Friday, December 7, 2012

State Board Passes Controversial REPA 2

...from ISTA

The State Board of Education amended and passed controversial changes to teacher licensing rules over the objections of incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and a number of teachers who urged the group to slow down. Ritz -- just weeks from taking office after defeating incumbent Tony Bennett -- asked the board to table the proposal, saying it could "put unqualified teachers in the classroom."

State Board of Ed passes new licensing standards for teachers, administrators

Indiana State Board of Education passes controversial changes to teacher licensing rules

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

REPA 2 - ISTA Statement to State Board

December 5, 2012

ISTA provided this statement to the Indiana State Board of Education at its meeting this morning:

The Indiana State Teachers Association urges the Indiana State Board of Education to table further action on REPA 2.

REPA 2 is a sweeping set of rule changes that will affect everything from approving teacher training institutions to teacher licensure and re-licensure - the overall effect of which will de-professionalize the teaching profession. The changes in licensure alone could mean that a person need only pass a content test to become a licensed teacher in the state in certain areas without ever having taken a single teaching methods, child psychology or classroom management course first.

The case has not been made that any of this is warranted or that the area of teacher licensure/re-licensure is in a state of crisis (or even near-crisis) in Indiana. This is an area in which a comprehensive overhaul was made recently (REPA 1) in 2010-and REPA 1 has not even had the chance to be fully implemented. There currently exist multiple paths to teaching, both traditional and alternative, in Indiana law and rule. What REPA 2 does is both extreme and unnecessary, the results of which could be dangerous to classrooms of children.

Among the issues over which ISTA members are concerned relate to the new "adjunct teachers permit" which would allow any person with a bachelor degree (3.0 gpa) to become a classroom teacher. Absolutely no classroom experience, no coursework in classroom management or in student discipline would be required going in.

And tying the evaluation results to an adjunct faculty member's licensure is in contravention to the compromise earlier made to concerned legislators.

Finally, shifting authority away from the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction and to the State Board of Education itself to approve teacher training programs smacks of politics over policy.

As drafted, there is no substance offered in REPA 2 on which anyone can count to know what will constitute a legitimate teacher preparation program. No longer will we know that public school teachers are trained at bona fide universities. Instead REPA 2 would allow "organizations" approved by political appointees to become teacher preparation centers. This is what is meant when accusations are made to the State Board that REPA 2 de-professionalizes the profession of teaching.

The State Board of Education should table any further consideration of REPA 2.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

FWCS School Grades Information

Press Release
October 31, 2012


Nearly 80 percent of the Fort Wayne Community Schools buildings received an A, B or C this year under Indiana’s accountability system.

Thirty-nine schools earned an A, B or C under the state’s revised grading system – the first year the system has been in place using new measurements.

Fourteen schools – Whitney Young Early Childhood Center and Arlington, Brentwood, Croninger, Glenwood Park, Harris, Irwin, Lincoln, Lindley, Nebraska, Saint Joseph Central, Washington, Washington Center and Weisser Park elementary schools – received an A. Adams, Franke Park, Haley, Indian Village and Price elementary schools and Northwood Middle School earned a B, and 19 more schools received a C, as did the District as a whole.

“Our focus has been and will continue to be continuous improvement,” Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson said. “Earlier this year when ISTEP+ results were released we saw that for the third consecutive year, we had more students passing the exams, and our growth was higher than the state’s at every level. While we are proud of our schools that received high letter grades from the state, our focus will continue to be on quality instruction every single day in every single classroom”

Prior to this year, state rankings were based on a combination of achievement and growth, with participations and performance under No Child Left Behind’s system also factored. This year, the complex system was based first on achievement with a requirement that a school must see at least a 70 percent passing rate on ISTEP+ to receive any points. A calculation based on individual student performance was used for growth and graduation rates and college and career readiness metrics were added for high schools. In addition, in previous years there was no limit on the number of special education students who could successfully pass an alternative exam, ISTAR or IMAST. This year, the state mandated a 3 percent cap on ISTAR and IMAST proficiency, resulting in hundreds of passed exams throughout the state being thrown out.

“Letter grades from the state will not solely define our schools,” School Board President Mark GiaQuinta said. “Our families know there is no better place for the children of this city to receive an education than Fort Wayne Community Schools. Each day we are educating students to high standards to ensure they become productive, responsible citizens. That is what defines our schools and sets them above all others.”

(Click the image for a larger view.)

(Click the image for a larger view.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Save Our Public Schools

Make your voice count. Become an ISTA activist.

You belong to ISTA because you are committed to the success of every child. We need your help to put students at the center of Indiana school's agenda. We need ISTA activists to advocate clearly for students and public schools.

ISTA Activist Activity

GLENDA RITZ for state school superintendent

Hoosier educators face the most important election in recent history this November. Indiana voters will go to the polls to choose a new governor and possibly a new Superintendent of Public Instruction. For the future of our public schools, John Gregg needs to be elected governor and Glenda Ritz, a teacher and ISTA member and local president, must become the new Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Educators know that if these two pro-education candidates are going to be successful, they must have the full and enthusiastic support of all friends and supporters of public education.

