Friday, April 22, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #28– April 22, 2016

Dear Friends,

This is the first “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” for 2016. Notes under this title contain my commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements. There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.

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In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

That would be a sad way to celebrate our heritage on our state’s 200th birthday, which includes 160 years of strong support for public education going back to our 1851 Constitution which provided “for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

The blueprint for dismantling public education is in place. It was unveiled in the 2016 session in House Bill 1311 sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Brown and in Senate Bill 397 sponsored by Senator Raatz.

Will the voters react?
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
The Blueprint for Dismantling Public Education: the Friedman Plan

The name I give to the two bills defining this radical new expansion of school vouchers is ”Reduced Learning No Accountability Accounts”. The name given by the supporters of the concept is “Education Savings Accounts”.

The concept of the two bills, based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end public education, is to give on a debit card the amount of money that normally goes to the public school district, let’s say $6000, directly to any parent who signs an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” This skimpy list leads to the “Reduced Learning” label.

Then the parent can give the money to a private school for tuition or to “a participating entity”, which may be an individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or a licensed occupational therapist approved by the Indiana Treasurer. No requirement to take the state test is included for home schooled students or any who are not enrolled in a voucher school, a fact that leads to the “No Accountability” label.

Thus, we have “Reduced Learning No Accountability Accounts” which are a recipe for fraud.

Parents can use the money for home schools, for the student’s 529 college fund instead of K-12 expenses, or for textbooks. In contrast, remember that public school parents get no textbook support from the state.

It’s a radical plan that deserves to be sent packing, yet in House District 59 Ryan Lauer is running on a platform of bringing Education Savings Accounts to Indiana. He is running against incumbent Representative Milo Smith and also against Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson, in a three way primary contest.

Without explaining that diverting the dollars from public schools would hurt the education of all current public school students and without saying that any student who meets the income guidelines can already go to a private school with a voucher, Mr. Lauer wrote in his January 28 announcement that “I will sponsor legislation to bring Education Savings Accounts to Indiana which place more power and greater choice in the hands of parents so that each child has the opportunity to attend the school that works best for them regardless of income.” He apparently wants to have taxpayers pay the private school tuition for wealthy families and also for home schools, which would be a new and expensive step with no accountability for student outcomes under the proposed bills.

Neither Representative Milo Smith nor Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson have endorsed Education Savings Accounts.

In House District 59 (Bartholomew County), public school advocates would be wise to choose between those two candidates and turn away Mr. Lauer’s strong support of Educational Savings Accounts which would severely damage the public schools in Bartholomew County and across the state.

Advocates for public education need to be aware of this radical proposal and to work against those who advocate for it such as Ryan Lauer.

Support Candidates Who Support Public Education

Several candidates are running who support public education and who oppose proposals that would weaken it such as Education Savings Accounts. Here are the stories of three public school advocates who are challenging incumbents running in the May 3rd primary election who have shown little or no inclination to protect public education from privatization. I urge you to support these three in any way that you can:

Tom Linkmeyer in House District 39 is challenging Representative Torr.

Ann Ennis in House District 64 is challenging Representative Washburne.

Nancy Franke in House District 69 is challenging Representative Lucas.

The public education grassroot networks need to support these candidates on May 3rd.

House District 39: Tom Linkmeyer vs. Representative Torr

Representative Gerald Torr has represented District 39 in Hamilton County since 1996 and has voted for private school vouchers at every opportunity, in landmark votes in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. He also voted in 2015 to remove the power of voters to name the chair of the State Board of Education, the controversial bill to diminish the powers of the elected State Superintendent. He is no friend of public education.

Tom Linkmeyer, Assistant Principal at Mary Castle Elementary School in Lawrence Township, says on his Facebook page: “Abolishing all high stakes tests will be my goal when elected!” He strongly opposes the attack on public schools coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The difference is clear. Tom Linkmeyer deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in District 39.

House District 64: Ann Ennis vs. Representative Washburne

I met Ann Ennis about two years ago as she began an effort to support public education in the Evansville area. When it comes to public education and efforts to privatize it, I can tell you she gets it. She deserves the support of everyone who supports public education. Her experience includes seven years as Director of Keep Evansville Beautiful, work with Habitat for Humanity, and as a public school parent.

House District 64 includes all of Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey Counties.

Now she is challenging Representative Tom Washburne, elected in 2012 who has shown no interest in supporting or protecting public education from efforts to privatize it through vouchers. He voted for the enormous private school voucher expansion in the 2013 session which has resulted in a new $40 million tab to the taxpayers to allow thousands of private school students who had always attended private schools to be given tax supported vouchers to pay their tuition at private and religious schools. He supported eliminating the $4800 cap on K-8 vouchers in the 2015 budget at a cost to taxpayers of $3.8 million. He supported taking away the power of voters to name the chair of the State Board of Education in 2015 when the powers of State Superintendent Ritz were attacked and reduced in Senate Bill 1.

The difference is clear. Ann Ennis deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in District 64.

House District 69: Nancy Franke vs. Representative Lucas

Representative Jim Lucas has been no friend of public education since his election to the House in 2012 from District 69, composed of portions of Bartholomew, Jennings, Jackson and Jefferson Counties.

Like Representative Washburne, he voted for the massive 2013 voucher expansion that ended up costing $40 million new dollars in 2014-15 to support tuition for private school students who were already going to private schools, in the same year when the much needed preschool program only received $10 million. He also voted for Senate Bill 1 in 2015 to remove the power voters held for over a hundred years to name the chair of the State Board of Education and to give that power to the Governor-appointed state board members. He also supported raising the $4800 cap on K-8 vouchers in the 2015 budget at a cost of $3.8 million per year.

He has been on the House Education Committee for four years and whenever I testified before the committee in support of public education, he consistently asked pointed follow-up questions in support of private school vouchers. He has accepted a $30,000 campaign donation from the Hoosiers for Quality Education Political Action Committee, the well funded voucher supporter PAC linked to the group that is trying to line up enough votes to pass the radical plan called Education Savings Accounts.

The bicentennial battle to defend our public schools is alive in Jackson County.

Representative Lucas is being challenged by Nancy Franke who has served on the school board of the Seymour Community Schools since 2010 and is also an elementary teacher at a Lutheran school in Columbus. According to her website, she has been endorsed by many educators and community leaders including four area public school superintendents and as well as Pat Sullivan, retired teacher from Hayden Elementary, who writes:

“Being a retired teacher with 38 years of experience and a present member of the Jennings County School Board, I have watched our public schools being systematically destroyed and our professional educators marginalized. PUBLIC EDUCATION IN INDIANA IS IN CRISIS MODE. Our students are being used by the politicians in an educational "reform" experiment that has already proved to be an utter failure in every place it has been tried. We must elect legislators who truly understand what it takes to educate our next generation of Hoosiers. NANCY FRANKE IS UNIQUELY QUALIFIED TO MAKE GOOD COMMON SENSE DECISIONS THAT WILL GIVE OUR STUDENTS THE TOP QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION THAT THEY DESERVE. After my conversations with Nancy, it is very clear that she truly understands the real issues that our beleaguered educators face every day. I have no doubt that Nancy can handle all issues in the legislature with honesty, integrity, and courage. We need more people like Nancy in the legislature to truly make Indiana great again.”

The difference is clear. Nancy Franke deserves the support of all public school advocates, especially those in District 69.

The stakes are high are high in our bicentennial year.

We need grassroots support for legislative candidates who will reverse the low priority given to public education in recent years and stop the efforts such as Educational Savings Accounts to further privatize our public schools.

Contact your friends and contribute what you can. Good luck in your work!

Thanks for advocating in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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