Monday, February 29, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #252 – February 29, 2016

Dear Friends,

Again, the push by the current leadership of the Indiana General Assembly to expand private school vouchers marches on. Today, the vote was close.

Today (Feb. 29) in the Ways and Means Committee, Senate Bill 334 to expand vouchers by allowing spring semester transfers to voucher schools passed by a vote of 12-10.

An amendment offered by Representative Porter to give a tax credit for textbook rental payments to public school parents failed in committee before the final vote.

The bill now goes to the floor of the House for second reading amendments.

It’s time to send a message to your House member or to all House members that you oppose any expansion of private school vouchers and you think they should amend this bill to focus on helping drop outs, the stated purpose of the bill as described by the bill’s sponsor.

Senate Bill 334 has been changed by the House, so if the bill is approved on the House floor this week, it will have to return to the Senate for a concurrence vote on the House version or else a conference committee to resolve the differences. It is not too early to send messages to your Senator about your opposition to the expansion of private school vouchers. It has been announced that the session will be adjourned on March 10th, just eleven days from today.

Details of SB 334 in the House Ways and Means Committee

Today was the final day for bills to pass out of committees. Senate Bill 334 was the final bill of five called up today by Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown. Dr. Brown is a strong supporter of private school vouchers and filed the radical bill this session to give all parents including home school parents the right to directly receive the taxpayer funds for schooling on a debit card to pay for tutors or private teachers with no public oversight. Mercifully, that over-the-top bill was not given a hearing.

ICPE Board President Tim Skinner was present at the hearing to testify against the bill on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. Chairman Brown, however, did not allow testimony on Senate Bill 334 even though he had invited brief testimony on the other bills that came earlier in the meeting.

Discussion on the bill started with Representative Porter’s attempt to amend the bill to give tax credits to public school parents for payments they make for textbook rental. Currently, home school and private school parents can claim a deduction for textbooks on state taxes, but no deductions or credits are available to public school parents. The amendment failed on a party line vote, 7-15.

Representative Goodin, who is a public school superintendent in Crothersville, spoke strongly against several provisions of the expansion of vouchers in SB 334. Then came the committee vote on the bill.

Three Republicans joined seven Democrats in opposing the bill. They are:

Republicans (3): Representatives Davisson, Slager and Truitt

Democrats (7): Representatives Porter, Goodin, Klinker, Niezgodski, Pryor, Riecken and Stemler

All ten should be thanked for their vote.

Twelve Republicans voted for the bill: Representatives Baird, Karickhoff, Leonard, Thompson, Clere, Huston, Mayfield, Negele, Ober, Sullivan, Braun and Chairman Brown.

Representatives Cherry and DeLaney were not present and excused from the vote.

If one more committee member had voted against SB 334 voucher expansion, the bill would not have advanced. Put another way, any one of the twelve House members voting yes could have stopped the bill but chose not to.

Keep writing and calling your legislators about your opposition to voucher expansion in SB 334. Clearly, more legislators are starting to hear your messages.

Let members of the House and the Senate know that you think the drumbeat for more and easier private school vouchers and less attention and support for public education has to stop.

The priority and publicity given to privatizing public education is taking us in the wrong direction and leaving our long heritage of public education in Indiana, the achievement of countless dedicated public servants, at risk of further unraveling in the midst of Indiana’s bicentennial celebration.

Your messages to legislators make all the difference in the last week of the session, especially in an election year which is the season when politicians are most likely to listen.

Take a moment to send a message to House members this week and to Senators next week to oppose Senate Bill 334 unless it is amended to focus the bill on drop out recovery. Tell them they should not expand vouchers generally to promote spring semester transfers.

Thanks for your strong 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, February 26, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #251 – February 26, 2016

Dear Friends,

The push by the current leadership of the Indiana General Assembly to expand private school vouchers marches on.

Yesterday (Feb. 25) in the House Education Committee, Senate Bill 334 to expand vouchers by allowing spring semester transfers to voucher schools passed by a vote of 8-4. An amendment to focus the bill on the sponsor’s stated purpose to help drop outs failed on a 4-8 vote.

On the House floor debate on Senate Bill 93, a second reading amendment to delete the recommendation for a summer study on special education debit card savings account vouchers never materialized. A summer study of how special education funding can be given directly to parents via debit cards with no public oversight remains in the bill along with a long list of various unrelated provisions.

