Saturday, March 5, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #255 – March 5, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334 to expand vouchers by allowing spring semester transfers to voucher schools will be given a final up or down vote in the Senate on Monday, March 7th.

This will be the final vote. If it passes, it will go to Governor Pence for his signature.

You have one final opportunity to send a message to your Senator or to other Senators that you oppose the expansion of the voucher school recruiting season to go four additional months, instead of ending September 1 as the voucher program works currently. Opening the door for mid-year transfers is not wise public policy.

On Friday, Senator Yoder concurred with the House amendments on Senate Bill 334. Late Friday afternoon, the Senate leadership scheduled SB 334 for a final concurrence vote on Monday in the session beginning at 1:30pm.

If you are opposed to the continuous expansion of vouchers in Indiana, send a message to Senators by Monday afternoon.

What’s the Problem with Senate Bill 334?

Senator Yoder explained in the Senate that this bill was proposed after The Crossing, a private religious school, came to him to get help for drop outs and expelled students that come to The Crossing in the spring semester. Representative DeVon, sponsor of the bill in the House who said he has been on the board of the The Crossing for several years, gave the same reason for the bill.

The problem is that the bill language does not affect only drop outs and expelled students. It is written in such a way that it will impact schools all over Indiana when any K-12 student wants to leave mid-year to enroll in a voucher school. This means the season of marketing, advertising and recruiting for school choice will not end as it does now when the voucher enrollment period ends September 1. The competition in which all public and private schools now participate in for survival will go on until January.

Points of Opposition: Please share one or more of these concerns with your Senator by Monday
  • Sponsors in both the Senate and the House said the bill would help a private school called The Crossing get funding to help drop outs, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs.
  • The bill should have been amended to focus on helping drop outs instead of allowing a huge increase in midyear general voucher transfers, estimated by the Legislative Services Agency to cost $2.1 million per year.
  • This LSA estimate makes SB 334 the biggest voucher expansion since Governor Pence’s 2013 voucher expansion which ended up costing taxpayers $40 million extra dollars, according to the annual financial report on Choice scholarships.
  • The current window for private school voucher applications is March 1 to September 1. SB 334 would establish a new enrollment window from September 2 to January 15. This extension would mean that the marketing and recruitment competition between private schools and public schools would go on for 10.5 months instead of the current 6 months.
  • Private schools have always had to have a marketing program to gain enrollment, but marketing and recruiting is new to public schools since Indiana was transformed into a school choice marketplace in 2011. Now just like private schools, if public schools don’t recruit students, they won’t survive. A superb public school with superb teachers must still be marketed well to parents or it may falter in the competition for enrollment. SB 334 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months.
  • Marketing and recruiting take money and staff time that public schools don’t have, but now they must find it. To compete, public schools have to take money from other important services to budget for marketing and recruiting. Currently, marketing is largely confined to spring and summer months. Once fall enrollments are in place, schools can pay full attention to instruction while marketing and recruitment take a back seat. Now SB 334 would extend the competitive marketing pressure all the way through January 15th.
  • SB 334 also removes a provision in current law that says if a voucher student leaves the voucher school for which the student was awarded a Choice scholarship, the student is responsible for the payment of any tuition required for the remainder of the school year. Removing this provision is moving backward on accountability to the taxpayer. If families make a bad choice, the result would be extra costs falling on the taxpayers.
  • Legislators should say no to ever- increasing voucher expansion. The ISTEP crisis and the transition to tougher standards deserve the full attention of our General Assembly and our school personnel, and not another battle over voucher expansion.
  • We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.
Take a moment to send a message to Senators to oppose Senate Bill 334 because it wasn’t focused on drop out recovery, the stated purpose of the sponsors. Tell them they should not expand vouchers generally to promote spring semester transfers. Tell them the expansion of vouchers is the wrong bicentennial message to send to our public schools in 2016.

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

Thanks for standing up for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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