Sunday, February 22, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #205 – February 22, 2015

Dear Friends,

On Thursday (February 19th), the Senate Appropriations Committee modified Senate Bill 470, a damaging bill that would have allowed voucher schools to ignore ISTEP and instructed the State Board set up an alternative school letter grade system just for private voucher schools based on a test of their choice. This bill which obviously favored voucher schools over public schools was amended Thursday.

The amendment approved turned the whole bill into a summer study committee proposal that would study “issues related to the development by the state board of education of acceptable tests from which all schools may select a test that meets the requirements of IC 20-32,” which is the article in Indiana law on student assessments.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee should be thanked for their actions to amend the bill, which in its original form would have reduced accountability for voucher schools without equal treatment for public schools.

Senate Bill 470

The news that Senate Bill 470 passed in the February 11th Senate Education Committee on a party line vote surprised and angered public school advocates. The bill when passed by the committee clearly favored private voucher schools, giving them an opportunity to use an alternative “norm-referenced” test in place of ISTEP and not giving the same opportunity to public schools. Then the bill went further to empower the State Board to establish a school letter grade only for private voucher schools based on the alternative assessment allowed for voucher schools.

The bill had passed the Senate Education Committee 7 to 3. All Republicans had voted yes; all Democrats had voted no.

By the time SB 470 got to the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on February 19th, the last meeting of the committee for the first part of the session, the majority clearly saw the need to back up and give this concept further study. Amendment 4 written by Senator Kenley to study assessments this summer was offered by Senator Schneider, the bill’s sponsor, in his presentation of the bill before the committee. The amendment was accepted by consent. The amended bill to study assessments this summer passed 10-3.

Private school voucher advocates testified on February 11th that they don’t like the way Indiana standards and ISTEP assessments control the curriculum and instruction in their private schools. Public school parents and educators have complained about the same problem in public schools.

Private schools have an option that public schools don’t have. If they simply decline the public tax money and withdraw from the voucher program, then they are free to use any assessment whatsoever to measure student achievement. Instead, they want to change the terms of accountability that they signed on to in the 2011 voucher legislation by changing to an optional test, but they still want to keep the voucher money. This backward step on accountability should be a non-starter.

One would think that Governor Pence would see the crucial nature of accountability for private schools in the state’s voucher program and resist their overture to opt out of ISTEP. The Governor, however, didn’t do that. Instead, he strongly endorsed the original version of Senate Bill 470, instructing his representative to support the bill and to say private voucher schools should be able “choose their own test.”

Once again Governor Pence has confirmed that he favors private schools over public schools. He has apparently not realized that in the marketplace of school choice that he helped to create in Indiana, all schools whether public or private receiving public tax dollars must be treated equally and fairly.

The language of the amendment to have a summer study on “acceptable tests from which all schools may select a test” that meets state requirements fits well with Senate Bill 566 sponsored by Senator Mishler and Senator Kenley which contemplates a new kind of assessment system. Senate Bill 566 is still moving in the Senate.

Committee meetings have now ended for the first part of the session. All bills must pass a third reading floor vote by Wednesday, February 25th.

Thanks to all who contacted legislators about making changes to the original version of Senate 470. You have been heard.
Thanks for your advocacy for strong 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, February 18, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #204 – February 18, 2015

Dear Friends,

The Senate voted yesterday on Senate Bill 1 to remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. The bill passed 33 to 17. It now goes to the House, which passed a different version on the same subject in House Bill 1609.

After all the efforts to convince Senators that voters picked the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board and only voters in the next election should have the power to select a different chair, the bill passed with the opposition of 7 Republicans and all 10 Democrats.

Regarding House Bill 1639, subject of the previous “Notes #203”, which proposed giving the State Board an independent computer system to handle student records, Chairman Behning said at Tuesday’s meeting that he got the bill from an out-of-state source from a state where the State Board was the entity already handling data, and he didn’t intend to give the State Board a new set of powers. He said he would bring an amendment to put the Indiana Department of Education in charge of the parent testing information his bill envisions. He held House Bill 1639 without a vote. It is now scheduled for a vote tomorrow, Thursday, February 19th, at the final House Education Committee of the initial portion of the General Assembly.