The authority of leadership makes sure that voucher bills will pass.

The clear theme of this session is that even in an election year the leadership of the General Assembly will continue to push Indiana to more and more private school vouchers any way they can.

A Case in Point: What Took So Long to Pass Senate Bill 334 Out of Committee?

Normally, when Chairman Behning hears a bill in the House Education Committee, he holds a vote on the day of the hearing. He held the hearing on SB 334 on Tuesday, Feb. 16th. The bill, however, didn’t pass the committee until the fourth meeting it was on the agenda on Feb. 25th. What took so long?

Representative Behning clearly supported SB 334 from the start. He has been the leading proponent of voucher expansion in the General Assembly, but when he held the SB 334 hearing on Feb. 16th, he no doubt realized he had a problem.

The hearing unexpectedly attracted more opponents than supporters by a ten to six margin. Opponents who testified represented both individuals from the community and a wide variety of school organizations. The main point of the opponents was that the bill’s stated rationale was to help The Crossing get help in the second semester for drop outs that need help. Calls to focus the bill on that population led to comments vocalized by committee members from both parties showing interest in narrowing the bill to drop out recovery.

Chairman Behning, father of the voucher program, no doubt wanted to maintain a broad voucher expansion and not limit the bill to helping drop outs. Senator Yoder, after all, the sponsor of SB 334, has been his key partner in the Senate in pushing the expansion of private school vouchers.

He had to do something to turn around the momentum of the bill and the support obviously building to narrow the focus to helping drop outs.

He did not take a vote after the Feb. 16th hearing, saying it would be put on the agenda for the next meeting on Feb. 18th. Feb. 18th came, and he announced it would be postponed until the Feb. 23rd meeting.

No doubt conversations with Republican members of the committee were starting that week to keep them in line behind the biggest expansion possible and against a limitation to focus on drop outs. On the voucher issue, starting with the historic voucher battle of 2011, I have heard stories from Republicans who did not support leadership on key voucher issues being “taken to the woodshed.” No doubt some of that was going on during the first week after the hearing.

Then on Feb. 23rd, to sweeten the deal and gain more advocates for the bill, Chairman Behning introduced amendments to SB 334 which had nothing to do with voucher expansion. One amendment, a concept which the Indiana Department of Education had asked for in a different bill, would add a second count date for special education enrollment each year, in addition to the current December 1 count. The second amendment added language to tighten up the identification of misbehaving teachers and protect students from abuse following the investigations at Park Tudor and the national study of similar investigations printed recently in the Indianapolis Star. Chairman Behning took extensive testimony on the amendments addressing these two themes, taking up the entire Feb. 23rd meeting on these new topics. Voucher expansion was not mentioned. He still did not take a vote.

By the time of yesterday’s House Education Committee meeting (Feb. 25th), any Republican members who had thought about narrowing the voucher expansion to drop out recovery were back in line except one. Representative Cook, a retired public school superintendent, courageously opposed the chairman and voted for an amendment to limit the spring semester vouchers to “eligible choice scholarship students who have been expelled from a public or an accredited nonpublic school.” This concept, Amendment 7, was offered by Representative Austin and was defeated 4-8, with Representative Cook joining the three Democrats present, Representatives Vernon Smith, Terri Austin and Sue Errington.

The final voucher expansion bill, with an new amendment to begin an “information-only” second special education count and a new amendment to address misbehaving teachers, was then passed 8 - 4, with the same four representatives opposing the voucher expansion.

Public education advocates should thank Representatives Cook, Vernon Smith, Austin and Errington for standing up for public education and opposing the biggest voucher expansion bill since the 2013 expansion.

Senate Bill 334 now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee scheduled to meet at 8:30 am on Monday, February 29th in Room 404. If you don’t like the way voucher expansion bills keep rolling out from the current Indiana General Assembly, write next to the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and let them know where you stand.

Take a moment to send a message by 8:30 Monday morning to the House Ways and Means Committee members to oppose Senate Bill 334 unless it is amended to focus the bill on drop out recovery. Tell them they should not expand vouchers generally to promote spring semester transfers.

Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee include Representative Tim Brown, chair; Representative Cherry, vice-chair; and Representatives Karickhoff, Baird, Truitt, Thompson, Leonard, Braun, Clere, Davisson, Huston, Mayfield, Negele, Ober, Slager, and Sullivan.

Democrats on the committee include Representative Porter, ranking member; and Representatives DeLaney, Goodin, Klinker, Niezgodski, Pryor, Riecken and Stemler.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Your messages make all the difference!

Thanks for your strong 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, February 24, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #250 – February 23, 2016

Dear Friends,

Here are brief updates on the two bills which would expand vouchers and further privatize our public schools in Indiana.

Action has been delayed on both issues, which means you should continue to send messages about your opposition to voucher expansion if you have not done so already.

Senate Bill 334 – Amend to focus on helping drop outs

Senate Bill 334 is the bill that the sponsor said he introduced after a private school called The Crossing came to him to get funding to help 189 drop out students that enrolled in the spring semester, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs. It expands the window of voucher applications, which currently ends September 1, from September 2 to January 15.

The full list of talking points against Senate Bill 334 is found in “Vic’s Statehouse Notes #248” on Feb. 18th.

Amendment 7 has now been filed which would focus the bill on drop outs in line with the stated rationale. It adds this line: “Applications for choice scholarships for the spring semester of the current school year under subdivision (2) shall be limited to eligible choice scholarship students who have been expelled from a public or an accredited nonpublic school.”

This amendment focuses the language on drop outs and deserves support. We don’t need a general expansion of spring semester vouchers which LSA estimated would cost $2.1 million per year.

When the House Education Committee met this morning, the expectation was that this amendment and others would be dealt with and the committee would then vote on the bill. That did not happen.

Instead, additional amendments on major new subjects distributed at 10pm Monday night were the sole focus of discussion and testimony this morning. The major new topics addressed (1) a second count date for special education, (2) school reports of child abuse, and (3) employment agreements and egregious misconduct, the latter two dealing with issues related to the investigation at Park Tudor.

The House Education Committee will meet on Thursday, Feb. 25th at 8:30 to vote on amendments and then on the bill.

I urge you to send messages to the committee to support Amendment 7 to focus the bill on helping drop outs. If these latest amendments are added, the bill will gain broad support, so it is important that Amendment 7 be added to prevent a broad expansion of vouchers through spring semester transfers.

Senate Bill 93 – Amend to delete the summer study on special education debit card vouchers

Floor action for second reading amendments on Senate Bill 93 was expected today, but the bill was not on the agenda. The next opportunity for second reading amendments will be on Thursday, Feb. 25th.

In “Vic’s Statehouse Notes #249” on Feb. 21st, I made the case that while Senate Bill 93 has many positive elements, the last provision contains the seeds for the destruction of public education in Indiana. It would provide for a summer study of special education funding being given directly to parents via debit cards with no public oversight.

This provision deserves your strong opposition. Messages to your legislators are important at least until Thursday.

Public education advocates can help protect public education on these two issues.
1) Take a moment to send a message by Thursday to the House Education Committee members to adopt Amendment 7 for Senate Bill 334. Tell them they should not expand vouchers to promote spring semester transfers.
Republicans on the committee include Representative Behning, chair; Representative Rhoads, vice-chair; and Representatives Braun, Burton, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas and Thompson.

Democrats on the committee include Representative Vernon Smith, ranking member; and Representatives Austin, Errington and Moed.
2) Take a moment to send a message by Thursday to any or all House members saying they should remove on second reading the summer study on special education savings accounts from Senate Bill 93. Tell them they should decisively reject the idea of funding debit card vouchers with no public oversight.
Your messages make all the difference. Thanks for your vital 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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Monday, February 22, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #249 – February 21, 2016

Dear Friends,

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, the seed for the destruction of Indiana’s 165 year heritage of public education has been planted in Senate Bill 93, which passed the House Education Committee on Thursday and now proceeds to the floor of the House.

It is a small but significant seed. SB 93 is an omnibus bill covering over twenty various education issues. At the very end it calls for a summer study committee on a concept right out of the playbook of public education opponent Milton Friedman.

The concept is called “Education Savings Accounts”, and the summer study committee would study how that concept could be used to establish “special education scholarship accounts and a special education scholarship fund” in the words of SB 93 on page 19.

