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.

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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: indianavoters.in.gov/PublicSite/PublicMain.aspx

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: michaelscottforindiana.nationbuilder.com

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 vic790@aol.com 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.

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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 k12.in.us.

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.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Value of Association Membership - On Display at the State House--2014







March 17, 2014

Your VOICE was heard at the legislature. Thank you for your willingness to be actively engaged in the legislative process. YOU made a huge impact on the outcome of the 2014 legislative session.

The gavel fell last Thursday night on the 2014 Session of the Indiana General Assembly and once again the value of ISTA membership was seen. What follows today is a brief synopsis of a select few bills that were enacted and (as important) a list of some bills and provisions that did not pass. With each of these, ISTA influence (which, by the way, means YOUR LOBBYING) was both meaningful and palpable.

A complete list of education-related bills will be posted on the website this week, but for today, take a look at the following:

PENSION

HEA 1075: Teachers Retirement Fund (TRF) and Public Employees Retirement Fund (PERF) Annuity Savings Account (ASA) Program Changes: This bill was brought forward in response to action taken by the Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS) last June to privatize its annuity work beginning October 1, 2014 (thereby reducing by upwards of 25% ASA member benefits for those choosing to annuitize "in-house" after September 30, 2014).

ISTA members lobbied legislators for months to "undo" INPRS' intentions. Because of that, the awareness level by rank and file legislators on this issue was extraordinarily high. The provisions in this bill changed numerous times throughout the session. Under the enacted version of this bill:
  • The annuity discount rate will remain at the current 7.5% through September 30, 2014.
  • Beginning October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, the rate will be 5.75% (which was the highest proposed rate we had seen since early in the session when the House passed the bill out).
  • Beginning October 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016, the rate will be the greater of the interest rate for similar annuities being purchased in the private market as determined by INPRS or 4.5%. If interest rates increase over time, the rate will increase.
  • Beginning January 1, 2017, INPRS will be permitted to outsource this work--which gives us all time to work this issue into the deeper future.
ISTA and its members never stopped advocated for a better formula and were always considered to be a lead stakeholder group working this bill.

HEA 1074: 13th Check (PERF/TRF): Provides a 13th check to PERF and TRF member retirees; delivered September 2014. Of course, ISTA prefers a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) as TRF/PERF members have not had a COLA since 2009. However, the 13th check will provide some assistance. The benefit structure for both PERF/TRF is as follows:
If a member has creditable service of at least:
  • 5 years but less than 10 years -- $150 (only in the case of the member receiving disability retirement benefits)
  • 10 years but less than 20 years -- $275
  • 20 years but less than 30 years -- $375
  • 30 years -- $450
VOUCHERS

HEA 1004: Early Education Pilot Program: All voucher language was removed from the preschool bill, resulting in a 5-county pilot program for families at not more than 127% of poverty. Originally, the bill included a voucher feeder component that would have provided every preschool voucher student (and their siblings) at 185% of poverty automatic eligibility for a K-12 voucher. The fiscal impact would have been $7.5 - $30 million annually.

ISTA worked to remove the voucher component of the bill-and the effort was successful. NOTE: It is likely that voucher proponents will be back next year looking to garner that "direct connection" from preschool to K-12.

The state will use $10 million in funds in the first year that had reverted under the state's Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and FSSA will administer pilot program that begins this fall. An additional up to $5 million can come from private donations/federal funds.

A preschool and early learning student commission will convene this summer as well. ISTA supports this version of HB 1004. A longitudinal study will also assess the impact on student achievement.

