Thursday, November 24, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #267 – November 23, 2016

Dear Friends,

Death by a thousand cuts.

That is the likely future for public education unless public education advocates are willing to rally to defend it vigorously against two proposals in the weeks and months ahead.

The November 8th general election has left public education under severe threat from those who would diminish and dismantle it at both the state and federal level. The defense should begin now by talking with members of the General Assembly and with members of Congress.

At the state level, the expensive proposal called Education Savings Accounts which would give state funding for the first time to unregulated home schools and would give a financial incentive for parents to leave the public schools will go forward, most likely as a part of the budget and touted incorrectly as a way to save money. It was sponsored in the 2016 short session by Ways and Means Chair Dr. Tim Brown in the House and by Senator Jeff Raatz in the Senate.

At the federal level, Donald Trump’s proposal to shift $20 billion from current federal education funding, presumably from Title 1 reading programs for low income students, to pay for private school tuition will go forward. He detailed his proposal in a speech in Cleveland on September 8th. His choice today of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, well known as a critic of public education and as a wealthy promoter of private school vouchers, is aligned with his stated plan to give public money for private school tuition in all 50 states.

The concept of public education is now in direct jeopardy both in Indiana and at the federal level.

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, the privatizers won the election.

Will Public Education Survive in Indiana?


The irony that these attacks on public education in Indiana are continuing during Indiana’s bicentennial year is astounding. It is as if we are celebrating our past with no awareness of how much of our success as a state can be attributed to our hard won battles to bring a strong public education to all.

Progress in Indiana can be directly linked to public education efforts written into our first Constitution in 1816 and strengthened in our second 1851 Constitution after public education advocates led by Caleb Mills gained influence in the 1840’s. Caleb Mills was the founder of Wabash College in Crawfordsville which ironically is now represented in the House by Representative Brown, the sponsor of the program to dismantle public education called Education Savings Accounts. Caleb Mills believed that public education serving all children and paid for by taxpayers should be both non-sectarian, so as not to offend the taxpayers who would balk at funding schools that are teaching a faith they could not support, and non-partisan, so as not to offend the taxpayers who would balk at funding schools that are teaching political views they could not support. This fundamental tenet of Caleb Mills held sway until 2011, when the voucher bill gave state funds for students to attend sectarian religious schools which can teach partisan points of view on public issues in line with their religion.

Now Dr. Brown’s plan to establish Education Savings Accounts would have taxpayers pay for totally unregulated home schools or any unregulated private school. The requirements of the voucher program to take state tests and comply with state letter grade requirements would be not be applied to home schools, but they would still get state money with no obligations or accountability.

To pass this extreme proposal would be to say that even though teachers can’t be trusted to teach without having the state require student test scores and extensive criminal background checks to monitor them, home school parents can be trusted with no accountability checkups. It’s a recipe to further demean teachers in Indiana and worsen the teacher shortage.

Education Savings Accounts

The Education Savings Account proposal being pushed by Chairman Brown is a radical proposal. It would:
  • give approximately $6000 on a debit card to any parent who signs a state agreement. This money would go directly to parents and would no longer go to school districts.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum and remove students from Indiana’s new standards. Parents getting the money only have to agree to provide an education in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” No music! No art! No physical education! No foreign language! No health! No vocational subjects! Who would think this bill would provide a good education? Yet the current broken high stakes testing program in Indiana’s schools would give incentives to parents to take the money and get their kids away from oppressive tests. Perhaps setting up an overbearing testing program was part of a plan all along to unravel the entire public school system.
  • end accountability for many students. Parents could take their child out of any school and pay “a participating entity”, which may be an individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or a licensed occupational therapist approved by the Indiana Treasurer. No requirement to take the state test is included unless students are enrolled in a voucher school.
  • expand vouchers to more students. The ESA bill would give public money to families earning up to $97,000 for a family of four. Families earning $97,000 would get a 70% voucher, far more than the 50% voucher now given to families earning $65,000 or less. Family income limits would disappear completely for special education students, giving even high income families taxpayer money for private schools. Currently for special education students, eligibility for taxpayer vouchers is capped at incomes of $85,000 for a family of four. Indiana’s voucher program was passed in 2011 as a program for low income families, but that rationale has now disappeared.
  • pay textbook fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. The ESA bill makes textbooks for private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. Parents who can afford to pay for their current private school have an incentive to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • give money to parents directly without strong fraud protection. The ESA bill has a weak section of fraud consequences for a “participating entity”, but no mention is made of parents who neglect their duties or commit fraud with their child’s money.
  • omit criminal background checks for parents taking K-12 money. Background checks are being expanded for public school teachers but this bill would give public money to parents without comparable background checks. Can all parents be trusted without background checks?
The Education Savings Account proposal brings to life Milton Friedman’s plan to end public education and give tax money directly to parents to educate their children. The scheme has gaping holes which must be brought to the attention of Indiana legislators as soon as possible.

One of the holes is the extra fiscal cost to the state when home school students who do not currently get any state payments are included in the state budget. If the estimate of 20,000 home school students is accurate and parents get on average $5000 on a debit card for each student, the program would cost Indiana taxpayers $100 million dollars per year, far more than current costs for pre-school ($10 million), summer school ($18 million) or even for state testing ($45 million). While those who take the incentive to leave the public schools would reduce the $100 million price tag by some amount based on the difference between the current amount per student given to the school district and the somewhat smaller amount given to parents on the debit card, the huge new cost of paying for home school students is clear.

Fortunately, State Superintendent-Elect Jennifer McCormick told the ICPE members meeting in Indianapolis on August 27th that she opposes the Education Savings Account proposal because it would take money from public schools. Based on this, she should be an ally in your efforts to defeat this proposal, even though the main sponsor of this proposal is the Institute for Quality Education which was Jennifer McCormick’s main financial backer in the election. We will soon see where she stands.

Will Public Education Survive in the United States?

Donald Trump’s plan to mandate private school vouchers to students in all 50 states would be the biggest federal intrusion into state education policy in US history. In a September 8th speech in Cleveland, Donald Trump said he would use the power of the Presidency to have all 50 states use public tax money to pay for private and religious school tuition. He said it would cost $20 billion in federal dollars and $110 billion in state dollars.

