Friday, April 24, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #218 – April 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

If you object to the Republican supermajority taking away the power of the State Superintendent to chair the State Board of Education, you have one more weekend to communicate your concerns with legislators.

Senate Bill 1, taking the power to name the chair of the State Board away from the voters for the first time in 102 years and giving that power to appointees on the State Board, has been scheduled for a Conference Committee meeting at 10am on Monday, April 27, 2015 in Statehouse Room 130, a small room on the first floor.

Please note the conferees listed below and communicate your objections to this bill. They are shaping the final conference committee report. Then communicate your thoughts to your legislators or to all legislators, since all will be voting on the final version by Wednesday, April 29th, the last day of a difficult session.

You could also attend the Conference Committee meeting. There is no guarantee that public testimony will be taken on the Conference Committee proposal, although in many Conference Committees in this session, the chair of Conference Committee has invited public testimony. Whether public testimony is allowed is completely up to the chair of the committee.


A Partisan Bill

Senate Bill 1 is a controversial highly partisan bill. The most controversial part is the thought that the powers of the office of State Superintendent are being changed during the term of the office, without waiting for the next election.

This directly undermines the power of voters. This hurts our democracy by reducing the power of the ballet box.

A glimmer of hope was raised in committee discussions about the possibility that in the final version, the powers of the State Superintendent would not be reduced until after the 2016 election. That would allow the person who the voters thought that they were selecting to chair the State Board to serve out her term before the rules change. The rules should not change in the middle of a term.

A decision to make this change would take the most partisan sting out of the bill and would be worth advocating when you communicate with legislators about Senate Bill 1.

Members of the Conference Committee

Conference Committee members will resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill described below and will set the final language of the bill.

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.

Communications this weekend on Senate Bill 1 should start with these legislators and then extend to others of your choice who will be voting on the bill by Wednesday.

The easiest way to email committee members is to go the Indiana General Assembly website and click on meetings for April 27 on the calendar. Then 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 to open the Conference Committee on Senate Bill 1 page.

The Dispute over Appointments to the State Board

The dispute between Governor Pence and legislative leaders over who should appoint members of the State Board has pushed this controversial bill later in the session than expected. The versions that passed each house are quite different in appointive powers.

The Senate version, which passed 33-17, changes the board to nine members instead of the current 11, with 4 appointed by the Governor, 2 by the Speaker of the House and 2 by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent would be the ninth member.

The House version, which passed 56-41, changes the board to 13 members, with 10 appointed by the Governor as he does now, 1 appointed by the Speaker, and 1 appointed by the President Pro Tem. The State Superintendent would be the 13th member.

Both versions said that the appointees would select the chair.

The House version gives the State Board the explicit power to hire staff and to request the help of the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in conducting evaluations and audits. The latter has become a huge issue because it represents an executive branch agency (State Board) tapping the services of a legislative agency (LSA) for potentially controversial purposes, threatening the non-partisan reputation of LSA.

Senator Holdman did not concur with the House changes, leading to the Conference Committee and the meeting on Monday.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Do the 1.3 million voters of Indiana who elected Glenda Ritz agree that the supermajority should reduce the powers of the State Superintendent without waiting for the next election to let the voters decide?

If not, let legislators know how you feel by Monday morning.

My testimony on Senate Bill 1 in the House Education Committee on April 9th is attached.

I opposed the bill strongly as an affront to our democracy and the power of voters. I called it a skirmish in a greater war over whether a strong public education system will survive in Indiana. I argued that the dissension in the State Board centered on policy disputes related to questions of maintaining a strong system of public education. I stated my belief that this bill clearly downgrades the power of the voters and tips the balance in policy debates in favor of the State Board. I concluded that reducing the power of the voters before the next election diminishes our democracy.

I urge you to consider these arguments and then to send your own message by Monday morning.

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.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #217 – April 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

When the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was fixed to quell the national firestorm damaging Indiana's reputation, religious voucher schools were left out of the fix.

When the fix (Senate Bill 50) said that providers could not refuse service to citizens, religious schools were specifically deleted from the definition of "providers" covered by the fix.