CHARTER SCHOOLS/REFORMS

HEA 1321: IPS: This bill originated as a far-reaching bill that could have permitted IPS to contract out to charter schools and/or reconstitute existing schools throughout the district-with few restrictions. ISTA and IEA (Indianapolis Education Association) negotiated with the IPS Superintendent, the Mayor of Indianapolis, and multiple legislators, to narrow the scope of the bill.
Negotiations resulted in the following:
  1. An imposition of a 10% cap on the number of schools that could be reconstituted in year 1.
  2. A/B schools will be statutorily protected from reconstitution or from sharing space with any other charter school even if these A/B schools have unused space in their buildings.
  3. Schools in IPS that could be reconstituted were limited to schools that have been labeled D/F for the last 3 consecutive years, plus the 3 existing "innovation-like" schools already in existence (should they want to convert under the new law).
  4. Language to provide supports for teachers who may want to take leadership roles in creating these innovation schools/programs. (A separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between IPS and IEA adds further language on these supports).
  5. Language to require that the agreement include performance metrics to be achieved by the management company (the prior versions were silent on this).
  6. Language to require the agreement to include terms for revocation (the prior versions were silent on this).
  7. Language in the MOU will require that the IPS administration and IEA will have a continuing dialogue on the implementation of HB 1321.
SEA 205: Charter School Accountability: The bill increases charter school accountability in the following ways:
  1. The State Board of Education must take action against any charter authorizer who renews a charter or fails to close a charter that does not meet minimum standards.
  2. A process is established for a situation where more than one charter wants to purchase a vacant building. The charter with the higher letter grade receives the building.
  3. Turnaround schools in their 5th year of failure can go back to the district, become a charter or undergo other intervention. NOTE: ISTA supported the school going back to the district.
  4. A sponsor must provide a report to the State Board, DOE and the public.
  5. An authorizer is prohibited from requiring a charter to contract with the authorizer of that charter.
  6. A charter agreement is limited to 7 years.
SCHOOL SAFETY

SEA 229: Firearms in School Parking Lots: One of the more high-profile bills this session, SEA 229 allows a person who legally possesses a firearm to possess the firearm in a locked truck, glove compartment of a locked car, or otherwise stored out of plain sight in the person's locked car without the threat of committing a felony. The bill prohibits the following from being able to possess a firearm on school property:
  1. Any high school student (unless the high school student is a member of a shooting sports team and the principal has approved the person keeping the concealed firearm in the high school student's car on the days of competition or practice).
  2. A former student of the school if the student is no longer enrolled in the school due to disciplinary action taken within the last 24 months.
This enacted version is an improvement over prior versions (narrowed). However, ISTA continues to oppose permitting firearms on school property by non-school resource officers. One of the key points of opposition has been that the law prohibits giving the local school board authority over developing school safety policies dealing with firearms on school property.

SCHOOL FINANCE & FUNDING

SEA 1: Elimination of business personal property tax with no replacement (SB1/HB 1001): Throughout the session, ISTA has been a partner in a coalition called "Replace Don't Erase" that is made up of various stakeholder groups (local government/schools/libraries) that rely, in part, on business personal property tax revenue. The enacted bill passed by a vote of 63-37 in the House and 36-12 in the Senate.

The final version was much more narrowed from the original versions in the House and Senate. However, the terms are as follows:
  1. There will be a reduction in the corporate gross income tax over 6 years, landing on 4.9%.
  2. There will be a reduction in the financial institutions tax rate over 6 years, landing on 4.9%.
  3. There will also be "super-abatement" options (exempting the tax for up to 20 years) for certain new initiatives.
  4. Each of the SB 1 and HB 1001 original approaches (small business personal property tax exemption and local option elimination of the business property tax for new equipment, respectively) were maintained as parallel local options (ie. the state is not mandating these exemptions occur):
  • Local option small business personal property tax exemption: If the local COIT board (schools do not have a seat on the COIT board) approves, small businesses may exempt personal property with an acquisition cost of less than $20,000. This would eliminate 50% of those who filed under the tax previously. The fiscal impact is being projected at $7.6 million if every county opted in. Of this, about $2 million would be lost to schools.
  • Local option for the elimination of property tax on new business personal property: If the local COIT board approves, "new" business equipment would be exempted from the business property tax. Eventually as all equipment is replaced, the property tax on equipment will disappear and revenue to local governments and schools will fall.
While it is undeniable that the scope of the Governor's original sweeping proposal has been scaled back dramatically, it is disturbing that changes potentially impacting the levels of Indiana's state revenues would be made prior to the long, budget-writing session and without identifying replacement revenues.

HEA 1062: School Debt Restructuring: This is a good bill, which holds the promise of providing a degree of relief to some 90+ school districts that have been impacted by 10% or more with regard to circuit breaker/protected taxes restrictions. Under the bill, these districts would be exempt from protected taxes for 2014, 2015, and 2016. Also, the proposed bill will allow school districts to carry a 50% operating balance in their Debt Service Funds or any debt originally incurred before July 1, 2014 (in other words, for existing debt). Refinancing of debt after July 1, 2014 would continue to have a 50% operating balance threshold, too. Debt incurred beginning July 1, 2014, could have an operating balance in the Debt Service Fund of 15%.

