Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #198 – January 31, 2015

Dear Friends,

House Bill 1486 restoring peer comparisons to measure student growth in the A-F system and transferring operational authority in several areas from the IDOE to the State Board passed the House Education Committee Thursday morning (Jan. 29th) by a vote of 9-4, with 9 Republicans voting yes and 4 Democrats voting no.

Chairman Behning postponed until Thursday afternoon the hearing on House Bill 1609 removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. After the hearing, House Bill 1609 passed the committee in a party line vote of 8 to 3.

On Monday Feb. 2nd, the Senate Rules Committee will hold hearings on all three Senate Bills which would remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board, Senate Bills 1, 452 and 453 in Room 431 after adjournment of the 1:30 floor session of the Senate.

On Tuesday Feb. 3rd at 8:30am, the House Education Committee will hold hearings on three bills, including House Bill 1009, the “Freedom to Teach” bill, a complex set of changes endorsed by the Governor.

On Wednesday Feb. 4th at 1:30pm, the Senate Education Committee will hold hearings on three new bills, including Senate Bill 566, a long bill changing ISTEP, end-of-course assessments, innovation school availability, teacher licensing and collective bargaining.

On Thursday Feb. 5th at 8:30am, the House Education Committee will hold hearings on two bills, including House Bill 1638, a massive rewrite of PL221 shrinking the time for State Board intervention in failing schools from 6 years to 4 years and defining failing schools that require State Board intervention to include D schools. Public schools advocates will want to be active on this bill.

House Bill 1486

Thursday’s continuation of the hearing on HB 1486 carried over two speakers who signed up for Tuesday’s hearing, starting with my testimony. First, I urged the committee to reject changes that would allow peer comparisons in calculating student growth in the A-F system. Second, I urged the committee to maintain the current line between giving the State Board control of policy and giving IDOE control of implementing that policy, rather than giving the State Board new powers of operational control. My complete testimony is attached.

The second speaker called by Chairman Behning was James Bentley, a State Board staff attorney who said he was asked to testify by Brad Oliver. He spoke in detail about several programs where the State Board wanted clarification about additional authority, including teacher evaluation, ISTEP contracts, turnaround academies and calculating A-F grades. He also detailed testing expert Damian Betebenner’s advice that Indiana law should be changed yet again to allow peer comparisons in student growth formulas.

Dr. Betebenner, the consultant hired by the State Board as requested by Dan Elsener to advise the 16-member A-F panel, is no stranger to Indiana. His center was the source of Student Growth Percentile data prominently used by the IDOE for many years and incorporated into Dr. Bennett’s A-F growth metrics. His center provided the peer comparison growth data under a contract. Presumably, no further contracts would be possible if Indiana continues its ban on peer comparison growth measures.

Mr. Bentley touted Dr. Betebenner as one of two national experts saying Indiana should return to peer comparison growth data, but he did not disclose the past contracts with Dr. Betebenner or the possibility of future contracts for growth data. If the State Board staff is going to hold up Dr. Betebenner as the national expert telling the Indiana General Assembly we should remove the ban on peer comparisons, they should also reveal past contract information in order for the committee to review whether financial interests are linked to this advice.

I am hoping that the General Assembly’s new found interest in ethics and the media’s recent flurry of investigations into conflicts of interest will be applied in this case to see if any conflict of interest exists in this situation.

House Bill 1609

When Chairman Behning moved the hearing on House Bill 1609 to the afternoon, I could not participate in the hearing. My written testimony was distributed to the committee, and it is attached if you care to read more. My main point of opposition is that voters now pick the chair of the State Board, and this bill removes that power of the voters and gives it to ten appointees of the Governor. That shift reduces the power of voters in Indiana and thereby diminishes our democracy.

It should be noted that the bill expires on January 1, 2016, which means it only applies to the last two years of the State Superintendent’s term. The voters who elected Glenda Ritz in order to chair the State Board would have the intent of their vote changed mid-term by this bill.

You probably have seen in media coverage that State Superintendent Ritz testified personally against the bill, and then the committee voted to approve the bill in a party line vote.

Bills to be Heard Next Week

I have been following the work of Chairman Behning’s committee since he first became chair of the House Education Committee in 2005. For the first time in ten years, Representative Behning has announced the bills for the House Education Committee a week in advance. He has already posted the meeting agendas for Feb. 3 and Feb. 5.

What accounts for this remarkable change? Democrats on the committee, especially Representative Smith and Representative Austin, have been vocally critical of the procedures of the committee and the lack of notice about agendas. They should be thanked for their efforts, and Representative Behning should be thanked for responding with earlier agendas, giving the public a longer chance to review bills and talk with legislators about bills coming up next week.

Many such discussions with legislators are in order. The most controversial bills in my list are Senate Bills 1, 452 and 453 (Monday), House Bill 1009 (Tuesday), Senate Bill 566 (Wednesday) and House Bill 1638 (Thursday).

Senate Bills 1, 452 and 453 would all remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. It would be great to see a big turnout of speakers against these bills.

House Bill 1009 would create “transformation zone” schools which would not be covered by collective bargaining and would allow higher pay for highly effective teachers.

Senate Bill 566 would replace ISTEP testing with the BEST testing program.

House Bill 1638 would make D schools eligible for state takeover as well as F schools and would reduce the time to state intervention from 6 years to 4 years. These concepts were soundly defeated on the floor of the House in 2013 (in House Bill 1337) but they are back to be considered in HB 1638 by the request of the very active State Board of Education.

Contact Your Legislators

Contact members of the House Education Committee and the Senate Rules and Education Committees with your thoughts these important bills.

One good way to contact legislators is to go to the website of the Indiana General Assembly and click on the committee hearing the bill. On the left you will see the committee members. Then click on each one and click on “Send an email.”

