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.
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