Monday, January 25, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #242 – January 25, 2016

Dear Friends,

A bill expanding private school vouchers to allow spring semester voucher transfers has passed the Senate Education Committee and is heading to the Senate Appropriations Committee early this week.

Senate Bill 334 sponsored by Senator Yoder would be the biggest expansion of private school vouchers since Governor Pence’s 2013 expansion and is estimated to cost taxpayers $2.1 million dollars per year according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

Indiana should not expand private school vouchers in this way. All advocates for public education who oppose a further expansion of vouchers should contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as their own Senator to oppose Senate Bill 334.


Senate Bill 334 – More than Helping Expelled Students

Senator Yoder presented this bill as a method of helping a private school called The Crossing get voucher money to support students during the spring semester who have been expelled during the first semester or who have otherwise dropped out. He said The Crossing had 189 such students that needed tuition help last year for drop out recovery services.

The language of the bill, however, goes far beyond funding for drop outs to attend a private school. In fact, there is no reference in the bill to providing help for drop outs or expelled students.

SB 334 establishes a new window of voucher applications from September 2 to January 15 for the spring semester. Current law allows voucher applications from March 1 to September 1 for the upcoming school year.

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 would allow Choice voucher students who are expelled from their private school to get a spring semester voucher to go to The Crossing.

ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand urged the committee to reject this broad expansion of private school vouchers in the spring semester, citing the LSA fiscal estimate that it would cost $2.1 million additional dollars if 1000 students signed up for a spring semester voucher, a conservative estimate. Other public education groups opposed the bill as well.

Senator Mark Stoops voted against the bill, saying he would perhaps consider this more favorably if it spoke directly to funding drop outs and expelled students, but the current language doesn’t do that at all. His was the only vote against the bill in the 9-1 committee vote. The committee seemingly heard the plea to help drop outs without requiring language specific in the bill providing help for drop outs and expelled students.

Will the Senate Appropriations Committee Narrow the Focus to Helping Drop Outs?

In the past, the General Assembly has been reluctant to spend great amounts of money on drop outs and on students who have been expelled. It would be highly unusual for the General Assembly to open up the budget during this short session to fund the extra money for spring semester vouchers.

Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to let them know you oppose this expansion of private school vouchers. Senator Kenley chairs the committee. Majority members include Senators Mishler, Boots, Charbonneau, Eckerty, Hershman, Pat Miller, Yoder and Zakas. Minority members include Senators Tallian, Rogers, Stoops and Taylor.

As you contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urge them to change the language of this bill to fund drop outs if that is their will, but don’t throw the doors open to a spring semester voucher transfer for all students.

Expanding vouchers in any way should not be on Indiana’s agenda during the crisis of ISTEP testing and the transition to tougher standards. Urge your legislators to get priorities straight and focus their energies on supporting public education in Indiana.

Thanks for speaking up 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, January 20, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #241 – January 20, 2016

Dear Friends,

The hard sell for educational savings accounts and the damaging bills SB 397 and HB 1311 is already on.

Today, as the Senate Education Committee discussed Senate Bill 93, Senator Kruse said he plans to recommend that SB 397 be turned into a summer study committee provision as an amendment next Wednesday to Senate Bill 93.

Joel Hand testifying for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education cited the damaging provisions of SB 397 (see below) and said that the concept should be defeated now without a summer study committee.

The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education, the well funded pro-voucher lobbying group, testified that “Educational savings accounts are the future of school choice in Indiana.” She called it a debit card for parents. She said that their Statehouse “Celebration” on Monday, January 25 will include a 10am panel about educational savings accounts, featuring a parent they are bringing in from Arizona and other “national experts.”

The January 25th program, sponsored by the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice and other well-financed pro-voucher groups including the Koch-sponsored Americans for Prosperity, includes Dr. Tim Brown on the panel, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and the sponsor of HB 1311, which would provide educational savings accounts for all students (see below).

Money can be used to sell anything. These groups have all the money they need to market with great expertise their pro-voucher positions. The battle for the minds of legislators is on.

I urge all advocates for public education to participate in this battle using the talking points below and other thoughts after you check out these bills.