As an ISTA Activist, how can you help? You can volunteer to:
  • Donate money for John and Glenda's campaigns
  • Collects donations from friends and family for their campaigns
  • Distribute candidate literature door-to-door (walk targeted neighborhoods)
  • Phone bank for candidates
  • Put a yard sign in your yard and in the yards of supportive friends & neighbors
  • Put bumper stickers on your cars
  • Host candidate meet-and-greets in your home
  • Distribute candidate literature at polling places on election day
  • Walk in community parades to support John & Glenda
The future is in our hands. Volunteer to become an ISTA Activist TODAY.

Click here to "TAKE ACTION".

Please e-mail the “Keep the Promise” website link to your colleagues, friends, and relatives.

Friday, September 28, 2012

We Need Your Help to Fight Back

From ISTA's Executive Director, Brenda Pike:

September 26, 2012
Corporate special interest groups and Wall Street millionaires are funding Tony Bennett's campaign.[1]  These ultra-wealthy hedge fund managers and powerful corporate insiders are pouring money into Indiana to fund Bennett's public school takeover and privatization agenda.
We need to ask ourselves "why"?
Why would Alice Walton, the Arkansas Wal-Mart heiress, give $200,000 to Tony Bennett? Why would a series of hedge fund managers from Chicago and New York City donate upwards of $100,000? What about the "Hoosiers" for Economic Growth's $25,000 contribution to Bennett?  Look deeper.  Much of that group's money comes from Michigander Betsy (of the Amway fortune) DeVos' school voucher group.
Follow the money.  It's coming from long-time voucher supporters and public school takeover advocates.  It's coming from anti-union interests and unbridled charter school expansionists.  And way too much is coming from out-of-state.
We need your help to fight back quickly.   Let's get Glenda Ritz on the air!
To take Glenda's message directly to Indiana's voters, an additional $200,000 must be raised by Friday, October 5th.   It won't be difficult for Hoosiers to see what's going on here, but it takes funds to ensure that they know.  Time is of the essence!
Please donate $100, $50, $25 or whatever amount you can manage right now to help purchase TV air time for Glenda Ritz.
Your help is needed now more than ever. Thank you.

Dr. Brenda Pike, ISTA Executive Director

[1] The "top 10" out-state-contributors to Tony Bennett, all of which have connections to promoting vouchers, takeovers, public school restructure, and/or anti-union political agendas -Alice L. Walton, Bentonville, Arkansas, $200,000, 7/19/12; Michael Bloomberg, NYC, $40,000, 6/29/12; Elizabeth White, Chicago, $25,000, 8/31/12; Anne Griffin, Chicago, $25,000, 7/12/12; Daniel Loeb, NYC, $25,000, 2/14/12; Eli Broad, Los Angeles, $25,000, 9/12/12; Roger Hertog, NYC, $25,000, 5/21/12; Paul Singer, NYC, $10,000, 4/10/12; Bruce White, Chicago, $10,000, 8/17/12; William Oberndorf, Mills Valley, CA  $10,000, 5/21/12.   For the complete list of Bennett's "large contribution" funders, go to

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Message from President Schnellenberger


From ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger
Thursday, August 30, 2012

ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger shares an important video message about Glenda's campaign for State School Superintendent.

Watch and then share the video with friends and family. Glenda needs the help and support of every Hoosier who supports and believes in our public schools. There are 4 immediate actions that you can take to help Glenda's campaign . . .
  1. Within the next seven days, tell five (5) friends, family members or neighbors about Glenda's campaign. Remember, many people do not understand the significance of this race. Approximately 11 percent of Hoosier households have a K-12 student living in them -- however, public education affects us all. DIRECT PEOPLE TO GLENDA'S WEBSITE:
  2. If you're in the Indianapolis metro area, volunteer at Glenda's headquarters (1449 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis). Or get a group of friends and colleagues together and carpool to help. At the moment, Glenda's campaign could really use help assembling campaign materials. If you have time to volunteer, you can do so through Glenda's website.
  3. Stay tuned to Glenda's upcoming appearances. A calendar of events is posted on her website ( You can also find the calendar on Glenda's Facebook page. Attend as many events as you can to show your support for Glenda and public schools!
  4. DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN! Like it or not, money makes a difference in political campaigns. The amount of cash on hand by the day after tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 1, will determine the type of advertising Glenda's campaign will (or will not) be able to purchase in the upcoming weeks.
With our help, Glenda can compete with Dr. Bennett and his deep-pocketed supporters. But she needs our help to keep this race competitive by giving her the resources she needs to get her message out!


You may contribute on-line or mail a check to Ritz4Education,
4783 West 1000 North, Fountaintown, IN 46130


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Get to Know Glenda Ritz and Vote the Promise




I-PACE Recommended Candidate for
Superintendent of Public Instruction

Glenda has produced a Youtube video introducing herself to educators across the state. Please take a moment to watch the video and then share it with your colleagues and family so they can see why we need to elect Glenda as Superintendent of Public Instruction!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 By last count, State Superintendent Tony Bennett accepted somewhere in the vicinity of $325,000 in campaign money from out-of-state interests.
  • Tens of thousands of dollars coming from Chicago and New York City hedge fund managers.
  • Two hundred thousand dollars from Wal-Mart heiress and Arkansas voter Alice Walton.
Glenda Ritz needs and deserves our help. Winning this election rests on our putting our time, talents, and some of our “treasures” on the table.