Educator and Student Standards

HEA 1388: Teacher Preparation Programs: This bill was about holding schools of education accountable for its graduates once they become licensed. ISTA secured language in this bill that makes any teacher evaluation data that is transferred and that is personally identifiable either by teacher name or identification number is confidential under law and not subject to a public records request.

SB 91: Education Standards: This bill was the Common Core bill and, in a practical sense, reflects a bit of a compromise between Common Core proponents and those who opposed Common Core. The bill "voids" Common Core State Standards effective July 1, 2014. However, Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the State Board of Education are currently on track to adopt College and Career Ready Standards before the July 1, 2014 deadline.

The bill also requires the Office of Management and Budget to cost out the implementation of a new state assessment and requires the state to seek a waiver from the Federal Government for the adoption of the College and Career Ready Standards. The bill ensures safeguards for student data privacy.

NOTE: ISTA worked on an amendment to delay high-stakes consequences for teacher evaluations in the likelihood that student test scores will be different for up to 3 years during the transition to the new standards and assessment. The amendment did not pass but ISTA is working to develop a coalition on this issue that will likely include the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

SOMETIMES THE BEST BILLS ARE THOSE THAT DON'T PASS

As you might imagine, much of what occurs in the General Assembly centers on working to defeat measures that:
  1. don't make much practical sense in the public school world;
  2. could be hurtful to the school employees, students, or public schools; or
  3. are intended to devalue the work of the Association.
Here is a quick list of some of the ideas that, with ISTA & ISTA member lobbying, did not make it to enactment:

HB 1233: School Employees Enhanced Criminal Background Checks: Would have required that school employees be subject to an "enhanced" criminal background check every 5 years at the employee's expense. Later, a narrowed-down version would have required anybody who had never had a background check (life license teachers), plus all new hires to pay for an enhanced background check within 5 years. No version passed.

SB 178: Release of Employee Information: Would have criminalized routine communication that occurs between a labor organization and an employer concerning certain employee information. Was heard in Senate Pensions & Labor Committee but was not voted out.

SB 190: Bargaining Law Changes: Would have allowed non-members to sit on exclusive representative discussion teams and vote on the proposed collective bargaining agreement. After having scheduled the bill for a Senate hearing, the author agreed to pull it from the schedule. Similar language later appeared as a House Education Committee amendment to SB 284-but the House Sponsor of SB 284 (Sen. Rhonda Rhoads) agreed to not bring the bill down on 3rd reading. Since the language never passed a chamber, the language was not eligible for Conference Committee revival.

SB 322: Voucher Schools and ISTEP: Would have expanded the school voucher program by allowing voucher schools to bypass accountability by not being required to administer ISTEP. The bill also would have prohibited the DOE from requiring voucher schools to report any information "that is not necessary" and to reduce "undue reporting burdens." Ultimately, the bill failed to meet 3rd reading deadlines in the Senate.

SB 284: Diversion of General Fund Monies from School General Funds: As part of a bigger bill, language was inserted in SB 284 to allow school districts to remove from school general funds interest income, rental income, or other school district activity income. Estimates indicated that the diversion of funds could total over $70 million statewide-which is more than 1% on the school funding formula. .

ISTA and ISTA members worked very hard to keep SB 284 from reaching a floor vote in the House-and were successful when the sponsor of the bill (Sen. Rhonda Rhoads) agreed to not call the bill down on 3rd reading.

SB 416: Prohibit Automatic Dues Deduction: This bill, plus 2 separate 2nd reading amendments (one involving all labor and one involving school employees only) were offered in 2014. Each time, with intense lobbying, ISTA was able to defeat these efforts. As long as ISTA continues to engage in dues deduction through the local district administration rather than through its own EASY PAY system, the General Assembly will be able to continue to leverage this issue against ISTA, thereby diverting attention away from fighting for and against issues that are more impactful to K-12 public education.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #178 – March 13, 2014

[*NOTE: Thanks to Vic Smith for all his (and ICPE's) work on behalf of public education during this year's legislative session.]

