Thursday, February 27, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #174 – February 26, 2014

Dear Friends,

Let’s view the controversy over cutting the business property tax through the lens of the K-12 school voucher/school choice controversy:

Governor Pence has clearly favored private schools over public schools in the competitive marketplace of schools which we now have in Indiana. When public schools are kept in a perpetual state of financial uncertainty and budget cutting, they have a hard time competing with private schools for parent selections, especially when parents are often looking for small class sizes when they choose a school. Low school funding increases in the 2013 state budget – only 2% this year and 1% next year - have led many public schools to raise class size.

The Governor’s plan to eliminate $1 billion in business property taxes to help businesses has threatened schools, cities, towns, libraries and county governments with the latest self-inflicted crisis of financial instability. For public schools, that translates into more difficulty in competing in the school choice marketplace. Parents may not choose schools with well-known financial problems that are cutting services and even having trouble funding school buses. This is no time to give public schools another financial headache through a new round of funding cuts resulting from changes in the business property tax.

Twenty-two statewide associations representing local governments, schools and libraries have joined the “Replace Don’t Erase” Coalition. The Indiana Coalition for Public Education is one of the members. ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand has been attending weekly meetings of the “RDE” coalition, which is simply asking that the two bills that would cut business property tax, House Bill 1001 and Senate Bill 1, include dollar for dollar replacement money for any cuts enacted in business property tax to guarantee public schools and local government budgets are not harmed by the effort to attract more businesses to Indiana.

Stable funding for public schools is vital for the sake of over one million public school students in Indiana.

House Bill 1001

The House response to the Governor’s call to eliminate the entire business property tax was a locally based response. HB 1001 started out allowing each county to decide whether to zero out property tax on new business equipment. That move would guarantee that counties would not lose tax money currently coming in, but instead would stop the growth in new property taxes. Opponents say it would introduce a new era of cut-throat competition among counties, pressuring some counties to cut the tax when they really need the revenue growth.

After changes in the Senate, the latest streamlined version passed yesterday (Feb. 25th) by the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee would still cut a projected $2.0 million from public school revenue with no provision for replacement dollars.

Senate Bill 1

The Senate response to the Governor’s call was quite different. Senators introduced a bill to eliminate all business property tax for all small businesses, those with up to $25,000 in assessed value. This had a much smaller price tag than the Governor’s original plan costing $1 billion. It also cut red tape for small businesses. The Governor has said that he would support replacing the local dollars lost with state tax dollars, although Senators have not sounded like they want to back up his idea with state dollars in a non-budgetary year.

It’s All About Competition

Once again, public schools stand to lose big if the equipment property tax is dropped. Kathy Friend, Chief Financial Officer for the Fort Wayne Community Schools, has said that under the Governor’s original plan the Fort Wayne schools would take a bigger financial hit from losing this property tax money than they did when property tax caps were put into place four years ago.

If Governor Pence can keep public schools weak and reeling financially, the private and parochial schools can gain the upper hand in the live or die competition that is now a constant for schools. Public schools must have the financial support they need to remain the stable community force that they have been for decades.

This issue is active in both the House and the Senate. Let all of your legislators know that schools and local governments don’t need a financial crisis over the business property tax. Too many school districts, such as Decatur Township and Muncie, are already facing huge problems in funding school bus transportation. Any change in the equipment tax should be accompanied by a direct replacement of the lost local property tax dollars by state dollars.

The unrelenting erosion of financial stability in Indiana’s public schools must end. “Replace Don’t Erase!”

Thanks for contacting your legislators and for your active support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is now past the half way mark in its deliberations. We need your membership to help support our hard working lobbyist Joel Hand. 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 by going to our website.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

We have raised the needed money in past sessions, and we must do so again. 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.
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Glenda Ritz on March 14

ALLEN COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY
presents
PASTA AND POLITICS
featuring
GLENDA RITZ

Where: Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 166
2930 W. Ludwig Road
Fort Wayne, IN 46818

When: Friday, March 14, 2014
5:30 P.M. Social Hour (Cash bar)
6:30 P.M. Dinner (salad, garlic bread and a pasta buffet)
Seating is limited only 200 seats available.
Seat price $25.00

Use this link to to purchase on line: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/pastap
Or mail checks payable to ACDP, P.O. Box 11544, Fort Wayne, IN 46859

Proceeds go to Allen County Democratic Party and are not deductible as
charitable donations for Federal Income Tax Purposes.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #173 – February 20, 2014

Dear Friends,

On this coming Monday February 24th, an amendment will be offered on second reading in the House to Senate Bill 282 to require private schools getting vouchers for disabled students to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is only fair that if private schools are getting state money for educating disabled students, they should have facilities that comply with ADA.