Let your legislators know that educational savings accounts will undermine and subvert the quality of our public schools. Share the talking points below with your legislators before the pro-voucher marketing machine convinces them to implement Milton Friedman’s plan to slowly abolish public education.

Senate Bill 397 – Education Savings Accounts for Special Education Students

SB 397 is sponsored by Senator Raatz. It would hurt enrollment at public schools and voucher schools alike by allowing the entire amount of public money for a special education student to be spent for “a tutor, another person, or an organization that has received a qualification certificate” from the IDOE, with no standards stated for receiving such qualification except for investigations of fraud, abuse, misdemeanors or felony convictions. The bill doesn’t even clearly say felony convictions will rule out the applicant. The bill would also:
  • expand taxpayer-funded vouchers to high income families. Currently, families of disabled students with incomes up to $85,000 are eligible for vouchers. This bill takes off all income limits.
  • reduce accountability. Public money will be given to parents with no obligation for annual testing or evaluation.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum. Parents need only to agree to educate their disabled child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science”. So much for special education students benefiting from the arts and from physical education!
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. No penalties are listed when parents commit fraud with their child’s money. After “annual audits of a random sample” of accounts, authorities are only given power to “terminate a qualifying agreement based on noncompliance”. The bill says nothing about repaying taxpayer money that has been misspent or about criminal fraud. This bill is a recipe for fraud and would require an expensive Educational Bureau of Investigations to root out problems.
House Bill 1311 – Education Savings Accounts for All Students

The 28-page HB 1311 is sponsored by the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dr. Tim Brown. The bill would:
  • expand vouchers to more students. HB 1311 would give public money to families earning up to $97,000 for a family of four. Using a sliding scale, 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 pitched and passed in 2011 as a program to help low income families, but that rationale has now disappeared.
  • 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 ISTEP is included for those students who are not enrolled in a voucher school.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum and remove many 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?
  • pay textbook fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. HB 1311 makes textbooks for private schools or private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. This is an incentive for parents who can afford to pay for their current private school to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. A weak section of fraud consequences for a “participating entity” that has “routinely failed”, but no mention is made of parents who neglect their duties or commit fraud with their child’s education money.
Expanding vouchers should not be on Indiana’s agenda during the crisis of ISTEP testing and the transition to tougher standards. Urge your legislators to get priorities straight and to support public education in Indiana.

Thanks for speaking up now about these two voucher-expanding experimental bills!


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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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #240 – January 19, 2016

Dear Friends,

Two bills have been filed that would create the biggest expansion of private school vouchers Indiana has ever seen. They would advance the privatization of our educational system in line with the plans of voucher-inventor Milton Friedman, who supported the abolishment of public education.

I didn’t think that the Republican supermajority would make a direct attack on public education in an election year, but it appears the Republican leadership is poised to push forward a radical new private school voucher plan. It would be the biggest voucher expansion since Governor Pence’s voucher plan costing taxpayers $40 million in new dollars and diverting $120 million from public schools was enacted in 2013.

House Bill 1311 and Senate Bill 397 have not been scheduled for a hearing yet, but they should be denounced now by all public school advocates to any and all legislators. HB 1311 is a voucher experiment for all students and SB 397 is a voucher experiment for special education students.

These new experiments with our school children would undermine funding and support for the public schools of Indiana, which after five years of school choice have still been chosen by 94% of all students and need the support of legislators, not another attack.

These damaging bills have been passed in some form in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Mississippi and Tennessee, all states that perform below Indiana on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the respected national measure known as “the nation’s report card.”

HB 1311 and Senate Bill 397 are right out of Milton Friedman’s plan to take public schools out of our society and leave education to a marketplace of private schools, all funded by the taxpayers but without government oversight.

Both bills are innocently labeled Education Savings Accounts. They give money directly to parents in the amount that the average child gets in their school district. Parents can then pay for private schools or “participating entities” including tutors or other private vendors.

The program is to be run by the Indiana Treasurer, not the Indiana Department of Education. HB 1311 even provides for the Treasurer to outsource the program to be run by a bank. Are they serious? This means they want to privatize management of the privatized voucher program!

It’s simply over the top.

Not all Republicans in Indiana agree with the Republican leaders bringing these radical bills forward to further privatize our schools. These bills should not be given a hearing. Only grassroots citizens talking to their legislators can stop these bills and the death spiral for public education. It is time to speak up!