Chairman Behning has not often acknowledged publicly that his bills come from out-of-state sources, but on Tuesday in front of all present, that is what he said.


Senate Bill 1

Over a thousand people came to Monday’s Statehouse rally to try to convince legislators that now is not the time to remove the elected State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. That change should be made by voters, if that is their will, in the 2016 election. Action by the House and the Senate on this topic usurps the power of the voters to direct policies by electing officials who can hold the powers given to them by the electorate until end of the term.

The General Assembly, in favoring Governor Pence in his fundamental policy debate with Superintendent Ritz over whether public support of private schools will dominate the future, has proceeded at the Governor’s request to approve bills removing the State Superintendent as chair of State Board, a power of office that the State Superintendent has had since 1913. This move is part of the deconstruction of public education in Indiana, a cornerstone of our democracy and our economy which so many have done so much to advance over the past 150 years. Jettisoning strong support for public education seems to be on Governor Pence’s list for ways to mark Indiana’s 200th birthday.

This episode marks a deep tectonic shift in the powers of the voter and the relationship of elections to the exercise of power. From this point on, will any elected official be able to carry out powers of the office as they stood at the time the voters elected the official? Or will those elected officials be “Ritzed” to the point of losing legal powers they had when elected even before the next election? Will there now be a move to eliminate other officials elected independently by the voters? Will more and more power be concentrated in the office of the Governor? Will education policy now become the dominant issue in the election campaign for the office of Governor since trying to change education policy by electing a new State Superintendent has been shown to be a path with no power?

Seventeen Senators heard the call to leave any changes in the State Board chair to the voters in the next election. They are Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Delph, Glick, Head, Leising, and Tomes and Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops, Tallian and Taylor.

These seventeen should all be thanked for standing up to the Governor and the leadership of the Senate in this dispute whereby the power of voters in Indiana has been diminished. It remains to be seen in 2016 whether the voters will remember this reduction in the power of voters when votes are cast for members of the House and Senate.

Advocates for public education need long memories to recall who supports public education on key votes and who doesn’t.

Senate Bill 1 changes the State Board membership from 11 to 9 and cuts the Governor’s appointments to four instead of the current ten. Two would be appointed by the House Speaker and two by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent would be the ninth member.

These are the key differences between Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1609 which made no changes in the number of members or the powers of appointment. The Governor would no doubt want the House bill to prevail to keep his current powers intact. The Senate may have other ideas. Stay tuned.

Thank you for your advocacy for wise policies, for the power of voters in our republic, and for strong 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, February 17, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #203 – February 16, 2015

Dear Friends,

Thanks to all who made today’s Statehouse rally a rousing success! It was a great afternoon!

There is, however, no let up in the Statehouse battles over public education. The entire Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on Senate Bill 1, removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. Let your voice be heard!

That’s not all; the salvos keep coming. A new bill deserves your immediate attention and action tonight to contact members of the House Education Committee:

House Bill 1639, scheduled for a hearing tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 17th) at 8:30am, would put control of a new system to expand access to student records in the hands of the State Board, not the Indiana Department of Education. For the first time, it would make the State Board an administrative agency, handling student data functions that have always been controlled by the Indiana Department of Education. The expanded data access through this data warehouse will cost $4.1 million as projected by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, requiring an independent computer staff for the State Board with a new stand alone computer system. The duplication of services is obvious.

The $4.1 million price tag is more than the current entire annual budget for the State Board of $3 million and of course far more than the annual budget for professional development, which stands at zero.

This is a major salvo in the battle to move functions out of the Indiana Department of Education under the control of State Superintendent Ritz and into the domain of the State Board controlled by Governor Pence.

The bill would also have the State Board prepare and require student and parent surveys to evaluate certificated staff at an estimated cost of up to $4.8 million per year.

Rep. Behning has scheduled House Bill 1639 for a hearing on Tuesday Feb. 17th at 8:30am in the House Education Committee in Room 156-C. It is also listed in the agenda for Wed., Feb. 18th at 8:30am in the same room.

