville while addressing the meeting last Saturday. In addition, a panel of four area legislators will be speaking:
  • Sen. Rick Niemeyer – R, District 6
  • Sen. Earlene Rogers – D, District 3
  • Rep. Harold Slager – R, District 15
  • Rep. Vernon Smith – D, District 14
Six Questions about the Future of Public Education in Indiana

The future of public education is now in play in every session of the General Assembly and in every election. The discussion on September 10th will focus on six questions that we have asked our speakers to address:

1. What do you see coming up in the 2016 legislative session that might help or hurt public schools? What priority do you place on providing public funding to private schools?

2. What is your position on expanding or curtailing the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers?

3. What is your position on the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? There have been bills to automatically give higher state funding to SGO tax credits if donation levels reach certain goals. Are we going to continue to see this concept come up in future sessions?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. Are we likely to see new legislation to change the role of high stakes testing or reduce the amount of testing? Do we need legislative action to allow parents to opting out of testing without penalizing students or their schools?

6. How do you as legislators react to the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

We are pleased that State Superintendent Ritz and the four area legislators have responded to our invitation.

Please come on September 10th and get involved in ICPE’s efforts to support public education.

I hope you can support public education in Indiana by coming to our ICPE meeting on September 10th.

A flyer about the September 10th program is attached for you to share with others who support public education and might come to this meeting.

If you can’t come on that date, please consider coming to one of the subsequent meetings in five other cities around Indiana. The next is on Thursday, September 17th at West Lafayette High School at 7:00 pm EDT.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #224 – August 26, 2015

Dear Friends,

Glenda Ritz has accepted our invitation to speak at our first ICPE membership meeting on August 29th at 2pm.

It will be held in the Washington Township Community and Education Center at the corner of 86th Street and Woodfield Crossing in Indianapolis.

Can you join us to hear the latest update by Glenda Ritz on education issues in Indiana after an eventful summer?

Can you join us to hear the newest data on improvement in Indiana’s public schools as I unveil the new edition of “A 25 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools“?

I hope to see you on Saturday.

The Changing Landscape in the Race for Governor


Based on the crucial power of the Governor to lift or degrade public education in Indiana, the ICPE board instituted a plan to invite all candidates for Governor to discuss the future of public education in a series of seven meetings this fall. On July 20th, letters were mailed to all four candidates: Mike Pence, John Gregg, Glenda Ritz and Karen Tallian.

Much has happened since.

On August 7th, Glenda Ritz announced she is leaving the race for Governor and instead will run for reelection as State Superintendent. A few days later she endorsed John Gregg.

On August 17th, Karen Tallian announced she is leaving the race for Governor and endorsed John Gregg.

Mike Pence has not responded to our invitation.

John Gregg has said in a television interview that he and Glenda Ritz are running as a team and that she will be his “point person” on education policy. At our meeting on Saturday, Glenda Ritz presumably will be able to comment for herself and for John Gregg on our six questions regarding the future of public education:

1. As Governor, what priority would you give to public education in Indiana and what priority would you give to providing public funding to private schools?

2. As Governor, would you work to expand or to curtail the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers? What steps would you take to expand or reduce the program?

3. As Governor, would you work to expand or to reduce the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? Would you support or oppose an escalator clause giving higher state funding to SGO tax credits automatically if donation levels reach certain goals?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. How would you change the role of high stakes testing in Indiana to allow for more instructional time and to promote attention to subjects other than the tested subjects of language arts and math? What is your position on parents opting out of testing?

6. How would you address the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

Join us on August 29th and get involved in the battle to save and restore public education.

“A 25-Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools” – The New Report

Did you know that the graduation rate for the public schools of the state of Indiana leaped up to 89.8% for the Class of 2014, the most recent year reported?

That is up 1.5% above the Class of 2013.

That is only a fraction shy of the 90% goal that has been talked about for years.

That is nearly 14% higher than the 2006 figure using the new four years or less methodology when the first result was 76.1%.

That is way above the figure frequently shown this summer in advertisements for WFYI Channel 20’s American Graduate Project which claimed Indiana’s graduation rate to be 76% and listed all the benefits that would happen if we could lift our graduation rate to 90%.

Someone should tell Channel 20 the news is better than they think.

Through all the controversies and all the efforts to diminish the work of public school educators, the public schools of Indiana have continued to steadily and methodically improve over the past 25 years. The evidence is clear.