The loss of funding and instability this would bring to public schools would obviously disrupt their ability to provide long-term quality programs for over one million Hoosier students.


House Bill 1311 – Education Savings Accounts for All Students

The complicated 28-page HB 1311 is sponsored by the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dr. Tim Brown, so it is clear the House leadership means business. The bill would:
  • expand vouchers to more students. HB 1311 would give public money to families earning up to $97,000 for a family of four. Using a sliding scale, 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 pitched and passed in 2011 as a program to help low income families, but that rationale has now disappeared.
  • 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 ISTEP is included for those students who are not enrolled in a voucher school.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum and remove many 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?
  • pay textbook fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. HB 1311 makes textbooks for private schools or private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. This is an incentive for parents who can afford to pay for their current private school to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. A weak section of fraud consequences for a “participating entity” that has “routinely failed”, but no mention is made of parents who neglect their duties or commit fraud with their child’s education money.
Senate Bill 397 – Education Savings Accounts for Special Education Students

SB 397 is sponsored by Senator Raatz, a first term Senator who formerly served as the principal of a Christian school. Students can already get vouchers to go to Christian schools. This bill would hurt enrollment at public schools and voucher schools alike by allowing the entire amount of public money for a special education student to be spent for “a tutor, another person, or an organization that has received a qualification certificate” from the IDOE, with no standards stated for receiving such qualification except for investigations of fraud, abuse, misdemeanors or felony convictions. The bill doesn’t even clearly say felony convictions will rule out the applicant. The bill would also:
  • expand taxpayer-funded vouchers to high income disabled students. Currently, families of disabled students with incomes up to $85,000 are eligible for vouchers. This bill takes off all income limits.
  • reduce accountability. Public money will be given to parents with no obligation for annual testing or evaluation.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum. The same language as cited in HB 1311 appears in SB 397. Education is reduced to “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science” for special education students. So much for special education students benefiting from the arts and from physical education!
  • leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. No penalties are listed when parents commit fraud with their child’s money. After “annual audits of a random sample” of accounts, authorities are only given power to “terminate a qualifying agreement based on noncompliance”. The bill says nothing about repaying taxpayer money that has been misspent or about criminal fraud. This bill is a recipe for fraud and would require an expensive Educational Bureau of Investigations to root out problems.
Perplexing Questions

The fact that these bills from other states are being given consideration by Republican leaders in the General Assembly raises troubling questions which you should ask your legislators:
1) Does this mean that the leadership of the supermajority no longer supports public education?

2) Does this new way of giving out vouchers mean they have given up on the current voucher program?

3) With Indiana schools in a crisis over ISTEP testing and assessment, do we really need to stop everything and take time for a battle over more vouchers with less accountability?
I urge you to communicate with your legislator or with all legislators to say that in this short session, they should concentrate on the complex problems surrounding ISTEP and the future changes needed in Indiana’s assessments.

Let them know that plunging Indiana into another all-out battle over privatizing our public schools would be damaging to all schools, including the private voucher schools that could well lose students to “participating entities” in the radical remake of our system envisioned by HB 1311 and SB 397.

Most legislators you may contact will probably not have heard of these bills and their details. You will need to inform them of their radical provisions. Help legislators understand that advancing these damaging bills could hurt the supermajority brand in an election year among teachers and parents who are already angry about the ISTEP problems.

HB 1311 and SB 397 should disappear from consideration while all efforts are focused on solving the complexities of Indiana’s assessment problems.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” by saying “the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.” HB 1311 and SB 397 would help his plan to abolish public schools.

Thanks for speaking up now about these two unwanted experimental bills, and thanks for your advocacy 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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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #239 – January 12, 2016

Dear Friends,

On January 4th, Governor Pence and Republican leaders of both the House and the Senate announced their support for “hold harmless” bills to protect both teachers and schools from the negative effects of the transition to tougher ISTEP tests. Governor Pence, Speaker Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Long had committed this fall to protecting teacher compensation but had not committed to protecting school letter grades until January 4th.

Thus, the Republican leaders finally agreed with State Superintendent Ritz who called for “hold harmless” protections a year and a half ago both for teachers and for school letter grades.