In 2011, the House voted 94-1 to add ADA compliance for voucher schools. Then the Senate took it out.

Please send messages to members of the House this weekend urging their strong support of the ADA amendment to SB 282. Currently, SB 282 simply restates rules already in use about vouchers for disabled students.

Meanwhile, in Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee (Feb. 19th), the Governor’s preschool bill HB 1004 was given a major overhaul. Senator Kenley offered Amendment 12 to the committee which substituted language creating a summer study on preschool which would address ten key policy topics. The amended bill passed the committee by a vote of 9-0.

The Senate version and the House version are now vastly different. If the Senate version prevails, public school advocates need to participate in the summer discussions to keep the proposals focused on helping preschoolers rather than on creating a pipeline to K-12 private school vouchers.

Thank you for all the messages sent to Senators opposing the linkage between preschool scholarships and K-12 vouchers. Your voice has been heard.

Will the General Assembly Open the Budget in a Non-Budget Year?

Since the beginning of the session, Senator Kenley has expressed reluctance to commit funding to bills when the budget won’t be reviewed until next year. Several bills brought by the Governor asked for approval now and funding next year. On HB 1004, it appears that Senator Kenley and Senate leaders are following their preferred policy of considering all funding programs simultaneously in the long session next year.

The fiscal cost for HB 1004 has been confusing from the start. Governor Pence in December called for a program that would fund a quality preschool for 40,000 low-income students, at a cost cited by Senator Kenley on Wednesday to be $270 million. The first LSA fiscal estimate said the preschool scholarships would cost $24 million and the resulting K-12 vouchers would add $1.6 million. Then the revised LSA fiscal estimate said the preschool scholarships would cost up to $30 million with the attached K-12 vouchers adding up to $1.9 million. Then the Governor’s Center for Education weighed in with a lengthy report and cost estimate saying HB 1004 would cost $10 million, but not until 2015-16, while at the same time citing immediate costs in 2014-15 totaling $650,000.

It is no wonder that Senator Kenley wanted a more thorough evaluation of the costs before approving the program.

Preschool Policy Topics to Be Studied

The revised bill would have the Education Commission, which is comprised of the members of the Education Committees of both Houses, study ten topics. While a copy of the amendment was not available to the public at the meeting, Senator Kenley listed several of them in his comments:
  • Waivers to use for preschool the $115 million in federal funds given to Head Start, which he called “notably unsuccessful.”
  • Waivers to use for preschool the $180 million in federal Child Care Development Grants.
  • Partnerships with corporations and charitable organizations.
  • Economic benefits of preschool programs.
  • Accountability standards for preschools used in other states such as Florida.
  • Parental involvement in early childhood education.
  • Placement of preschool standards with IDOE and the State Board as with K-12 standards, instead of with FSSA, which he said was already “busy.”
  • Setting the appropriate family income standard for preschool assistance, currently set in the bill as 185% of the federal poverty level, which he said translates to $270 million for 40,000 preschoolers.
  • Partnerships with investment groups as Utah has done, issuing Goldman Sachs bonds funding preschools with the intent of repaying the bonds with savings in special education services.
Nothing was said in the committee discussion about the bill’s linkage to K-12 vouchers. This link would potentially fuel a major expansion of the Choice Scholarship program for 40,000 incoming kindergarten students. This would drastically impact public school marketing for kindergarten enrollment.

Vigilant pubic school advocates should follow the development of preschool policies to keep preschool separate from the controversial K-12 voucher program that proponents are using to privatize the public schools of Indiana. There is no reason to bog down progress on preschool with the controversial K-12 voucher program.

Send Messages to House Members about Senate Bill 282

SB 282 clarifies the 2013 voucher expansion language regarding vouchers for students in need of special education services. It restates what is already in current practice according to rules adopted last summer by the State Board.

ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand has learned that a second reading amendment to SB 282 will be offered as early as Monday (Feb. 24th) to require private schools getting vouchers for disabled students to comply with the facility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as all public schools already must do. It is only fair that disabled students attending private voucher schools have these facility accommodations, yet they are not required now.

The recent IDOE Annual Report on Choice Scholarships reported that 1088 students needing special education services received vouchers costing Indiana taxpayers $4.4 million. Of these 1088, 311 students had never before attended an Indiana public school, creating a new fiscal expense to taxpayers of $1.3 million.