Hoosiers helping Hoosiers.

A suggested contribution to Glenda is $100 but a minimum of $25 will ensure that a Ritz4Education “Campaign-In-A-Box” will be delivered to your home. The Campaign-In-A-Box will include suggestions for engaging other voters, 1 yard sign, 6 window stickers and 20 campaign cards.
You may contribute on-line or you may mail a check to
Ritz4Education, 4783 West 1000 North, Fountaintown, IN 46130

Saturday, May 12, 2012

ISTA on the Job: Here is another chance to be heard

May 11, 2012

Indiana teachers, here’s another chance to be heard.

We want to hear your collective voice as
Indiana’s public school teachers.

WTHR-TV - Channel 13 (NBC, Indianapolis) is asking teachers around the state what they think about issues facing educators in Indiana. So much has been said about education and educators - this is another chance for ISTA members to voice their opinions - anonymously.

ISTA has kindly agreed to help WTHR by distributing this survey to its members. Thanks for your participation in telling this important education story.

And this is a topic that nobody likes to talk about: cheating in school. WTHR Channel 13 has recently received several tips suggesting that pressure to perform has resulted in cheating involving standardized tests by students and even by a few teachers. They would like to find out if these reports reflect isolated incidents or a more widespread problem in Indiana's schools because of the current testing culture. Thank you for taking this 16-question survey.

Survey deadline is Friday, May 18, 2012.

Even though WTHR Channel 13 has guaranteed that the identity of all respondents will remain anonymous, ISTA reminds members who choose to complete this survey NOT to reveal any information in their responses that would indicate name, school, school corporation or even community. And participating in this survey is completely OPTIONAL!

Here’s the link to the survey:

Again, WTHR Channel 13 won’t know who you are. But if you WANT to be part of their education stories, there is a spot at the end of the survey to leave your contact information – or a story idea.
xposted at EAEA

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update on Teacher Evaluation

ISTA Vice-President Teresa Meredith
Update on Teacher Evaluation

RISE is Indiana's model evaluation and development system created by the IDOE Evaluation Cabinet and representatives from the New Teacher Project.

A Message from President Schnellenberger

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"You should know that ISTA was a huge force in bringing about these legislative gains. I've been told by more than one legislator that without the tireless advocacy of our Association, these gains would have never materialized." -- comment made by Julian Smith, President, Jennings County Classroom Teachers Association regarding gains made in the 2012 legislative session.

Dear ISTA Members,

Recently I talked to a local president who said that some of his members were questioning the value of ISTA. He said they asked whether ISTA was still able to contribute to the well-being of its members.

I decided that even in our world of technological information overload perhaps some ISTA members have not been updated on what ISTA has accomplished on their behalf just this past year.

Here is a partial list of recent successes:

Teacher Contracts
Last August the Indiana Department of Education wanted to require all teachers to sign a contract that defined working days, minimum hours and gave DOE unbridled control over teaching conditions. ISTA took immediate action by filing a lawsuit stating that the contract was illegal. The judge emphatically agreed with ISTA and new contract language was ordered and issued.

ISTEP+ Affirmation Statement
In February the Indiana State Department of Education sent an ISTEP+ affidavit out to be signed by all teachers who administer ISTEP tests. The affidavit asked teachers to affirm that they would not review, inspect, discuss or copy any test item. Again, ISTA took on the challenge to advocate for our members through our legal channels and the request for the affidavit was rescinded by IDOE.

State Takeover of Schools/Teacher Evaluation/Teacher Licensure
During the 2012 General Assembly ISTA opposed a bill that would have accelerated state takeover public schools by private management, enabling the takeover to occur as early as after the second year in which a school had been ranked in the bottom two categories.

Additionally, the General Assembly elected to take back its control over teacher evaluations and licensure by creating a Select Commission on Education.

The Commission will oversee SBE/DOE rules, proposals, processes and guidelines on at least the following: (1) The A-F grading policy which impacts state takeover; (2) Teacher Evaluations; (3) Teacher Licensure.

While other groups participated, there is uniform agreement in the State House that ISTA led this charge. ISTA looks forward to working with the Commission in the coming months.

Voucher Expansion
ISTA successfully fought voucher expansion bills during the session that would have enabled private school students to gain easeir access to state-funded vouchers or tax credit scholarships.

Click here for a complete listing of ISTA's legislative accomplishments:

Collective Bargaining
It's important to remember collective bargaining and discussion are more important now than ever. With that in mind ISTA recently held its 35th Collective Bargaining Conference for more than 500 ISTA leaders making it the largest attended conference in history. Bargaining teams from across the state received in-depth training and information about how to best negotiate issues under the new bargaining law. No other organization provides that level of training and support to education professionals.

So when I look at that short list of accomplishments, I am proud to tell local presidents of the work that ISTA does every day. It is also crucial to remember that no coalition of non-members or independent locals advocates for educators against any of the aforementioned attacks against public education.

The good things happening for Indiana's public school employees are happening because of the efforts of ISTA and ISTA alone. You won't find a coalition of non-members or a group of independent locals advocating for public education at the Statehouse at any time -- in or out of a legislative session. The sole voice of teachers and educational support professionals continues to be ISTA. Period.