The only entities exempted by the fix that also receive public tax dollars are religious schools that accept vouchers.

Does this mean that religious voucher schools that receive million of dollars in public tax money can legally deny services to students and families based on sexual orientation and gender identity when the few non-religious voucher schools cannot?

Governor Pence has asked for additional public money to go to private voucher schools by removing the $4800 cap on elementary school vouchers and by raising the budget for Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits for private school scholarships to $12.5 million each year. Governor Pence's expansion requests should be denied, especially under the current circumstances.

Expanding private school vouchers at any time is an unwise use of tax dollars and hurts public schools, but it would be particularly harmful to expand private school vouchers this year without a clear amendment specifying that religious schools that accept vouchers do not have a license to discriminate.

Let your legislators know that public schools do not discriminate and private schools taking public money must not discriminate either.


Senate Bill 50 – The Details

You remember the crisis. Speaker Bosma and President Pro Tem Long said on the Monday before Final Four weekend that RFRA needed to be clarified, and by Thursday of that week, Senate Bill 50 had been written, passed by both houses and signed by the Governor. The crisis was addressed. The Final Four and the difficult job of reputation restoration began. The state plans to spend $2 million (more than Indiana now spends on teacher professional development) with an out-of-state public relations firm to restore Indiana’s national and international image.

Have you read the hurriedly written Senate Bill 50? I was slow to read the bill, but when I did, it contained surprising language.

It adds language to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that begins:

"This chapter does not: (1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service;"

Then later it defines "provider" as: "one (1) or more individuals, partnerships, associations, organizations, limited liability companies, corporations, and other organized groups of persons. The term does not include: (1) A church or other nonprofit religious organization or society, including an affiliated school, that is exempt from federal income taxation"

Thus, churches and their affiliated schools are exempt from the fix. The full text is attached.

Should Entities Getting Tax Money Have a License to Discriminate?

Churches do not get tax money to run their operations, so their omission was expected.

Church schools, however, that choose to accept Choice Scholarships (vouchers) get millions of dollars from the Indiana treasury, approximately $110 million according to the latest financial report on vouchers issued by the Indiana Department of Education in February.

Leaving open the legal basis for religious schools to refuse to provide services when they are getting public money to provide those services is just wrong.

Should Religious Voucher Schools Be Excluded from the Fix When Non-Religious Non-Sectarian Voucher Schools are Not?

Senate Bill 50 puts voucher schools in two categories. Religiously affiliated schools are excluded from the fix and thus apparently retain legal standing to deny services under the law. Non-religious voucher schools under Senate Bill 50 are providers who must not deny services.

According to the listing of 314 private schools receiving state funding in the annual financial report on the voucher program issued by IDOE in February, 2015, 22 private schools are non-sectarian and 292 private schools are affiliated with a church. That the General Assembly would put these two groups in different legal categories regarding denial of services is both incredible and inappropriate.

The non-sectarian Todd Academy in Indianapolis should not be given a different legal standing from the church-affiliated St. Joan of Arc School in Indianapolis as regards providing services to the general public. The General Assembly needs to fix this.

Act Now

This is truly a confusing and intolerable situation about private voucher schools which must be clarified by the General Assembly and by Governor Pence. Given these new complications, voucher expansion and new expenditures for private school vouchers should be put on a moratorium until the General Assembly enacts a clarification.

Do religious voucher schools have a license to discriminate? We need to know either way. The General Assembly needs to fix the fix.

How is the $2 million dollar public relations firm going to paper over the fact that 292 religiously affiliated schools accepting over $110 million dollars in Indiana tax dollars can still deny services based on RFRA?

Let your legislators and Governor Pence know that any expansion for private school vouchers in the budget is a bad idea at any time, but it is absolutely wrong when religious schools that accept vouchers have the legal right to deny services under RFRA.

Only eight days remain in this session of the General Assembly. Legislators could fix the fix with an amendment, and they should. If this issue concerns you, contact legislators right away about allowing tax funded private voucher schools to deny services under the law.