I am supporting a second reading amendment on SB 93 on the floor of the House to remove this proposed summer study. The summer study is in the bill because Senator Kruse denied a full hearing to Senate Bill 397 introduced by Senator Raatz but then put the concept of SB 397 into SB 93 as a summer study.

Senate Bill 397 along with House Bill 1311 were the subjects of “Vic’s Statehouse Notes #240” on January 19, 2016, in which I described them as “the biggest expansion of private school vouchers Indiana has ever seen”, saying 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” and calling all public school advocates to denounce these two bills and the radical experiment contained in them.

The House of Representatives should reject this summer study to give a clear signal that they will not expand the current voucher program into the radical concept of giving parents a debit card to spend on schooling with no public oversight.

I urge all public education advocates who reject the Friedman plan to phase out public education to contact members of the House by Tuesday in support of a second reading amendment to delete this proposed study from Senate Bill 93.

Testimony Against the Proposal

In the House Education Committee hearing on SB 93 last Tuesday (Feb. 16th), I testified against this proposed summer study on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, as follows:

“I rise today to oppose just one provision in this multifaceted bill. The last provision of the bill, lines 7-9 on page 19, recommends a summer study committee on the topic of “special education scholarship accounts”. I urge you to delete this radical concept known as “Education Savings Accounts” from your summer study committee list.

Sending the concept of “Educational Savings Accounts” for special education students as presented in Senate Bill 397 to a summer study committee would give it more respect than the concept deserves. The concept is so detrimental to high educational standards and to maintaining accountability with public tax money that it should be rejected outright without any promise to study it further.

Why are Educational Savings Accounts so detrimental to education standards in Indiana and to accountability?
1) ESA’s would give public money on a debit card to parents who sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” That’s all! It’s an unregulated and narrow education. No art, no music, no physical education, no health, no vocational subjects. This would absolutely lower standards for students just as standards for public school students are being raised to higher and higher levels. The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation.

2) ESA’s would give the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents, paving the way for the real goal detailed in HB 1311 to give the entire amount of public money to parents of all students on a debit card. These bills to privatize schooling would immediately divert money away from our public school students and over time would undermine funding for all students in both public schools and private voucher schools.

3) ESA’s would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for “a tutor, another person, or an organization” and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely also like to have the state pay for their textbooks, but public school textbook rental is now paid by the parents.

4) The ESA plan would give public money to parents without provisions for fraud protection or penalties for fraud.

5) The ESA plan would give public money to high income parents of special education students. This would end all income limits for this form of government subsidy. Under current law, the State gives vouchers only to disabled students with families making up to $85,000 for a family of four.

6) While public schools are pushed to ever higher standards, individual families would be allowed by Educational Savings Accounts to adopt lower standards. That is not right.
If this concept is not decisively rejected, it will confirm the theory that all of the standards and testing regulations heaped upon our public schools have just been techniques to make privatized vouchers and savings accounts look attractive to individual parents, incentivizing them to leave the public schools or even the voucher schools to run home schools or independent schools with taxpayer money. This concept is based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end community public schools. It should be totally rejected by the General Assembly. Important discussions are needed this summer on the future of Indiana’s assessment system. A summer study committee on Educational Savings Accounts would detract from that important work and signal in this election year where the current General Assembly wants to take Indiana. If this concept is not decisively rejected, the future of public education in Indiana is bleak.

This concept is too radical and potentially damaging for any further action, including a summer study committee.”


End of testimony given Feb. 16th.

The Forty Year Strategy

All public school advocates who think that our General Assembly would never vote to give the full amount of education funding to unregulated home schools through a debit card while public schools are overregulated with testing should think twice. This once unthinkable scenario is rolling along on a forty year strategy for ending public education and turning all education funding appropriations into vouchers.

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.”

Earlier, Milton Friedman had written about the fate of public education in Free to Choose: “The possibility exists that some public schools would be left with the dregs.”

A dedicated and wealthy group of Friedman advocates have pushed for forty years the concept that vouchers should replace publicly funded public schools run by elected non-partisan school boards. They had a watershed victory in Indiana in 2011 to fund private school vouchers for low income families via the voucher program along with a tax deduction for home schools, and since then they have continued to pursue the real goal, a parent-controlled debit card using public taxpayer money for schooling which would be available regardless of income. They call it a universal voucher.