Then on January 6th, with newly clarified bipartisan support, HB 1003 passed the House Education Committee unanimously removing any impact from the 2014-15 ISTEP transition year on teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses.

In the afternoon of the same day, SB 200 passed the Senate Education Committee 10-1 removing any impact of the 2014-15 ISTEP tests on A-F school letter grades.

Today January 12th, just six days later, HB 1003 passed the House on third reading 95-1, and SB 200 passed the Senate on third reading 48-1.

These bills are the right thing to do in the transition year to new standards and tougher tests. Let your legislators know you support quick approval of both bills as each now moves to the other house.


House Bill 1003

Representative Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, unveiled the final language to protect teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses in Wednesday’s committee meeting (Jan. 6th). State Superintendent Ritz was the first one to be called on for testimony, and she strongly supported the concept.

HB 1003 specifies that after state bonus money is distributed to school districts, it must be distributed to teachers within twenty days.

The bill passed the committee unanimously.

On second reading yesterday (Jan. 11), Representative Delaney tried to add an amendment to say that these discredited ISTEP scores should not be used to qualify new students to be eligible for vouchers because they live in a school attendance area of an F school. His valiant effort went down to defeat on a party line vote, 27-68.

After approval today on a 95-1 vote, it now moves to the Senate Education Committee for consideration tomorrow, January 13th.

Hanging questions have been raised about HB 1003: How complicated will it be to assess both the best set of test scores and the best school letter grade for each and every teacher, especially in large school districts? Will it be possible to do this analysis and distribute the money in twenty days as the bill calls for? Is the mandate to use test scores still in place for this transition year?

Despite the questions, the bill should pass quickly to allow teachers to get their overdue compensation.

Senate Bill 200

Senator Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee, presented his bill to hold harmless school letter grades at the first meeting of the committee Wednesday afternoon, January 6th. Under the bill, a school’s letter grade “may not be lower than” the letter grade received in the previous 2013-14 school year.

Despite the strong bipartisan support, the bill was opposed in testimony by the Institute for Quality Education, a well-funded group that lobbies strongly for more private school vouchers. They apparently prefer the plan to see the number of F schools skyrocket in this ISTEP crisis so that students living in the attendance areas of those F schools would automatically become eligible for a private school voucher, even if they have always been attending a private school.

The pro-voucher group opposed SB 200 even though the bill carries a new benefit for voucher schools, reducing the accountability levels for private schools participating in the voucher program. Under current law in IC 20-51-4-9, if a voucher school gets a D or an F two years in a row, the consequences are that new voucher students can’t get a voucher to go to that school, although the students who have been going to the school may keep getting taxpayer-funded vouchers. SB 200 changes this provision for this year, taking away the penalty for getting a D, saying “the department may not apply the consequences unless the school was placed in the lowest category or designation for the 2014-15 school year.”

It is expensive to taxpayers to pay for private school tuition, and the Institute for Quality Education would like to see those costs to taxpayers go even higher, while ignoring the poor quality of the 2014-15 ISTEP letter grade formula. This marks the first time in my memory when Governor Pence and the Institute for Quality Education were not in mutual agreement on a major education bill.

Hanging questions have also been raised about SB 200: Shouldn’t we have a two-year transition to new tests? Shouldn’t those schools currently on the bubble for state intervention get extra consideration since it is not clear they truly deserve another F using this discredited ISTEP?

Senate Bill 200 reflects the bipartisan consensus that has been reached to prevent the transition to tougher standards and tests from lowering school letter grades in the wake of drastically lower passing rates approved by the State Board of Education for the new test.

Fast Track by January 19th

Representative Behning said on the floor of the House yesterday that an agreement has been made to fast track HB 1003 with a goal for passage in both houses and the Governor’s signature by January 19th.

When the General Assembly has the consensus and the will, it can take fast action to pass legislation. Last spring, the bill to fix the RFRA legislation was written, passed and signed into law in about a three day span. Fast action is needed on SB 200 and HB 1003 to get promised bonuses and compensation to teachers and to meet letter grade deadlines.

Fast action was actually needed earlier on Organization Day in November, as some legislators had proposed. If action to “hold harmless” had been taken then, no school reputations would have been sullied when preliminary grades were released and teachers would already have their bonus money.