At this point, 20 states have completely resisted entwining church and state and completely avoided using public dollars for private and religious schools. They have very good reasons to resist. Of the other 30 states, some have very limited programs for special education students.

Under Article 10 of the US Constitution, education matters should be left to the states. Now Donald Trump wants to ignore Article 10 and push a federal mandate for private school vouchers in the name of school choice.

Does America want Donald Trump to dismantle public education in the United States?

I think not.

Donald Trump’s voucher program was nearly ignored during the campaign and certainly the voters did not give him a mandate to end public education based on one overlooked speech.

From its roots in the 1830’s, public education has brought the United States to a position of world power with its system of non-sectarian, non-partisan, publicly funded schools supervised by school boards elected following the rules of democracy and pledged to transparent public access and accountability in their records.

Now Donald Trump wants to spend billions in federal dollars to pay for tuition at sectarian and potentially partisan schools that are not run by elected officials and do not have to offer public access to records. In Betsy DeVos, he has chosen a well known advocate for private school vouchers to lead his side of this coming fight. The battle lines are drawn.

Tell members of Congress that you oppose Donald Trump’s plan and that you strongly oppose public money from any source paying for private and religious school vouchers.

What Can Public Education Advocates Do?

Many areas have meetings with members of the General Assembly and with members of Congress about upcoming legislative sessions. Start talking with elected leaders now about your opposition to Education Savings Accounts and to the federal intrusion of mandated vouchers.

This is a radical set of proposals. Let legislators know how they would damage the heart of our communities—our public schools.

Then join the Indiana Coalition for Public Education to support ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand as he works in support of public education in the Indiana General Assembly and against all proposals that would damage public education such as Education Savings Accounts. ICPE needs your support!

Thank you for your dedicated support of public education!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith


“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand will represent ICPE in the new budget session which begins January 4, 2017. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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, August 25, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #264 – August 25, 2016

Dear Friends,

Public education advocates should come to the ICPE meeting this Saturday, August 27th!

For the sixth year in a row since ICPE was founded, all members of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education as well as all who support public education are invited to the Dean Evans Center of Washington Township Schools, 8550 Woodfield Crossing Blvd (the corner of 86th and Woodfield Crossing Blvd), Indianapolis on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 2:00pm for an important program:
  • Jennifer McCormick, Republican candidate for State Superintendent will speak first as the meeting begins at 2:00 pm.
  • State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, Democratic candidate for State Superintendent will speak around 2:45 pm.
  • After both candidates have spoken, the ICPE Legislator Report Card will be released. For the first time, ICPE has given letter grades to 107 incumbent legislators running for reelection based on their votes on keys bills which show their support or lack of support for public education.
Those present will get all the information and explanations of the Legislator A-F Report Card which will then be released to the media.
Other regional ICPE meetings in our annual fall series have been planned, each with different programs related to the fall elections:
  • · Evansville - September 12, 2016 at 6:30 pm- Evansville Central Public Library
  • · Bloomington – September 19, 2016 at 6:30 pm – Bloomington City-County Bldg.
  • · Lafayette – September 22, 2016 at 6:30 – Lafayette Jefferson High School
  • · Merrillville – October 5, 2016 at 6:30 - Merrillville High School
Please note: At this point, it appears that this Saturday August 27th will be the only ICPE fall meeting in which both candidates for State Superintendent have been able to accept our invitation to speak.

This fact along with the release of the ICPE Legislator Report Card make Saturday’s meeting one that public school advocates will not want to miss.

Please tell your public school friends about it and then join us on Saturday, August 27th at 2:00pm (E.D.T.).

Click here for a downloadable flyer. It will help you share the meeting information with your friends and colleagues.

Thank you for your support of public education!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our first 2016 membership meeting for all members and for all who support public education who might consider membership is set for Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center of the Washington Township Schools. Candidates for State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick and Glenda Ritz will address our meeting in separate presentations and the ICPE Legislator Report Card will be released giving a letter grade for support of public education to the 107 incumbents running for reelection to the General Assembly. Come and join us on August 27th!

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE at interim study committees. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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, August 16, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #263 – August 15, 2016

Dear Friends,

All members of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and all who support public education are invited to the Indianapolis membership meeting of ICPE on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 2:00 pm for an outstanding program:
  • Jennifer McCormick, Republican candidate for State Superintendent will speak first as the meeting begins at 2:00 pm.
  • State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, Democratic candidate for State Superintendent will speak around 2:45 pm.
  • After both candidates have spoken, the ICPE Legislator Report Card will be released. For the first time, ICPE has given letter grades to 107 incumbent legislators running for reelection based on their votes on keys bills which show their support or lack of support for public education.
Those present will get all the information and explanations of the Legislator A-F Report Card which will then be released to the media.
For the sixth year in a row since ICPE was founded, the first fall ICPE meeting will be held at the Dean Evans Center of Washington Township Schools, 8550 Woodfield Crossing Blvd, at the corner of 86th and Woodfield Crossing Blvd, Indianapolis.

This program deserves the attention of all public school advocates!

Please mark your calendar, tell your public school friends about it, and then join us on Saturday, August 27th at 2:00 pm (E.D.T.).

Please use the attached flyer to share the meeting information with your friends and colleagues.

Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our first 2016 membership meeting for all members and for all who support public education who might consider membership is set for Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center of the Washington Township Schools. Candidates for State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick and Glenda Ritz will address our meeting in separate presentations and the ICPE Legislator Report Card will be released giving a letter grade for support of public education to the 107 incumbents running for reelection to the General Assembly. Come and join us on August 27th!

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE at interim study committees. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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, August 5, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #262 – August 5, 2016

Dear Friends,

$53 Million!

That is the price tag to taxpayers for the voucher program in Indiana to pay for private and religious school tuition.

$53 Million in one school year, 2015-16!

The cost of the program was detailed in the Choice Scholarship Annual Report released by the Office of School Finance of the Indiana Department of Education on July 18, 2016.

