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 www.keepthepromiseindiana.org for additional information and updates as we move forward.
xposted at EAEA