And now they want to have a summer study on a universal voucher for special education students (SB 397). In the 40-year plan, this would pave the way for the universal voucher for all students, as set out in House Bill 1311, which was introduced but did not receive a hearing.

It is right on schedule in their 40-year plan.

The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education called Senate Bill 397, in testimony on Senate Bill 93 in the Senate, “the future of school choice in Indiana.” Senator Kruse passed the concept along to the House.

Now the House Education Committee has heard my testimony opposing the concept last Tuesday. On Thursday, when they amended and voted on Senate Bill 93, Chairman Behning removed two study committees from SB 93 and added another on school calendars at the request of Holiday World, but he left the summer study on special education savings accounts in place. Clearly, he likes the concept. Representative Behning has advocated vocally for universal vouchers for years.

The leaders of the House and Senate have boldly introduced these radical concepts in an election year, without giving them a full hearing. Now if they are reelected as they expect, they will no doubt claim that they ran on these ideas and that the people reelected them.

The path is clear for the death march of public education as envisioned by Milton Friedman.

Public education advocates can interrupt this path and help protect public education.

Take a moment to send a message by Tuesday noon to any or all House members saying they should remove the summer study on special education savings accounts from Senate Bill 93.

Tell them they should decisively reject this concept. They should not fund education through experimental debit card vouchers with no public oversight. They should not lower education standards.

Contact House members on this one! Your messages make all the difference.

Thanks for your vital 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, February 19, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #248 – February 18, 2016

Dear Friends,

In today’s meeting of the House Education Committee, Senate Bill 334 which would expand private school vouchers by allowing them to start in the spring semester was taken off the committee agenda.

That means SB 334 is now scheduled for amendments and voting at next Tuesday’s meeting, February 23rd at 8:30am in Room 156-C.

Your messages of opposition to voucher expansion in this manner are now more important than ever.

If you have not already done so, please send a message via email or phone to members of the House Education Committee and to your own legislators expressing your strong opposition to this expansion of vouchers. Please send your messages this weekend or early next week before the committee meets on Tuesday, February 23rd.

Restating the Points of Opposition: Why SB 334 Should Be Rewritten
  • Senator Yoder the sponsor said he introduced the bill after a private school called The Crossing came to him to get funding to help 189 drop out students they enrolled in the spring semester, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs.
  • The bill should be 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. And now, 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 Senator Yoder wants to 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.
  • The hearing brought out so many concerns about this bill that sending it to a summer study committee to explore the implications would be a wise move.
Contact Your Legislators!

Before Tuesday, please contact members of the House Education Committee with your concerns about Senate Bill 334 and the expansion of vouchers into the spring semester:

Republicans on the committee include Representative Behning, chair; Representative Rhoads, vice-chair; and Representatives Braun, Burton, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas and Thompson

Democrats on the committee include Representative Vernon Smith, ranking member; and Representatives Austin, Errington and Moed.

Then contact your own member of the House or others about your opposition to expanding vouchers.

Your messages are making a difference! Keep it up!

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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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #247 – February 16, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334, expanding private school vouchers to allow them to start in the spring semester, was the subject of a hearing lasting nearly two and a half hours today in the House Education Committee.

No vote was taken. Chairman Behning announced that consideration of amendments and voting would take place on Thursday, February 18th, after the House adjourns from its 10am floor session.

That means that if you have not done so already, it is not too late for you to send a message via email or phone by Thursday morning to members of the House Education Committee and to your own legislators expressing your strong opposition to this expansion of vouchers.

A Spirited Hearing

Six of the sixteen who testified on SB 334 spoke for the bill. Ten spoke against the bill, including ICPE members Richard Hamilton and Kristina Frey. Joel Hand had a schedule conflict, so I gave the testimony for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, which you can read here for your review as you plan your message to legislators.

Several opponents asked that the bill be amended to help drop outs, which has been the purpose stated by the sponsor of the bill from the start. Other speakers recommended the bill go to a summer study committee since the hearing brought out so many implications.