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #197 – January 27, 2015

Dear Friends,

The hearing on House Bill 1486 this morning in the House Education Committee was suspended at 11:00am. The hearing will be completed at the Thursday (Jan. 29th) meeting beginning at 8:30am in Room 156C of the Statehouse. The committee will then vote on the bill which restores peer comparisons to the measures of student growth in A-F metrics and transfers operational authority in several areas from the Indiana Department of Education to the State Board, as I outlined in Vic’s Statehouse Notes #196 sent out yesterday.

If you object to the return of norm-referenced growth measures in the A-F law or the expansion of powers of the State Board, you should contact members of the House Education Committee before Thursday morning.

House Bill 1609 is also scheduled for a hearing and vote at Thursday’s meeting. HB 1609 would remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board and allow board members to elect a chair annually, effective as soon as the law is passed. I strongly oppose HB 1609. If you feel as I do, contact members of the House Education Committee or come to testify.


House Bill 1486

After passing two bills 11-0, one on bargaining issues and one to give teachers a $200 tax credit for supplies, Representative Thompson presented his controversial bill to give the State Board more authority over several functions now controlled by the State Superintendent and the Indiana Department of Education.

I will reprint the list of points that I sent out last night in Notes #196:

HB 1486 would:
  • Rewrite Indiana’s school accountability law Public Law 221 for only the third time since 1999, the legal basis for the A-F school grading system, deleting an important line added in 2013 that banned the “measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.” This would open the door to reinstating the current flawed A-F system that is embedded with peer based growth comparisons, also known as norm-referenced measures.
  • Delete the word “individual” from the definition of growth in the A-F system, allowing a return to the days of judging schools by results of large groups of different students and ignoring the before and after scores of the same individual student.
  • Take away the power of the IDOE to develop ISTEP tests and give it to the State Board.
  • Put the setting of ISTEP passing scores now overseen by IDOE in the hands of “independent experts” selected by the State Board.
  • Change the State Board from a policy body to a nuts and bolts operations body by giving the power to “oversee the operation of turnaround academies” to the State Board.
  • Give the State Board new authority to audit or evaluate any educational program based on data the IDOE would be required to provide.
  • Put the State Board rather than the IDOE in charge of the teacher evaluation program, allowing the State Board to set “a minimum and maximum threshold for the use of objective measures of student achievement and growth in all staff performance evaluation plans,” taking away local control in the current law and pointing the way to Dr. Bennett’s often stated goal that at least 51% of each evaluation should be based on student test results.
  • Change the control by the state over the local evaluation plan from “may” to “shall” language, leading to the loss of local control as districts set plans to evaluate their teachers.
  • Remove the power of IDOE to determine which other subjects besides “the big four” subjects will have academic standards and give that power to the State Board.
  • Mandate a “statewide assessment administered in grade 3 that serves as a determinant evaluation of reading skills in grade 3” which “shall be referred to as IREAD-3”. The 2010 law pushed through by Dr. Bennett made no mention of a test or of IREAD-3 which was mandated later via rules of the State Board.
State Board member Brad Oliver testified in favor of the bill. Six speakers testified against one or more elements of the bill: John O’Neill, ISTA; Joel Hand, ICPE; Scott Turney, Small and Rural Schools Association; Sally Sloan, AFT-Indiana; Brian Smith, ISBA; and John Barnes, IDOE. At that point, Chairman Behning said the other two speakers, including me, will be called on Thursday, followed by the vote.

John Barnes, representing Superintendent Ritz and the IDOE, said, “We see this as an irresponsible power grab.” He pointed to the duplication of services by the duplicate staff which could cost in the neighborhood of $5 million. He quoted Senator Kruse regarding the intent of the language on the teacher evaluation program: “Please quote me. I wrote this language. ‘Significant’ was the intent.” The proposed bill would change the word “significant” and have the State Board set a minimum and maximum percentage of student test data to be figured into teacher evaluations, which was suggested by Brad Oliver in his testimony to likely be 33% to 50%.

House Bill 1609

Several bills have been filed to reduce the power of State Superintendent Ritz. This is the first to be scheduled for a hearing. It would allow State Board members to elect a chair on an annual basis, and it would take effect immediately upon passage. It is sponsored by Representatives McMillan and Wesco.

I strongly oppose this bill. Changing the powers of the State Superintendent during the term in which she was elected is offensive to the voters who elected her to fulfill the powers of the office at the time they voted. This bill completely ignores and undercuts the power of Hoosier voters and in that way undercuts our democracy.

Contact House Education Committee Members before 8:30am Thursday

Contact members of the House Education Committee about your concerns about House Bill 1486 and House Bill 1609. Representative Behning is the chair of the committee. Republican members of the committee are Representatives Rhoads, Burton, Clere, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas, and Thompson. Democrats on the committee are Representatives Vernon Smith, Austin, Errington and Moed.

Every email and phone call helps!

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #196 – January 26, 2015

Dear Friends,

House Bill 1486 was posted at 1:30pm today for a hearing at 8:30am tomorrow, January 27th. Reading HB 1486 late this afternoon motivated me to alert you to a series of controversial changes that I strongly oppose.