The proposed second reading amendment would bring ADA compliance for these 1088 students. Requiring ADA compliance was passed by the House in the original debate on the voucher bill in March of 2011. The 2011 amendment adding ADA compliance passed the House 94-1 in a strong bipartisan vote. One House member told me later that requiring ADA compliance was one reason he voted for the controversial bill. Then the Senate took the provision out. The House now has a chance to resurrect their previous commitment to fairness to disabled students in voucher schools.

The executive director of the Indiana Private School Association said in testimony recently that the reason why private schools should not be subject to ADA standards is that churches are exempted from the federal ADA regulations. It is interesting that he equates private schools getting tax money for disabled students with churches.

Let members of the House know via email or in Third House sessions this weekend that you think private voucher schools should comply with ADA facility standards if they are going to take tax money to educate disabled students. Students in private schools need accommodations just like students in public schools do.

Thanks for contacting your legislators and for your active support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is now half way in its deliberations. We need your membership to help support our hard working lobbyist Joel Hand. 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 by going to our website.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

We have raised the needed money in past sessions, and we must do so again. 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.
###

Monday, February 17, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #172 – February 17, 2014

Dear Friends,

The stage is set: The committee vote on the Governor’s preschool bill HB 1004 is scheduled for Wednesday, February 19th at 1:30 in the Senate Education Committee. Before the committee votes, let the Senators know that while you support preschool funding, you oppose the significant expansion of K-12 vouchers that remains in the bill. Ask the Senators to delete Sections 10 and 11 of the bill to break the link between needed help for preschool and the damaging expansion of K-12 vouchers.

Share the message: no more expansion of K-12 vouchers.

Setting the Future of Preschool Funding in Indiana


The Governor wouldn’t have to link preschool to the K-12 voucher program. His own Center for Education wrote a detailed report dated “February 2014” saying that some states fund pre-kindergarten programs through the statewide school funding formula or through grants available to traditional public schools. This bill aligns Indiana with what the report calls a “handful of states” that use a voucher system based on parent applications.

The rationale often heard for linking a preschool voucher with a guaranteed lifetime K-12 voucher is to allow parents who choose a private preschool to keep their child in the same private school for kindergarten, but this bill does not say that. It has no language about continuity of schools. It says that if children get at least $500 for preschool, they become eligible for a state-funded voucher from kindergarten through high school even if family income goes up beyond the voucher income rules. Thus, a student going to a preschool in a public school could go to a religious school using a K-12 voucher.

That is far more than a continuity rule. That is a pipeline to K-12 vouchers for every low-income preschooler.

Governor Pence in a December speech in Corydon said that 40,000 low-income preschoolers would need this voucher. Many of us have advocated for preschool funding for years, but it is obvious now that Governor Pence has a bigger vision than just preschool. His vision would propel as many as 40,000 preschoolers into private religious schools for kindergarten. No doubt private and parochial schools in Indiana are already making plans to expand.

In Indiana, about 80,000 students are in every grade level cohort. The Governor’s vision therefore would make at least half of every grade level cohort eligible for a private school voucher and a state-funded religious education. This violates Governor Daniels policy when vouchers were first passed in 2011 to try the public school first.

Governor Pence’s vision makes preschool a pipeline to bypass public schools in favor of a K-12 voucher-funded education in private and parochial schools. If this program passes, public school leaders had better revise their marketing strategies to include public school pre-K programs or else they run the risk of being irrelevant to kindergarten parents who are already committed to a private voucher school based on Governor Pence’s latest expansion effort for K-12 private schools through preschool scholarships.

Senator Boots said last year when he switched from voting against vouchers in 2011 to voting in favor of voucher expansion in 2013 that he would support the 2013 expansion because there is only one more bite on this apple. It is obvious now that voucher proponents such as Governor Pence will go for many more bites on the march to privatization until all students can get tax supported vouchers for private schools, pushing the 90% of students now in public schools into low priority, underfunded second class status.

The Hearing

The Governor has strongly supported his bill, making a rare appearance at Wednesday’s committee hearing to testify in person for HB 1004. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a Governor support a bill in committee in the eighteen years I have watched the General Assembly. Many preschool advocates showed up to testify as well, hoping finally to bring Indiana on to the list of states actively supporting preschool.

A good list of other preschool advocates testified in support of preschool but expressed opposition to the K-12 vouchers written into the bill. These included Rachel Burke representing the Indiana PTA, Frank Bush representing the Indiana School Boards Association, Sally Sloan representing AFT-Indiana, Chuck Little representing the Indiana Urban Schools Association, Carole Craig representing the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, John O’Neil representing the Indiana State Teachers Association, Scott Turney representing the Small and Rural Schools Association and myself.