Before that time, I hope all who believe that student data is too sensitive and too important to become a political football in the Governor’s power grab will contact members of the House Education Committee with a simple message: Delete the sections of HB 1639 giving the State Board a data warehouse and requiring student surveys of staff.

Expanded Access

The bill purports to improve parent access to student data and to help transfer data among schools. If that is truly a bigger priority problem in a state that has no money for teacher professional development, lawmakers could give the $4.1 million for computer work required by this bill to the Indiana Department of Education, the current trustee of student records.

This bill doesn’t do that. It gives the authority and the resources to the State Board, a policy making board that now for the first time would become an administrative agency with complete control over student records. This would be a monumental shift in authority and makes the bill a power grab to boost the control of the State Board over the IDOE.

This bill as well as House Bill 1486 would be the first efforts to have the Indiana General Assembly assign an administrative function to the State Board. The State Board is authorized by law as a policy board. It is hard to believe that the General Assembly really wants to make the State Board an administrative agency as well, setting up total confusion about the administrative roles of IDOE in relation to the State Board.

The Risk of HB1639

In this proposed bill, Rep. Behning and the Governor are playing with fire. If the parents and teachers of Indiana’s students come to believe for one minute that student test data are being used as a wedge in a political dispute between Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz, the trust built up over two decades that student data is being handled impartially and appropriately could vanish overnight. If parents sense that the data of their students are being used for political purposes, they may well demand that any test results be given only to them and for use by their local school, and not for state use. Such a step would collapse the entire accountability movement that this General Assembly has slowly built since the A+ program of 1987.

There must be no hint of political maneuvering related to student test data. This part of the bill has politics written all over it and must be turned down or withdrawn.

There is no reason to involve any agency other than the Indiana Department of Education in student records. IDOE’s work in handling student data has been accurate and above reproach. Any claim to the contrary has been made for political purposes to support a takeover of data by the State Board, to further undermine the authority of Superintendent Ritz. This bill puts at risk the faith and trust of parents in state authorities that has taken years to establish.

The Development of Parent Trust in State Records

I am old enough to remember well a time when Indiana did not have a state test. When I began my career in Indiana in the 1960’s, all testing was local testing, and local parents and teachers could assess the progress of their students. There was great mistrust in that era that state test results kept in the Statehouse might be used inappropriately by people that did not have local ties and might not have the best interests of the students in mind. It took years of patient reassurance that the privacy and sanctity of state test scores would be maintained. State tests were introduced in the mid-1980’s and student ID numbers allowing the state to track individual students by number were introduced around 2002, based on the availability of high speed computers. Approval of that step required tremendous trust on the part of parents. This bill could put that trust in jeopardy overnight.

Why does anyone other than IDOE need to supervise student data? They don’t. I have observed over many years that the Indiana Department of Education takes very seriously the trust that is placed in them to maintain the accuracy and the privacy of student data.

Please contact members of the House Education Committee and other House members as soon as possible. Of course, if you read this after tomorrow’s hearing, it would still help if they know of your opposition to HB 1639 in the days ahead.

Student data must not be made part of a political tug-of-war, but this bill does that. HB 1639 is unwise public policy in two areas: giving the State Board control of an expensive data warehouse and requiring student surveys to evaluate staff at a projected cost of up to $4.8 million. Let legislators know how you feel.

Thank you for your advocacy for wise policies and strong 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, February 16, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #202 – February 15, 2015

Dear Friends,

Come one, come all to the Statehouse rally for public education tomorrow at 2pm in the North Atrium of the Statehouse. Take time on President’s Day to defend the power of voters in our democracy.

The General Assembly has advanced bills whereby voters lose powers they have had for a century. Will the voters notice? Will they speak out?

Currently, voters have the power to name the chair of the State Board of Education. Under current law, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction chairs the State Board. Voters elect the State Superintendent and therefore voters can name the chair of the State Board.

The State Superintendent has chaired the State Board since 1913 when the community high school movement was just kicking into high gear.

Now, after 102 years, House Bill 1609 and Senate Bill 1 would remove from voters the power to name the chair of the State Board. The bills would give the power instead to appointees on the State Board.