This and other points of improvement are found in the latest edition of my annual report entitled “A 25 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools” which will be unveiled at the August 29th ICPE membership meeting at the Dean Evans Center.

This report as well as information about the important report critical of Indiana’s voucher program released by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability last April will follow the presentation by Glenda Ritz.

Saving public education and restoring it to a high priority will take all of us who are dedicated to the mission of an excellent public education available to all students.

I hope you will join us on Saturday, August 29th at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center. If you can’t come Saturday, please consider coming to one of the subsequent meetings in six other cities around Indiana.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###

Friday, August 7, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #223 – August 6, 2015

Dear Friends,

We have learned definitively in the past four years that whoever holds the office of Governor – not the State Superintendent but the Governor -- carries the most weight in deciding whether Indiana’s public schools get support and funding and whether public education flourishes or recedes in Indiana.

Four candidates have declared that they want to run for Governor in 2016. The campaign is on.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education has invited all four candidates in a letter mailed on July 20th to discuss six questions about public education with ICPE members and prospective members at a series of seven ICPE membership meetings throughout Indiana.

Please check out the list of meetings below and plan to come to one or more. Bring along a friend who supports public education! Membership meetings are open to all ICPE members and those who are considering membership.

Seven ICPE Meetings


All who support public education are welcome to come to one or more of the fall meetings:

Saturday, August 29 – Indianapolis Dean Evans Center, 8550 Woodfield Crossing Blvd., 2 pm (E.D.T.)

Thursday, September 10 – Lowell Lowell High School Auditorium, 2051 East Commercial Ave., 6:30 pm (C.D.T .)

Thursday, September 17 – West Lafayette West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 1105 N. Grant Street, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Saturday, October 3 – Fort Wayne Ivy Tech Coliseum Campus Auditorium, 3800 N. Anthony Blvd., 2 pm (E.D.T.)

Tuesday, October 13 –Bloomington City Hall, 401 North Morton, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Tuesday, October 20 – Evansville Central Library, 200 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 6:30 (C.D.T.)

Wednesday, October 21 – New Albany Location TBA, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Please note the northwest Indiana meeting (Sept. 10th) and the southwest Indiana meeting (Oct. 20) are on Central time.

Six Questions

You are probably familiar with the four declared gubernatorial candidates, listed alphabetically:
  • John Gregg
  • Mike Pence
  • Glenda Ritz
  • Karen Tallian
Since ICPE is a bipartisan nonprofit advocacy group in support of public education, all four candidates were invited in exactly the same way to speak or to send a spokesperson empowered to speak on their behalf to address six key questions:

1. As Governor, what priority would you give to public education in Indiana and what priority would you give to providing public funding to private schools?

2. As Governor, would you work to expand or to curtail the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers? What steps would you take to expand or reduce the program?

3. As Governor, would you work to expand or to reduce the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? Would you support or oppose an escalator clause giving higher state funding to SGO tax credits automatically if donation levels reach certain goals?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. How would you change the role of high stakes testing in Indiana to allow for more instructional time and to promote attention to subjects other than the tested subjects of language arts and math? What is your position on parents opting out of testing?

6. How would you address the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

To date, we have not had a response from any of the four candidates, but we are confident that at least some of the candidates will want to address Indiana citizens who support public education in these fall ICPE meetings.

We will keep you updated on how the candidates respond. If you know the candidates, let them know you are eager to have them participate in these meetings.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars and make plans to attend one or more of the fall meetings.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. We welcome 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #222 – May 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

The step-by-step dismantling of public education in Indiana continued in the 2015 session. The passage of Senate Bill 1 on the final day of the legislative session marked a significant upheaval in the tectonic plates undergirding the once-sturdy foundation of public education in Indiana.

Under Senate Bill 1, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, elected by the public, will lose the power of chairing the State Board of Education, a power held by the State Superintendent since 1913, over a hundred years.

After December 31, 2016, the chair will be elected by the appointed members of the board, not the voters. Since no qualifications for the new chair were set by Senate Bill 1, the General Assembly has opened the door to have a non-educator chair the State Board of Education for the first time.

No effort was made in the bill to protect the importance of public education experience in chairing the State Board.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of "How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?" by saying "the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it." Demoting and marginalizing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction appears to be a step along the path endorsed by Dr. Friedman.