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.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #216 – April 16, 2015

Dear Friends,

The Senate passed their version of the budget yesterday (April 15th) by a vote of 42-8.

It includes a number of differences from the House budget, including disbanding Indiana’s Education Roundtable and shrinking the budget for the State Board of Education from $3 million to $750,000 per year. Reconciling differences between the two versions in a Conference Committee begins on Friday.

Giving more money to private school vouchers by removing the $4800 cap on Grade 1-8 vouchers is still in the Senate version, just as Governor Pence requested.

Today in a Statehouse press conference, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability issued a new report saying "None of the independent studies performed of the most lauded and long-standing voucher programs in the U.S – Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D. C.- found any statistical evidence that children who used vouchers performed better than children in public school."

I urge you to review the full report attached and the press release showing key findings of this excellent report. Then contact Governor Pence and members of the General Assembly to express your opposition to spending additional public tax money on private school vouchers.

Who Prepared the Report?

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability is, in the words of the press release, "a bipartisan, nonprofit research and advocacy think tank that works across ideological lines to promote social and economic justice." They have worked extensively on educational policy and on economic issues. CTBA is located in Chicago.

Ralph Matire, Executive Director of CTBA presented the report in today’s press conference in the South Atrium of the Statehouse. He graduated from Indiana University Phi Beta Kappa and holds a J.D. from the University of Michigan.

Key Findings

A sampling from the introduction:

"The goal is to answer two key questions about the Indiana Choice Legislation as objectively as possible.

First, does the actual documented track record of existing voucher programs demonstrate that those programs in fact achieved the desired goal of enhancing student achievement? Here, the short and clear answer is no.

Second, can voucher programs be expected to enhance student performance or improve public education systems, based on the education reforms implemented in the nations that currently rank in the top five in the world in reading, math and science under PISA? Again, based on the evidence, the answer is no.

In fact, it appears that core aspects of Indiana's voucher program are directly contrary to best practice education reforms implemented by the five global leaders in education: Korea, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada." (Page 3 of the report)

Other key findings:

"One probable consequence of the Indiana Choice Legislation, therefore, will be the diversion of public, taxpayer dollars away from the state's higher performing public education system to lower performing private religious schools. Because of this, the Indiana Voucher Legislation may actually diminish student achievement in the state over time." (Page 3)

"The nations that have been most successful in improving student achievement over time have focused on systems-based reforms that build capacity of the overall education system and have eschewed reforms based on competition and choice. Meanwhile, nations that have taken the competition choice path to education reform have failed to realize enhanced student achievement." (Page 3)

"Subsidizing individual decisions that do not generate a public good or service—even legitimate ones well within the rights of, in this case, the parents making them—is an inappropriate use of public money." (Page 4)

"The School Expenditure Deduction will cause local governments across Indiana to lose up to $1.4 million annually in Local Option Income Tax revenue, thereby constraining their ability to provide police, fire, trash collection and other core local services to constituents. This is difficult to justify, given that the public revenue spent to subsidize private decisions under the School Expenditure Deduction serves no identifiable public interest." (Page 4)

Share the Report and Talk with Legislators

This is an excellent detailed report about the link between vouchers and student achievement and about using public money for public purposes and not to subsidize private choices that would be made anyway. I hope you will read it and share it with others.

Then I hope you share again with legislators your belief that public money should be focused on public education. Spending even more public money on private school vouchers in the new budget is going in the wrong direction.

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.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #215 – April 7, 2015

Dear Friends,

The bill to remove State Superintendent Ritz as chair of the State Board of Education, Senate Bill 1, will be given a public hearing this Thursday, April 9th at 8:30am in Room 156C of the Statehouse.

This highly controversial bill diminishing the powers of the elected State Superintendent has been ignored in recent weeks during the highly controversial debates over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Now at the end of today's House Education Committee meeting, Chairman Behning said Senate Bill 1 will be heard on Thursday.

If you have strong feelings about this bill and reducing the powers of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, you should come to testify on Thursday or send messages to members of the House Education Committee before the meeting.

Add Your Voice to the Testimony on Thursday

Over a thousand people came to an impressive rally on February 16th in support of public education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. If you were among those who came, you should consider coming back to testify against this bill.

