Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #258 – March 9, 2016

Dear Friends,

Voucher expansion hangs in the balance as the General Assembly ends its work tomorrow, March 10th.

As of this morning (March 9th), neither Senate Bill 334 nor its new home House Bill 1005 are listed on the House or Senate floor agendas. That means a final vote is likely tomorrow on the last day, although action late today is possible.

Your messages of opposition to voucher expansion have turned this plan into a cliffhanger. The word in the halls of the Statehouse is that the majority leadership of the General Assembly driving these decisions does not want to appear anti-teacher going into the fall elections.

Let them know that you think any voucher expansion is anti-teacher. Tell them you think further damage to public education is anti-teacher.

Before the final vote on House Bill 1005 in the House and in the Senate, let members of the House and Senate know that you oppose HB 1005 and the voucher expansion of SB 334 that it now contains. Tell them you don’t like the maneuvering and that you think voucher expansion is taking Indiana in the wrong direction.


You have one more day to help in this legislative battle. Send a final message of opposition if you possibly can to both your Senator and your member of the House or to other legislators.

Your messages have made all the difference. Let them know where you stand on voucher expansion.

Let them know that in Indiana’s bicentennial year, the issue of voucher expansion is too important to be the subject of last minute backroom maneuvers.

My “Testimony Not Given”

When I heard Monday that SB 334 would go to Conference Committee, I prepared testimony thinking that there would be a Conference Committee meeting on SB 334 sometime Tuesday where brief public testimony might be taken.

Now there apparently will be no such committee meeting and no opportunity for a final round of public testimony.

The testimony below will apparently never be heard.

I have copied my “testimony not given” below in case you want to use any of the new questions I raised about the undefined partial year voucher and Indiana’s policies on expelled students as you contact legislators:

“Testimony Not Given” on SB 334 – No Conference Committee was called after all

“I have opposed this bill expanding vouchers because the language of the bill did not match Senator Yoder’s stated purpose to help drop outs who are recovering from difficult circumstances. The language of the bill says nothing about helping drop outs. SB 334 should have been amended to focus on helping drop outs instead of allowing a general increase in midyear voucher transfers, estimated by LSA to cost $2.1 million per year.

The more I have analyzed this bill, the more problematic it appears. Today I would raise two new questions that I did not hear raised in previous hearings:
1) The bill establishes a second window of applications for a voucher in the spring semester and thus implies for the first time a partial-year voucher, but this partial voucher is not defined in the bill. LSA assumed it was exactly half when they did the fiscal. Is the amount exactly half? Does the spring semester student wait until spring semester to enroll? Or can the student transfer to a voucher school at any time, even before spring semester? Is the voucher prorated by day? The bill does not define the partial-year voucher to answer these basic questions. This bill is not ready for passage.
2) Is SB 334 the first program that gives taxpayer money for expelled students during the school year for which they are expelled? Expulsions are for serious problems, including bringing guns or drugs to school or threatening the school. A state law says that expelled students as part of their penalty cannot be enrolled in another public school for the balance of the school year in which they were expelled. The sponsors of SB 334 said the bill was needed to help expelled students go to The Crossing, a private school that helps drop outs and expelled students.

Is SB 334 now going to provide public money for these students to transfer to a private school when the law says that they can’t transfer to another public school as part of their penalty? Is that wise policy? Is this undermining the meaning of expulsion?

Will students expelled for the most serious offenses including gun violations or serious threats to the school be allowed to simply transfer to a private school with a voucher? Are there major expulsion offenses for which taxpayer money should not be used when students are expelled for the most serious reasons?
I urge you to correct these serious deficits in this bill. The definition of a partial voucher should be clear and the treatment of expelled students transferring to private schools should be clarified in relation to previous state policies on expelled students so as not to undermine the meaning of expulsion.

Indiana 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 an expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.

I urge you to clarify these issues and to focus this bill on the sponsor’s stated purpose of drop out recovery for high school students in difficult circumstances.”

End of “Testimony Not Given.”


Previous Points of Opposition are listed here again for your convenience: Please share one or more of these concerns with any and all legislators. Both the House and the Senate will vote one more time on HB 1005 by tomorrow, March 10th!
  • 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.
Send Final Messages Today (March 9) or Early Tomorrow (March 10)!

Just let them know you are following their actions on SB 334 and on HB 1005 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 and House members receive.

Let them know you oppose voucher expansion because it wasn’t focused on drop out recovery, the stated purpose of the sponsors. Let them know you oppose a general expansion of undefined partial vouchers to promote spring semester transfers. Let them know the expansion of vouchers is the wrong bicentennial message to send to our public schools in 2016.

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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