Governors and State Superintendents: Who Controls Education Policy?

There was a time in my career when every Governor did not want to be the "education Governor." I began teaching in the era of Governor Whitcomb who left education policy to the State Superintendent and the State Board. Governor Bowen, after engineering the landmark collective bargaining law of 1973, essentially did the same thing.

In the 1980's, when the history of unending education reform began, Governor Orr ran on a platform of assisting with the early grades, and his interest resulted in major funding for Project Primetime, a popular and effective program to lower the class sizes in Grades K-3. He followed that initiative with the A+ reforms of 1987 which brought us the ISTEP tests. Governor Orr resisted President Reagan’s call for private school vouchers and consistently supported public education, but with his actions, gubernatorial involvement in Indiana education policy was firmly established.

Every Governor since has been deeply involved in education policy, but no Governor has sought to take over the duties of the State Superintendent until Governor Pence took office. In 2013, even before State Superintendent Ritz was inaugurated on January 19th, House Bill 1309 was introduced in the General Assembly on January 14, 2013 requiring the state board to elect a vice chairperson who “may call meetings; set and amend agendas; arrange for witnesses; and carry out any other administrative function as it relates to meetings of the state board.” The bill went nowhere, but the plan to diminish the previous powers of the State Superintendent was already in place as both Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz began their terms of office. Governor Pence has shown no willingness to work with the elected State Superintendent from the beginning.

Senate Bill 1: New Potential Sources of Confusion and Conflict

While the stated purpose of SB 1 was to resolve conflicts and bickering, the language of the bill appears to open a new arena for conflict. The supermajority decided it was too dangerous politically to change the powers of the State Superintendent in the middle of the term of office, so the removal of the State Superintendent as chair was delayed until the beginning of the next term of office, after December 31, 2016.

More immediately, however, under provisions of the new law, "a vice chairperson shall be elected at the first meeting of the state board after June 30, 2015" who "shall act as chairperson in the absence of the chairperson."

Here is the new problem: "The chairperson and the vice chairperson are jointly responsible for establishing agendas for state board meetings after receiving and considering recommended agenda items from the members of the state board." This last minute addition to the language of the bill leaves many questions:

1. Is the vice chairperson supposed to actually function as a co-chairperson?

2. If there is a disagreement about the agenda between the State Superintendent and the vice chairperson, does each have a veto over the final decision?

3. Why can’t the chair have the normal power of setting the agenda with the input of the board members, as it is now?

4. Did the General Assembly have to micromanage even the agenda powers of the State Superintendent?

It seems obvious that the seeds of further conflict have been sown by these words of the General Assembly.

Who Will Appoint State Board Members?

The reason Senate Bill 1 took until the last day was a disagreement between the Senate and the Governor over appointments to the State Board. The original House Bill 1609 left all 10 appointments to the Governor, as it has been since 1984, when the reform creating the State Board of Education was passed under Governor Orr. Senate Bill 1 reduced the total size of the board to nine, with four appointments by the Governor, two by the Speaker of the House and two by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent was to serve as the ninth member.

House Bill 1609 never got a hearing and died in the Senate. Senate Bill 1 was amended by the House and passed in the final meeting of the House Education Committee. The House version called for a 13 member board, with the Governor appointing ten, the Speaker one and the President Pro Tem one, with the State Superintendent serving as the 13th member.

Senator Holdman, the bill’s sponsor, dissented on the House changes and took the bill to Conference Committee. The Conference Committee did not meet until April 27th, only two days before the session ended. The proposed Conference Committee report sliced the State Board back down to nine members and delayed the removal of the State Superintendent until after the next election.

The bill remained in flux until the final day, April 29th. The final deal was to leave the number at eleven, the number on the State Board now, with the Governor getting eight appointments, the Speaker one, and the President Pro Tem one. No doubt the Governor was not pleased about losing two appointments to the legislative branch, but that is how it came out.

Senate Bill 1: Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition

Senate Bill 1 was passed by the supermajority Republican members, but some courageous members of the Republican caucus joined the Democrats in voting against the bill. Some Republicans were "taken to the woodshed" over their opposition to SB 1. It can be damaging to a political career to vote contrary to the wishes of the caucus leadership.

Public school advocates should thank the members of the Republican caucus and the Democrats who opposed Senate Bill 1 in the House and in the Senate.