Any citizen can testify. You simply need to sign in before the meeting begins at 8:30am on the form provided for those who wish to speak. The time may be inconvenient and the notice is short, but that is the way the General Assembly operates. I hope you will decide to make your opinions known to the legislators.

Update on Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1609

The House and the Senate passed differing bills removing the elected State Superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education. I and many others opposed both bills, but both were passed in the first half of the session.

House Bill 1609 did not get a hearing in the Senate and died. Senate Bill 1 is the only bill left on this topic.

House Bill 1609 left the other appointments to the State Board in the hands of the Governor, as it is now. Senate Bill 1 changed the appointment of the State Board to give the Governor four appointments, the Speaker of the House two appointments, and the President Pro Tem of the Senate two appointments. The State Superintendent would be the ninth and final member of the board. Senate Bill 1 changed the size of the State Board from 11 to 9. It is expected that the House Committee will further amend the Senate plan on Thursday after the public hearing.

Talking Points

Many people are deeply concerned about this proposed change in the powers of the State Superintendent and already have their list of talking points. Here are other points against this bill:
1) It is not fair to the voters in our democracy to change the powers of an office during the term of the office. This is just plain wrong. Any changes should be implemented after the next election. This bill would clearly diminish our democracy and the powers of voters.

2) This bill overturns long historical power allocations. The State Superintendent has chaired the State Board of Education since 1913.

3) This bill overturns the will of 1.3 million voters who elected Glenda Ritz thinking she would chair the State Board as part of her elected duties.

4) This bill diminishes the powers given to the State Superintendent because her policies oppose in many ways the policies of Governor Pence. This bill is to make sure the Governor's policies prevail, but that undermines the will of the voters who endorsed the policies of Superintendent Ritz in the 2012 election.

5) Under current law, voters choose the chair of the State Board of Education by electing the State Superintendent. This bill gives the power to choose the chair to appointees on the State Board. Senate Bill 1 directly reduces the power of voters.

6) Diminishing the powers of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is an obvious symbol of diminishing Indiana’s priority on public education, in line with the Governor's policies to promote private schools.
You can add many other talking points as you communicate with members of the House about Senate Bill 1.

Come One, Come All!

Come to the public hearing on Thursday at 8:30am if you can. Legislators need to hear from those who have been deeply offended by this move to ignore the will of the voters in our democracy and win the policy debates by removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. When the voters spoke in the 2012 election, they did not expect to be ignored and disrespected in the ensuing policy debates as this bill implies.

If you can't come in person, please communicate with members of the House Education Committee before Thursday morning.

Let your voice be heard.

Once again, an easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on the name of the committee. The pictures of committee members appear on the left. As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to register your concerns with each member.

[Click HERE to go to the House Education Committee page]

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.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #214 – April 6, 2015

Dear Friends,

It has turned out to be the perfect under-the-radar technique to shift the tuition costs of nearly all private school students over to the taxpayers.

I am referring to taxpayer subsidized Scholarship Granting Organization scholarships for private school tuition. In Indiana law, they are called "School Scholarships", while vouchers are officially called "Choice Scholarships."

It has worked like this:

Established by the General Assembly in 2009, Scholarship Granting Organizations use public tax money to offer 50% tax credits to all taxpayers who donate to the SGO. The SGO then uses the donations to give scholarships to private school students for tuition. Under the law, these students can be students that have always gone to private schools as long as family income is $85,000 or less.

Under the law, private school students who receive an SGO scholarship, even those who have never even tried public schools, are eligible for a Choice Scholarship from the voucher program in the following school year.

This two year process from SGO scholarship to choice scholarship is now the leading path to voucher eligibility. It promises to soon provide a state funded voucher for every private school student with family income up to $85,000. The cost of vouchers in 2014-15 was $115 million.

Now in the new budget, the Governor and the House want to automatically increase the state subsidy for tax credit SGO scholarships, providing plenty of money for Scholarship Granting Organizations in perpetuity.