Are the voters of Indiana ready to give up these powers to a few appointees? If not, let your voice be heard at the rally or by contacting your legislators promptly.

Do it for democracy.

Changing the Powers of the State Superintendent in the Middle of the Term of Office

This whole episode since the election of State Superintendent Ritz has been a harsh lesson to voters in how the voters’ will to favor her policies can be subverted.

A huge clash of policies lies behind this conflict. The issue of our generation in education has been whether public money will be focused on public schools or whether public money will go to private schools. Will education be delivered through public schools or will education be privatized in a marketplace of schools?

State Superintendent Ritz represents the public education forces in this philosophical battle. Governor Pence and his allies favor private schools and turning Indiana into a marketplace of school choice which includes private and religious school choices paid for by taxpayers.

Many citizens are just now beginning to understand the depth of this chasm and to see that the Governor’s dominant forces are not willing to allow any dissent in the Statehouse power structure in this fundamental education debate. They started working to diminish the power of the State Superintendent from the first meeting of Governor Pence’s new State Board in July, 2013, when one member cut off a presentation by the State Superintendent on her vision for reading, and the board tabled her topic. At the time, that showed a level of disrespect never before given to a State Superintendent, but it was only the beginning.

The problem for our democracy is: What powers are given by the voters to an elected executive officer and do those powers extend throughout the entire term of office until the next election?

It is not fair to the voters in our democracy to change the powers of an office during the term of the office.

Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tulley said it exactly right in his February 13th column commenting on how an electoral republic should function to change powers: “Here’s what you do: You put up a candidate for superintendent in 2016 who includes these positions in his or her platform. And if that person wins, you implement them. If that person loses, you behave like adults and accept that Hoosiers want something different.”

I agree. A change in powers should wait until the next election when the voters should decide if the incumbent deserves reelection or whether a new voice is needed.

If you agree, come to the rally or contact your legislators. This is all about respecting the will of the voters, and you are the voters that will determine how this comes out.

The rally messages are: to STOP taking powers away from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to STOP the ongoing assault on public education and to LISTEN to voters and teachers.

A rally brochure is attached.

Thanks for all 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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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #201 – February 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

Put this bill in the category of “Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse for Public Education”!

Yesterday afternoon (Feb. 11th) the Senate Education Committee heard Senate Bill 470. It would allow private schools receiving vouchers to ignore ISTEP and to take instead “another nationally recognized and norm referenced assessment” of their own choice. The bill instructs the State Board to develop an A-F system just for the voucher schools taking alternate assessments.

Last year, a similar bill was quickly rejected by the committee because of the obvious reduction in accountability for voucher schools if they aren’t held to Indiana’s standards and assessed via ISTEP. This year, the Senate Education Committee passed the bill 7-3 on a party line vote.

Now we see why the State Board in House Bill 1486 wants to eliminate the current ban on using peer comparisons (norm referenced assessments) in the A-F growth metrics. It’s a complicated web they weave.

Governor Pence strongly endorsed the bill via his education policy director Chad Timmerman, who said that private schools should be able to “choose their own test.”

If anyone doubts that Governor Pence and the leaders of the General Assembly and State Board are favoring private schools over public schools in Indiana’s intense competitive marketplace of school choice, this bill should remove all doubts. The voucher program was sold in 2011 by promising that private schools would take ISTEP and would be measured like all public schools using the A-F system. Now just four years later the voucher schools want to change the rules but keep the money.

This bill would give private voucher schools a direct competitive advantage in the marketplace of school choice because they could attract parents who dislike excessive testing. Public schools would also like to reduce the excessive testing that the General Assembly and State Board have mandated, but this bill only relieves testing mandates for private voucher schools.

This is one more reason why you should come to the Statehouse rally to speak out against the ongoing assault on public education. Can you come to the Statehouse rally on February 16th at 2:00pm?

Senate Bill 470

Senator Schneider is sponsoring Senate Bill 470, which is similar to a bill he brought last year that did not make it to a floor vote. This time around, he has added State Board authority to craft an alternate A-F system for voucher schools using alternate norm-referenced assessments.