HB 1486 would:
  • Rewrite Indiana’s school accountability law Public Law 221 for only the third time since 1999, the legal basis for the A-F school grading system, deleting an important line added in 2013 that banned the “measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.” This would open the door to reinstating the current flawed A-F system that is embedded with peer based growth comparisons, also known as norm-referenced measures.
  • Delete the word “individual” from the definition of growth in the A-F system, allowing a return to the days of judging schools by results of large groups of different students and ignoring the before and after scores of the same individual student.
  • Take away the power of the IDOE to develop ISTEP tests and give it to the State Board.
  • Put the setting of ISTEP passing scores now overseen by IDOE in the hands of “independent experts” selected by the State Board.
  • Change the State Board from a policy body to a nuts and bolts operations body by giving the power to “oversee the operation of turnaround academies” to the State Board.
  • Give the State Board new authority to audit or evaluate any educational program based on data the IDOE would be required to provide.
  • Put the State Board rather than the IDOE in charge of the teacher evaluation program, allowing the State Board to set “a minimum and maximum threshold for the use of objective measures of student achievement and growth in all staff performance evaluation plans,” taking away local control in the current law and pointing the way to Dr. Bennett’s often stated goal that at least 51% of each evaluation should be based on student test results.
  • Change the control by the state over the local evaluation plan from “may” to “shall” language, leading to the loss of local control as districts set plans to evaluate their teachers.
  • Remove the power of IDOE to determine which other subjects besides “the big four” subjects will have academic standards and give that power to the State Board.
  • Mandate a “statewide assessment administered in grade 3 that serves as a determinant evaluation of reading skills in grade 3” which “shall be referred to as IREAD-3”. The 2010 law pushed through by Dr. Bennett made no mention of a test or of IREAD-3 which was mandated later via rules of the State Board.
Enough Said! Contact Members of the House Education Committee

This is a lot to digest in the 19 hours between posting the hearing and the 8:30am meeting.

I would love to take time to amplify my concerns, especially the first two bullets above that open the door to a return of norm-referenced growth comparisons that were debunked to the point that the 2013 legislature voided the A-F system and required a new system.

At least they thought they did.

The Governor and many current State Board members have embraced the old flawed system that Dr. Bennett created, which has been used to grade schools three times now with a plan to use it once again next fall. Now this proposed bill would allow them to keep it permanently.

I must stop here and urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee about your concerns about House Bill 1486. The chair of the committee is Representative Behning, who sponsored the 2013 bill on A-F (HB 1427) which would be reversed in part by this bill. Republican members of the committee are Representatives Rhoads, Burton, Clere, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas, and Thompson. Representative Thompson is the sponsor of HB 1486. Democrats on the committee are Representatives Vernon Smith, Austin, Errington and Moed.

Make as many contacts as you can about one or several of the points above. Every email and phone call helps!

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #195 – January 23, 2015

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence’s budget cost estimates have been updated by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency and by his own policy director in testimony Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The new official figures for funding charter schools and vouchers leave extremely low increases for traditional public school funding: 1.3% in the first year and 0.3% in the second year. These are calculated based strictly on the cost estimates for charter schools and vouchers announced by state officials.

There are other costs not mentioned by officials which would make these increases even lower.

Let your legislators know that they must do better than the Governor, who has set a very low standard to beat. The “2%/1%” 2013 budget was a historically low budget for public school funding, producing $330 million in new public school funding for the biennium. As low as that was, the Governor’s new budget would give only $200 million to public schools, with about $100 million going to upgrades for charter school funding and voucher funding.

This extremely low budget during healthy economic times suggests that Governor Pence cares little about giving public school students the resources they need in their current schools. His budget seems to favor private and charter schools over public schools.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Meeting on January 22nd

Senator Kenley focused the first meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the Governor’s proposal to give charter schools a new grant of $1500 per student. He invited and received testimony from Chad Timmerman, Governor Pence’s education policy director, from State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, and from Russ Simnick, policy director of the National Alliance of Charter Schools.

Chad Timmerman made the case that charter schools need additional funding because they don’t get property tax funding for facilities. Glenda Ritz reviewed the extensive work she has done to help charter schools improve and said that the fairest way to go would be to add to the tuition support of all schools. Russ Simnick said that Indiana is ranked as #2 in the nation in the climate for charter schools and the reason it is not #1 is the need for better funding.

Following these presentations, testimony was invited from the public. Joel Hand gave the testimony for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, raising two key concerns. First he cited ICPE opposition to for-profit K-12 schools and asked how the General Assembly can assure taxpayers that a $1500 increase per charter school student will go to student learning and not to give investors a bigger profit. Second, referring to the LSA list showing per pupil support from all revenue sources, he cited 16 charter schools that even without property tax are averaging a higher per pupil average than the grand state average of $11,783 from all revenue sources. He asked how the General Assembly can reassure taxpayers that extra money for charter schools will be used to equalize funding and not to give a bonanza of dollars to these 16 charter schools that are already above average in total revenue. This would create inequity, not remove it.

The complete ICPE testimony on the charter school proposal is attached.

The Governor’s Budget after Cost Estimates were Revised

Based on the testimony of Chad Timmerman, the Governor’s budget proposal for school funding can now be analyzed more precisely.
First year of the new budget, FY2016:
1) The Governor wants tuition support to increase $134 million (2% increase).

2) Chad Timmerman said the cost of the charter school proposal would be $41 in FY2016.

3) LSA has written a fiscal estimate (dated 1-16-15) saying removing the voucher cap would cost $3.8 million.

4) $134 million minus $41 million (charters) minus $3.8 million (vouchers) = $89.2 million left for traditional public schools.

5) $89.2 million is a 1.3% increase over the current budget, less than the cost of living.

6) $89.2 million for 1,040,000 public school students = $86 total increase per public school student. This compares unfavorably to the $1500 total increase per charter school student.
Second year of the new budget, FY2017:
1) The Governor wants tuition support to increase $67 million (1% increase).

2) Chad Timmerman said the cost of the charter school proposal would be $45.5 million in FY2017.

3) LSA has written a fiscal estimate (dated 1-16-15) saying removing the voucher cap in FY2017 is a cost that can’t be calculated at this time.
4) $67 million minus $45.5 million (charters) = $21.5 million left for traditional public schools.

5) $21.5 million is a 0.3% increase over the current budget, far less than the cost of living.

6) $21.5 million for 1,040,000 public school students = $20 total increase per public school student.
A budget like this would clearly hurt our public school students.