Although things continue to change for Indiana's public educators, ISTA remains dedicated to the idea that great public schools are a basic right for every child in our state. Only ISTA demands respect for public education and public school educators by:
  • lobbying the State Legislature for ALL of public education, not just pet projects.
  • offering its members protection on the job and off.
  • fighting to keep public education safe from those who would destroy it for self-interest reasons.
  • representing the rights of members whenever needed.
Speaking of representing our members recent legislation (2011) removed the requirement that ISTA represent both members and non-members. Therefore going forward ISTA will only represent dues paying members.

In these changing and uneasy times when public educators are under relentless scrutiny, I cannot imagine how teachers and education support professionals would fare without the continued strength and efforts of the ISTA. We are here when you need us.
Trusting your future to independent local leaders or to any other organization has never been a good idea. And in today's environment, to do so would be devastating for you and your profession.

Thanks for all you do.

Nate Schnellenberger, ISTA President
xposted at EAEA

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Things Are Happening Because of ISTA

From ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger

xposted at EAEA

Thursday, March 15, 2012

ISTA 2012 Indiana General Assembly Accomplishments

...from the ISTA Web Site

ISTA Membership Pays Off!

2012 Indiana General Assembly Accomplishments

K-12 bills are highlighted in the attached chart. We hope you will see and appreciate the broad array of issues that arose even in a “shortened” short session. Please know that year in and year out ISTA is at work for you day and night as the General Assembly convenes. While it is unlikely that any organization that deals in the breadth of issues in which we deal ever gets everything it wants from the legislature, I hope that you will be able to see in this picture, some key successes—maybe even some turning points.

ISTA worked very hard this session in cultivating new relationships with legislators. We always knew who our friends were. We just needed to grow some new friends. We call this our “pro-public education caucus” and membership is not based in party affiliation.Relationship-building takes time, but we believe we have made a good start. And remember, at the end of the day, legislators are uniquely accountable to their own constituents so we humbly ask that you consider building deeper relationships with them back home.

The truth of the matter is that the General Assembly’s unprecedented creation of the new SELECT COMMISSION ON EDUCATION is a direct result of the growing concerns that legislators from both parties had begun to internalize and voice. Their concerns were not only over what the State Board of Education and Department of Education were promulgating with regard to the 2011 reform programs but also how these agencies were going about it. ISTA places great stock in this unprecedented SELECT COMMISSION’s willingness to not only be an unfiltered sounding board but also to provide a fair forum for school employees to contribute to the reforms in meaningful ways. We will do our best to ensure that the SELECT COMMISSION reaches its potential.

In the meantime, thank you for all that you do each and every day for Hoosier children. We will keep you posted.

Nate Schnellenberger

 Bill No.
General Content/Issue
Session Activity/Result
ISTA  Notes
SB 34
Would have allowed the INPRS (Indiana Retirement System) to share member retirement information with employers for certain purposes without the member/employee’s consent.
SB 34 had been scheduled for a Senate Hearing.  Senator Greg Walker (R-Columbus) agreed to withdraw it due to ISTA concerns about employee consent.
There was a second attempt to insert it on the House side and Rep. Woody Burton (R-Greenwood) agreed to not pursue it.
Senator Walker and Rep. Burton both listened to ISTA lobbyists and since an agreement could not be reached to simply allow employees to consent first, the bill died.
SB 83
Mandated cursive writing instruction.
SB 83 was given a hearing in the Senate, but died.
As drafted, SB 83 was an unfunded mandate.
SB 89
Permitted the teaching of multiple versions of the origin of life, including creationism—and required the curriculum to include multiple religious beliefs.
SB 89 was given a hearing in the Senate and passed out of Committee and out the Senate but died in the House without a hearing.
ISTA’s lobbying at the onset was to try to redirect SB 89 into a bill that would not deal with the creationism issue at all but instead would refer to an elective world literature course that included, among other great works, the Bible.  This was based upon a program in the 1970s that was inclusive, constitutional, and  required professional development. When it became clear that this alternative was not viable, ISTA, including ISTA member science teachers, actively and successfully lobbied against SB 89.
SB 159
Prohibited school districts from permitting Association dues from being deducted from members’ pay as a convenience to members.
SB 159 was introduced but not heard in committee and therefore died.
ISTA met with Senate Leadership on SB 159 early on in the session—noting that it did not involve K-12 education policy—ISTA appreciates that action on the bill was not pursued.
SB 179
DOE Bill:  Required high school students to take at least one on-line (virtual) course.
SB 179 passed the Senate, but did not receive a hearing in the House and therefore died.
Lobbying SB 179 centered on, among other things, ensuring equal access among all students and the state’s technological infrastructural capacity, securing accountability, ensuring licensed staff and appropriate class sizes.
SB 296
SB 198
SB 331