No other voucher expansion bill need ever be passed. This under-the-radar program will expand vouchers to nearly all current private school students with no further legislation.

The budget is now in the hands of the Senate. Let your Senators know that giving Scholarship Granting Organizations unlimited funding is not wise public policy. Their funding should be curtailed and they should be held more accountable for the tax funds they have received.

Unlimited Expansion of Scholarship Granting Organization Tax Credits

All that SGO's and voucher proponents need for unlimited expansion of vouchers is an unlimited supply of tax credits to give to donors. That is exactly what the budgets proposed by the Governor and the House have provided.

On page 103 of the House budget (HB 1001) is the so-called escalator clause for permanent increases:

"In state fiscal year 2016-2017 and in each state fiscal year thereafter, the maximum total amount of tax credits awarded under this chapter is the greater of:
(1) 120% of the amount of tax credits awarded in the previous state fiscal year; or

(2) $12,500,000. "
In other words, if the SGOs successfully get $25 million in donations and give out $12.5 million in tax credits, the next year they could give out $15 million, a 20% increase. The year after that, they could give out $18 million, another 20% increase.

The House budget thus gives SGO tax credits a 20% increase to fund private school tuition while giving public schools a 2.3% increase in the school funding formula.

Let the Senators know that this is a step in the wrong direction.

Past Use of Tax Credits for SGO Scholarships

The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency has chronicled the following figures showing tax credits claimed annually since the SGO tax credit was established: (Fiscal Note on HB 1001, Jan. 16, 2015)

Tax Year...................Total Amount Claimed
2010 ............................$0.2 Million
2011 ............................$1.4 Million
2012 ............................$2.4 Million
2013 ............................$3.4 Million

Then in the LSA fiscal note on HB 1001 dated March 4, 2015, LSA writes that "as of Feb. 13, 2015, $6.4 million in credits have been claimed in FY 2015."

Clearly the cost to state taxpayers is rising quickly as this path to using public tax money to fund private school tuition catches on among high income taxpayers. This is the most generous tax credit in the Indiana tax code, having no cap whatsoever on what individuals can give in order to take 50% off of their Indiana tax payment.

Act Today!

Let Senators, especially Senators on the Senate Appropriations Committee, know that this under-the-radar funding for private school tuition scholarships is undermining public funding for public schools. Let them know that SGO tax credits should not be given a $5 million raise and an unlimited escalator in the new budget.

It is time to act. The Senate budget is to be announced this Thursday, April 9th. Make your voice heard today on this point to stop the expansion of vouchers.

Once again, an easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on the name of the committee. The pictures of committee members appear on the left. As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to register your concerns with each member.

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.

###

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #213 – April 2, 2015

Dear Friends,

In their meeting yesterday, the Senate Education Committee amended House Bill 1638 to take out all powers of the State Board to intervene in local school corporations. This is a good step in the right direction, removing an unprecedented new power.

Unfortunately, the bill is still alive. The remainder of the bill passed the committee 9-2.

It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is time to contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to let them know of your opposition.

Keep those messages and letters coming about House Bill 1638. They are making a difference in whittling away at this unnecessary bill which gives more school takeover powers to the State Board of Education.

Senator Leising reported in her discussion of HB 1638 that she has received 48 messages against the bill and zero messages for the bill. Keep it up!

Amendment 19

Senator Rogers worked with Chairman Kruse to bring Amendment 19, a more comprehensive amendment than last week's amendment. It deleted all references to State Board interventions at the school corporation level. It also deleted all references to transformation zones. All references to federal funding for takeover schools were deleted.

In a positive development, the new provisions regulating State Board closures of local schools proposed by Senator Rogers last week remained in the amendment. These provisions require a two-thirds vote and a 60-day response plan.

The amendment was adopted by the committee by consent.

What Remains in House Bill 1638?

The remaining parts of House Bill 1638 focus on extending the power of the State Board to take schools over quicker, moving from the current six year sequence to four years. State Board Member Dan Elsener in presenting the bill on March 18th said that the State Board wanted to have a Turnaround Office staffed by State Board staff under State Board control to fix these schools. The House budget includes a $5 million dollar appropriation for "Turnaround Support", which is more than the Indiana state budget now gives for technology in the Senator Ford Technology Fund, currently budgeted at $3.09 million.

