Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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


Governors and State Superintendents: Who Controls Education Policy?

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

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

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

Senate Bill 1: New Potential Sources of Confusion and Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Will Appoint State Board Members?

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

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

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

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

Senate Bill 1: Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

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


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

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

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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


Sections 234 and 236

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Budget Numbers

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

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

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

Removing the Cap on Grade K-8 Vouchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is the education question of our generation.

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

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

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


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

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

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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

Dear Friends,

$469 million dollars!

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

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

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

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

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

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


School Funding in 1997 and Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

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


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

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

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

Senator Holdman said he would look into that.

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


Appointment Powers

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

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

No Qualifications Listed for the New Chair

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

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

New Language

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

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

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

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

Send a Message to Members of the Conference Committee

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

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

The House Conferees are Representative McMillin and Representative Vernon Smith.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your strong advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

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


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

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

###

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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