Dear Friends,

Good news on the last day of the session: the preschool bill House Bill 1004 was passed today by both the House and the Senate creating a 5-county pilot program without any link to K-12 vouchers. Sections 10 and 11 which many of you have written about have disappeared. To public school advocates who contacted legislators about keeping K-12 vouchers out of the preschool bill, I say thank you!

This key bill represents both a new day for preschool in Indiana and a rare moment of success for public school advocates. Thanks to all who participated!

Details of House Bill 1004

A silence lasting several days on the preschool bill was broken when a Conference Committee on 1004 was held at 9:00 am this morning. Representative Behning reviewed the key features of the Conference Committee report:
  • A pilot program will be established in five counties selected by FSSA.
  • The Family and Social Services Administration will supervise the program.
  • Families making 127% of poverty will qualify for grants of $2500 up to $6800.
  • It will be funded by unspent money reverted to FSSA and by CCDF block grant money.
  • At least 10% of the funds are to be from private donations or from federal funding.
  • The receipt of a grant has no impact on eligibility for a K-12 choice scholarship.
  • A longitudinal study will follow 4 year olds in the program through their assessment results in Grade 3.
  • Expenditures are limited to $10 million in the first year, with a limit of an additional $1 million for the longitudinal study.
  • Providers may include public or private preschools that meet Level 3 or 4 standards in the “paths to Quality program.”
  • A prekindergarten and early learning study commission will study ten key topics to develop Indiana’s program.
All members of the Conference Committee should be thanked for advancing this proposal: Representatives Behning, VanDenburgh, Thompson, Sullivan and Vernon Smith and Senators Pete Miller, Rogers, Kenley, Broden, Kruse and Yoder. Senator Kenley played a crucial role in bringing the House and Senate versions together.

Floor Votes on HB 1004

The House voted first this afternoon on HB 1004, passing the bill 92-8. All Democrats voted for the bill along with most Republicans, except for Representative Baird, Culver, Harman, Ober, Rhoads, Thompson, Turner and Wesco.

I was able to hear the floor debate in the Senate. Senator Pete Miller introduced and supported the bill as the sponsor. Senator Schneider then rose to oppose the bill, calling it a “budget buster” and a “camel’s nose under the tent” for a “catastrophic fiscal impact on the state of Indiana.” Senator Holdman supported the bill, especially the longitudinal study and the “paths to Quality” standards. Senator Head rose to support the bill, saying it is run on reverted funds and that the sunset provisions “won’t let the camel get too far.” Senator Becker supported the bill, saying that Evansville business leaders have already told her they will help support the matching dollars. Senator Rogers then rose to support the bill, saying that if we can expend revenue for breaks to business as they just did for Senate Bill 1, they can fund a small preschool pilot program. She called it a matter of priorities. Senator Leising supported the bill, urging the early learning commission to coordinate several early childhood programs already funded by federal and special education dollars.

Then came the vote. The Senate passed the bill 40-8, with Senators Crider, Delph, Kruse, Schneider, Smith, Tomes, Yoder, and Michael Young voting no.

Senate Bill 1 easily passed both houses today allowing local options to reduce the business property tax and putting approximately $2 million in school property tax funding at risk two years from now, as I described in Statehouse Notes #177 last Tuesday.

The House adjourned sine die about 10:00 pm this evening and the Senate did the same at 10:40. The short session is over. It is a rare treat and a great pleasure to be able to report a success for public education on the last day of the session.

Your messages throughout the session on behalf of public education made 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.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

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 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.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #177 – March 11, 2014

Dear Friends,

The Conference Committee on Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1001 met at 4:30 this afternoon to make public the details to reduce the business property tax. Hopes that it would all go to a study committee to delay any damage to local government and school revenues were not fulfilled. Local school revenues are likely to take a hit based on two local options made available to each county, effective two years from now for property taxes payable in 2017.

The “Replace Don’t Erase” Coalition worked hard to eliminate the local option provisions to keep counties from pressuring each other to cut taxes, thus cutting school, library and local government revenue. The RDE efforts mitigated the potential damage, but the final deal now has two types of local options. If school and local government revenues are to be left intact, county officials will have to reject both local options, an outcome that seems unlikely.