Each of these bills, in its introduced form, sought to enable certain private school students to gain access to state-funded private school vouchers or tax credit scholarships without first having attended a public school for at least one year.
All of these bills received a hearing in Senate Education Committee and SB 296 and 198 passed out of Committee and were recommitted to Senate Appropriations.  Only SB 296 passed out of the Senate and was heard in the House.  On the House side, the focus of SB 296 was restricted to students who are eligible to receive tuition assistance through a scholarship granting organization that benefits from the state issuing tax credits to contributors (this is not the same program as the voucher program).  The bill enables a student who might bounce around between being income eligible for assistance one year and then not income eligible another year, to not have to reapply for admission to the same school he/she had attended if the student became eligible again for the financial assistance.  ENACTED:  SB 296.
The passage of any of these bills in their introduced form would have cost the state and public schools additional funds because the students would have never first been counted as public school students.  As it ended, the only bill that survived (SB 296) ultimately addressed an entirely different concern.
SB 236
Class Basketball; Labor Day Start Date; Rewarding “high-performing” school districts with flexibility.
SB 236 was the first bill heard this session in Senate Education Committee.  It covered 3 disparate topics:  (1) Gave schools in highest performance categories the flexibility to opt out of the 180-day requirement so long as they convened instruction for an equivalent amount of time in instructional hours; (2) Gave “high-performing schools” other flexibility with regard to waiving statutes and rules. (3) With some exceptions, prohibited public schools, except charter schools, from beginning the school term before the fourth Monday in August and from ending after June 10 of the following year, beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. (4) Addressed IHSAA Class Basketball.  SB 236 passed out of committee without the Class Basketball issue but failed in the Senate for a lack of constitutional majority by a vote of 25-25.
ISTA did not enter the fray over class basketball, lobbied to enable local communities to determine the school calendar, and sought to enable all public schools to have calendar flexibility. 
SB 384
DOE Bill:  Would have permitted the contracting out of school and school district accreditation to outside private entities; would have enabled the DOE/SBE to identify its own “legal standards” for accreditation (rather than the General Assembly making those designations); would have overhauled Indiana’s performance-based accreditation system based upon DOE/SBE determined benchmarks.
SB 384 passed out of the Senate as an accreditation overhaul bill and state takeover language was added to it in the House (a revised version of HB 1324).  Additionally, SB 384 became the repository of several other provisions, including provisions relating to charter schools, home schools, and teacher evaluations).  In the end, SB 384 died with only a few SB 384 provisions surviving in HB 1376 (see HB 1376).