The Talking Points Still Pertain: Why SB 334 Should be Rewritten
  • Senator Yoder the sponsor said he introduced the bill after a private school called The Crossing came to him to get funding to help 189 drop out students they enrolled in the spring semester, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs.
  • The bill should be 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. And now, 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 Senator Yoder wants to 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. It would allow Choice voucher students who are expelled from their private school to get a spring semester voucher to go to another private school.
  • 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.
Contact Your Legislators!

Please contact members of the House Education Committee with your concerns about Senate Bill 334 and the expansion of vouchers into the spring semester:

Republicans on the committee include Representative Behning, chair; Representative Rhoads, vice-chair; and Representatives Braun, Burton, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas and Thompson

Democrats on the committee include Representative Vernon Smith, ranking member; and Representatives Austin, Errington and Moed.

Then contact your own member of the House or others about your opposition to expanding vouchers.

Let them know what you think about expanding vouchers. 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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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #246 – February 13, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334, expanding private school vouchers to allow them to start in the spring semester, has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Education Committee on Tuesday, February 16th at 8:30am in Statehouse Room 156-C.

I urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee or any House member to express your opposition to expanding private school vouchers in this way or in any way. If you can contact legislators via email or phone before Tuesday’s meeting, please do so.

Talking Points: Why SB 334 Should be Rewritten
  • Senator Yoder the sponsor said he introduced the bill after a private school called The Crossing came to him to get funding to help 189 drop out students they enrolled in the spring semester, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs.
  • The bill should be 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.
  • Senator Breaux tried to amend SB 334 on the Senate floor to focus on drop outs, but her amendment was voted down. The Senate amended the starting date to be July 1, 2017.
  • 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 abruptly 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. And now, 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 Senator Yoder wants to extend the competitive marketing pressure all the way through January 15th, although he has not made this clear in his verbal rationale for the bill. All he has talked about is helping drop outs.
  • 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. It would allow Choice voucher students who are expelled from their private school to get a spring semester voucher to go to another private school.
  • 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.
Contact Your Legislators!

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz had it right this week when she called for a pause on school voucher expansion. She urged the General Assembly to set up a thorough study of the impact of the voucher program, a study that is clearly needed but has never been authorized in the five years since the voucher program was established.

Please contact members of the House Education Committee with your concerns about Senate Bill 334 and the expansion of vouchers into the spring semester:

Republicans on the committee include Representative Behning, chair; Representative Rhoads, vice-chair; and Representatives Braun, Burton, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas and Thompson.

Democrats on the committee include Representative Vernon Smith, ranking member; and Representatives Austin, Errington and Moed.

Then contact your own member of the House or others about your opposition to expanding vouchers.

The participation of many voices from the ranks of public education advocates makes all the difference in the minds of legislators. 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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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #245 – February 4, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334 expanding vouchers to begin in the spring semester passed the Senate yesterday 40-9.

Efforts to narrow the bill’s language to match the sponsor’s verbal rationale of helping drop outs will now move to the House.

Rally for Public Education!

The Indiana Moral Mondays organization has invited all public school advocates to come to a rally at the Statehouse this Monday, Feb. 8, from 11am to Noon, in the Third Floor Atrium South.

One of the six planks in the platform of Indiana Moral Mondays is:

EDUCATION EQUALITY: Provide a well-funded quality public education for all.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education will be represented among the rally speakers by our ICPE lobbyist and outstanding public education advocate Joel Hand.

ICPE attempted last fall to get space at the Statehouse for a rally, but we were told all spaces were already reserved for the session. Thanks to Indiana Moral Mondays, this is an opportunity to visit with your legislators and to stand up for public education!

Come to the Statehouse on Monday to celebrate, protect and defend our heritage of public education in Indiana.

Monday, February 8
11am – Noon
Indiana Statehouse Third Floor South Atrium

I hope to see you there!

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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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #244 – February 3, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334 is Senator Yoder’s bill to throw open the doors to allow voucher applications from September 2nd to January 15th for spring semester. He said the bill was to help drop outs in a voucher school called The Crossing, but the bill language says nothing about helping drop outs and makes a broad change that will allow voucher transfers across Indiana for the spring semester.

Monday on the Senate floor, Senator Breaux proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 334 to narrow its focus to help high school students “in need of alternative emergency educational opportunities.” This was the stated purpose given by Senator Yoder when he presented the bill.

The amendment to narrow the bill to the stated purpose failed. The Senate rejected Senator Breaux’s amendment on a voice vote.

