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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