Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #222 – May 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

The step-by-step dismantling of public education in Indiana continued in the 2015 session. The passage of Senate Bill 1 on the final day of the legislative session marked a significant upheaval in the tectonic plates undergirding the once-sturdy foundation of public education in Indiana.

Under Senate Bill 1, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, elected by the public, will lose the power of chairing the State Board of Education, a power held by the State Superintendent since 1913, over a hundred years.

After December 31, 2016, the chair will be elected by the appointed members of the board, not the voters. Since no qualifications for the new chair were set by Senate Bill 1, the General Assembly has opened the door to have a non-educator chair the State Board of Education for the first time.

No effort was made in the bill to protect the importance of public education experience in chairing the State Board.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of "How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?" by saying "the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it." Demoting and marginalizing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction appears to be a step along the path endorsed by Dr. Friedman.


Governors and State Superintendents: Who Controls Education Policy?

There was a time in my career when every Governor did not want to be the "education Governor." I began teaching in the era of Governor Whitcomb who left education policy to the State Superintendent and the State Board. Governor Bowen, after engineering the landmark collective bargaining law of 1973, essentially did the same thing.

In the 1980's, when the history of unending education reform began, Governor Orr ran on a platform of assisting with the early grades, and his interest resulted in major funding for Project Primetime, a popular and effective program to lower the class sizes in Grades K-3. He followed that initiative with the A+ reforms of 1987 which brought us the ISTEP tests. Governor Orr resisted President Reagan’s call for private school vouchers and consistently supported public education, but with his actions, gubernatorial involvement in Indiana education policy was firmly established.

Every Governor since has been deeply involved in education policy, but no Governor has sought to take over the duties of the State Superintendent until Governor Pence took office. In 2013, even before State Superintendent Ritz was inaugurated on January 19th, House Bill 1309 was introduced in the General Assembly on January 14, 2013 requiring the state board to elect a vice chairperson who “may call meetings; set and amend agendas; arrange for witnesses; and carry out any other administrative function as it relates to meetings of the state board.” The bill went nowhere, but the plan to diminish the previous powers of the State Superintendent was already in place as both Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz began their terms of office. Governor Pence has shown no willingness to work with the elected State Superintendent from the beginning.

Senate Bill 1: New Potential Sources of Confusion and Conflict

While the stated purpose of SB 1 was to resolve conflicts and bickering, the language of the bill appears to open a new arena for conflict. The supermajority decided it was too dangerous politically to change the powers of the State Superintendent in the middle of the term of office, so the removal of the State Superintendent as chair was delayed until the beginning of the next term of office, after December 31, 2016.

More immediately, however, under provisions of the new law, "a vice chairperson shall be elected at the first meeting of the state board after June 30, 2015" who "shall act as chairperson in the absence of the chairperson."

Here is the new problem: "The chairperson and the vice chairperson are jointly responsible for establishing agendas for state board meetings after receiving and considering recommended agenda items from the members of the state board." This last minute addition to the language of the bill leaves many questions:

1. Is the vice chairperson supposed to actually function as a co-chairperson?

2. If there is a disagreement about the agenda between the State Superintendent and the vice chairperson, does each have a veto over the final decision?

3. Why can’t the chair have the normal power of setting the agenda with the input of the board members, as it is now?

4. Did the General Assembly have to micromanage even the agenda powers of the State Superintendent?

It seems obvious that the seeds of further conflict have been sown by these words of the General Assembly.

Who Will Appoint State Board Members?

The reason Senate Bill 1 took until the last day was a disagreement between the Senate and the Governor over appointments to the State Board. The original House Bill 1609 left all 10 appointments to the Governor, as it has been since 1984, when the reform creating the State Board of Education was passed under Governor Orr. Senate Bill 1 reduced the total size of the board to nine, with four appointments by the Governor, two by the Speaker of the House and two by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent was to serve as the ninth member.

House Bill 1609 never got a hearing and died in the Senate. Senate Bill 1 was amended by the House and passed in the final meeting of the House Education Committee. The House version called for a 13 member board, with the Governor appointing ten, the Speaker one and the President Pro Tem one, with the State Superintendent serving as the 13th member.

Senator Holdman, the bill’s sponsor, dissented on the House changes and took the bill to Conference Committee. The Conference Committee did not meet until April 27th, only two days before the session ended. The proposed Conference Committee report sliced the State Board back down to nine members and delayed the removal of the State Superintendent until after the next election.

The bill remained in flux until the final day, April 29th. The final deal was to leave the number at eleven, the number on the State Board now, with the Governor getting eight appointments, the Speaker one, and the President Pro Tem one. No doubt the Governor was not pleased about losing two appointments to the legislative branch, but that is how it came out.

Senate Bill 1: Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition

Senate Bill 1 was passed by the supermajority Republican members, but some courageous members of the Republican caucus joined the Democrats in voting against the bill. Some Republicans were "taken to the woodshed" over their opposition to SB 1. It can be damaging to a political career to vote contrary to the wishes of the caucus leadership.

Public school advocates should thank the members of the Republican caucus and the Democrats who opposed Senate Bill 1 in the House and in the Senate.

They were standing up for the power of voters. In the 2012 election, voters had the power to choose the chair of the State Board, but in 2016, the voters will lose that power. As few as six appointed members of the State Board will gain the power to elect the chair of the State Board.

In the House of Representatives, this bill was opposed by ten Republicans and all Democrats in the final day 60-38 vote. Those voting no included Republican Representatives Arnold, Beumer, Braun, Dermody, Harman, Judy, Koch, Mahan, Nisly and Truitt and Democrat Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, C. Brown, DeLaney, Dvorak, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, V. Smith, Stemler, Summers and Wright.