At one point during the session, SB 384 became “the omnibus education bill.”  ISTA lobbied vigorously against the takeover language as being too broad, based upon a flawed A-F grading policy, too generous in its delegation of  authority to the SBE/DOE, an anti-teacher/bargaining bill,  and unduly punitive towards Indiana’s community school districts.  In the end, the bill died and only a few provisions were transferred to HB 1376 (see HB 1376).
HB 1002
GOV Bill:  Elimination of State Boards/Commissions –School Air Quality Ramifications
HB 1002 was a bill that the Governor’s Administration pursued to eliminate a long list of boards and commissions that it deemed no longer viable or needed.  Included in that list was the School Air Quality Panel and in doing so called into question whether air quality inspections would continue in schools.  Language ensuring that the state would provide free air quality inspections and evaluations to schools was maintained.  ENACTED:  HB 1002.
ISTA successfully lobbied to restore language ensuring that the state would provide free air quality inspections and evaluations to schools rather than require schools to pay outside contractors for this service.
HB 1123
TRF/PERF 13th Check.
HB 1123 began as a 13th check augmentation bill, which is where it stayed for the remainder of the session.
TRF/PERF 13th check amounts range from $150 to $450 depending upon years in retirement.  ENACTED:  HB 1123.
While ISTA always lobbied for additional assistance for its retirees, ISTA began the session by lobbying for a true Cost of Living Adjustment as well as a “catch-up” provision to bring the purchasing power up for those who have been retired the longest and who have been hit hardest over the intervening “no COLA” years.  When it became clear that the 13th check was the best and only alternative for retiree augmentation in this session, ISTA put all of its support behind the passage of HB 1123.  
HB 1134
Transportation Fees
HB 1134 prohibits parents from being charged a fee for transportation to and from school (if the school district directly provides the service or if it is contracted out to an educational service center).  However, fees may be charged for transportation to and from extracurricular events.  ENACTED:  HB 1134.
The issue for ISTA is ensuring that school districts have access to sufficient funding to provide transportation without being forced to use general operating funds which should be classroom-based.  This bill settled the debate among school districts about whether they can charge parents fees for transportation to and from school for daily instruction (they cannot), but it remains to be seen if transportation funds around the state will be sufficient to fully fund transportation programs. For some most cash-strapped, HB 1192 may provide some relief—enabling certain districts to refinance existing debt.
HB 1169
Student Discipline
HB 1169 began as a bill to enable a student to be suspended or expelled for any activity (whether committed on or off school property) deemed to be an interference with school purposes.  Existing law required the activity to be “unlawful.”  The bill’s author most specifically was attempting to address cyber-bullying.  First Amendment advocates, including many of ISTA-member journalism teachers, opposed the broadness of the bill.   The compromise final version calls for an interim study committee to study best-practice student disciplinary measures.  ENACTED:  HB 1169.
ISTA continually lobbied for a narrowing of the bill and ultimately supported the final version which called for a study committee on best practice student disciplinary measures.  Additionally, the final version specifically gives ISTA the authority to nominate to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (who will make the appointment) the teacher member to this committee.
HB 1189
SB 280
School Finance
HB 1189 was the House bill that addressed requiring a 2nd ADM count to be conducted for the purpose of tracking per student funding.  SB 280 was the Senate version.  Throughout the session, the issues on this were: (1) when the 1st and 2nd counts should be made; (2) the timetable for transitioning the funding once the 2ndcount was made; and (3) how to handle charter school start-up funding.  Ultimately, HB 1189 settled on the following:   (1) Requires the state board of education to conduct a 2nd count of students enrolled in school corporations and charter schools in February of each school year (the current September count remains in force).  (2) Provides that the school funding formula expires on July 1, 2013 (rather than January 1, 2014)—meaning that in future years, funding will transition to FY funding. (3)  Transfers the appropriation and funding for charter school start-up grants to the appropriation for state tuition support. Increases the amount of the charter school start-up grant for charter schools that begin operation in calendar year 2012 and provides that the grant is to be paid in six installments with one installment in each of the last six months of calendar year 2012. (4) Specifies that the amount distributed as supplementary grants to school corporations from the voucher program are limited only by the state FY appropriation and not the CY cap that limits the amount of state tuition support payable in a CY.  (5) Requires the DOE to report to the General Assembly using 2011-12 data, the number of students who left the public school district for a charter school, the number who left charter schools to the public school district, the number who left the public school district for a private school, and the number who received a voucher but went back to the public school district. (6) Requires an accredited nonpublic school to provide sufficient verbal information to permit a requesting public school to which a child transfers to make an appropriate placement decision when the parent of the child is in breach of a contract that conditions release of student records on the payment of outstanding tuition and other fees.   ENACTED:  HB 1189.
ISTA lobbied to limit the counts to one additional count (DOE and other groups had suggested more than 2 dates throughout the course of the year) and to ensure that potential teacher layoffs are not impacted by the 2nd count—the disruption to student learning far outweighs fiscal issues.
HB 1192
SB 226
School District Fiscal Relief
While both HB 1192 and SB 226 sought to provide avenues to certain school districts most in need of financial assistance, HB 1192 became the final vehicle for this to occur.  Ultimately, HB 1192 includes provisions for special emergency managers to come into distressed municipal government units and offers to certain school districts the following avenues for financial modification:  (1) Debt restructuring if the school district has a circuit breaker impact of at least 20% (rather than 30%); (2) Access to a low-interest rate loan from the state’s rainy day fund if the school district is a distressed unit and state-approved (loans are available until December 31, 2017). ENACTED:  HB 1192.
Please note that if a school district seeks distressed unit status and then seeks a rainy day fund loan, the state could possibly condition the granting of the loan on a number of factors, including the district’s willingness to modify the terms of any contracts to which it has entered. 
HB 1205
Superintendent Contract Transparency
HB 1205 began as a bill to make transparent the particulars of school superintendents’ contracts.  As the session ensued, SB 1205 became broader than that, including requiring the posting of charter school governing body members, and contract provisions of certificated employees. ENACTED:  HB 1205.
Public school compensation agreements are public information.
HB 1324
DOE bill:  Acceleration of State Takeover of Public Schools
HB 1324 was the most draconian version of the DOE’s state takeover proposals and mirrored a proposed rule the SBE had unveiled on state takeover back in November 2011 (before the General Assembly had even convened).  Under HB 1324, a takeover by a private (for-profit) management company could have occurred as early as after the 2nd year in the lowest 2 categories if a minority of parents (51% of the students’ parents) voted.  Not only did this accelerate takeover, but it expanded which schools would be eligible for takeover (bottom 2 categories versus the current lowest category).  HB 1324 specifically granted to the SBE and the DOE open-ended, extremely broad powers, including the power to punish the existing school district by withholding funds at the discretion of the SBE.  Additionally, HB 1324 would have set forth in law the proposition that these takeovers would be permanent—that is, the school would never be transitioned back to the community school district.  HB 1324 made it clear that teachers would not be able to bargain salary and benefits and would not be hired under the uniform state contract form.  HB 1324 also would have permitted unlicensed teachers to teach in these takeover schools.  HB 1324 then added similar language to enable entire school districts to be taken over by private management companies.  On 2ndreading, dozens of amendments were drafted to alter this bill and to make it more “public school friendly.”  The bill was never called down for 2nd reading and therefore died in the first half of the session.
ISTA lobbied against HB 1324 extremely vigorously and successfully with legislators and supported a multitude of 2ndreading amendments that had been drafted to try to improve it.   The lobbying paid off as HB 1324 died in the first chamber.  NOTE:  Several components of HB 1324 were resurrected and inserted into SB 384 in the House Education Committee when SB 384 came from the Senate to the House (See SB 384).
HB 1326
DOE bill:  Various Issues; including eliminating boards and commissions
HB 1326 began as what DOE called a “clean-up” bill that would have eliminated a list of statutory boards and commissions that it deemed not viable or needed.  It also included some criminal history check language for teachers.  Over the course of the session, other miscellaneous items were included in this bill.  It proceeded through the session until the 2ndreading stage of the 2nd House.  Ultimately, HB 1326 died because it was not called down on 3rd reading in the Senate.
ISTA lobbied this bill throughout the session, offering suggestions and working to restore a few of the committees/boards.  Ultimately, the volume of topics that HB 1326 took on helped to contribute to its demise.
HB 1367
GOV bill:   Indiana Deaf School
HB 1367 would have immediately transitioned the Indiana Deaf School away from its current operation to the establishment of a new Center.  As it was enacted, provides that the Office of Management and Budget will begin making recommendations to the 2013 General Assembly as to how to fund the new Center.  ENACTED:  HB 1367.
ISTA lobbied vigorously to ensure that the current Indiana Deaf School funding remained whole even as the transition to the creation of the new Center will be accomplished in 2013.
HB 1376
SB 143
Omnibus Bill; akin to budget bill in long session
HB 1376 began as a short session quasi-budget bill—it included: (1) amending the taxpayer rebate provisions enacted in 2011; (2) increasing the amount of liability the state would assume for the State Fair accident; (3) providing $2400 per student for Full-day Kindergarten (FDK)—which amounts to over $80 million additional dollars. SB 143 was the Senate counterpart bill, including some of the same provisions.  As the session ensued, HB 1376 was designated as the “short session budget bill” that would move along and then other elements were added (the recreation of the FSSA State Agency, regulations on emergency rules for Medicaid, Little Calumet River basin provisions) on the Senate side.  Ultimately, on the last day of the session, when it became clear that SB 384 was not going to pass due to vigorous ISTA lobbying (and due to the state takeover language), the decision was made to allow for a select few (bare-bones) provisions from SB 384 to be moved to HB 1376.  The K-12 provisions that were added were the following:  (1) In a takeover situation, the takeover school is considered an LEA for federal funding purposes, teachers must be licensed, teachers may bargain, teachers are eligible for TRF and other public employees for PERF, and there must be at least 2 public hearings each year in which the local school board and the management company discuss best practices and facility use issues.  (2) Legislators created their own SELECT COMMISSION ON EDUCATION to oversee and make recommendations on SBE and DOE rule-making and policies related to the A-F school grading policy, teacher evaluations, and teacher licensure.   (3) Charter schools and traditional public schools have avenues to opt out or seek waivers from the 90-minute uninterrupted reading requirement that is part of the DOE’s grade 3 reading program.  (4) Made clarifications to the teacher vote threshold on locally-developed teacher evaluation plans. ENACTED:  HB 1376.
ISTA lobbying supported HB 1376 in its introduced version as it offered an additional $80 million for FDK, assuring $2400 per student to school districts to provide FDK.  As the session ensued, SB 143 provisions were included as well.  Primarily due to vigorous ISTA lobbying, the state takeover language that was ultimately inserted into HB 1367 was both reduced and altered dramatically.  Additionally, the creation of the SELECT COMMISSION ON EDUCATION provides the promise that concerns voiced by ISTA members these past several months concerning the various 2011 reforms will now receive a thorough vetting and a fair hearing.  Our work is now just beginning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ISTA Success at the State House

