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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