That said, fast action is needed now, and you can help. Let legislators know you support fast action on HB 1003 and SB 200.

Thank you for your advocacy 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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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #238 – January 5, 2016

Dear Friends,

I had nearly concluded that Governor Pence, Speaker Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Long were using the crisis of plunging school letter grades caused by tougher ISTEP+ tests to make more students eligible for private school vouchers.

After all, they had pushed through a voucher expansion law in 2013 that gives students living in the attendance area of an F school eligibility for a private school voucher even if the students have always attended a private school. Preliminary school letter grades printed in the Indianapolis Star on December 5th showed a potential leap in this ISTEP crisis from 84 F schools (4%) to 359 F schools (18%).

Then the landscape completely changed yesterday (Jan. 4th), when Senator Kruse and the Republican leadership unveiled Senate Bill 200 and scheduled it for a hearing this Wednesday, January 6th, in the 1:30 pm Senate Education Committee meeting.

This bill deserves the support of all public school advocates. Senate Bill 200 says a school’s letter grade “may not be lower than” the letter grade received in the previous 2013-14 school year.

I urge you to send messages of support for Senate Bill 200 to your Senator and all Senators and also to members of the House, who will need to take quick action on the bill when it passes the Senate. This bill needs to pass quickly in January to keep schools from being unfairly punished in the ISTEP crisis.

Two Issues

There are two issues that could punish teachers and schools stemming from the transition to more rigorous academic standards and ISTEP tests:

1) teacher compensation could be reduced due to the impact of lower ISTEP passing rates on teacher evaluations and on the formulas for performance bonuses; and

2) school letter grades could go down when lower ISTEP passing rates are calculated into the letter grade formula, a formula already rejected by the General Assembly in 2013 legislation but preserved until this final year by actions of Governor Pence’s appointees on the State Board of Education.

Governor Pence declared on Oct. 27th that that first issue should not happen, that teacher compensation should not be reduced because of the tougher standards and tests. Speaker Bosma promised on Organization Day in November that fixing teacher bonuses in the ISTEP transition would be the first order of business in January, but he said revisions to A-F accountability “will take more time to weigh.” (Star, Nov. 18)

Until yesterday, no promise had been made by Governor Pence, Speaker Bosma or President Pro Tem Long to protect school letter grades from the ISTEP changes, the second issue.

Now with Senate Bill 200, the Republican leaders have aligned themselves with State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who has asked repeatedly for the past year and a half for changes that would hold schools harmless in the transition to tougher ISTEP tests.

Damage Has Already Been Done to School Reputations

To protect schools from the lower passing rates of the ISTEP transition, the corrections should have been in place before preliminary letter grade results were issued for review by schools in late November. No public announcements about letter grades were to be made until mid-January. Instead, the Indianapolis Star received a summary of the preliminary results and published it on the front page on December 5th.

The results of course showed lower grades than ever before. This is an invalid result, but the general public has not followed the nuances, and when quick media stories simply say F schools have gone from 4% to 18%, as I saw on one TV report, the general public starts thinking there is something wrong with our schools.

Instead, as many can see now, the fault lies not with our schools but with our letter grade formula and our testing program. Our schools are actually performing better than ever according to results of the highly respected National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) just released in late 2015.

Support Senate Bill 200 and Senate Bill 4

I urge you to send overnight messages of support for Senate Bill 200 to members of the Senate Education Committee, to your Senator and to all Senators. Then send a similar message to members of the House, since this bill needs to quickly move through the process and be signed into law in January.

Senator Stoops has filed Senate Bill 4 which is similar to Senate Bill 200 and also deserves your support. The main difference is that Senator Stoops is a Democrat in a Republican controlled Senate, so his bill will not get much attention. He has worked hard to correct the looming unfair punishments to teachers and schools which have accompanied the ISTEP crisis, and you should let legislators know that you support Senate Bill 4 as well.

I urge all public school advocates to communicate with Governor Pence and with their legislators to say that transition year test scores should not penalize teachers in their performance bonuses and also should not penalize schools in their letter grades. The status of both teachers and schools should be held harmless while new baseline test scores are reset. Senate Bill 200 and Senate Bill 4 both serve this cause.

Thank you for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com


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


ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support 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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