In the Senate, the final day 31-17 roll call showed nine Republican Senators and all eight Democrats who voted opposing the bill. Those voting no included Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Delph, Ford, Glick, Head, Leising, Messmer, and Tomes and Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops and Tallian.

As the 2015 session of the General Assembly ends, the foundations of public education in Indiana are showing new cracks and the voters have lost an important power.

Many have called Senate Bill 1 a power grab. This has two meanings. One is that the Governor has grabbed power from the State Superintendent. In broader terms regarding our democracy, it also means that government appointees have grabbed power from the voters. Will the voters notice and react?

Our democracy and the role of voters have been diminished by the legacy of Senate Bill 1.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

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, May 6, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #221 – May 5, 2015

Dear Friends,

After watching 19 sessions of the General Assembly, I have come to expect a surprise on the last day. The surprise last Wednesday on the April 29th deadline was a bold last minute gambit to remove State Superintendent Ritz’s authority over private school vouchers and over Scholarship Granting Organization private school scholarships and give that authority to the State Board of Education, controlled by Governor Pence.

This unexpected cliffhanger power grab, a concept not discussed in any previous bill in the entire session, was part of the budget released to the public about 10pm on Tuesday night (April 28th). It is not clear who inserted the language in question, but it is clear who took quick action in their caucus to reverse it: Senate Republicans. The Senators did not endorse this last minute policy change over vouchers, a change which the Indianapolis Star highlighted in an online mid-day story. The Senate Republicans acted decisively to prompt a second draft of the final budget, which was released to the public about 5pm Wednesday and passed by both chambers just before midnight.

Give kudos to the Senate Republicans and direct your questions to the House Republicans and the Governor about this inappropriate last minute maneuver.


Sections 234 and 236

One sentence in a 248 page budget set up the abrupt policy change on Scholarship Granting Organizations. In Section 234 of the first conference committee report, referencing IC 20-51-3-11, the word "department" was crossed out to read: "The state board shall adopt rules under IC 4-22-2 to implement this article."

That is all it took to end the authority of the State Superintendent to supervise Scholarship Granting Organizations.

A similar change in Section 236 ended department authority over choice scholarships and the voucher program.

Senate Republicans, however, had not agreed to this last minute change and took action to reverse it.

In the Senate version of the budget passed in early April, the Senators had frozen the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits at the current $7.5 million. The Governor and the House Republicans had endorsed an expansion to $12.5 million with an escalator clause that would automatically raise the amount each year by 20% if the SGO donations reached the maximum amount.

Many Senators have now recognized that this is an uncontrolled method of expanding vouchers to nearly all current private school students since a year with an SGO scholarship makes any student eligible for a choice scholarship voucher in the subsequent year. This makes the voucher program no longer about funding a transfer to private schools but about giving public funds for a private decision made long ago to students who have always been in private schools.

Consider these astounding numbers gleaned from the straightforward data in the Feb. 2015 Annual Financial Report on the voucher program prepared by the Indiana Department of Education: From 2012-13 to 2014-15, in just two years, the self-pay private school students dropped from 71,000 to 55,000, down 16,000, while the voucher funded private students jumped from 9,000 to 29,000, up 20,000. Overall, private school enrollment went up only 4000, from 81,000 to 85,000 in those two years. (Figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand.)

The conclusion is that tax dollars are not supplementing private school tuition to produce vast numbers of new voucher students, but rather tax dollars are supplanting private school tuition by funding students who have always been in private schools. Giving an SGO scholarship to a current private school student has become the biggest pathway to making that student eligible for a voucher the next year.

Final Budget Numbers

In the final budget compromise, the Senate and the House settled on raising the SGO tax credits to $8.5 million in the first year of the budget and to $9.5 million in the second year of the budget.

Clearly, advocates for public education should thank members of the Senate for trying to hold the line on voucher expansion through Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships.

Then it is time to ask the tough questions to members of the House. Why is the House so supportive of expanding vouchers through Scholarship Granting Organizations? Why does the House want to accelerate the shift of public money to private schools by allowing the unlimited growth of tax credit scholarships?

Removing the Cap on Grade K-8 Vouchers

In addition to the SGO expansion, Governor Pence wanted to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers for grades K-8, at a cost his office projected to be $3.8 million per year. Despite the objections of many public school advocates, the House and Senate both endorsed the expansion of vouchers in this way. The cap for K-8 vouchers is now the same as for 9-12 vouchers, that is, 90% of the per pupil funding in each school district.

The Education Controversy of this Generation: Will public tuition dollars go to private schools?

This is the fourth budget in a row in which the last minute education battles have been waged over funding private school tuition with public dollars.

In 2009, the General Assembly deadlocked and could not pass a budget by the end of April. In a June special session, a final budget deal which barely passed by July 1 included the first ever Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits funded at $2.5 million.

In 2011, the bill establishing the voucher program had to use the budget bill as a trailer bill to fix details in the voucher bill (HB1003) that Representative Behning couldn’t get fixed in a conference committee.

In 2013, the budget had to be amended one more time on the last day, just as this year, when key Senators balked on giving private school vouchers to areas served by D schools. Only F school areas were allowed in the voucher expansion plan in the final budget.

This year in 2015, the last day battle over control of the voucher program came out of the blue. In the 2013 session, House Bill 1342 to separate voucher administration from the State Superintendent passed the House Education Committee on a party line vote, but then died. In the 2014 or the current 2015 sessions, no bills addressed a voucher takeover until this final day budget maneuver.

This astounding move confirms that the battle over vouchers runs deep in the hearts and minds of the contestants vying to control the future of education in Indiana: Will education in Indiana be delivered through strong community public schools or will education gradually be privatized via vouchers as public schools lose priority?

It is the education question of our generation.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

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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