The General Assembly rejected proposals to cut the timeline from six years to four years in 2009, in 2012 and in 2013. The Governor and the State Board are pushing hard this year to expand the powers of the State Board in this way. Should the General Assembly grant Dan Elsener and the State Board more power this year for quicker takeovers?

I say no, based on two reasons:
1) The five schools taken over by the State Board previously have been expensive disasters, marked by community upheavals, costly contracts, endless controversies and multiple lawsuits. Takeovers have changed the State Board from functioning as a statewide policy board to functioning as a local board debating specific details at length about specific schools they are now running. Despite all the effort, extra investments, and controversy, four of the five remain F schools and one is a D school, despite having much smaller enrollments. Instead of giving the State Board more power to take over schools quicker, the General Assembly should reign in the powers of the ambitious State Board and endorse the successful turnaround efforts of local districts that have now been well documented in data presented by the Indiana Department of Education. A net total of 103 schools statewide have moved from D/F schools to A/B/C schools in the past year under current IDOE turnaround programs.
2) Quicker takeovers are based on school letter grades. We in Indiana still do not have a school grading system in place that is proven and has the confidence of the citizens of Indiana. We are still using the same flawed system that the 2013 General Assembly found so problematic that they ordered it to be voided by November 15, 2013. The State Board missed the deadline and has dragged their feet, ignoring the emergency powers the General Assembly gave them to write temporary rules by that date. The General Assembly should not entrust the State Board with more power for quicker school takeovers until a measurement system for grading schools has been established which is respected by all. The A-F panel appointed in part by the General Assembly recommended a new A-F system in October, 2014, but the State Board nitpicked the panel's work and six months later still has not settled on a new plan. The State Board's defiance of the General Assembly's 2013 law should not be rewarded by giving them even more powers to take over schools quicker.
Contact Senators

I urge you to contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and other Senators as soon as possible. Just one week remains for committee work. They must consider HB 1638 by April 9th.

Tell them we don’t need more changes at this time when standards and testing are all changing. Tell them you oppose HB 1638.

Once again, an easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on the name of the committee. The pictures of committee members appear on the left. As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to register your concerns with each member.

Thanks for your support of strong local control of public schools and 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 the ICPE lobbying efforts.  Joel Hand is again serving as 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 still must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which began 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.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #211 – March 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Are current Indiana Scholarship Granting Organizations following the law?

Indiana legislators should investigate and assure citizens and taxpayers that the law is being followed before investing another $10 million dollars of public tax money in SGO's in the new 2-year budget. Governor Pence and the House budget want to hike the SGO budget from $7.5 million to $12.5 million each year for the next two years, with an escalator clause to go even higher.

Here are the reasons for the questions about whether they are operating within the law and the intentions of the General Assembly:
  • SGO's are required by law to limit "administrative costs" to 10% (IC 20-51-3-3). Before a 2013 amendment, the legal requirement was to spend 90% of the donations on scholarships. The intent is clear that all but 10% of the donations should be used for scholarships.
  • In 2013-14, the four SGO's combined received contributions of $16.1 million, according to a summary report on the IDOE website prepared August 25, 2014. "Administrative costs" of 10% would be expected at most to be $1.61 million. That would leave $14.5 million to be given out as scholarships.
  • The actual amount the four SGO's reported giving out as scholarships was $11.8 million, which is short of the $14.5 million expectation by $2.7 million.
How do the Scholarship Granting Organizations account for the $2.7 not expended in scholarships?