Provisions of SB 1/ HB 1001


The provisions of the bill were presented by Senator Hershman, Senate Republican Conferee, with the support of Representative Turner, the House Republican Conferee. Senator Tallian, the Senate Democrat Conferee, brought an alternative plan which deleted the corporate tax reduction and the local option for reducing property tax on new equipment, an alternative which had the support of Representative Porter, the House Democrat Conferee. The alternative plan was not accepted.

Here are the main provisions unveiled today:
  • Corporate tax rate reduction to 4.9% over 6 years.
  • Financial Institutions Tax (FIT) rate reduction to 4.9% over 6 years.
  • Local option small business personal property tax exemption.
If the local COIT board approves, this would allow small businesses to exempt personal property with an acquisition cost less than $20,000. LSA estimates that if every county did this, $7.6 million would be shifted to other taxpayers and $6.6 million would be lost to local budgets due to circuit breakers. Of this $6.6 million, $2.0 million would be lost to schools.
When the Senate proposed this plan, it was a statewide plan with a fixed statewide cost that theoretically might have been replaced with state dollars. The new proposal today is to make this a local option with no prospect of state replacement dollars.
  • Local option for the elimination of property tax on new business personal property.
If the local COIT board approves, new business equipment would be exempted from the business property tax. Eventually as all equipment is replaced, the property tax on equipment will slowly disappear and local school and government revenue will fall.
The Impact on School Revenue

There is no good news here for public school revenue, except perhaps that it might have been worse. From the start of this debate, reducing the business property tax was going to damage public school property tax revenue. The only question was whether it would be a huge hit or a small hit. Intense lobbying has reduced the size of the problem, but there is still a problem if school officials don’t convince county officials of the wisdom of rejecting the local options, an unlikely prospect.

Governor Pence wanted to help businesses, and he didn’t mind doing that at the expense of revenues for schools, libraries and local government. He worked hard to make this happen in a sometimes reluctant legislature. Now that they have followed his lead, at least $2 million per year in school property tax revenue is at risk, just at the time when the great competition between public and private schools for the hearts and minds of parents is revving up, a competition created by the voucher program passed by the General Assembly in 2011 and expanded with Governor Pence’s strong support in 2013.

There is something wrong when Indiana’s grand experiment in a competitive marketplace is set up and then public schools are threatened with a new cut in their funding. It doesn’t look like fair competition to me. It looks to me like public school revenue support is being undermined in a creative new way every year, and the favoritism shown by the Governor for private schools in the competition and his willingness to let public school funding erode remain obvious.

This proposal today had the air of finality. It seems clear that it will go through as presented.

Let your legislators know that they are to be thanked for mitigating the original plan which threatened even deeper cuts to school budgets. You might also let them know you are disappointed that $2 million in public school revenues have been put at risk through these local option proposals.

In addition, you might ponder these things in your heart as you consider the elections coming up in May and in November. Some have taken comfort in the fact that implementation is two years away and this might be changed in the new budget in the next General Assembly after the next election.

As of late Tuesday evening, there is no further information on the status of the preschool bill.

Thanks for your active support of public education!

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 past the half way mark in its deliberations. We need your membership to help support our hard working lobbyist Joel Hand. 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.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

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 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.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #176 – March 8, 2014

Dear Friends,

The “Replace Don’t Erase” Coalition has invited all who can make it to the Statehouse on Monday, March 10th to share the view that dollars cut from school budgets and local government to reduce the business property tax must be replaced with state dollars.

If you can come on Monday, link up with Mayors and other municipal and county officials to protect local property tax funding needed for vital local government and school services.

While you are there, ask your legislators to delete Sections 10 and 11 from the preschool bill to break the link between helping preschoolers and a major expansion of K-12 private school vouchers which would further damage public education.

Where the Business Tax Reduction Now Stands

The latest Senate proposal has reduced the fiscal impact to units of local government and schools from $54 million to $6.5 million. This includes a $2 million reduction in school revenue and $2.4 million less for cities and towns. These provisions would take effect in FY 2016.

While Governor Pence has said he favors using state dollars to replace this revenue loss, there is no provision in the current proposal to do so. While the magnitude of revenue loss has been reduced by the Senate, the latest reduction in business property tax would mean less revenue for local government and schools and a property tax shift to homeowners.