The voucher program didn’t start out as a cost to taxpayers. As the report clarifies, in the first two years of the program, the state saved over $4 million dollars each year because a number of students transferred from public to private schools, and the transfers saved the state money.

Starting after the massive expansion of the program passed in Governor Pence’s first legislative session in 2013, eligibility rules were changed enabling many private school students who had always been in private and religious schools to get a voucher. Adding these students to the count of state-paid students added their full cost to the state totals with no offset of savings as is seen when a public school student transfers to a private school. Hence, the fiscal costs to the state ballooned.

As seen in the chart below summarizing the findings of the Office of School Finance, the voucher program has grown from a savings to taxpayers to a massive expenditure:


Dr. Dalton’s Question

Dr. Bob Dalton, as he advocated passionately against taxpayer funding for private school tuition, always concluded with a direct question to legislators: What is the fiscal cost of the voucher program?

Dr. Dalton, a founding board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, passed away last year after a 63 year career of leadership and advocacy for public education. He is sorely missed.

Now his question, which was ignored by legislators for years, can be answered.

What is the fiscal cost? $53 million in 2015-16 and growing every year.

What has been the fiscal cost adding all five years together? $100 million after five years.

Bob would be horrified.

The total payments the state made to private schools for tuition, as seen in the chart, were $131 million, but that is not the fiscal cost to taxpayers. That is the total amount diverted from public schools to private schools. That means there is a $131 million dent in the budgets available to public school students. That outcome is bad enough for public school students.

In most cases, however, the state saves some money when students transfer from a public school to a private school. Since the 2013 voucher expansion allowed many students already going to private schools to get a voucher, they were new to the state-funded count and added a new cost to the taxpayers. When the Office of School Finance of the Indiana Department of Education weighed out all savings and cost factors, they found that the net cost to the state was $53 million, using the formula for savings set by the General Assembly itself in 2011.

Would the Voucher Expansion Have Passed Had the True Fiscal Cost Been Known?

If Governor Pence had stood before the legislators in 2013 and said that his voucher expansion would cost taxpayers $53 million per year, would the bill have ever passed?

I doubt it.

If he had said he wanted to give a subsidy to private school parents of $53 million which is more than Indiana pays for summer school ($18 M), preschool ($10 million), technology ($3 million), English language learners ($10 million) and Gifted and Talented programs ($12 million) all added together, would the bill have passed?

I doubt it.

Dr. Dalton’s concerns are vindicated.

It is up to the General Assembly to reign in the voucher program and rebalance our priorities. The expansion of private school vouchers has to stop. Over one million public school students are in need of additional resources to reach their full potential.

Do the citizens of Indiana want ever expanding voucher programs and Educational Savings Accounts to privatize our public schools bit by bit?

That is a question the voters will answer in the November general election.

I hope all public education advocates will participate in the vitally important general election of 2016, our bicentennial year.

Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our first 2016 membership meeting for all members and for all who support public education who might consider membership is set for Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center of the Washington Township Schools. Candidates for State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick and Glenda Ritz will address our meeting in separate presentations and the ICPE Legislator Report Card will be released giving a letter grade for support of public education to the 104 incumbents running for reelection to the General Assembly. Come and join us on August 27th!

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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, May 2, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #33– May 2, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

The architect of Indiana’s damaging shift to privatizing Indiana’s public schools has a challenger in tomorrow’s primary election.

Representative Behning has done more than any other member of the House to dismantle public education and send public tax money to private and religious schools.

Because of the law he sponsored in 2011, Indiana is now paying public money for religious education for the first time in 160 years. Public money paid to private and religious schools totaled over $134 million in 2015-16 according to state financial reports.

Now he is being challenged in House District 91 by Jim Grimes, a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

All who believe Indiana education policy has gone in the wrong direction in the past five years should hold Representative Behning accountable and support Jim Grimes in District 91.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
House District 91

House District 91 includes the southwest corner of Marion County and the southeast corner of Hendricks County, including portions of Plainfield.

Representative Behning’s Goal: Public Money to Pay for All Private and Religious Education and a Privatized Education System in Indiana

If you or people you know believe Indiana’s school reforms in the past five years have hurt our schools, no one is more responsible for the General Assembly’s education policies that have brought us to where we are than Representative Behning. Here is a brief list of misguided laws he has sponsored:
  • He sponsored the 2011 voucher law which, after an historic legislative battle including a 9-hour House hearing over 2 days, allowed public tuition money to go to private and religious schools for the first time in 160 years since the 1851 Constitution.
  • He sponsored the massive 2013 voucher expansion law which rewrote eligibility rules allowing thousands of students who had always been in private schools to get public voucher tuition. This created a new fiscal cost paying for private school students who had never before been in the public count, hidden at the time of passage, of $40 million dollars according to the most recent state financial reports for 2014-15.
  • He sponsored the 2011 charter expansion law that has allowed private colleges to authorize public charter schools using public money voted on in private trustee meetings, as Grace College and Seminary from northern Indiana has now done over the strong objections of Monroe County leaders in southern Indiana. A charter school turned down by the Indiana Charter Board went authorizer-shopping and found Grace College willing to approve a Monroe County school 160 miles away. That is not right!
  • He sponsored the 2013 partisan rewrite of Indiana’s landmark bipartisan 1999 accountability law, forcing the A-F letter grade system based on high stakes testing into law for the first time. He has thus led the creation of a system in which all students and all teachers now give first priority to the high stakes test, narrowing the curriculum to what is tested and thereby slowly dismantling the balanced curriculum of the arts, civics and foreign language that Indiana once had.
  • He has been the dominant force in making Indiana an experimental marketplace of school choice in which all schools, public and private, compete based on high stakes testing for the hearts and minds of parents. His policies have forced all schools to give a higher priority to marketing their school to build enrollment needed to survive than to building a strong and creative curriculum.
Jim Grimes, according to the Indianapolis Star (May 1, page 4A), is concerned about the impact of these policies and is worried these new policies “will leave children in public schools behind.”

Based on the long record of Representative Behning’s effort to diminish public education, it is clear that Jim Grimes deserves the support of all public school advocates over Representative Behning in this primary election, especially those in House District 91.