From ISTA...

To Our Members,

ISTA membership pays off. Today we have some good news from the State House. In fact, we have enough news that we will be sharing it over the next couple of days. Stay tuned.

As ISTA members, you continue to answer the call each day to serve this state and its children. And at the end of the day, you should know that when public education was threatened once again, ISTA (all of us together) found legislative friends--some of whom we frankly didn't know we had.

It wasn't easy, but there is no denying that in the wake of a series of new bills that were introduced by the Department of Education (DOE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) to seize additional control over state accreditation, curriculum mandates, state takeovers and teachers' rights, ISTA took the lead in stopping this relentless crusade of bills and worked hard to secure real gains within the General Assembly by building bridges with members from both parties.

The result is that the General Assembly sent a clear message that it intends to step in, engage in bona fide scrutiny and meaningful evaluation over not only what the DOE and SBE have done with regard to some of the 2011 education reforms but also with regard to how they have gone about doing it:
  • HEA 1376 creates the Select Commission on Education -- comprised in its entirety of the members of the House and Senate Education committees.
  • In this unprecedented move, legislators from both standing committees of the general assembly have pledged to investigate all of the policies and rules (both enacted and proposed policies) of the DOE and the SBE concerning teacher evaluations, teacher licensure and the A-F school/school district grading policy (commonly called "the matrix") which is the springboard to state takeover.
  • The statutory charge to the commission calls for both substantive and procedural scrutiny and that a report be submitted by Dec. 1, 2012.
The convening of this Select Commission is an opportunity for us to:
  • make our case as to why some of these policies that have emerged after the 2011 General Assembly adjournment have been perceived as being heavy-handed, ill-advised, beyond the scope of authority, not reflective of the General Assembly's intent, and inconsistent with best practices in improving student learning;
  • acknowledge any positive policy changes that may have been implemented; and
  • make recommendations gleaned from the invaluable perspective of our members--those who have dedicated their professional lives to working closest with Indiana's children.
This work is just beginning, but the opportunity is now at hand.

Because we believe that the 2012 legislative session was a turning point for public schools, public school teachers and for public education, we look forward to sharing with you a list of specific legislative successes gained during the session. The list of successes is impressive and will be shared over the next couple of days.

Let it be said, too, that there are many legislators to thank along the way. That list is impressive, too, and will be shared tomorrow. We must continue to work to create a pro-public education/pro-public school educator caucus within the General Assembly that will serve Indiana's public schools and our members over the long haul.

This is why your membership in this Association makes sense. And this is why, by being a member and an activist, we can collectively make a difference.

Thank you for all that you do to help Hoosier children learn and grow. Thank you for all that you do for public education. Stay tuned . . . there is lots more to come!