Here are additional questions that must be answered by the General Assembly before entrusting SGO's with an enormous 67% increase, from $7.5 million to $12.5 million per year:
  • Are the SGO's keeping the $2.7 in the bank to give out next year or did they overspend the "administrative costs"?
  • If they claim they are keeping that much money in reserve for the future, does the General Assembly approve of their delaying $2.7 million in unused scholarships? Haven't SGO's used $1.35 in public money for tax credits to raise that money? Shouldn't they turn the money around faster and get it to students as intended?
  • Before any additional money goes for this purpose, shouldn't timelines and guidelines be tightened to guarantee taxpayers that their tax money has been handled appropriately?
  • Since having a previous SGO scholarship became in 2014-15 the biggest path for voucher eligibility, who is monitoring the SGO program that is now the biggest reason vouchers are expanding among students who have always been in private schools?

Keeping $2.7 million is a lot to have in reserve, if that is where the money is now sitting. From the very brief August 1st reports that are required from SGO's, it is hard to know if they have gone over the 10% figure or not. It is certainly clear the original legislative intent of $14.5 for scholarships did not happen. It is also clear that the $2.7 million that may be sitting in the SGO bank accounts cost the taxpayers 50% in tax credits, or $1.35 million.

That's a high taxpayer cost to pay for money that is sitting idle, and sitting idle is the nicest interpretation of what is happening. If it has been spent on "administrative costs" beyond the 10%, they are breaking the law.

We should all ask legislators to clear up these questions before any additional money is handed over to SGO's for tax credit scholarships.

As you discuss this concern with Senators for the budget debate, don't forget to contact Senators on the Education Committee to oppose HB 1638 as they vote this Wednesday, March 25th. HB 1638 would give appointed members of the State Board of Education new and unprecedented power to take over an entire school district from its elected school board. That move is over the top and must be stopped in the Senate.

Indiana School Scholarship Tax Credit Program Report

The full one-page IDOE report on the last three years of the SGO program, dated August 25, 2014, is attached.

The numbers in the section above are totals for the most recent year, 2013-14, for the four SGO's that reported data.

Another way to review the data is to look at each SGO separately.

Totals for the three years reported (2011-12, 2012-13 & 2013-14) for each SGO are as follows:

The Institute for Quality Education received $14.0 million in contributions in three years and awarded $9.2 million in scholarships, which is 66% of contributions. Taking out $1.4 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $3.4 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

The Lutheran SGO of Indiana received $1.75 million in contributions in two years and awarded $1.30 million in scholarships, which is 74% of contributions. Taking out $.175 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $.275 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

The Sagamore Institute received $8.6 million in contributions in three years and awarded $6.6 million in scholarships, which is 77% of contributions. Taking out $.86 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $1.1 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

The SGO of Northeast Indiana received $2.5 million in contributions in three years and awarded $1.7 million in scholarships, which is 68% of contributions. Taking out $.25 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $.55 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

Thus, all four SGO's have been carrying contributions in reserves for years, without promptly distributing those funds as scholarships. Is this really what the General Assembly intended?

Why do SGO's need more tax money when they aren't currently distributing all the donations that they are currently getting?

Summary

It is very easy to get lost in all the numbers, but here is the bottom line:

In the most recent year reported (2013-14), the four SGO's:
  • either held $2.7 million in reserve which were intended for scholarships
  • or else they overspent the legal limit on administrative costs.
In all three years reported (2011-14), the four SGO's taken together:
  • either held $5.3 million in reserve which were intended for scholarships
  • or else they overspent the 10% legal limit on administrative costs.
Either option raises serious questions that the General Assembly should investigate before raising the SGO budget by $5 million each year in the new budget, totaling $10 million in the two-year budget.

The General Assembly should hold SGO's accountable for the money they have been previously given. To date, accountability for SGO's has not reached the high level of accountability given to public schools. There should be no questions about the use of SGO money. Entities that are authorizing the use of millions of dollars in tax credits deserve more scrutiny and oversight than they now receive.

Contact Senators

This issue is not in a separate bill, but rather is in the budget. To register your strong opposition to expanding vouchers by expanding funding for Scholarship Granting Organizations, you need to contact the Senators working on the budget, starting with the Senators on the Subcommittee on School Funding and the Appropriations Committee.

Once again, an easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on the name of the committee. The pictures of committee members appear on the left. As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to register your concerns with each member.

[Click HERE to go to the Senate Education page]

Help stop the expansion of vouchers through SGO's. 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 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.

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