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year. Will public education survive the political attacks?

Contact your friends in House District 91 about supporting Jim Grimes in tomorrow’s primary election.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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, April 29, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #31– April 29, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

School voucher leaders and voucher supporting groups want more and more public money to go to private school vouchers. They are now trying to oust Senator Kenley in Senate District 20 by bankrolling his challenger Scott Willis.

Their latest scheme to expand vouchers to all parents including home schools would give parents approximately $7000 on a debit card, the amount that now goes to the school district, to fund their own child’s schooling at a private school or by paying an “individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or licensed occupational therapist, “ in the words of a bill filed in the 2016 session. It’s a wild and radical concept called Education Savings Accounts, which their lobbyist in the 2016 session called “the future of school choice in Indiana.”

This would be enormously expensive and a genuine budget buster. They no doubt would face opposition on the extra costs involved from Indiana’s guardian of the budget, Senator Kenley of Noblesville.

So they have deftly orchestrated a campaign against Senator Kenley in favor of his primary election opponent Scott Willis, who will not question their plans for more and more vouchers, despite their expense and despite the fact that Education Savings Accounts will dismantle our long heritage of public education.

The wealthy donors behind the voucher organizations have dominated the education agenda of Governor Pence for four years, but Senator Kenley has been an independent force controlling the integrity of the Indiana budget. Now they want to get Senator Kenley out of their way.

Public education advocates and all who support public schools in Senate District 20 in Noblesville and Hamilton County should not be fooled. They should see through this ploy and support Senator Kenley in any way they can in Tuesday’s May 3rd primary election.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
Senate District 20

Senate District 20 is made up of the northern portions of Hamilton County around Noblesville and Westfield. Senator Kenley has served the district for 24 years and through enormous work on budgetary matters has risen to the powerful chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, a position in which he oversees the two-year state budget for the Senate.

The First Irony

There are two ironies in this effort by wealthy heavy hitters in the school choice movement trying to oust the powerful Appropriations Committee Chairman Senator Kenley.

The first irony is that Senator Kenley has never voted against vouchers in the key votes in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. The voucher crowd still wasn’t happy. They wanted him to endorse all of their expansion plans without question, but Senator Kenley, as he has done on all issues, tried to protect the integrity of the budget by reigning in the costs of some of the voucher expansion proposals. He sought changes in committee to reduce the fiscal impact of some proposals.

The voucher leaders have apparently never forgiven him.

The Second Irony

The second irony is that Scott Willis is not talking about voucher issues supported by his financial backers but instead has focused on the need for greater funding for public schools in Hamilton County, as if a first year Senator can impact the funding formula in any way. After 24 years of hard work in the Senate, Senator Kenley now has the power to change the funding formula and indeed did change the funding formula in the 2015 budget to boost funding for suburban school districts like Noblesville by shifting $250 million away from complexity funding, to the disappointment of schools in urban and rural areas serving low-income students. He has the power to do more of that, but a first term Senator will not.

If the voters remove Senator Kenley from his powerhouse budget position, they will be throwing away their power to influence the funding formula.

The financial backers of Scott Willis from the voucher organizations really don’t care about the funding formula. They just want to show that anyone, even those in powerful positions, who questions and trims their plans to dismantle and privatize public education will be defeated in the next election.

They did it to Senator Waterman in District 39 in the 2014 primary. Now they are trying to do it to Senator Kenley in District 20.

A Clear Choice for Primary Voters

In a largely Republican area, the winner of the May 3rd primary election will be the clear favorite in the general election this fall.

In the tradition of democracy, the primary voters will help determine the future of public education in Indiana on May 3rd. I respect the voters. Democracy works best when all participate. Be sure to vote!

No one should be fooled in this match up. Luke Kenley deserves the support of all public school advocates over Scott Willis, especially those in Senate District 20.

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year.

Contact your friends in Senate District 20.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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, April 28, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #30– April 28, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

Every advocate for public education should know that Senator Vaneta Becker has been a true friend of public education for a long time.

Now she is running for reelection in Indiana Senate District 50 in the May 3rd primary. Jeremy Heath is challenging her in the Republican primary.

The choice is clear. Senator Becker deserves the strong support of all who support public education in Senate District 50 and across Indiana in her race for reelection on May 3rd.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
Senate District 50

Senate District 50 includes portions of Vanderburgh County and adjoining portions of Warrick County bordering the Ohio River. Senator Becker has served District 50 with distinction since 2005.

Senator Vaneta Becker

Senator Becker was a strong voice for public education in the House for 24 years starting in 1981 before moving to the Senate in 2005.

She knows public education well. Her husband, now retired, served the students of Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation in a long career as a teacher and school administrator.

In the twenty years that I have been observing the General Assembly, I watched Senator Becker stand up strongly for public education in the battle against private school vouchers in 2005 when the proposal failed, and again in 2011 when the proposal unfortunately passed. She knows deeply the issues involved in protecting public education from attacks and providing resources needed for our public school students. She is not afraid to speak her mind. She has earned the respect of every public education advocate who has worked with her.

Her opponent Jeremy Heath ran unsuccessfully for the General Assembly in 2014 against Representative Gail Riecken. He has not made education issues a major part of his campaign against Senator Becker. It is not clear from his campaign statements available online whether he supports or opposes private school vouchers.

A Clear Choice for Primary Voters

In a largely Republican area, the winner of the May 3rd primary election will be the clear favorite in the general election this fall.

The difference is clear. Vaneta Becker deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in Senate District 50. Be sure to vote!

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year.

Contact your friends in Senate District 50.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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, April 26, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #29– April 26, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

In Indiana’s Senate District 12, Middlebury School Board Member Joanna King announced last September that she would challenge Senator Carlin Yoder in the 2016 primary elections.

Senator Yoder has been a powerful advocate for private school vouchers and the privatization of public education in his eight years in the Senate.

Then Senator Yoder decided not to run for reelection but found a candidate who will carry on his support for private school vouchers, Blake Doriot.