Ten speakers testified for the bill including several parents who denounced the excessive testing currently required by the ISTEP testing program. In the current turmoil over the amount of testing, public school parents might have given the same speeches.

Five speakers testified against the bill: John Barnes, IDOE; Sally Sloan, AFT-Indiana; Ronni Embry, ISTA; Scott Turney, Small & Rural Schools Association; and I. Joel Hand returned from testifying for ICPE in the House Ways and Means budget hearing literally five seconds after Chairman Kruse closed the hearing on SB 470. A copy of my testimony in opposition is attached.

In the vote, Republican Senators Yoder, Bassler, Leising, Schneider, Raatz, Pete Miller and Kruse voted yes. Democrat Senators Rogers, Stoops and Mrvan voted no. The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee next week.

Contact your Senator or all Senators to express your outrage at the double standard for accountability that SB 470 would establish between voucher schools and public schools.

Come to the Rally!

Senate Bill 470 is just the latest example of the lack of support for public education seen so far in this General Assembly. If you have had enough, you are invited to come to the Statehouse rally in support of public education this coming Monday at 2pm in the North Atrium of the Statehouse.

The rally messages are: to STOP taking powers away from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to STOP the ongoing assault on public education and to LISTEN to voters and teachers.

The rally is organized by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and rally partners are ISTA, AFT-Indiana, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and the Indiana PTA. For more details, go to: www.icpe2011.com.

Share the message, bring friends and come to the Statehouse to the 2pm rally on President’s Day!

Thanks for all 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.

###

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #200 – February 10, 2015

Dear Friends,

Can you come to the Statehouse rally on February 16th at 2:00pm?

Any voter who is outraged that the General Assembly is reducing the powers of the State Superintendent during the term that they elected her to hold those powers should come to the Statehouse rally if at all possible. It will be held on Monday, February 16th for a 2:00pm (EST) in the North Atrium of the Statehouse.

The rally themes are to STOP taking powers away from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and to STOP the ongoing assault on public education.

House Bill 1609 removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education passed the House yesterday at 5:12pm by a vote of 58-40 after a long floor debate. The bill now moves to the Senate.

The leadership of the House and the Senate don’t get it. The turmoil on the State Board is not based on personalities but rather reflects monumental policy battles over the future of public education in Indiana. This bill takes power away from the elected State Superintendent in those policy battles and gives more power to State Board members.

Any change in powers before the next election can only be interpreted as a power grab to win the policy battles over education policy.

If you think the State Superintendent should not lose the power to chair the State Board that Dr. Bennett and every other State Superintendent have had since 1913, please come to the rally.

Bring friends!

The Vote on HB 1609

Twelve Republicans joined 28 Democrats in opposing the bill. They should be thanked for a difficult vote against Speaker Bosma and the wishes of Governor Pence. They are Representatives Arnold, Beumer, Braun, Davisson, Dermody, Harman, Judy, Koch, Mahan, Nisly, Saunders and Truitt.

All Democrats, except for Representative Goodin who was excused, voted against the bill and should also be sent a note of thanks. They are Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, C. Brown, Delaney, Dvorak, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Hale, Harris, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, V. Smith, Stemler, Summers and Wright.

The remaining Republicans, except for Representative Morris who was excused, voted for the bill.

The Debate on HB 1609

The floor debate on the bill was characterized by passion and eloquence. Speaker Bosma, Representative Rhoads and Representative McMillan, the sponsor, spoke for the bill. Representatives Pelath, Wright, Delaney, Vernon Smith, Klinker, Porter, Pierce, Charlie Brown, Bauer and Austin spoke against the bill.

Representative Pelath led off the opposition by calling this a “troubling and embarrassing” bill and the result of what happens “when somebody runs afoul of the Politbureau.” The entire floor debate can be seen on the Indiana General Assembly website by clicking on “Video Archives” of the 2015 session, and then on “House Chamber” for Monday, Feb. 9th, Part 1.

What Will the People Say?

