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.
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!
“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.
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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.