The Republican voters of Senate District 12 have a choice in the May 3rd primary election whether to support public education by voting for Joanna King or whether to support giving more public money to private and religious schools by voting for Blake Doriot.

This is an open seat with a clear choice for voters about the support they want to give public schools. Public school advocates in Senate District 12 should support Joanna King in whatever way they can in order to restore the priority needed to support our public school students.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

Senate District 12

Senate District 12 includes a large part of Elkhart County where I grew up (Elkhart High School Class of 1965) and a small part of Kosciusko County. In this bicentennial year, I can personally testify to the long heritage of excellent public education in Elkhart County, a tradition that is now threatened by the loss of funding through vouchers and tax caps and the threats to further privatization through “Reduced Learning No Accountability Accounts”, known by their proponents as “Education Savings Accounts” proposed in bills filed in the 2016 session with the strong support of the Institute for Quality Education, the private school voucher organization.

Senator Carlin Yoder: Champion of Private School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education

As I joined with other public school advocates in the Statehouse in the historic legislative battles over the 2011 voucher law and the huge 2013 expansion of vouchers, I watched as Senator Yoder emerged to be the leading voice in the Senate to push for more and more private school vouchers. The massive 2013 voucher expansion wiped out any state savings from vouchers and gave so many vouchers to students who had already made the choice to go to private schools that the state had to pay an additional $40 million in 2014-15 to fund them, according to state financial reports.

$40 million per year for private school vouchers is four times what Indiana is budgeting per year for preschool. Priorities have been skewed.

Senator Yoder gave strong support to adding $3.8 million for bigger K-8 vouchers in the 2015 budget. Then in the recent 2016 session, Senator Yoder sponsored a controversial bill that passed on the final day to expand vouchers by making them available during the spring semester at a cost to taxpayers estimated by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency to be $2.1 million starting in 2017.

Candidate Joanna King

Joanna King stepped up to the plate to take on one of the Senate’s main supporters of private school vouchers and other unpopular education measures, Senator Yoder. She grew up in Middlebury, has run a small business for 25 years and has been elected twice to the Middlebury School Board. In her September announcement, the Elkhart Truth reported (Sept. 30, 2015) that she said “current legislators have demoralized and defeated public educators by taking away money and focusing too much on accountability and testing” and that “if elected, she said she’ll bring the voice of educators to the Statehouse and work to establish more trust and respect between educators and legislators.”

Candidate Blake Doriot

Then Senator Yoder announced in October that he would not run for reelection, but he apparently was not happy about having Joanna King, a supporter of public education, as his successor. In December, Blake Doriot, the Elkhart County surveyor, announced his candidacy for Senate District 12 with Carlin Yoder by his side. He told the Elkhart Truth editorial board that Senator Yoder asked him to run. Obviously, he would continue the policies of Senator Yoder in supporting and expanding private school vouchers.

A Clear Choice for Primary Voters

In a largely Republican area, the winner of the May 3rd primary election will be the clear favorite in the general election this fall. Candidates King and Doriot offer voters a clear choice on whether they want public education to be supported or slowly dismantled as we have seen since 2011.

The Elkhart Truth in an April 18, 2016 editorial endorsed Joanna King for Senate District 12.

Public school advocates in District 12 and across Indiana should support her candidacy in any way possible. If public education is ever to be restored to the priority that it needs, we must have more people like Joanna King serving in the General Assembly.

In the tradition of democracy, the primary voters will help determine the future of public education in Indiana on May 3rd. I respect our democracy, and I respect the voters. Democracy works best when all participate. Be sure to vote!

The difference is clear. Joanna King deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in Senate District 12.

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year.

We need grassroots support for legislative candidates who will reverse the low priority given to public education in recent years and stop proposals such as Educational Savings Accounts which would further privatize our public schools.

Contact your friends and contribute what you can.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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.

###

Friday, April 22, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #28– April 22, 2016

Dear Friends,

This is the first “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” for 2016. Notes under this title contain my commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements. There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.

_____


In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

That would be a sad way to celebrate our heritage on our state’s 200th birthday, which includes 160 years of strong support for public education going back to our 1851 Constitution which provided “for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

The blueprint for dismantling public education is in place. It was unveiled in the 2016 session in House Bill 1311 sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Brown and in Senate Bill 397 sponsored by Senator Raatz.

Will the voters react?
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
The Blueprint for Dismantling Public Education: the Friedman Plan

The name I give to the two bills defining this radical new expansion of school vouchers is ”Reduced Learning No Accountability Accounts”. The name given by the supporters of the concept is “Education Savings Accounts”.

The concept of the two bills, based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end public education, is to give on a debit card the amount of money that normally goes to the public school district, let’s say $6000, directly to any parent who signs an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” This skimpy list leads to the “Reduced Learning” label.

Then the parent can give the money to a private school for tuition or to “a participating entity”, which may be an individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or a licensed occupational therapist approved by the Indiana Treasurer. No requirement to take the state test is included for home schooled students or any who are not enrolled in a voucher school, a fact that leads to the “No Accountability” label.

Thus, we have “Reduced Learning No Accountability Accounts” which are a recipe for fraud.

Parents can use the money for home schools, for the student’s 529 college fund instead of K-12 expenses, or for textbooks. In contrast, remember that public school parents get no textbook support from the state.

It’s a radical plan that deserves to be sent packing, yet in House District 59 Ryan Lauer is running on a platform of bringing Education Savings Accounts to Indiana. He is running against incumbent Representative Milo Smith and also against Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson, in a three way primary contest.

Without explaining that diverting the dollars from public schools would hurt the education of all current public school students and without saying that any student who meets the income guidelines can already go to a private school with a voucher, Mr. Lauer wrote in his January 28 announcement that “I will sponsor legislation to bring Education Savings Accounts to Indiana which place more power and greater choice in the hands of parents so that each child has the opportunity to attend the school that works best for them regardless of income.” He apparently wants to have taxpayers pay the private school tuition for wealthy families and also for home schools, which would be a new and expensive step with no accountability for student outcomes under the proposed bills.

Neither Representative Milo Smith nor Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson have endorsed Education Savings Accounts.