They were standing up for the power of voters. In the 2012 election, voters had the power to choose the chair of the State Board, but in 2016, the voters will lose that power. As few as six appointed members of the State Board will gain the power to elect the chair of the State Board.

In the House of Representatives, this bill was opposed by ten Republicans and all Democrats in the final day 60-38 vote. Those voting no included Republican Representatives Arnold, Beumer, Braun, Dermody, Harman, Judy, Koch, Mahan, Nisly and Truitt and Democrat Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, C. Brown, DeLaney, Dvorak, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, V. Smith, Stemler, Summers and Wright.

In the Senate, the final day 31-17 roll call showed nine Republican Senators and all eight Democrats who voted opposing the bill. Those voting no included Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Delph, Ford, Glick, Head, Leising, Messmer, and Tomes and Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops and Tallian.

As the 2015 session of the General Assembly ends, the foundations of public education in Indiana are showing new cracks and the voters have lost an important power.

Many have called Senate Bill 1 a power grab. This has two meanings. One is that the Governor has grabbed power from the State Superintendent. In broader terms regarding our democracy, it also means that government appointees have grabbed power from the voters. Will the voters notice and react?

Our democracy and the role of voters have been diminished by the legacy of Senate Bill 1.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. 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 now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #221 – May 5, 2015

Dear Friends,

After watching 19 sessions of the General Assembly, I have come to expect a surprise on the last day. The surprise last Wednesday on the April 29th deadline was a bold last minute gambit to remove State Superintendent Ritz’s authority over private school vouchers and over Scholarship Granting Organization private school scholarships and give that authority to the State Board of Education, controlled by Governor Pence.

This unexpected cliffhanger power grab, a concept not discussed in any previous bill in the entire session, was part of the budget released to the public about 10pm on Tuesday night (April 28th). It is not clear who inserted the language in question, but it is clear who took quick action in their caucus to reverse it: Senate Republicans. The Senators did not endorse this last minute policy change over vouchers, a change which the Indianapolis Star highlighted in an online mid-day story. The Senate Republicans acted decisively to prompt a second draft of the final budget, which was released to the public about 5pm Wednesday and passed by both chambers just before midnight.

Give kudos to the Senate Republicans and direct your questions to the House Republicans and the Governor about this inappropriate last minute maneuver.


Sections 234 and 236

One sentence in a 248 page budget set up the abrupt policy change on Scholarship Granting Organizations. In Section 234 of the first conference committee report, referencing IC 20-51-3-11, the word "department" was crossed out to read: "The state board shall adopt rules under IC 4-22-2 to implement this article."

That is all it took to end the authority of the State Superintendent to supervise Scholarship Granting Organizations.

A similar change in Section 236 ended department authority over choice scholarships and the voucher program.

Senate Republicans, however, had not agreed to this last minute change and took action to reverse it.

In the Senate version of the budget passed in early April, the Senators had frozen the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits at the current $7.5 million. The Governor and the House Republicans had endorsed an expansion to $12.5 million with an escalator clause that would automatically raise the amount each year by 20% if the SGO donations reached the maximum amount.

Many Senators have now recognized that this is an uncontrolled method of expanding vouchers to nearly all current private school students since a year with an SGO scholarship makes any student eligible for a choice scholarship voucher in the subsequent year. This makes the voucher program no longer about funding a transfer to private schools but about giving public funds for a private decision made long ago to students who have always been in private schools.

Consider these astounding numbers gleaned from the straightforward data in the Feb. 2015 Annual Financial Report on the voucher program prepared by the Indiana Department of Education: From 2012-13 to 2014-15, in just two years, the self-pay private school students dropped from 71,000 to 55,000, down 16,000, while the voucher funded private students jumped from 9,000 to 29,000, up 20,000. Overall, private school enrollment went up only 4000, from 81,000 to 85,000 in those two years. (Figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand.)

The conclusion is that tax dollars are not supplementing private school tuition to produce vast numbers of new voucher students, but rather tax dollars are supplanting private school tuition by funding students who have always been in private schools. Giving an SGO scholarship to a current private school student has become the biggest pathway to making that student eligible for a voucher the next year.

Final Budget Numbers

In the final budget compromise, the Senate and the House settled on raising the SGO tax credits to $8.5 million in the first year of the budget and to $9.5 million in the second year of the budget.

