Thursday, February 4, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #245 – February 4, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334 expanding vouchers to begin in the spring semester passed the Senate yesterday 40-9.

Efforts to narrow the bill’s language to match the sponsor’s verbal rationale of helping drop outs will now move to the House.

Rally for Public Education!

The Indiana Moral Mondays organization has invited all public school advocates to come to a rally at the Statehouse this Monday, Feb. 8, from 11am to Noon, in the Third Floor Atrium South.

One of the six planks in the platform of Indiana Moral Mondays is:

EDUCATION EQUALITY: Provide a well-funded quality public education for all.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education will be represented among the rally speakers by our ICPE lobbyist and outstanding public education advocate Joel Hand.

ICPE attempted last fall to get space at the Statehouse for a rally, but we were told all spaces were already reserved for the session. Thanks to Indiana Moral Mondays, this is an opportunity to visit with your legislators and to stand up for public education!

Come to the Statehouse on Monday to celebrate, protect and defend our heritage of public education in Indiana.

Monday, February 8
11am – Noon
Indiana Statehouse Third Floor South Atrium

I hope to see you there!

Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #244 – February 3, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334 is Senator Yoder’s bill to throw open the doors to allow voucher applications from September 2nd to January 15th for spring semester. He said the bill was to help drop outs in a voucher school called The Crossing, but the bill language says nothing about helping drop outs and makes a broad change that will allow voucher transfers across Indiana for the spring semester.

Monday on the Senate floor, Senator Breaux proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 334 to narrow its focus to help high school students “in need of alternative emergency educational opportunities.” This was the stated purpose given by Senator Yoder when he presented the bill.

The amendment to narrow the bill to the stated purpose failed. The Senate rejected Senator Breaux’s amendment on a voice vote.

Senate Bill 334 now stands as the biggest expansion of private school vouchers since the 2013 expansion.


The Final Third Reading Vote on Senate Bill 334 is Scheduled for Today, February 3rd

If you think vouchers should not be expanded in this broad manner to allow any student to transfer with a voucher in the spring semester, it is time to take immediate action.

Urge your Senator to vote no on SB 334 until it is rewritten to help drop outs in line with the testimony given on the bill.
This bill would expand the season for competition and recruitment from 6 months to 10 months.

If you think that the season for marketing, recruitment and competition for school choice should not be expanded to September 2nd through January 15th, take quick action. SB 334 is on the list for a vote in the session that began at 10:30 this morning.

Thanks for speaking up on this issue! Thanks for your support of public education!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #243 – January 31, 2016

Dear Friends,

At Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee (Jan. 28th), Senate Bill 334 making private school vouchers available to begin in the spring semester for the first time, was amended to begin a year later, July 1, 2017. The bill then passed 11-2.

The amendment to move back the start date for a year removed the estimated fiscal cost of $2.1 million from the current year and put the multimillion dollars cost in the next budget cycle after the 2017 budget session.

As in the Senate Education hearing, the purpose of the bill stated by the Senator Yoder the sponsor and all testimony for the bill focused on helping one school get spring semester tuition for drop out recovery services.

The real question here is: If the purpose is drop out recovery, why should the doors be swung open to allow all private voucher schools to recruit students to begin in the spring semester? Is it good public policy to extend the competition for students for four more months, making school recruiting nearly a year-round activity?

I say no.

Senator Stoops stated in discussion with Senator Yoder that he would support a second reading amendment to narrow the language to fit the stated purpose of the bill, namely to allow spring semester help for drop outs in schools providing drop out services.

I urge you to contact your Senator or all Senators to support the concept expressed by Senator Stoops to narrow the language of the bill to help drop outs. We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers unleashing the advertising wars all year that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.


Senate Bill 334 – Extending the Marketing and Recruiting Season from 6 Months to 10.5 Months

Senator Yoder presented this bill as a method of helping a private school called The Crossing get voucher money to support students during the spring semester who have been expelled or dropped out during the first semester. He said The Crossing had 189 such students that needed tuition help last year for drop out recovery services.

The language of the bill, however, goes far beyond funding for drop outs to attend a private school. In fact, there is no reference in the bill to providing help for drop outs or expelled students.