In House District 59 (Bartholomew County), public school advocates would be wise to choose between those two candidates and turn away Mr. Lauer’s strong support of Educational Savings Accounts which would severely damage the public schools in Bartholomew County and across the state.

Advocates for public education need to be aware of this radical proposal and to work against those who advocate for it such as Ryan Lauer.

Support Candidates Who Support Public Education

Several candidates are running who support public education and who oppose proposals that would weaken it such as Education Savings Accounts. Here are the stories of three public school advocates who are challenging incumbents running in the May 3rd primary election who have shown little or no inclination to protect public education from privatization. I urge you to support these three in any way that you can:

Tom Linkmeyer in House District 39 is challenging Representative Torr.

Ann Ennis in House District 64 is challenging Representative Washburne.

Nancy Franke in House District 69 is challenging Representative Lucas.

The public education grassroot networks need to support these candidates on May 3rd.

House District 39: Tom Linkmeyer vs. Representative Torr

Representative Gerald Torr has represented District 39 in Hamilton County since 1996 and has voted for private school vouchers at every opportunity, in landmark votes in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. He also voted in 2015 to remove the power of voters to name the chair of the State Board of Education, the controversial bill to diminish the powers of the elected State Superintendent. He is no friend of public education.

Tom Linkmeyer, Assistant Principal at Mary Castle Elementary School in Lawrence Township, says on his Facebook page: “Abolishing all high stakes tests will be my goal when elected!” He strongly opposes the attack on public schools coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The difference is clear. Tom Linkmeyer deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in District 39.

House District 64: Ann Ennis vs. Representative Washburne

I met Ann Ennis about two years ago as she began an effort to support public education in the Evansville area. When it comes to public education and efforts to privatize it, I can tell you she gets it. She deserves the support of everyone who supports public education. Her experience includes seven years as Director of Keep Evansville Beautiful, work with Habitat for Humanity, and as a public school parent.

House District 64 includes all of Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey Counties.

Now she is challenging Representative Tom Washburne, elected in 2012 who has shown no interest in supporting or protecting public education from efforts to privatize it through vouchers. He voted for the enormous private school voucher expansion in the 2013 session which has resulted in a new $40 million tab to the taxpayers to allow thousands of private school students who had always attended private schools to be given tax supported vouchers to pay their tuition at private and religious schools. He supported eliminating the $4800 cap on K-8 vouchers in the 2015 budget at a cost to taxpayers of $3.8 million. He supported taking away the power of voters to name the chair of the State Board of Education in 2015 when the powers of State Superintendent Ritz were attacked and reduced in Senate Bill 1.

The difference is clear. Ann Ennis deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in District 64.

House District 69: Nancy Franke vs. Representative Lucas

Representative Jim Lucas has been no friend of public education since his election to the House in 2012 from District 69, composed of portions of Bartholomew, Jennings, Jackson and Jefferson Counties.

Like Representative Washburne, he voted for the massive 2013 voucher expansion that ended up costing $40 million new dollars in 2014-15 to support tuition for private school students who were already going to private schools, in the same year when the much needed preschool program only received $10 million. He also voted for Senate Bill 1 in 2015 to remove the power voters held for over a hundred years to name the chair of the State Board of Education and to give that power to the Governor-appointed state board members. He also supported raising the $4800 cap on K-8 vouchers in the 2015 budget at a cost of $3.8 million per year.

He has been on the House Education Committee for four years and whenever I testified before the committee in support of public education, he consistently asked pointed follow-up questions in support of private school vouchers. He has accepted a $30,000 campaign donation from the Hoosiers for Quality Education Political Action Committee, the well funded voucher supporter PAC linked to the group that is trying to line up enough votes to pass the radical plan called Education Savings Accounts.

The bicentennial battle to defend our public schools is alive in Jackson County.

Representative Lucas is being challenged by Nancy Franke who has served on the school board of the Seymour Community Schools since 2010 and is also an elementary teacher at a Lutheran school in Columbus. According to her website, she has been endorsed by many educators and community leaders including four area public school superintendents and as well as Pat Sullivan, retired teacher from Hayden Elementary, who writes:

“Being a retired teacher with 38 years of experience and a present member of the Jennings County School Board, I have watched our public schools being systematically destroyed and our professional educators marginalized. PUBLIC EDUCATION IN INDIANA IS IN CRISIS MODE. Our students are being used by the politicians in an educational "reform" experiment that has already proved to be an utter failure in every place it has been tried. We must elect legislators who truly understand what it takes to educate our next generation of Hoosiers. NANCY FRANKE IS UNIQUELY QUALIFIED TO MAKE GOOD COMMON SENSE DECISIONS THAT WILL GIVE OUR STUDENTS THE TOP QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION THAT THEY DESERVE. After my conversations with Nancy, it is very clear that she truly understands the real issues that our beleaguered educators face every day. I have no doubt that Nancy can handle all issues in the legislature with honesty, integrity, and courage. We need more people like Nancy in the legislature to truly make Indiana great again.”

The difference is clear. Nancy Franke deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in District 69.

The stakes are high are high in our bicentennial year.

We need grassroots support for legislative candidates who will reverse the low priority given to public education in recent years and stop the efforts such as Educational Savings Accounts to further privatize our public schools.

Contact your friends and contribute what you can. Good luck in your work!

Thanks for advocating in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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, April 20, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #261 – April 19, 2016

Dear Friends,

The new annual report on private school vouchers, officially known as Choice Scholarships, was issued by the Indiana Department of Education on April 14th. It carried a surprising finding:

Despite an additional 3500 students getting tax supported vouchers to attend private schools, the percentage of Indiana students enrolling in private and parochial schools from last year (2014-15) to this year (2015-16) showed absolutely no increase. It was 7.48% both years.

One would think that private school vouchers paid for by the taxpayer would be attracting ever increasing numbers of students to private and parochial schools.

They are not.

One would think that if the taxpayers are paying for roughly 3500 more vouchers at an average cost of at least $4000 per voucher ($14 million), we would see an increase in students and families enrolling in private schools.

We are seeing no such increase.