Clearly, advocates for public education should thank members of the Senate for trying to hold the line on voucher expansion through Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships.

Then it is time to ask the tough questions to members of the House. Why is the House so supportive of expanding vouchers through Scholarship Granting Organizations? Why does the House want to accelerate the shift of public money to private schools by allowing the unlimited growth of tax credit scholarships?

Removing the Cap on Grade K-8 Vouchers

In addition to the SGO expansion, Governor Pence wanted to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers for grades K-8, at a cost his office projected to be $3.8 million per year. Despite the objections of many public school advocates, the House and Senate both endorsed the expansion of vouchers in this way. The cap for K-8 vouchers is now the same as for 9-12 vouchers, that is, 90% of the per pupil funding in each school district.

The Education Controversy of this Generation: Will public tuition dollars go to private schools?

This is the fourth budget in a row in which the last minute education battles have been waged over funding private school tuition with public dollars.

In 2009, the General Assembly deadlocked and could not pass a budget by the end of April. In a June special session, a final budget deal which barely passed by July 1 included the first ever Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits funded at $2.5 million.

In 2011, the bill establishing the voucher program had to use the budget bill as a trailer bill to fix details in the voucher bill (HB1003) that Representative Behning couldn’t get fixed in a conference committee.

In 2013, the budget had to be amended one more time on the last day, just as this year, when key Senators balked on giving private school vouchers to areas served by D schools. Only F school areas were allowed in the voucher expansion plan in the final budget.

This year in 2015, the last day battle over control of the voucher program came out of the blue. In the 2013 session, House Bill 1342 to separate voucher administration from the State Superintendent passed the House Education Committee on a party line vote, but then died. In the 2014 or the current 2015 sessions, no bills addressed a voucher takeover until this final day budget maneuver.

This astounding move confirms that the battle over vouchers runs deep in the hearts and minds of the contestants vying to control the future of education in Indiana: Will education in Indiana be delivered through strong community public schools or will education gradually be privatized via vouchers as public schools lose priority?

It is the education question of our generation.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. 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 now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #220 – April 28, 2015

Dear Friends,

$469 million dollars!

Speaker Bosma said on last Friday's edition of The Lawmakers (April 24th) that the budget for tuition support for Indiana K-12 schools would go up by $469 million dollars in the new biennial budget, despite a slight downturn in the revenue forecast.

It is good news that the lower revenue forecast is not dissuading legislative leaders from their plans to raise K-12 spending by 2.3% each year.

Then the Speaker went on to say that $469 million dollars is the largest school funding increase in state history.

Apparently, no one has told him about 1997. In the 1997 budget, state funding for K-12 tuition support went up by $482 million, more than the 2015 budget’s planned increase, but there is more to the story. In those days, the legislature also directed local property taxes to be levied for use by K-12 schools. Adding in the property tax, the 1997 school formula added $616 million new dollars for K-12 schools! Total funding went up 4.8% each year, double the percentage increase planned for this budget.

If another $14 million would be added to this year’s school funding, the claim that state funding has never been higher might hold. Certainly, another $14 million would help districts serving students of poverty. The low revenue suburban districts that have not been treated fairly in past budgets are getting needed relief in this year's school formula. Complexity dollars, however, for districts with concentrations of poverty have been reduced in the House and Senate budgets. They are the potential losers this year.

The final version of the budget is expected to be unveiled this afternoon.


School Funding in 1997 and Now

The school funding formula in 1997 and all budgets up through 2007 included both state dollars and local property tax dollars for K-12 schools. When the property tax crisis hit, the school general fund was shifted over to be funded exclusively by state dollars.

The state funding for schools in 1997 went up by 6.0% each year and the local property tax levy for schools went up by 2.8% each year. The combination of these two sources in the 1997 budget produced the increase of 4.8% each year.

Thoughts of 1997 hearken back to the days when public education was a high priority and the appropriation for K-12 public schools was not shared with private school vouchers. This year, when Speaker Bosma says school funding will get $469 million, his figure includes at least $15.7 million that the IDOE documented as the net fiscal cost of private school vouchers in 2013-14 along with the new cost of Governor Pence's plan to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers in the new budget, which carries a price tag of at least $3.8 million each year according to LSA.

All costs for vouchers come out of the K-12 tuition support budget because the Governor and the Republican leadership have refused to put all private school voucher costs in a separate line item for clarity and transparency purposes. It is hard to precisely track the cost of private school vouchers under our current budgeting procedures, and the Governor in his support for voucher expansion seems to like it that way.