“Replace Don’t Erase”

The “Replace Don’t Erase” Coalition is a coalition of 22 statewide local government and school associations, including the Indiana Coalition of Public Education. The coalition has been led by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, representing 470 Hoosier cities and towns, which issued the invitation to come to the Statehouse on Monday. In a statement issued on March 6th, the IACT said that the Senate’s latest proposal demonstrates “great movement” and then commented on the county by county option to eliminate the property tax on new equipment which originated in the House:

“In terms of remaining areas of concern, IACT continues to be intensely opposed to the county by county option to eliminate the tax on new equipment being pushed in the House. We continue to raise the red flag that this provision leaves too many cities, towns, counties, schools, libraries, townships and other local units with little to no voice in a decision to eliminate a relied upon source of revenue. What’s being considered is NOT a local option and represents a serious step backwards for economic development and growth in our state. The language in this proposal represents the beginning of a complete phase out of the tax as counties will be gradually pressured into elimination and old equipment ages out and is replaced. It’s a slippery slope and is certainly the most detrimental piece of PPT legislation still alive.”

The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns invited their 470 members to the Statehouse in the following words:

"Please come to Indianapolis on Monday, March 10 and make one-on-one contact with your legislators. We are working to make one final push to inform lawmakers of our concerns regarding PPT reform. While there has been significant evolution on this matter since the beginning of session, there is still much to say and saying it in person is how you can be most effective for your community."

IACT then added talking points, which along with the talking points provided in yesterday’s ICPE newsletter can guide your discussions with and messages to legislators. The key points prepared by IACT that I would pass along are as follows:
  • "All Hoosiers support the ideas of a great business climate and lower taxes. At the same time any changes to the current system must be well thought out in cooperation between the State, local governments and business so that any change in tax burdens is fair and both permits the local governments that generally provide significant incentives to business to continue to be competitive and, at the same time, to provide the services, infrastructure and education that all the members of the community embrace and desire.
  • Supporters maintain that the elimination of business personal property is necessary in order to attract business to Indiana, although the IEDC's website proclaims that Indiana already has the "Best Business Environment" and the "Top Tax Climate," ranking first in the Midwest in "business tax climate." If Indiana already has the "best business environment" and the "top tax climate" why is this necessary?
  • The top rankings for business climate are not true for Indiana's ranking in education, college graduation, high school graduation, nor is it true for the condition of Indiana's roads, bridges, water and wastewater facilities, its parks, or many of the other factors business and industry look at when deciding where to locate.
  • Prior to 2010, under Indiana's "frozen levy" system of property taxation, a decision to provide tax abatement simply shifted the property tax liability to residential taxpayers and to other business taxpayers. Since the enactment of the property tax caps, a decision to provide tax abatement shifts the property tax liability to other taxpayers until the caps are reached; at that point, the schools and local governments must forego tax revenues in order to provide the tax abatement. A further loss of those tax revenues also means Hoosiers forgo quality of service, infrastructure and education.
  • The decision to provide tax abatement is based upon the local government's determination that the benefit the new investment and new jobs would bring to residents, other taxpayers and to the state and local government outweighs the added costs, including increased property taxes and decreased quality of services, infrastructure and education, to our citizens. It is not clear what, if any additional benefits from the current proposals will outweigh the additional costs imposed on homeowners, other taxpayers, schools and local governments. If there is less assessed value, tax rates increase, causing tax bills to all other taxpayers to be higher and circuit breaker tax credits to be higher as well, thus reducing revenues for local governments.
  • A decision to exempt all new business personal property from property taxes affects all taxing units and all non-business taxpayers. What public process protects residential taxpayers, schools and others that do not benefit from, and may be harmed by, the exemption?"
It is amazing that public school revenues are again under attack. Public school educators don’t need this headache. If you can come to the Statehouse to join in one-on-one discussions with your legislators on Monday or even on Tuesday, please do so. Please do what you can in this final week of the session.

Thanks for contacting your legislators and for your active support of public education!

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 past the half way mark in its deliberations. We need your membership to help support our hard working lobbyist Joel Hand. 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.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

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 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.
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