Will You Speak Up?

The decisions about preschool made this week are likely to answer crucial questions about preschool policy in Indiana for years to come:
  • Will preschool scholarships be the vehicle to pay for half of the incoming kindergarteners to go to private religious schools?
  • Will public schools have to redirect resources from other vital needs to build a marketing program for preschool to survive the competition for kindergarten enrollments?
The great thing about this crossroads is that you can participate. Contact Senators on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee before Wednesday, February 19th. Indeed, contact all Senators because they will all soon be voting on HB 1004 on second and third readings. Ask them to delete Sections 10 and 11 to take the K-12 voucher controversy out of the effort to fund preschool programs for low-income students.

We should not set in place yet another major expansion of K-12 vouchers.

SB 282 – Vouchers for Students Needing Special Education

SB 282 passed the House Education Committee on February 13th. It restates what is already in law and in rules allowing parents to send their child to a public school for special education services while enrolling their child in a private or parochial school with a tax supported voucher.

It does not require private schools enrolling disabled students to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act facility standards. John Elsasser of the Indiana Private School Association justified that deletion by saying in testimony that churches are exempted from the ADA requirements, apparently equating rules for churches and rules for tax-supported private schools.

If all this rankles you as a public school advocate familiar with special education programs, let your member of the House know about it. They will all be voting on SB 282 on second and third reading this week. Let them know of your objections to giving money for special education services to private schools when they are not required to meet the ADA facility standards as public schools must do.

HB 1004 and SB 282 are the two remaining bills that most directly impact the further privatization of our public schools through vouchers. Thanks for attending to these bills and for your active support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is now half way in its deliberations. We need your membership to help support our hard working lobbyist Joel Hand. 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 by going to our website.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

We have raised the needed money in past sessions, and we must do so again. 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.
###

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Al's Farewell Letter

Dear FWCS Teachers,

I want to personally thank you for and all that you do for FWCS and your students. Not a day goes by that you don't always put your students first. Despite the attacks on the teaching profession and public schools, you continue to fight back and use your ability to make a difference in your students’ lives.

As you may have heard by now, I am retiring from FWCS at the end of February after 38 years with FWCS. The last 6 years I have served as your FWEA President. I want you to know that I am humbled by the support you have trusted in me as your President. Each and every day I have tried to do the utmost to represent and fight for FWCS teachers. The past several years have been a roller coaster ride for public education reform at the National, State, and local level. My ride is about to end, yet those of you remaining in the profession will still need each other to fight back the next wave of reforms and attacks on your profession.

You have the collective power to be responsive and relevant to the challenges that lie ahead. Only through your collective membership and FWEAʼs leadership can a pro-active change come to the teaching profession. The reality is that change is inevitable and you hold the key. The key is your involvement with the change process. By you becoming involved with your local and state organizations and educating yourself and your co-workers you will be better prepared to find the course of action needed for your careers to survive and to thrive. Your collective common sense of purpose is your most important weapon to help you accomplish great things. FWEA and ISTA are member-driven organizations. Without your membership there would be no teachers’ organization. The power of collective action of any group should never be diminished.

Teachers need to rally and believe they can and will make a difference. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

FWEA’s 1st Vice President, Julie Hyndman, a veteran teacher from Lincoln Elementary, will be FWEA’s next President. Julie has served on numerous FWEA, ISTA, and NEA committees and has been in numerous leadership roles and will do a great job. Julie is only a phone call or email away to help FWCS teachers. Please support her in this transition.

Farewell my fellow educators.

Sincerely,
Al Jacquay

Monday, February 10, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #171 – February 10, 2014

Dear Friends,

The “second half” of the General Assembly session begins today. Bills passed by one house now go to the other house for consideration.

The Senate Education Committee will hear the Governor’s preschool bill HB 1004 this Wednesday February 12th beginning at 1:30pm in the Senate Chamber. Before the meeting, public school advocates should send messages to the Senators on the committee and indeed to all Senators asking them to “strike Sections 10 & 11", the sections that award a lifetime private school K-12 voucher to any preschooler that gets at least $500 for a preschool scholarship.

If you have a strong interest in preschool, you may wish to attend the hearing yourself to ask Senators to support preschool without turning the bill into an expansion of K-12 vouchers.

Last week, Senate Bill 322 died when Senator Schneider decided not to call it for a third reading vote. Also, House Bill 1320 died when Representative Behning did not call it for a third reading vote. The messages you sent opposing these two bills had a strong impact.