Under current law, vouchers are available from March 1 to September 1 for the upcoming school year. SB 334 would add a second window of applications from September 2 to January 15 to allow spring semester enrollments.

Under the so-called “reforms” of the past five year creating Indiana’s marketplace of school choice, marketing and recruitment are the fundamental pillars of successful schools. The sophistication of marketing is growing. A school might be a superb school with superb teachers, but if it is not marketed well to parents, it may falter in the competition for enrollment that is now the ultimate measure of school success. And now, SB 334 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months.

Community public schools in the past have not been staffed for this marketing competition. Marketing budgets and marketing staff members have now become a necessary part of the public school arena just to stay competitive and to survive, even though public schools are criticized regularly by the legislative creators of this marketplace because public schools are supposed to devote all of their “dollars to the classroom”, and marketing dollars are not on the official list of expenditures that are considered “dollars to the classroom.”

Nevertheless, marketing is a must for all schools now. Currently it is largely confined to spring and summer months. Once fall enrollments begin, schools can pay attention to instruction while marketing and recruitment take a back seat. Now Senator Yoder wants to up the marketing pressure to extend the competitive time period all the way through January 15th. He has not made this clear as he presents the bill. All he wants to talk about is helping drop outs.

Helping drop outs is a worthy goal and could be done without bill language that creates the biggest expansion of vouchers since the enormous 2013 expansion which drove the voucher program from a net money saver for the state to an outright additional expense of $40 million.

“Enough!”

The trend of ever-increasing voucher programs in Indiana is clear. Public education advocates should say “Enough!” to voucher expansion. The crisis of assessment and the transition to tougher standards deserves the full attention of our General Assembly, and not another battle over voucher expansion.

A second reading amendment to narrow this bill to assist drop outs in the spring semester would be an excellent move. I urge public school advocates to contact Senators on this point. The Senate will vote on amendments to Senate Bill 334 as early tomorrow, Monday afternoon (Feb. 1st). The final third reading vote on Senate Bill 334 could come on Tuesday or Wednesday.

See the testimony provided by ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand to the Senate Appropriations Committee for additional information on SB 334.

Thanks for speaking up on this issue! Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!



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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #242 – January 25, 2016

Dear Friends,

A bill expanding private school vouchers to allow spring semester voucher transfers has passed the Senate Education Committee and is heading to the Senate Appropriations Committee early this week.

Senate Bill 334 sponsored by Senator Yoder would be the biggest expansion of private school vouchers since Governor Pence’s 2013 expansion and is estimated to cost taxpayers $2.1 million dollars per year according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

Indiana should not expand private school vouchers in this way. All advocates for public education who oppose a further expansion of vouchers should contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as their own Senator to oppose Senate Bill 334.


Senate Bill 334 – More than Helping Expelled Students

Senator Yoder presented this bill as a method of helping a private school called The Crossing get voucher money to support students during the spring semester who have been expelled during the first semester or who have otherwise dropped out. He said The Crossing had 189 such students that needed tuition help last year for drop out recovery services.

The language of the bill, however, goes far beyond funding for drop outs to attend a private school. In fact, there is no reference in the bill to providing help for drop outs or expelled students.

SB 334 establishes a new window of voucher applications from September 2 to January 15 for the spring semester. Current law allows voucher applications from March 1 to September 1 for the upcoming school year.

SB 334 also removes a provision in current law that says if a voucher student leaves the voucher school for which the student was awarded a Choice scholarship, the student is responsible for the payment of any tuition required for the remainder of the school year. Removing this provision would allow Choice voucher students who are expelled from their private school to get a spring semester voucher to go to The Crossing.

ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand urged the committee to reject this broad expansion of private school vouchers in the spring semester, citing the LSA fiscal estimate that it would cost $2.1 million additional dollars if 1000 students signed up for a spring semester voucher, a conservative estimate. Other public education groups opposed the bill as well.

Senator Mark Stoops voted against the bill, saying he would perhaps consider this more favorably if it spoke directly to funding drop outs and expelled students, but the current language doesn’t do that at all. His was the only vote against the bill in the 9-1 committee vote. The committee seemingly heard the plea to help drop outs without requiring language specific in the bill providing help for drop outs and expelled students.