These figures are summarized on an attached page for your use with legislators.

Additional Costs the Governor Does Not Want to Talk About

There is an additional fiscal cost which comes out the tuition support budget that the Governor doesn’t like to talk about. The voucher program, due to the 2013 expansion, is no longer saving the state money as it did in the first two years but is now a fiscal cost which must be paid for from the same tuition support line item.

How big is the net cost of the voucher program? A precise accounting in a financial report by the IDOE dated June 17, 2014 pegged the cost at $16 for 2013-14. No new cost figures have been released for 2014-15, but since the number of vouchers increased by 50% in 2014-15 to 30,000, it is reasonable to say that the cost of the voucher program has also increased by 50%, from $16 million up to $24 million. That $24 million has to come out of the Governor’s budget for tuition support and obviously would reduce the figures above for public schools even further.

Governor Pence’s budget is not fair to public schools. Share your concerns with members of the House and Senate who will write their own budgets in the weeks ahead.

Senate Bill 169

In the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday (Jan. 21st), Chairman Kruse proposed an amendment to SB 169 to make the IREAD-3 proposal to be the subject of a summer study committee. He said the discussion last week showed that there was more to the proposal than he first thought and that it would need extensive study in a summer study committee. The amendment was accepted and the bill passed 9-0 to send it to a summer committee.

Contact Legislators about Public School Funding

Let members of the House and Senate know that the Governor’s “2%/1%” plan is really a “1.3%/0.3%” for public schools. It is sad that the Governor’s budget shows such little support for community public schools.

In the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Senator Rogers pointed out that the Governor is now saying that in order to improve charter schools, more money is needed. She said that in the past, the Governor has said that money is not needed for schools to improve, but she says with this charter proposal, the Governor has turned his position around to saying that money is needed to improve. She said she hopes that the Governor will always remember this in the future.

Many districts have “Third House” or “Cracker Barrel” meetings on Saturday where you can talk with members of the House and Senate about the budget needs of public school students. Let them know how public school students need better support than the Governor has proposed.

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #194 – January 18, 2015

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence’s rhetoric and his budget are showing a major disconnect. He is calling this the “Education Session” but is recommending the lowest education funding increase in a generation for non-recession budgets.

In his television interview on “The Lawmakers” on Friday Jan. 16th, Governor Pence once again endorsed new funding of $200 million for “traditional public schools” in his proposed budget.

While he spun it to sound great, $200 million is a significant decrease from the previous 2013 budget, a two year budget cycle which has left public schools in dire financial straits and in many cases unable to give teachers any raise. Public school students have suffered from program cuts and rising class sizes while the Governor brags about a $2 billion surplus.

His new budget proposal would give tuition support for public schools the smallest increase since before the 1999 school accountability reforms were passed, except for the two budgets during the Great Recession.

In Indiana’s competitive marketplace of schools set up in 2011 by the voucher program, parents can choose among community public schools, charter schools and private schools. Once again in his budget, Governor Pence has shown favoritism to private schools over public schools.

A Lower Increase for Public Schools Than Two Years Ago

One of the major reasons why math is required in the education of all citizens is so that politicians can’t pull the wool over the eyes of citizens. Let’s do the basic arithmetic.

In the last budget in the 2013 session, which was not a good budget for public school funding, it took $132 million to lift the tuition support budget in the first year by 2%. Then in the second year of the budget, another $132 million was required just to maintain that effort. To lift the second year of the budget by another 1% required $66 million more. To calculate the total investment of new dollars in the 2013 budget for public schools, those three numbers must be added together: $132 million + $132 million + $66 million = $330 million.

Compare that with Governor Pence’s plan to give “traditional public schools” $200 million dollars in the new budget. Even if he is somehow rounding off the numbers, he is proposing at least $100 million dollars less for public schools than they are getting now in the current poorly funded school budget.

Do Hoosier voters and taxpayers really want to keep degrading public school funding following the lead of Governor Pence?

Funding the Governor’s Preferred Alternatives

The Governor’s budget as presented to the General Assembly on January 8th called for a 2% increase the first year and a 1% in the second year. If you do the math for each year, that would require a total increase of $336 million. ($134 million + $134 million + $68 million)

Normally, politicians spin their budgets to show their support in the biggest way possible. In this case, that would mean announcing a raise in funding by $336 million, but neither Governor Pence nor his budget director has used that figure in public discussions. Instead, they have consistently said $200 million more will go to “traditional public schools.” One must ask: Why aren’t they claiming a $300 million dollar increase?

Apparently, without saying it directly, the Governor is taking out some $100 million from the “2%/1%” plan for his preferred alternatives, voucher and charter schools, even though voucher and charter school students represent only about 6% of the K-12 enrollment in Indiana.

His staff has already said that removing the cap on voucher payments will cost $4 million per year, or $8 million for the biennium. Then his staff has said that extra funding for charter schools would cost $41 million over two years. Adding $41 million to the $8 million for vouchers makes a total of $49 million which the Governor’s office admits to, reducing the $336 million required for the “2%/1%” plan to $287 million for “traditional public schools.”

The Governor’s estimates, however, for voucher expansion and charter school grants are extremely questionable. There is no reason voucher schools can’t raise their tuitions now that the Governor has said the state should pay whatever the private school asks for with no cap. The $4 million per year cost estimate would average only a $133 rise for each of the current 30,000 voucher students, an unlikely low estimate. Regarding charter school funding, the Governor’s estimate seems wildly inaccurate, since paying an extra $1500 per year for each of the 35,678 school students would cost $53.5 million per year or $107 million for the biennium. This would account for the $100 million that is not going to “traditional public schools.”