House Bill 1004: Preschool

The Governor’s preschool bill flew through the House in record setting time. The committee hearing was on January 9th at 8:00am, after public notice for the hearing was posted in the frigid afternoon of January 8th. HB 1004 passed second reading amendments on January 13th and then passed a final vote in the House on January 16th.

The biggest point for public school advocates against this bill is the expansion of eligibility for K-12 private school vouchers written into the bill. Known as “Choice Scholarships”, a K-12 voucher would be automatic for every preschooler that gets at least $500 for a preschool scholarship, as written in Section 10. Then Section 11 follows saying that if family income levels go up later which would normally disqualify the student from a voucher, they could still keep the K-12 voucher all the way through high school.

This leads to the message to Senators: Strike Sections 10 and 11. While preschool scholarships are needed, making them a controversial expansion to the private school voucher program is totally unnecessary and harmful to public education.

Another key point in the upcoming Senate debate is that the bill never went to House Ways and Means for a fiscal review of the costs. There is great confusion on the fiscal costs. The LSA estimated the original bill would fund 4600 scholarships at a cost of $24 million plus an additional $1.6 million for the K-12 lifetime vouchers that preschoolers would be eligible for. Then Speaker Bosma announced in the first week of the session that the bill would only fund 1000 scholarships. Then the Governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation issued a detailed fiscal estimate dated “February 2014” which says the 5-county pilot program would fund 1500 scholarships at a cost of $10 million and lowballs the cost for lifetime K-12 vouchers at $109,000 per year. After HB 1004 passed the House, LSA issued a revised fiscal note saying preschool scholarships would cost between $7.5 and $30 million plus an additional $480,000 to $1.9 million for K-12 private school vouchers guaranteed to the preschoolers as part of this bill.

Confused about the cost to taxpayers? Apparently the Governor and the leadership believe that confusion over the costs will help them pass the bill, but it is not clear that Senators will agree.

Many Senators agree with Senator Kenley who recently articulated his belief during a committee discussion that all programs should compete equally for dollars during the budget debate next year. He expressed reluctance to commit to new programs now which would need to be funded by the next General Assembly.

Will the Governor get favored treatment on a commitment now to spend dollars in the next budget? Senators may not want to go along with that idea.

It is time to contact your Senator and indeed all Senators on HB 1004, asking them to strike Sections 10 and 11 and make clear to the public how much this will cost.

Senate Bill 322: Voucher Schools

The short life of SB 322, an unbelievable attempt to allow voucher schools to ignore ISTEP accountability and allow them to use a nationally norm-referenced test of their choice instead, will always be remembered. The bill’s lasting claim to fame will always be as the bill that the committee voted on before the testimony was given.

Just when I thought I had seen about everything.

Given that history and the fact that the “voucher schools can ignore ISTEP” clause was deleted in committee even before the historic vote, it is very appropriate that Senator Schneider the sponsor never called the bill on third reading, letting the bill die on February 4th.

Public education advocates should be alert to efforts to insert the concept of the bill into other bills later in the session.

House Bill 1320: Student Records

HB 1320 started out as a $3.7 million initiative to equip the Governor’s new State Board of Education staff with the computer capacity to make student records available to parents online and to handle all student data. As the hearing on the bill began, Rep. Behning the sponsor announced he didn’t really mean to give this program to the State Board but instead he meant that the Indiana Department of Education would expand access to student records. He amended the bill to delete all “State Board” references and replace them with “IDOE.”

This welcome but totally unexpected development removed the bill as a leading wedge in the conflict between Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz. After it was amended, the IDOE was never sure that the money needed to implement the new plan for student records would be forthcoming. Apparently Rep. Behning didn’t find support for his plan and he never called HB 1320 for a third reading vote, giving it a quiet death.

Next Steps

Your messages on SB 322 and on HB 1320 made a huge difference. Now I urge you to go to work on messages to Senators regarding HB 1004, asking them to strike Sections 10 and 11.

If you are moved to testify on the preschool bill, please come to the Senate Chamber at 1:30 on Wednesday to deliver your message personally: strike Sections 10 and 11.

Thanks for your active support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is now half way in its deliberations. We need your membership to help support our hard working lobbyist Joel Hand. 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 by going to our website.

Although ICPE entered this session of the General Assembly in better financial shape than in any previous session, we still need additional support to fund the commitments our board has made for our lobbying efforts. We are counting on your financial help during the session.

We have raised the needed money in past sessions, and we must do so again. 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.