Will the Senate Appropriations Committee Narrow the Focus to Helping Drop Outs?

In the past, the General Assembly has been reluctant to spend great amounts of money on drop outs and on students who have been expelled. It would be highly unusual for the General Assembly to open up the budget during this short session to fund the extra money for spring semester vouchers.

Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to let them know you oppose this expansion of private school vouchers. Senator Kenley chairs the committee. Majority members include Senators Mishler, Boots, Charbonneau, Eckerty, Hershman, Pat Miller, Yoder and Zakas. Minority members include Senators Tallian, Rogers, Stoops and Taylor.

As you contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urge them to change the language of this bill to fund drop outs if that is their will, but don’t throw the doors open to a spring semester voucher transfer for all students.

Expanding vouchers in any way should not be on Indiana’s agenda during the crisis of ISTEP testing and the transition to tougher standards. Urge your legislators to get priorities straight and focus their energies on supporting public education in Indiana.

Thanks for speaking up in support of public education!



Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #241 – January 20, 2016

Dear Friends,

The hard sell for educational savings accounts and the damaging bills SB 397 and HB 1311 is already on.

Today, as the Senate Education Committee discussed Senate Bill 93, Senator Kruse said he plans to recommend that SB 397 be turned into a summer study committee provision as an amendment next Wednesday to Senate Bill 93.

Joel Hand testifying for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education cited the damaging provisions of SB 397 (see below) and said that the concept should be defeated now without a summer study committee.

The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education, the well funded pro-voucher lobbying group, testified that “Educational savings accounts are the future of school choice in Indiana.” She called it a debit card for parents. She said that their Statehouse “Celebration” on Monday, January 25 will include a 10am panel about educational savings accounts, featuring a parent they are bringing in from Arizona and other “national experts.”

The January 25th program, sponsored by the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice and other well-financed pro-voucher groups including the Koch-sponsored Americans for Prosperity, includes Dr. Tim Brown on the panel, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and the sponsor of HB 1311, which would provide educational savings accounts for all students (see below).

Money can be used to sell anything. These groups have all the money they need to market with great expertise their pro-voucher positions. The battle for the minds of legislators is on.

I urge all advocates for public education to participate in this battle using the talking points below and other thoughts after you check out these bills.

Let your legislators know that educational savings accounts will undermine and subvert the quality of our public schools. Share the talking points below with your legislators before the pro-voucher marketing machine convinces them to implement Milton Friedman’s plan to slowly abolish public education.

Senate Bill 397 – Education Savings Accounts for Special Education Students

SB 397 is sponsored by Senator Raatz. It would hurt enrollment at public schools and voucher schools alike by allowing the entire amount of public money for a special education student to be spent for “a tutor, another person, or an organization that has received a qualification certificate” from the IDOE, with no standards stated for receiving such qualification except for investigations of fraud, abuse, misdemeanors or felony convictions. The bill doesn’t even clearly say felony convictions will rule out the applicant. The bill would also:
  • expand taxpayer-funded vouchers to high income families. Currently, families of disabled students with incomes up to $85,000 are eligible for vouchers. This bill takes off all income limits.
  • reduce accountability. Public money will be given to parents with no obligation for annual testing or evaluation.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum. Parents need only to agree to educate their disabled child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science”. So much for special education students benefiting from the arts and from physical education!
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. No penalties are listed when parents commit fraud with their child’s money. After “annual audits of a random sample” of accounts, authorities are only given power to “terminate a qualifying agreement based on noncompliance”. The bill says nothing about repaying taxpayer money that has been misspent or about criminal fraud. This bill is a recipe for fraud and would require an expensive Educational Bureau of Investigations to root out problems.
House Bill 1311 – Education Savings Accounts for All Students