Please bookmark and visit for additional information and updates as we move forward.
xposted at EAEA

Monday, February 20, 2012

Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) has announced some events of interest to educators.

Diane Ravitch author of The Life and Death of the Great American School System and a strong advocate for public schools will be speaking at the Auer Auditorium on the IPFW campus at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13. Dr. Ravitch will be part of the Omnibus Lecture Series. Tickets, though free, are needed for this event. Call the IPFW box office at 481-6555 for further information.

As a prelude to Dr. Ravitch's appearance, NEIFPE has arranged for the showing of two films at the downtown Cinema Center.

Waiting for Superman will be shown on Sunday, February 26 at 4:15 p.m and on Monday, February 27 at 4:00 p.m.

As a response to "Superman," Cinema Center is showing The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman on Sunday, March 4 at 4:00 p.m. and on Monday, March 5 at 4:00p.m.

Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Educations will lead a discussion of the two films following the two Sunday showings. There will be no charge for these showings, but donations will be accepted to help the producers of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman defray their production and distribution costs.

A flyer with information about NEIFPE will be distributed at the Cinema Center events. You can download a copy HERE.

Monday, January 30, 2012

TAKE ACTION! Email your legislators to urge opposition to HB 1324.

HB 1324 would enable the state to take over some public schools and public school corporations by handing them off to private companies to manage. HB 1324 would enable a state takeover through private company management of an existing public school as soon as the second year after the school is placed in one of the two lower performance categories. Worse, this quick takeover would be accomplished through what will likely be less than a 51 percent threshold of parent petitioners.

"Indiana's original accountability laws envisioned meaningful interventions to assist schools facing challenges," said Nate Schnellenberger, ISTA president. "HB 1324 ignores assistance and instead imposes punishment by forever stripping local property taxpayers from having a direct voice in their community public schools."

“What would be even more devastating to communities is their permanent loss of the entire school district which emerged through a committee amendment. In its new form, HB 1324 would not only allow for school takeovers by privately run companies, it would allow for state takeovers of entire school districts by privately run management companies, dissolving elected school boards and replacing them with appointees by the State Board of Education (SBE).

HB 1324 gives the SBE sweeping control over local school communities but continues to require local taxpayers to pay for the buildings over which they would have no control or influence. Ultimately, under the bill, these schools and districts would become what are called "independent schools" with no possibility of ever rejoining their community school district.

Although it's difficult to predict with complete certainty which schools or districts might be affected by these provisions, last Friday the Department of Education (DOE) did disseminate to local superintendents and principals a listing of schools and school districts depicting what would have been their respective performance grades for the 2010-11 school year had the DOE/SBE’s currently proposed accountability grading system been in place. Based on their own assessment, 22 percent of the 1790 schools (405 schools) and 12 percent of the 290 school districts (36 districts) would have received a grade of D or F. Link to attached documents.

“Since all of these sanctions rest on the validity of the grading system itself, and that grading system is yet to even be fleshed out, let alone approved, HB 1324 puts the cart before the horse,” added Schnellenberger.

Click on the Take Action link:

Please share this information about HB 1324 with your colleagues & encourage them to take action as well.

Don’t hesitate to call if that works best. HOUSE SWITCHBOARD: 800-382-9842 or 317-232-9600.

xposted at EAEA

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

TAKE ACTION: Parent Trigger Bill


Email your legislators to urge opposition to HB 1219 as currently drafted. HB 1219 would allow for the conversion of a public school into a charter school upon the petition of 51% of the students' parents OR a simple majority of the school board.

When a public school converts to charter school status, teachers' collective bargaining rights are eliminated because the school board is no longer the employer. Prior law required at least 60% of the teachers to agree to the conversion, as well as parental input. In 2011, the General Assembly removed the teacher input from these decisions. ISTA asks that a "teacher trigger" be reinstated into the process.

Click on the Take Action link:

Don’t hesitate to call if that works best. HOUSE SWITCHBOARD: 800-382-9842 or 317-232-9600.

Talking Points:
  1. Teachers want to be a part of the partnership in these issues where their experience, knowledge of learning, and professional understanding of children is valued and embedded in the process.
  2. Under existing law and under this proposal, if a conversion occurs, bargaining rights go away as the employer is a different entity. HB 1219, absent some assurances in this regard, becomes an anti-teacher/bargaining bill.
  3. Prior law (prior to last year), bargaining was preserved in school conversions and teachers were a partner in the conversion. There is a simple fix if there is a willingness. Inasmuch as bargaining rights are currently limited to salary and wage-related benefits, instilling some threshold of teacher participation in developing a conversion should not be an issue anymore. Teacher buy-in and meaningful partnering, instead, should be an integral part of what would make any conversion workable.
  4. There is no provision in law (existing or proposed) to “reverse” a conversion.
  5. Because this would apply to any public school in the state, the potential for ongoing, chronic community upheaval in terms of “bureaucracies” and “who runs this/that” grows. School communities should be assured that the main discussions center on instructional/programmatic review and direct student learning issues and not these “who’s in control” issues that deflect from job 1.
  6. The existing law is just a few months’ old. There is little reason to make such a substantive and extreme change during a hurried short session when there was so much discussion last session.
xposted at EAEA