Instead it can be said that vouchers are propping up the private and religious school enrollment numbers which would otherwise be falling.

As parents made their choices in the intense competition of the school choice marketplace of Indiana, the attractiveness of public schools stood up well this year.

Enrollment Details

Each year in the administration of State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a detailed report has been issued by the Office of School Finance of the Indiana Department of Education about the Choice Scholarship program. This year’s report was released on April 14th. The IDOE staff is to be commended on a thorough and objective report. The details reveal the following:
  • Of the total number of 1,130,873 students in Indiana in 2015-16, 84,583 attended non-public schools, a total of 7.48%.
  • Of the total of 1,130,312 students in the previous 2014-15 school year, 84,533 attended non-public schools, a total of 7.48%.
  • Yet the taxpayers of Indiana paid for 32,686 vouchers in 2015-16 to boost the non-public school numbers, an increase of 3538 vouchers over the previous year of 2014-15. It was the smallest increase in the five years of the program.
  • At a ballpark average of $4000 per voucher, taxpayers paid out over $14 million dollars more for vouchers this year than in 2014-15.
  • It’s clear now that vouchers are not attracting big new numbers to private and parochial schools but instead are being used to pay the tuition of private school students who have always been in private schools. The choice was made not after trying public schools first but at the outset of the student’s schooling, and now the voucher expansion rules have been changed to figure out a way to have the taxpayers pay the private and religious school bills.
  • To confirm this conclusion, the report found that 52.4% of students receiving vouchers had no record of previously attending an Indiana public school.
  • A year ago in 2014-15, this figure was 50.4%.
  • In the first year of the program, under Governor Daniels’ policy of trying a public school first, this figure was only 9.8% of voucher students with no record of attending an Indiana public school.
  • Clearly the voucher law is now helping a minority of the voucher students follow the original intent getting help to transfer to a private school. The majority of voucher students are now having taxpayers subsidize the private and religious education that had already been chosen.
Governor Pence clearly changed the voucher program to an expensive subsidy for private and religious school education in his massive 2013 voucher expansion law.

The report explains that the program carried a price tag of extra costs to taxpayers of $40 million in 2014-15 and says the 2015-16 total costs will be available in June.

The Future is up to the Voters

After establishing the voucher program in the legendary legislative battle of 2011, vouchers have been given more funding and made easier to get by the General Assembly in 2013, in 2015 and now in 2016.

Do the citizens of Indiana want ever expanding vouchers programs to privatize our public schools bit by bit?

That is a question the voters will answer in the May 3rd primary and in the November general election.

I hope all public education advocates will participate in the vitally important primary and general elections of 2016, our bicentennial year.

Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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, March 11, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #260 – March 10, 2016

Dear Friends,

The debate is over. The Senate has passed this session’s version of voucher expansion in SB 334 which had been tucked at the last minute into House Bill 1005.

Unlike in the House where the bill passed by one vote, the Senate vote was 33-17.

The bill will now become law after Governor Pence signs it.

Again, the push by the current leadership of the Indiana General Assembly to expand private school vouchers marches on. Continuous voucher expansion has been the theme of the General Assembly since the historic 2011 vote establishing the voucher program. The nature of next year’s voucher expansion will be determined by the voters in November.

A Spirited Debate

HB 1005 passed the Rules Committee this morning on a party line vote, 8-4.

Then this afternoon, an unusually long 45 minute debate over the adoption of the Conference Committee Report on House Bill 1005 showed that this bill had become extremely controversial.

Senators Kruse, Merritt, Hershman, Brown, Yoder, Bray, Schneider, Raatz and Eckerty all spoke for the bill.

Senators Lanane, Becker, Rogers, Taylor, Randolph and Stoops all spoke against the bill.

Senators Kruse and Hershman both tried to make the case that this was not a voucher expansion bill because it does not expand the definition of students eligible for a voucher, as did the 2013 voucher expansion bill. Senator Becker replied emphatically that the bill does expand vouchers because it expands the time window when vouchers are available so that more vouchers will be given out by the state in the spring semester.

The Vote

The opposition was bipartisan, with 7 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting NO.

Republicans (7) voting no: Senators Alting, Becker, Grooms, Head, Leising, Tomes and Waltz.

Democrats (10) voting no: Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops, Tallian and Taylor.

Public education advocates should thank all 17 for their no vote.


Support for the bill was not bipartisan, with 33 Republicans voting YES.

Republicans (33) voting yes: Senators Banks, Bassler, Boots, Bray, Brown, Buck, Charbonneau, Crider, Delph, Eckerty, Ford, Glick, Hershman, Holdman, Houchin, Kenley, Kruse, Long, Merritt, Messmer, Pat Miller, Pete Miller, Mishler, Niemeyer, Perfect, Raatz, Schneider, Smith, Steele, Walker, Yoder, Young, Zakas.


The Future is up to the Voters

After establishing the voucher program in the legendary legislative battle of 2011, vouchers have been given more funding and made easier to get by the General Assembly in 2013, in 2015 and now in 2016.

Do the citizens of Indiana want ever expanding vouchers programs to privatize our public schools bit by bit?

That is a question the voters will answer in May and November. I hope all public education advocates will participate in the vitally important primary and general elections of 2016, our bicentennial year.

Your messages to legislators have made a huge difference in this debate!

Thanks for all your work and for all the messages you sent this session in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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, March 9, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #258 – March 9, 2016

Dear Friends,

Voucher expansion hangs in the balance as the General Assembly ends its work tomorrow, March 10th.

As of this morning (March 9th), neither Senate Bill 334 nor its new home House Bill 1005 are listed on the House or Senate floor agendas. That means a final vote is likely tomorrow on the last day, although action late today is possible.

Your messages of opposition to voucher expansion have turned this plan into a cliffhanger. The word in the halls of the Statehouse is that the majority leadership of the General Assembly driving these decisions does not want to appear anti-teacher going into the fall elections.

Let them know that you think any voucher expansion is anti-teacher. Tell them you think further damage to public education is anti-teacher.