The 28-page HB 1311 is sponsored by the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dr. Tim Brown. The bill would:
  • expand vouchers to more students. HB 1311 would give public money to families earning up to $97,000 for a family of four. Using a sliding scale, families earning $97,000 would get a 70% voucher, far more than the 50% voucher now given to families earning $65,000 or less. Family income limits would disappear completely for special education students, giving even high income families taxpayer money for private schools. Currently for special education students, eligibility for taxpayer vouchers is capped at incomes of $85,000 for a family of four.
Indiana’s voucher program was pitched and passed in 2011 as a program to help low income families, but that rationale has now disappeared.
  • end accountability for many students. Parents could take their child out of any school and pay “a participating entity”, which may be an individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or a licensed occupational therapist approved by the Indiana Treasurer. No requirement to take ISTEP is included for those students who are not enrolled in a voucher school.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum and remove many students from Indiana’s new standards. Parents getting the money only have to agree to provide an education in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” No music! No art! No physical education! No foreign language! No health! No vocational subjects! Who would think this bill would provide a good education?
  • pay textbook fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. HB 1311 makes textbooks for private schools or private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. This is an incentive for parents who can afford to pay for their current private school to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. A weak section of fraud consequences for a “participating entity” that has “routinely failed”, but no mention is made of parents who neglect their duties or commit fraud with their child’s education money.
Expanding vouchers should not be on Indiana’s agenda during the crisis of ISTEP testing and the transition to tougher standards. Urge your legislators to get priorities straight and to support public education in Indiana.

Thanks for speaking up now about these two voucher-expanding experimental bills!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #240 – January 19, 2016

Dear Friends,

Two bills have been filed that would create the biggest expansion of private school vouchers Indiana has ever seen. They would advance the privatization of our educational system in line with the plans of voucher-inventor Milton Friedman, who supported the abolishment of public education.

I didn’t think that the Republican supermajority would make a direct attack on public education in an election year, but it appears the Republican leadership is poised to push forward a radical new private school voucher plan. It would be the biggest voucher expansion since Governor Pence’s voucher plan costing taxpayers $40 million in new dollars and diverting $120 million from public schools was enacted in 2013.

House Bill 1311 and Senate Bill 397 have not been scheduled for a hearing yet, but they should be denounced now by all public school advocates to any and all legislators. HB 1311 is a voucher experiment for all students and SB 397 is a voucher experiment for special education students.

These new experiments with our school children would undermine funding and support for the public schools of Indiana, which after five years of school choice have still been chosen by 94% of all students and need the support of legislators, not another attack.

These damaging bills have been passed in some form in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Mississippi and Tennessee, all states that perform below Indiana on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the respected national measure known as “the nation’s report card.”

HB 1311 and Senate Bill 397 are right out of Milton Friedman’s plan to take public schools out of our society and leave education to a marketplace of private schools, all funded by the taxpayers but without government oversight.

Both bills are innocently labeled Education Savings Accounts. They give money directly to parents in the amount that the average child gets in their school district. Parents can then pay for private schools or “participating entities” including tutors or other private vendors.

The program is to be run by the Indiana Treasurer, not the Indiana Department of Education. HB 1311 even provides for the Treasurer to outsource the program to be run by a bank. Are they serious? This means they want to privatize management of the privatized voucher program!

It’s simply over the top.

Not all Republicans in Indiana agree with the Republican leaders bringing these radical bills forward to further privatize our schools. These bills should not be given a hearing. Only grassroots citizens talking to their legislators can stop these bills and the death spiral for public education. It is time to speak up!

The loss of funding and instability this would bring to public schools would obviously disrupt their ability to provide long-term quality programs for over one million Hoosier students.