The Recent History of Funding Public Education

Given all this, the Governor is not really proposing a “2%/1%” increase for public schools, as they received in the 2013 budget. In the year he calls the “education session”, he is proposing the lowest funding for “traditional public schools” in years if the low budgets of the Great Recession are taken out of the mix.

Here is the budget history for Indiana for education since the bipartisan school accountability reforms were passed in 1999. These are not numbers or percentages that I calculated. I copied them right off the school funding formula summary page for each budget made available to the public each session:
_______________________________________________________________________

TUITION SUPPORT FUNDING INCREASES IN INDIANA BUDGETS SINCE 1999

(Source: Legislative Service Agency School Funding Formula Documents)


1999 BUDGET:

FY 2000...............................................................................+4.7%
FY 2001...............................................................................+4.7%

2001 BUDGET:

FY 2002...............................................................................+3.5%
FY 2003...............................................................................+3.5%

2003 BUDGET:

FY 2004...............................................................................+3.3%
FY 2005............................($5.87 Billion)...........................+2.9%

2005 BUDGET:

FY 2006............................($5.94 Billion)...........................+2.6%
FY 2007............................($6.02 Billion)...........................+2.4%

2007 BUDGET:

FY 2008............................($6.27 Billion)...........................+4.1%
FY 2009............................($6.48 Billion *)........................+3.6%

2009 BUDGET: (June 2009 during the Great Recession)

FY 2010............................($6.55 Billion **)......................+1.1%
FY 2011............................($6.57 Billion **)......................+0.3%

2011 BUDGET: (April 2011 during the Great Recession)

FY 2012............................($6.28 Billion)...........................-4.5%
FY 2013............................($6.34 Billion ***)...................+1.0%

2013 BUDGET:

FY 2014............................($6.62 Billion)..........................+2.0%
FY 2015............................($6.69 Billion)..........................+1.0%

Footnotes:

*included Federal stimulus/stabilization funding of $.61 Billion
**reduced by $.30 Billion in Dec. 2009 due to revenue shortfall and by $.327 Billion during 2010-11
***adding the full day kindergarten line item to the formula during the 2013 General Assembly raised the actual FY2013 base expenditures to $6.49B.
_______________________________________________________________________

It is readily seen with a quick glance at this history that the “2%/1%” plan in the 2013 budget was the lowest since 1999 except for the two budgets of the Great Recession. Now Governor Pence proposes to reduce the “2%/1%” of the 2013 budget by about $100 million dollars in order to fund voucher and charter schools, leaving only about $200 million for “traditional public schools.”

Contact Legislators about Public School Funding

Let members of the House and Senate know that the Governor’s “2%/1% minus $100 million” plan is not good enough.

In his State of the State Address on January 13th, Governor Pence said: “I stand before you as your governor to proudly report that the state of our State has never been stronger.” If Indiana is that strong and has a strong surplus, we can surely do better for our students than to fund our public schools at the lowest level in our recent history.

The historic average of this funding table (deleting the two budgets of the Great Recession) years is a 3.19% annual increase in school funding. That number represents our past legacy of support for our public school students. Contact your legislators throughout this session to urge them to make funding for our public school students a priority once again.

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

###

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #193 – January 17, 2015

Dear Friends,

The bill to move IREAD-3 to the second grade, Senate Bill 169, seemed to receive a favorable reception in Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee hearing. The committee vote on the bill will be this Wednesday afternoon, January 21st.

The question proposed by SB169 is: Shall all community public schools, charter schools and private schools give IREAD-3 to their second graders, allowing remediation in grade 3 for those who do not pass as second graders before retesting at the end of third grade. Currently, all three types of schools give IREAD-3 in the spring of the third grade. Failure leads to retention in grade 3.

All second and third grade parents and teachers and all others with a strong interest in this bill should communicate their views to their Senators before the vote next Wednesday.

Details of the Hearing

Senator Houchin introduced her proposal to move IREAD-3 to May of the second grade year with no requirement that failing the test as a second grader would require retention. She said remediation would occur in grade 3 and students would be retested at the end of grade 3 before the retention rule for failing to pass IREAD-3 would be enforced. She said that Senator Pete Miller and Senator Mishler have joined her as co-sponsors of SB169.

She said the idea for this bill came from teachers in her district, and she introduced Tom Rosenbaum, principal of West Washington Elementary, to give the points why the bill is supported by his teachers:
  • Third grade teachers are currently “bombarded by state testing”.
  • Excessive third grade testing could be spread out by giving IREAD-3 at the end of second grade.
  • Second graders who did not pass would not face mandated retention but would have third grade for remediation with two opportunities to pass the test at the end of grade 3, once in the spring and once in the summer.
  • There is no money for summer school remediation, so remediation is best done in the third grade.
  • IREAD-3 tests second grade skills, especially phonics.
Five others then testified on the bill. J.T. Coopman, IAPSS, supported the bill. Maryann Schlegel Ruegger, the only parent to testify, opposed the bill. Sally Sloan, AFT-Indiana, opposed the bill due to the $1.2 million price tag but said some teachers in her network liked the concept. Ronni Embry, ISTA, opposed the bill. As the last to testify, I opposed the bill, making four points:
  • A consensus has held for 25 years in Indiana that no statewide testing should begin before grade 3 due to the research that test scores for young children lack stability and reliability and are subject to false negatives.
  • The $1.2 million cost to transition to the second grade should be used for more pressing priorities like restarting professional development funding that has been cut completely from the budget.
  • This would engage second graders for the first time into the pressure of the testing culture, giving some students and parents a third grade year filled with anxiety if the students fail IREAD-3 as second graders.
  • Schools currently have a local option to download, use and score IREAD-2 to see if students are on track. This bill would remove this local option and mandate all to take IREAD-3 as second graders.
I have attached my full testimony for those who want more details. [You can read and download Vic's Testimony here]

John Barnes representing IDOE was asked for information about IREAD-3. He said the State Board, the Governor’s office and the Indiana Department of Education have all agreed in the past that it is not appropriate to have statewide tests below grade 3. When he confirmed that the IREAD-3 test is a test of second grade skills, Senator Rogers who is the ranking Democrat on the committee said based on that information, she will support the bill.