There is a long way to go on this issue to determine whether the General Assembly will overturn the will of the voters in the 2012 election about who will chair the State Board. Senate Bill 1 is also moving in the Senate which, in addition to cutting the State Superintendent’s powers, would change the composition of the State Board.

I urge you to get involved. Contact your legislators. If you can, come to the rally in the Statehouse on Feb. 16th at 2pm. Your actions will make a huge difference in letting our legislators know where the people stand.

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, February 3, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #199 – February 3, 2015

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 1 removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education passed the Senate Rules Committee by a party line vote of 7-4 about 6:45pm last evening (Feb. 2) after a long hearing which began about 4:15.

I gave the following testimony against removing the State Superintendent as chair:

“Make no mistake. These bills about who shall chair the State Board are skirmishes in a greater war about whether a strong public education system built over the past 100 years will survive in Indiana. These bills impact policy. They advance the policies of the current State Board backed by the Governor and they deny the policies of the current State Superintendent. While some have dismissed the debates as bickering and the result of personalities, this has been at heart a high-stakes series of contentious policy debates for the past two years about the future of public education in Indiana. Here are five examples:

Debate #1: A strong public education system is built on well trained teachers. Should the training standards for teachers be lowered to give licenses for the first time to individuals with no teacher training and let them learn on the job? The State Board said yes. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction said no. The State Board prevailed.

Debate #2: A strong public education system is built on respected, well trained principals. Should the teacher evaluations completed by school principals for the past two years be derided and ignored because some members of the State Board believe there can’t possibly be as many effective and highly effective teachers as the principals have said? Such attitudes explain why teachers are retiring early and advising young people to pick another profession. Should school principals be downgraded in the teacher evaluation process because their evaluations are wrong? Several members of the State Board have said yes, and they are making plans to change the teacher evaluation system to reduce the role of principals. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction has said no.

Debate #3: A strong public education system is built on well trained superintendents. Should licensing standards for superintendents be lowered to give temporary superintendents with no superintendent license a path to a permanent license with no further training? The State Board, which for the first time in our history has no superintendents or former superintendents appointed to it, said yes. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction said no. The State Board prevailed.

Debate #4: A strong public education system is built on a respected and valid system of grading schools. Should the directions of the 2013 General Assembly (in HEA 1427) to void the current A-F system by November 15, 2013 be delayed and ignored? Should use of the flawed current A-F system which measures student growth based on peer comparisons be continued contrary to the law that you passed? The State Board said yes. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction said no. The State Board prevailed. We are still using and will even use again next fall the system that you voted in 2013 to void.

Debate #5: A strong public education system is built on transparency and public input. Should the State Board use a private email meeting of dubious legality to take action to request that legislative leaders direct LSA to calculate school letter grades without the knowledge of the State Superintendent? The State Board said yes. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction said no. The State Board’s action prompted a legal battle over the Open Door procedures.

In all of these policy debates, and these five examples are but a sampling, the State Superintendent was representing the position of the voters who elected her to maintain our strong system of public education in Indiana. Under current law, the voters choose the chair of the State Board. These bills would remove that power from the voters and give it to appointees of the Governor. This clearly downgrades the power of the voters and tips the balance in these policy debates in favor of the State Board. Directly reducing the power of the voters before the next election diminishes our democracy.

Are these bills really the way democracy is supposed to work? The voters had a chance to ratify the State Board policies listed above in 2012 because they were the policies of State Superintendent Bennett, but they didn’t ratify them. They chose instead to elect State Superintendent Ritz, decisively. She received 1.3 million voters, more than Governor Pence received. The voters had spoken about education.

When it comes to education, the race for State Superintendent is the only office where the voters can focus solely on education policy. As the Governor and members of the General Assembly run for office, there are hundreds of issues that voters might focus on as they make their decision, but the State Superintendent electoral race is all about education, and the voters were extremely clear that they did not agree with State Superintendent Bennett.

While it was obvious that after the 2012 election that State Superintendent Ritz would be a lone voice in the Statehouse, at least it was clear to voters who elected her that she would have the power of the chair to slow down and try to correct several questionable policy proposals which Dr. Bennett had proposed. There were big issues on the table: how to grade our schools, how to evaluate our teachers and whether to lower our licensing standards for teachers and administrators as proposed. The voters had their say, at least for the next four years.