House Bill 1311 – Education Savings Accounts for All Students

The complicated 28-page HB 1311 is sponsored by the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dr. Tim Brown, so it is clear the House leadership means business. The bill would:
  • expand vouchers to more students. HB 1311 would give public money to families earning up to $97,000 for a family of four. Using a sliding scale, families earning $97,000 would get a 70% voucher, far more than the 50% voucher now given to families earning $65,000 or less. Family income limits would disappear completely for special education students, giving even high income families taxpayer money for private schools. Currently for special education students, eligibility for taxpayer vouchers is capped at incomes of $85,000 for a family of four.
Indiana’s voucher program was pitched and passed in 2011 as a program to help low income families, but that rationale has now disappeared.
  • end accountability for many students. Parents could take their child out of any school and pay “a participating entity”, which may be an individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or a licensed occupational therapist approved by the Indiana Treasurer. No requirement to take ISTEP is included for those students who are not enrolled in a voucher school.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum and remove many students from Indiana’s new standards. Parents getting the money only have to agree to provide an education in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” No music! No art! No physical education! No foreign language! No health! No vocational subjects! Who would think this bill would provide a good education?
  • pay textbook fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. HB 1311 makes textbooks for private schools or private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. This is an incentive for parents who can afford to pay for their current private school to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. A weak section of fraud consequences for a “participating entity” that has “routinely failed”, but no mention is made of parents who neglect their duties or commit fraud with their child’s education money.
Senate Bill 397 – Education Savings Accounts for Special Education Students

SB 397 is sponsored by Senator Raatz, a first term Senator who formerly served as the principal of a Christian school. Students can already get vouchers to go to Christian schools. This bill would hurt enrollment at public schools and voucher schools alike by allowing the entire amount of public money for a special education student to be spent for “a tutor, another person, or an organization that has received a qualification certificate” from the IDOE, with no standards stated for receiving such qualification except for investigations of fraud, abuse, misdemeanors or felony convictions. The bill doesn’t even clearly say felony convictions will rule out the applicant. The bill would also:
  • expand taxpayer-funded vouchers to high income disabled students. Currently, families of disabled students with incomes up to $85,000 are eligible for vouchers. This bill takes off all income limits.
  • reduce accountability. Public money will be given to parents with no obligation for annual testing or evaluation.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum. The same language as cited in HB 1311 appears in SB 397. Education is reduced to “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science” for special education students. So much for special education students benefiting from the arts and from physical education!
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. No penalties are listed when parents commit fraud with their child’s money. After “annual audits of a random sample” of accounts, authorities are only given power to “terminate a qualifying agreement based on noncompliance”. The bill says nothing about repaying taxpayer money that has been misspent or about criminal fraud. This bill is a recipe for fraud and would require an expensive Educational Bureau of Investigations to root out problems.
Perplexing Questions

The fact that these bills from other states are being given consideration by Republican leaders in the General Assembly raises troubling questions which you should ask your legislators:
1) Does this mean that the leadership of the supermajority no longer supports public education?

2) Does this new way of giving out vouchers mean they have given up on the current voucher program?

3) With Indiana schools in a crisis over ISTEP testing and assessment, do we really need to stop everything and take time for a battle over more vouchers with less accountability?
I urge you to communicate with your legislator or with all legislators to say that in this short session, they should concentrate on the complex problems surrounding ISTEP and the future changes needed in Indiana’s assessments.

Let them know that plunging Indiana into another all-out battle over privatizing our public schools would be damaging to all schools, including the private voucher schools that could well lose students to “participating entities” in the radical remake of our system envisioned by HB 1311 and SB 397.

Most legislators you may contact will probably not have heard of these bills and their details. You will need to inform them of their radical provisions. Help legislators understand that advancing these damaging bills could hurt the supermajority brand in an election year among teachers and parents who are already angry about the ISTEP problems.

HB 1311 and SB 397 should disappear from consideration while all efforts are focused on solving the complexities of Indiana’s assessment problems.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” by saying “the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.” HB 1311 and SB 397 would help his plan to abolish public schools.

Thanks for speaking up now about these two unwanted experimental bills, and thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #239 – January 12, 2016

Dear Friends,

On January 4th, Governor Pence and Republican leaders of both the House and the Senate announced their support for “hold harmless” bills to protect both teachers and schools from the negative effects of the transition to tougher ISTEP tests. Governor Pence, Speaker Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Long had committed this fall to protecting teacher compensation but had not committed to protecting school letter grades until January 4th.

Thus, the Republican leaders finally agreed with State Superintendent Ritz who called for “hold harmless” protections a year and a half ago both for teachers and for school letter grades.

Then on January 6th, with newly clarified bipartisan support, HB 1003 passed the House Education Committee unanimously removing any impact from the 2014-15 ISTEP transition year on teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses.

In the afternoon of the same day, SB 200 passed the Senate Education Committee 10-1 removing any impact of the 2014-15 ISTEP tests on A-F school letter grades.