It is my hope that all parents, teachers and administrators with a strong interest in second and third grades will weigh the pros and cons on this issue and participate in this debate by contacting the Senators on the committee and their own Senator.

Will this solution to excessive third grade testing serve as a benefit or a hindrance to second graders, and is it worth spending $1.2 million to do this? Obviously, I oppose the bill, but there are approximately 80,000 second graders and 80,000 third graders whose parents and teachers should have their say. Only six people have testified on the bill thus far. Let our democracy go to work!

Thanks for your involvement and participation in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

###

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #192 – January 13, 2015

Dear Friends,

This is a follow-up to Statehouse Notes #190 regarding my commentary on Senate Bill 169, the IREAD-2 bill.

Senator Houchin called me yesterday (Monday) to let me know that she has a new amendment to the bill which clarifies that second graders who don’t pass the statewide IREAD-2 test would not be required to be retained in the second grade. Instead they would go on to third grade where they would be retained as third graders if they failed to pass IREAD-3 at the end of Grade 3.

I will let those parents and teachers of second graders decide for themselves if this makes Senate Bill 169 more palatable to them. I appreciated Senator Houchin’s call and her efforts to send me the amendment in advance of the hearing.

Details of the Amendment

Senator Houchin’s amendment clarifies two points that were not in the original bill:
1) The timing of the change to a statewide IREAD-2 test would be in 2016-17. The amendment says:

“This subdivision applies after June 30, 2016.”

2) Second graders would not be automatically retained if they fail the statewide IREAD-2 test. The amendment says:

“An emphasis on a method for making determinant evaluations by grade 2 that might require retention or remedial action for the student in grade 2 or grade 3. A student who requires remediation after the student is evaluated in grade 2 must receive remedial action and be reevaluated in grade 3. If the student remains below standard after receiving remedial action and being reevaluated in grade 3, the student, after other methods of remediation have been evaluated or used, or both, must be retained as a last resort. If a student who is in kindergarten or grade 1 is not on track to meet grade level reading expectations as required by the plan, the student’s teacher may suggest remedial action, including retention of the student. Appropriate consultation with parents or guardians must be part of the plan.”
That is Senator Houchin’s amendment which all should be aware of if you are concerned about this bill.

Come to the Hearing or Contact Your Legislators as You Are Can

Should the first statewide assessment of reading be moved back to second grade?

I think this question should be answered with major input from second grade teachers and parents. Senator Houchin shared with me that the idea for this change came from elementary teachers in her district.

I continue to have three broad concerns:
1) This change would be the first statewide testing of second graders since ISTEP testing in grade 2 was dropped nearly 25 years ago. Since then, a consensus has held that statewide testing should begin at grade 3 based on greater stability and reliability of testing at that level. I believe that consensus should be sustained.

2) This change would cost $1.2 million for the transition year when the IREAD assessment would need to be given at both second and third grades. After that, it would be given at the second grade, but there would be some additional cost to the state for retesting third graders who did not pass as second graders. If lawmakers feel they have an extra $1.2 available, I hope they will direct it to restarting the professional development fund that was eliminated in the Dr. Bennett years.

3) Even though some teachers may perceive this as a fairly small change, others will see it as huge and unwarranted. It would put second graders and second grade teachers into the pressured milieu of the testing culture that currently starts at third grade. Inevitably, second grade IREAD scores if available would become data points to compare schools in the grand competitive marketplace of parental choice that we now have in Indiana. Inevitably, second grade IREAD scores if available would become factors in the evaluation and compensation decisions for second grade teachers. As I see it, this is not a change we need to make in a complex year devoted to implementing new standards and new assessments.
The meeting will begin in the Senate Chamber tomorrow, January 14th at approximately 2:30pm after adjournment from the annual State of the Judiciary Address. The hearing on Senate Bill 169 will be the fifth bill out of six on the agenda. I hope you will have your say either at the hearing or in communications with Senators on the Education Committee or with your own Senator.

Thanks for your involvement and participation in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

###

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #191 – January 13, 2015

Dear Friends,

As Governor Pence prepares for his State of the State address this evening, he no doubt will again call this the education session. His budget unveiled last Thursday (Jan. 8th), however, was stingy on education funding.

His budget continued his policies of favoring private schools over public schools and offered no relief to public schools from the paltry funding of the past two year biennium.

He recommended a 2% increase in the first year followed by a 1% increase in the second year of the biennium. That is exactly the pattern of the 2013 budget that has left many public school districts in financial distress when funding didn’t even cover the cost of living, which economists told the legislators was 1.6% per year. The “2%/1%” pattern is the lowest budget for tuition support since the public school accountability law was passed in 1999, except for the two budgets during the Great Recession.

Now that the Great Recession is behind us, you would think we would restore public education to a high priority, but the Governor says no.

The Governor’s budgetary bad news then gets worse. He says he will give $41 million of the “2%/1%” plan to charter schools to make up for the lack of property tax support under the charter school law. Then he says he will give $4 million of the same fund to private schools to remove the cap on vouchers to pay the private school the full amount that they charge.

When all this is sorted out, community public schools will get far less than 2% and 1% in the next two year. Thank goodness the Governor’s budget is just the first bid. The House and Senate budgets need to be more positive for public schools. Your legislators need to hear from you about the need for public school funding.

Tuition Support Funding

Governor Pence has asked for $134 million more for tuition support in the first year. That is a 2% increase over the last budget, which was $6.692 billion.