Before the final vote on House Bill 1005 in the House and in the Senate, let members of the House and Senate know that you oppose HB 1005 and the voucher expansion of SB 334 that it now contains. Tell them you don’t like the maneuvering and that you think voucher expansion is taking Indiana in the wrong direction.


You have one more day to help in this legislative battle. Send a final message of opposition if you possibly can to both your Senator and your member of the House or to other legislators.

Your messages have made all the difference. Let them know where you stand on voucher expansion.

Let them know that in Indiana’s bicentennial year, the issue of voucher expansion is too important to be the subject of last minute backroom maneuvers.

My “Testimony Not Given”

When I heard Monday that SB 334 would go to Conference Committee, I prepared testimony thinking that there would be a Conference Committee meeting on SB 334 sometime Tuesday where brief public testimony might be taken.

Now there apparently will be no such committee meeting and no opportunity for a final round of public testimony.

The testimony below will apparently never be heard.

I have copied my “testimony not given” below in case you want to use any of the new questions I raised about the undefined partial year voucher and Indiana’s policies on expelled students as you contact legislators:

“Testimony Not Given” on SB 334 – No Conference Committee was called after all

“I have opposed this bill expanding vouchers because the language of the bill did not match Senator Yoder’s stated purpose to help drop outs who are recovering from difficult circumstances. The language of the bill says nothing about helping drop outs. SB 334 should have been amended to focus on helping drop outs instead of allowing a general increase in midyear voucher transfers, estimated by LSA to cost $2.1 million per year.

The more I have analyzed this bill, the more problematic it appears. Today I would raise two new questions that I did not hear raised in previous hearings:
1) The bill establishes a second window of applications for a voucher in the spring semester and thus implies for the first time a partial-year voucher, but this partial voucher is not defined in the bill. LSA assumed it was exactly half when they did the fiscal. Is the amount exactly half? Does the spring semester student wait until spring semester to enroll? Or can the student transfer to a voucher school at any time, even before spring semester? Is the voucher prorated by day? The bill does not define the partial-year voucher to answer these basic questions. This bill is not ready for passage.
2) Is SB 334 the first program that gives taxpayer money for expelled students during the school year for which they are expelled? Expulsions are for serious problems, including bringing guns or drugs to school or threatening the school. A state law says that expelled students as part of their penalty cannot be enrolled in another public school for the balance of the school year in which they were expelled. The sponsors of SB 334 said the bill was needed to help expelled students go to The Crossing, a private school that helps drop outs and expelled students.

Is SB 334 now going to provide public money for these students to transfer to a private school when the law says that they can’t transfer to another public school as part of their penalty? Is that wise policy? Is this undermining the meaning of expulsion?

Will students expelled for the most serious offenses including gun violations or serious threats to the school be allowed to simply transfer to a private school with a voucher? Are there major expulsion offenses for which taxpayer money should not be used when students are expelled for the most serious reasons?
I urge you to correct these serious deficits in this bill. The definition of a partial voucher should be clear and the treatment of expelled students transferring to private schools should be clarified in relation to previous state policies on expelled students so as not to undermine the meaning of expulsion.

Indiana should say no to ever-increasing voucher expansion. The ISTEP crisis and the transition to tougher standards deserve the full attention of our General Assembly and our school personnel, and not another battle over voucher expansion. We don’t need an expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.

I urge you to clarify these issues and to focus this bill on the sponsor’s stated purpose of drop out recovery for high school students in difficult circumstances.”

End of “Testimony Not Given.”


Previous Points of Opposition are listed here again for your convenience: Please share one or more of these concerns with any and all legislators. Both the House and the Senate will vote one more time on HB 1005 by tomorrow, March 10th!
  • Sponsors in both the Senate and the House said the bill would help a private school called The Crossing get funding to help drop outs, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs.
  • The bill should have been amended to focus on helping drop outs instead of allowing a huge increase in midyear general voucher transfers, estimated by the Legislative Services Agency to cost $2.1 million per year.
  • This LSA estimate makes SB 334 the biggest voucher expansion since Governor Pence’s 2013 voucher expansion which ended up costing taxpayers $40 million extra dollars, according to the annual financial report on Choice scholarships.
  • The current window for private school voucher applications is March 1 to September 1. SB 334 would establish a new enrollment window from September 2 to January 15. This extension would mean that the marketing and recruitment competition between private schools and public schools would go on for 10.5 months instead of the current 6 months.
  • Private schools have always had to have a marketing program to gain enrollment, but marketing and recruiting is new to public schools since Indiana was transformed into a school choice marketplace in 2011. Now just like private schools, if public schools don’t recruit students, they won’t survive. A superb public school with superb teachers must still be marketed well to parents or it may falter in the competition for enrollment. SB 334 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months.
  • Marketing and recruiting take money and staff time that public schools don’t have, but now they must find it. To compete, public schools have to take money from other important services to budget for marketing and recruiting. Currently, marketing is largely confined to spring and summer months. Once fall enrollments are in place, schools can pay full attention to instruction while marketing and recruitment take a back seat. Now SB 334 would extend the competitive marketing pressure all the way through January 15th.
  • SB 334 also removes a provision in current law that says if a voucher student leaves the voucher school for which the student was awarded a Choice scholarship, the student is responsible for the payment of any tuition required for the remainder of the school year. Removing this provision is moving backward on accountability to the taxpayer. If families make a bad choice, the result would be extra costs falling on the taxpayers.
  • Legislators should say no to ever- increasing voucher expansion. The ISTEP crisis and the transition to tougher standards deserve the full attention of our General Assembly and our school personnel, and not another battle over voucher expansion.
  • We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.
Send Final Messages Today (March 9) or Early Tomorrow (March 10)!

Just let them know you are following their actions on SB 334 and on HB 1005 and that you oppose any expansion of private school vouchers. The length of your message is not as important as the number of messages Senators and House members receive.

Let them know you oppose voucher expansion because it wasn’t focused on drop out recovery, the stated purpose of the sponsors. Let them know you oppose a general expansion of undefined partial vouchers to promote spring semester transfers. Let them know the expansion of vouchers is the wrong bicentennial message to send to our public schools in 2016.

Thanks for standing up for public education!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome 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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