Today January 12th, just six days later, HB 1003 passed the House on third reading 95-1, and SB 200 passed the Senate on third reading 48-1.

These bills are the right thing to do in the transition year to new standards and tougher tests. Let your legislators know you support quick approval of both bills as each now moves to the other house.


House Bill 1003

Representative Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, unveiled the final language to protect teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses in Wednesday’s committee meeting (Jan. 6th). State Superintendent Ritz was the first one to be called on for testimony, and she strongly supported the concept.

HB 1003 specifies that after state bonus money is distributed to school districts, it must be distributed to teachers within twenty days.

The bill passed the committee unanimously.

On second reading yesterday (Jan. 11), Representative Delaney tried to add an amendment to say that these discredited ISTEP scores should not be used to qualify new students to be eligible for vouchers because they live in a school attendance area of an F school. His valiant effort went down to defeat on a party line vote, 27-68.

After approval today on a 95-1 vote, it now moves to the Senate Education Committee for consideration tomorrow, January 13th.

Hanging questions have been raised about HB 1003: How complicated will it be to assess both the best set of test scores and the best school letter grade for each and every teacher, especially in large school districts? Will it be possible to do this analysis and distribute the money in twenty days as the bill calls for? Is the mandate to use test scores still in place for this transition year?

Despite the questions, the bill should pass quickly to allow teachers to get their overdue compensation.

Senate Bill 200

Senator Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee, presented his bill to hold harmless school letter grades at the first meeting of the committee Wednesday afternoon, January 6th. Under the bill, a school’s letter grade “may not be lower than” the letter grade received in the previous 2013-14 school year.

Despite the strong bipartisan support, the bill was opposed in testimony by the Institute for Quality Education, a well-funded group that lobbies strongly for more private school vouchers. They apparently prefer the plan to see the number of F schools skyrocket in this ISTEP crisis so that students living in the attendance areas of those F schools would automatically become eligible for a private school voucher, even if they have always been attending a private school.

The pro-voucher group opposed SB 200 even though the bill carries a new benefit for voucher schools, reducing the accountability levels for private schools participating in the voucher program. Under current law in IC 20-51-4-9, if a voucher school gets a D or an F two years in a row, the consequences are that new voucher students can’t get a voucher to go to that school, although the students who have been going to the school may keep getting taxpayer-funded vouchers. SB 200 changes this provision for this year, taking away the penalty for getting a D, saying “the department may not apply the consequences unless the school was placed in the lowest category or designation for the 2014-15 school year.”

It is expensive to taxpayers to pay for private school tuition, and the Institute for Quality Education would like to see those costs to taxpayers go even higher, while ignoring the poor quality of the 2014-15 ISTEP letter grade formula. This marks the first time in my memory when Governor Pence and the Institute for Quality Education were not in mutual agreement on a major education bill.

Hanging questions have also been raised about SB 200: Shouldn’t we have a two-year transition to new tests? Shouldn’t those schools currently on the bubble for state intervention get extra consideration since it is not clear they truly deserve another F using this discredited ISTEP?

Senate Bill 200 reflects the bipartisan consensus that has been reached to prevent the transition to tougher standards and tests from lowering school letter grades in the wake of drastically lower passing rates approved by the State Board of Education for the new test.

Fast Track by January 19th

Representative Behning said on the floor of the House yesterday that an agreement has been made to fast track HB 1003 with a goal for passage in both houses and the Governor’s signature by January 19th.

When the General Assembly has the consensus and the will, it can take fast action to pass legislation. Last spring, the bill to fix the RFRA legislation was written, passed and signed into law in about a three day span. Fast action is needed on SB 200 and HB 1003 to get promised bonuses and compensation to teachers and to meet letter grade deadlines.

Fast action was actually needed earlier on Organization Day in November, as some legislators had proposed. If action to “hold harmless” had been taken then, no school reputations would have been sullied when preliminary grades were released and teachers would already have their bonus money.

That said, fast action is needed now, and you can help. Let legislators know you support fast action on HB 1003 and SB 200.

Thank you for your advocacy for public education!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith


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


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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


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

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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