But according these bills, the voters were wrong. The voters do not, according to these bills, have the power to pick leaders who will serve until the next election when the voters can speak again. The Governor and his activist board members did not like the priorities and policies of the new State Superintendent. They have systematically worked for two years to diminish her power in order to win the philosophical battles of education policy. In my observation, this effort began in July, 2013 in the first meeting of the newly appointed board when Superintendent Ritz was presenting her vision for improving reading. She is after all a literacy specialist and she did after all win the election, but her presentation was interrupted and cut off by one board member and tabled before she could even finish the presentation. There has been a long-term effort to reduce her influence and these bills are part of that effort.

It is not fair to the voters in our democracy to change the powers of an office during the term of the office. This clearly undercuts the powers of “We the People”. This bill tries to raise the powers of appointed State Board members above the powers of the voters. This is just plain wrong, and if enacted it would absolutely and clearly diminish our democracy.

At the very least, if the General Assembly decides to favor the Governor’s position over the State Superintendent’s position in the monumental education policy debate that Indiana is now engaged in, the powers of the State Superintendent should be changed to be effective after the next election, and not during the term awarded to the State Superintendent by the voters.

Diminishing the powers of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is an obvious symbol of diminishing Indiana’s priority on public education. I urge you to maintain the powers of the office and to maintain a high priority on public education in Indiana.

We pride ourselves on being a democracy with powers of government derived from the voters. I urge you to withdraw these bills in order to maintain that principle and to respect the voters.”


Details of the Hearing

Senator Holdman was called on to discuss three bills he is sponsoring changing State Board governance, Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 452 and Senate Bill 453. His amendment to Senate Bill 1, accepted by consensus, in addition to changing the chair, would change the composition of the State Board to nine members, four appointed by the Governor, two by the House Speaker and two by the Senate President Pro Tem.

Chairman Long announced that supporters and opponents would each be given one hour to speak.

Speaking for the bill, in order, were Robert Summers from the Office of the Governor in Ohio; Caitlin Gamble from Hoosiers for Quality Education; Carol Owslander from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce; and Senator Kenley.

Speaking against the bill, in order, were John Barnes representing the State Superintendent and the IDOE; Sally Sloan from AFT-Indiana; Lynn Slivka speaking as a retired teacher and citizen; myself; Teresa Meredith from the Indiana State Teachers Association; Joel Hand from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education; and Kristina Frey speaking as a citizen and parent in Washington Township.

In closing, Senator Holdman said it “makes no difference who is chair” and asserted the only a “tiny majority” of voters knew that the State Superintendent would chair the State Board. Senator Tallian, before the vote, said it was a “travesty” to suggest voters didn’t know the State Superintendent would chair the State Board and called for elections and greater accountability to the voters if the governance of the State Board is to be changed. Senator Lanane said this bill would not reach the core of the problem because the friction is about policies and this bill shows “we don’t care about voters.”

Voting for the bill were Republican Senators Long, Hershman, Holdman, Kruse, Eckerty, Steele and Merritt.

Voting against the bill were Democrat Senators Lanane, Breaux, Arnold and Tallian.

Contact Your Legislators

Senate Bill 1 now goes to the floor of the Senate. Contact your Senator or other Senators with your thoughts this crucial bill.

Senate Bill 1 is an historic change. The State Superintendent has chaired the State Board since 1913 and State Board governance has not been changed since 1984.

Republican Senator Head in a Third House meeting in Logansport last weekend asserted that changing the powers of the State Superintendent should be done only when a Republican holds the office, to avoid the charges of party partisanship. It is clear that he will need lots of grassroots support for that position if it is going to gain favor against the Governor’s position.

Remember you can go to the website of the Indiana General Assembly and click on any Senator. Then click on “Send an email.”

Update on House Bill 1009

Representative Behning presented House Bill 1009 this morning in the House Education Committee. After a long hearing, he said he would hold the bill to discuss amendments with Representative Austin and bring it back for amendments and voting on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 8:30am.

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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