The final school funding budget in the 2015 budget will be unveiled late this afternoon. The public will see it after a review by the Republican caucus. Both the House and the Senate will then pass it tomorrow on the final day of the session, and the cheering and the wailing will begin. All indications point to the fact that this school budget will have winners and losers.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education and for your efforts to make funding for public education a high priority in the General Assembly!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. 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 now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #219 – April 27, 2015

Dear Friends,

Keep up the messages opposing Senate Bill 1, which removes the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education. Your drumbeat of opposition is making a difference.

At today’s 10am Conference Committee meeting on Senate Bill 1, Senator Holdman unveiled a proposed conference committee report that mitigated the worst partisan move in the bill. It no longer would change the power of the State Superintendent in the middle of the electoral term. Instead, the chair would be chosen by the other board members after December 31, 2016, after the 2016 election.

While this was a small gain in the proposed compromise, the bad news is that new language has been added that would give additional powers to the State Board. Representative Austin stated in discussion that the proposal to make the State Board an educational authority "within the meaning of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" had been voted down in House Bill 1072. Under current rules, a rejected proposal is not to be brought back in a conference committee.

Senator Holdman said he would look into that.

This bill is not done. More messages opposing SB 1 would help. The bill is unnecessary. It diminishes the power of the elected State Superintendent. If you have not yet contacted your legislators about Senate Bill 1, please do so tonight or tomorrow.


Appointment Powers

Senator Holdman's compromise plan is to have nine members on the State Board, instead of the current eleven. The Governor would appoint six, of which four must be experienced educators defined as having at least 5 years of professional experience in education and no more than four can be of the same political party. The Speaker and the President Pro Tem would each appoint one. The State Superintendent would be the ninth.

As Senator Lanane analyzed the numbers in today’s meeting, the plan would result under our current circumstances in a board with six Republicans and three Democrats.

No Qualifications Listed for the New Chair

This bill has ignored addressing the qualifications of the chair of the State Board that under SB 1 would succeed the State Superintendent. For 102 years, by having the State Superintendent chair the State Board, the citizens of Indiana have been guaranteed that the chair of the State Board is thoroughly knowledgeable about the schools of Indiana from personal experience. Now SB 1 proposes a new chair with no qualifications stated who would now become the most powerful policy leader in education. This person should be an experienced professional educator with deep experience in Indiana.

Is the supermajority proposing in this bill that the most powerful policy leader in education in Indiana could be a non-educator without personal experience in teaching or administration? That is where it now stands. I hope you will ask legislators to fix this flaw in the bill, if they don’t withdraw the bill altogether.

New Language

While the delayed implementation of demoting the State Superintendent as chair was welcome, it came at the same time new language was proposed that has not been considered before in this session. This is very late in the process to be starting new language, especially language that leaves lots of questions.

One new section regarding plans for a turnaround school reads "The state board may require the department to report to the state board regarding implementation of a recommended plan." Does the State Board expect noncompliance if they ask the IDOE for a report? Is this language assuming confrontation?

Another new section regarding ISTEP says the state board shall "authorize and approve the development and establishment of passing scores." Does this mean the State Board staff can wrest the management of setting the cut scores away from the IDOE testing staff who have supervised the setting of cut scores since Public Law 221 began in 1999?

We don’t need last minute controversies about giving the State Board new powers. We don’t need Senate Bill 1.

Send a Message to Members of the Conference Committee

If you have not already done so, send a message to the conference committee members.

The Senate Conferees are Senator Holdman, chair of the committee, and Senator Lanane.

The House Conferees are Representative McMillin and Representative Vernon Smith.

Senate Advisors on the Committee are Senators Kenley, Breaux, Rogers, Kruse and Yoder.

House Advisors on the Committee are Representatives Behning, Cook, McNamara, Austin, Errington and Moed.

The easiest way to email committee members is to go the Indiana General Assembly website and click on the Conference Committee on Senate Bill 1. When the committee information comes up, each member is pictured on the left. Clicking on each picture allows you to send an email to each member. Click here for the Conference Committee page.

Then send a message to your legislators since all will be voting on Senate Bill 1 at least by Wednesday, the last day of the session.

Thanks for your strong advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. 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 now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

###