The Governor recommended another 1% in the second year of the biennium, which is well below the cost of living pegged by the federal government this year at 1.7%. A 1% increase in the second year would require $68 million more in the tuition support fund.

Here’s where the math gets a bit complex. The first year’s increase of $134 million has to be repeated in the second year to form the new base for adding the 1%. This means the new money required in the second year totals $134 million plus the $68 million, or a grand total in the second year of $202 million.

Thus, the new money asked for in the Governor’s budget is $134 million for the first year and $202 million for the second year. Adding the two years together results in a biennium total of $336 million.

Politicians like to add the two years together in this way and to publicize the total amount to make it sound like a huge amount, when in reality as you have seen, it doesn’t cover the cost of living.

If the Governor’s budget plan had stopped here, the verdict would be that it is a weak level of funding which mimics the record low funding in the 2013 budget, which was the lowest funding for non-recession years in recent memory. With a continuing surplus of $2 billion, you would think he would fund our schools in a better way.

Unfortunately, his budget plan didn’t stop here. It gets worse.

Diversions and Fuzzy Math

The Governor’s budget then proposes to give charter schools a new grant of $1500 per student since they do not get property tax money. The stated estimated cost of this was $41 million over two years.

Secondly, the Governor says he would use $4 million each year to remove the cap on voucher payments for private school tuition.

Both of these come out of the proposed 2% and 1% for tuition support.

Senator Tallian said the plan was full of “fuzzy math.” I agree.

Fuzzy #1: If $1500 is multiplied by charter school enrollment of 35,678 (2013-14), the total cost is $53.5 million each year, not $41 million over two years. The two year total is $107 million. Do the math.

Fuzzy #2: If removing the cap on 30,000 vouchers is going to cost taxpayers $4 million each year, that means that private school tuition is on average only $133 higher than the current cap of $4800. That seems highly unlikely and the $4 million seems to be a clear underestimation.

In 2013-14, the IDOE financial report on vouchers showed that the 2013 voucher expansion had changed the voucher program from a money saver for the state to a fiscal cost for the state of $16 million. If the 2014-15 voucher numbers rose by 50% from 20,000 to 30.000, it is a fair estimate that the costs to the state also rose by 50% from $16 million to $24 million. This $24 million also comes out the tuition support fund since there is no separate line item for voucher payments. Republican leaders have resisted calls to give the voucher program its own transparent line item.

What is Left for Community Public Schools?

These diversions leave public school districts in dire shape in the Governor’s budget.

Let’s start with the Governor’s first year plan of adding 2% or $134 million.

Now take out the $1500 grant to 35,678 charter school students totaling $53.5 million. That leaves $80.5 million.

Now take out the $4 million for removing the voucher caps, using the Governor’s own estimate. That leaves $76.5 million.

Now take out the estimated $24 million fiscal cost for the expanded voucher program paying for private school students who have always attended private schools which has to come out of the tuition support fund. That leaves $52.5 million.

Instead of 2%, the Governor is proposing 0.78% for public school districts, less than 1%.

In the second year of the biennium, his proposal to for an additional $68 million is completely eaten up by the $53.5 million for charter schools, $4 million for vouchers, and the $24 ongoing fiscal cost for voucher students who have always attended private schools. Funding for public school students would decrease.

The Governor’s efforts to degrade public education in favor of private schools must be turned around by the General Assembly.

Please talk to your legislators about giving the one million plus public school students better financial support in the new budget than what the Governor has in mind.

Thanks for attending to the math and for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

###

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #190 – January 11, 2015

Dear Friends,

All second grade teachers, elementary principals and parents should be aware that Sen. Houchin’s bill to change the IREAD-3 test to IREAD-2, giving the high stakes reading test to all second graders, has been approved for a hearing at the next Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 in the Senate Chamber. The meeting will start approximately 2:30pm after adjournment from Chief Justice Rush’s State of the Judiciary speech at 1:30pm.

Senator Houchin’s proposal is Senate Bill 169.

This is a disruptive proposal which elementary teachers and parents don’t need right now as they implement new standards and new assessments. Nevertheless, the proposal has been made to radically change the second grade assessment, and the best authorities to comment on this major change are the parents and teachers of second graders. I hope some will come to testify or will communicate with Senators about Senate Bill 169 before Wednesday.

All parents, teachers and principals who have strong feelings about whether high stakes tests in reading should be given to all second graders should feel invited to the Statehouse on January 14th to share their comments with the Senators. Even a few teachers or parents who are directly affected by a change of this magnitude can add a dimension of reality in the hearing which can make a big difference in whether the Senate Committee approves the proposal.

Background to Senate Bill 169

Senate Bill 169 would amend the law that Dr. Tony Bennett worked hard to pass in the 2010 short session. The language passed in 2010 required a reading plan which “must include the following: … An emphasis on a method for making determinant evaluations by grade 3 that might require remedial action for the student, including retention as a last resort, after other methods of remediation have been evaluated or used, or both, if reading skills are below the standard.”

Dr. Bennett used this law to pass State Board rules requiring the IREAD-3 assessment and retention if needed. In 2013 when ISTEP testing was affected by these rules for the first time, about 2500 students were tested as retained 3rd graders rather than as 4th graders.

Senate Bill 169 changes “grade 3” in the current law to “grade 2”, transferring the high stakes testing from Grade 3 reading to Grade 2.

The fiscal impact statement of the Legislative Services Agency says that “for the first testing cycle after the bill takes effect on July 1, 2015, the state would have to test students in Grades 2 and 3. In subsequent years, only students in Grade 2 would be tested. The current contract for the IREAD-3 assessment is approximately $1.2 million. As a result, the state would incur a one-time additional cost of approximately $1.2 million."