Senate Bill 334 now stands as the biggest expansion of private school vouchers since the 2013 expansion.


The Final Third Reading Vote on Senate Bill 334 is Scheduled for Today, February 3rd

If you think vouchers should not be expanded in this broad manner to allow any student to transfer with a voucher in the spring semester, it is time to take immediate action.

Urge your Senator to vote no on SB 334 until it is rewritten to help drop outs in line with the testimony given on the bill.
This bill would expand the season for competition and recruitment from 6 months to 10 months.

If you think that the season for marketing, recruitment and competition for school choice should not be expanded to September 2nd through January 15th, take quick action. SB 334 is on the list for a vote in the session that began at 10:30 this morning.

Thanks for speaking up on this issue! 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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Monday, February 1, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #243 – January 31, 2016

Dear Friends,

At Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee (Jan. 28th), Senate Bill 334 making private school vouchers available to begin in the spring semester for the first time, was amended to begin a year later, July 1, 2017. The bill then passed 11-2.

The amendment to move back the start date for a year removed the estimated fiscal cost of $2.1 million from the current year and put the multimillion dollars cost in the next budget cycle after the 2017 budget session.

As in the Senate Education hearing, the purpose of the bill stated by the Senator Yoder the sponsor and all testimony for the bill focused on helping one school get spring semester tuition for drop out recovery services.

The real question here is: If the purpose is drop out recovery, why should the doors be swung open to allow all private voucher schools to recruit students to begin in the spring semester? Is it good public policy to extend the competition for students for four more months, making school recruiting nearly a year-round activity?

I say no.

Senator Stoops stated in discussion with Senator Yoder that he would support a second reading amendment to narrow the language to fit the stated purpose of the bill, namely to allow spring semester help for drop outs in schools providing drop out services.

I urge you to contact your Senator or all Senators to support the concept expressed by Senator Stoops to narrow the language of the bill to help drop outs. We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers unleashing the advertising wars all year that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.


Senate Bill 334 – Extending the Marketing and Recruiting Season from 6 Months to 10.5 Months

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 or dropped out during the first semester. 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.

Under current law, vouchers are available from March 1 to September 1 for the upcoming school year. SB 334 would add a second window of applications from September 2 to January 15 to allow spring semester enrollments.

Under the so-called “reforms” of the past five year creating Indiana’s marketplace of school choice, marketing and recruitment are the fundamental pillars of successful schools. The sophistication of marketing is growing. A school might be a superb school with superb teachers, but if it is not marketed well to parents, it may falter in the competition for enrollment that is now the ultimate measure of school success. And now, SB 334 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months.

Community public schools in the past have not been staffed for this marketing competition. Marketing budgets and marketing staff members have now become a necessary part of the public school arena just to stay competitive and to survive, even though public schools are criticized regularly by the legislative creators of this marketplace because public schools are supposed to devote all of their “dollars to the classroom”, and marketing dollars are not on the official list of expenditures that are considered “dollars to the classroom.”

Nevertheless, marketing is a must for all schools now. Currently it is largely confined to spring and summer months. Once fall enrollments begin, schools can pay attention to instruction while marketing and recruitment take a back seat. Now Senator Yoder wants to up the marketing pressure to extend the competitive time period all the way through January 15th. He has not made this clear as he presents the bill. All he wants to talk about is helping drop outs.

Helping drop outs is a worthy goal and could be done without bill language that creates the biggest expansion of vouchers since the enormous 2013 expansion which drove the voucher program from a net money saver for the state to an outright additional expense of $40 million.

“Enough!”

The trend of ever-increasing voucher programs in Indiana is clear. Public education advocates should say “Enough!” to voucher expansion. The crisis of assessment and the transition to tougher standards deserves the full attention of our General Assembly, and not another battle over voucher expansion.

A second reading amendment to narrow this bill to assist drop outs in the spring semester would be an excellent move. I urge public school advocates to contact Senators on this point. The Senate will vote on amendments to Senate Bill 334 as early tomorrow, Monday afternoon (Feb. 1st). The final third reading vote on Senate Bill 334 could come on Tuesday or Wednesday.

See the testimony provided by ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand to the Senate Appropriations Committee for additional information on SB 334.

Thanks for speaking up on this issue! 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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