Spending an extra $1.2 million to make this transition is inappropriate. This is $1.2 million that could be made available to the tuition support fund that is in desperate need of more money. Additionally, it is $1.2 million more than Indiana now spends on teacher professional development, a line item that was zeroed out during the Bennett years.

As the bill reads now, this change to grade 2 does not apply to charter schools and, of course, it does not apply to private schools. If enacted, parents who object to high stakes testing for their child in the second grade would have no choice but to transfer to a private or charter school. This would hurt public school enrollment which reduces the resources for all public school students. Perhaps that is the motivation for this bill. It would put new regulations in place for public schools but not for the competitors of public schools in the grand marketplace of schools that the Indiana General Assembly has created. This is not fair to public schools.

It is not clear who supports this bill that Senator Houchin is sponsoring. High stakes testing for grade 2 students has not been a well publicized issue. Governor Orr’s original ISTEP testing plan starting in 1988 included testing all 1st and 2nd graders but not for high stakes retention purposes. In the early 1990’s, 1st and 2nd graders were dropped from the testing plan altogether, leaving grade 3 as the earliest assessment level. The concern expressed by testing experts over the forty years I have been watching this topic is that testing results for young students are unreliable and unstable. That is why experts for decades have recommended starting large scale assessment in grade 3, a level followed by both the ISTEP law in Indiana and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Senator Houchin is not an educator. She is newly elected to the seat held by Democratic Senator Richard Young since 1988. Prior to being elected to the Indiana Senate, she served on the staff of Senator Coats. Newly drawn district lines tilted the district to a bigger Republican base.

Two education points Senator Houchin made in her campaign were (1) we need to direct more dollars to the classroom and (2) we need to maintain local control. Senate Bill 169 disregards both of these points. Regarding the first point, testing and evaluation are officially categorized as overhead in the flawed “Dollars to the Classroom” ratings resurrected recently by Speaker Bosma, so dollars used to implement grade 2 testing would not be going to the classroom. Secondly, state required high stakes tests for grade 2 would be taking local control away from local teachers and principals and putting the decision about retaining second graders in the hands of state test makers.

It doesn’t make sense.

Senate Committee Procedures

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, January 14th in the Senate Chamber at approximately 2:30 after the Chief Justice gives the annual State of the Judiciary speech. Senate Bill 169 will be the fifth of six bills that Chairman Kruse will call, which means that any teacher or parent who can get to the Statehouse by 3:00pm might participate in the hearing. To testify, each person needs to fill out a form held by the committee attorney and then wait to be called. I know that many second grade teachers and parents would like to speak strongly against putting second graders into the high stakes testing arena. Come if you can.

If you can’t come to speak, you can contact members of the committee to share your feelings about this proposal. Senator Kruse chairs the committee. Senators Yoder, Banks, Bassler, Leising, Pete Miller, Raatz, and Schneider are the Republicans on the committee. Senators Rogers, Mrvan and Stoops are the Democrats on the committee. You can email them using the Indiana General Assembly website: http://iga.in.gov. Remember to let your own Senator know how you feel about SB 169 as well.

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #189 – January 5, 2015

Dear Friends,

The voluntary give-back of $3.9 million by voucher schools to the state coffers raises more questions than it answers:
  • Did all voucher schools give back the amounts that were overcharged or only those voucher schools that wanted to?
  • When did they know that they had overcharged the state for the vouchers and how long did they wait until repaying it? Did they include interest?
  • Are overcharges for private school vouchers still going on in some schools?
  • Who is checking the income levels of families receiving vouchers as required by law?
  • If the state didn’t ask for the give-back, who knew that the voucher payments were wrong to initiate the give-back? How did they know?
  • Will it take a state-ordered audit to get the voucher charges right?
Governor Pence should answer all questions about these overpayments before he makes any move to ask the General Assembly to give even more taxpayer money for private school vouchers using the wrong amounts.

The Unexpected Give-Back

The announcement reported in the Indianapolis Star on Dec.18th that private voucher schools are giving back $3.9 million to the state for “tuition miscalculations” was apparently not prompted by state action. Voucher schools apparently knew they had overcharged the state and “are policing themselves”, in the words of a press release from the Indiana Non-Public School Association.

Why are they policing themselves? Is the voucher law deficient in providing state oversight? Is this the way to run a multi-million dollar voucher program?

Or in the words of the banner headline in the Dec. 30th Indianapolis Star: “Who’s Watching Voucher Dollars?”

A Multi-Million Dollar Program for Private Schools

Millions of taxpayer dollars are now flowing to private and religious schools due to the 2011 voucher law and the 2013 expansion. The latest financial report on vouchers from the Indiana Department of Education dated June 17, 2014 reported that vouchers cost the state $16.2 million in the first year, $37.3 million in the second year, and $81.1 million in the third year, totaling $134.6 million over three years (2011-2014).

Now after a “self-study”, private schools are giving back $3.9 million, which represents 2.9% of the $134.6 million paid out by the state for vouchers over three years.

This is more than chump change. The $3.9 million is more than the state of Indiana invests annually in school technology in the Senator Ford Technology Fund, which is budgeted at $3.1 million per year. It is also more than the $3.76 million budgeted each of the past two years for the State Board of Education.

Answers are Needed Before Any Consideration of Expansion

Governor Pence has included in his legislative agenda an expansion of voucher fees to give even more money to private schools. How do we really know how much that will cost after these voluntary give backs have left a trail of unanswered questions?

Public school advocates should ask their legislators to halt any expansion of vouchers in light of the questions surrounding the “tuition miscalculations.” Legislators should not remove the cap on vouchers. They should investigate this situation and find solid answers for the taxpayers about this strange set of circumstances in which private schools are policing themselves after getting overpaid for the voucher program.

Legislators convene to discuss these matters on Tuesday, January 6th. I urge you to communicate with members of the General Assembly regularly throughout the session in support of public education. Thanks for your efforts!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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