Public school advocates need to go to work on this one:
The House bill to expand pre-school (HB 1004) tries to use the popularity of the pre-K movement to add a major expansion of K-12 private school vouchers.
The Senate bill to expand pre-school (SB 276) does not.
I urge you to ask Senators and House members to support the Senate pre-school bill but to oppose the House pre-school bill. We must not entwine a highly controversial and expensive ($5 to $10 million) expansion of the K-12 voucher program with the much needed and worthy efforts to expand the pre-school pilot program.
Please contact members of the House Education Committee before their next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 8:30am to let them know you strongly oppose tacking on a K-12 voucher expansion to the pre-school bill. Ask them to delete Sections 20 and 21 of HB 1004. Ask them to follow the Senate bill’s lead in expanding preschool without expanding K-12 private school vouchers.
The Private School Voucher Expansion Plan in House Bill 1004
The Indiana General Assembly is facing a tale of two bills to expand pre-school in Indiana, an expansion broadly supported by the Governor and by many dedicated pre-school advocates.
The Senate bill (SB 276) would expand the program in its current structure to serve 10 counties instead of five, maintaining the current income guideline to serve families of four earning $31,000 or less. Senate Bill 276 was given a hearing last Wednesday (Jan. 25th) and will be voted on in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday Feb. 8th.
The House bill (HB 1004) would also allow an expansion to 10 counties but would significantly expand eligibility to wealthier families with income up to $67,432 for a family of four (instead of $31,000) and would use the popular program to expand eligibility for private school vouchers, a poison pill that was attempted but then removed when the program first passed the General Assembly in 2014.
Current law says that receiving a pre-school grant does not have an effect on the eligibility for a K-12 Choice Scholarship (voucher). The Senate bill would keep this provision, but the House bill would repeal it.
What does the House bill have in it that the Senate bill does not have?
- Income eligibility for a preschool grant would balloon for a family of four from the current $31,000 up to $67,432. This is 150% of the free or reduced lunch guideline. This changes the focus away from a low-income program.
- Four pages (sections 20 and 21) of the 13 page House bill are not a change to the law governing the pre-school program but are instead a change to the voucher law to make more students eligible for a K-12 voucher if they received a pre-school grant “at any time.”
- This provision would make the pre-school program a feeder system for K-12 vouchers. It would lock in eligibility for every child who receives a pre-school grant either from state funds or from private matching grant funds to receive a private school voucher for the next 13 years through high school.
- When this provision was attempted in the 2014 preschool bill, the Legislative Services Agency estimated at that time that the cost to taxpayers of the voucher provision alone would be $1.9 million to provide Choice Scholarships to students who get pre-school grants. The link to vouchers was not approved in the 2014 law.
- There is a fiscal cost to Choice Scholarships. The most recent state report said that the net fiscal cost of Choice Scholarships in 2015-16 was $53 million. According to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in a new fiscal note dated January 27, 2017, the annual fiscal cost of K-12 Choice Scholarships in HB 1004 is estimated to be $5.9 million if the currently enrolled preschool students get a 50% voucher and $10.5 million if the currently enrolled preschool students get a 90% voucher. $5.9 million to $10.5 million is a major add on that should be deleted! The voucher cost is approaching the pre-school cost.
- The House bill not only provides a lifetime private school voucher to every student receiving a pre-school grant, but it provides the voucher to wealthier families. The House bill expands eligibility for a school voucher to a family of four making $89,900, far more generous than the $67,432 income limit applied to most current applicants for a K-12 voucher. Only disabled students are currently allowed a voucher with the expanded $89,900 income cap.
We Need Your Help to Turn This Around
It is time to tell members of the House and Senate how you feel about turning preschool expansion into K-12 voucher expansion!
- Let them know that it is wrong to entwine a highly controversial and expensive expansion of the K-12 private school voucher program with the much needed pre-K program.
- Let them know that you oppose making this important step for pre-school part of the march to privatize public education in Indiana.
- Let members of the House know that Sections 20 and 21 should be deleted.
- Let members of the Senate know that you support Senate Bill 276 and that you would strongly oppose any attempt to add amendments to link it to K-12 Choice Scholarships.
Three Things You Can Do
1) If you strongly support pre-school expansion but strongly oppose linking it to voucher expansion, you may want to show up on Tuesday January 31st to speak at the hearing in the House Chamber to oppose House Bill 1004 until they delete the voucher expansion. They deleted it in 2014, and the program has been running fine. The hearing begins at 8:30am but there are several bills on the agenda, so no there could be a lengthy wait before testimony is taken on HB 1004.Thank you for your dedicated support of public education!
2) You can email or call the members of the House Education committee to oppose HB 1004 in its present form until Sections 20 and 21 are removed. The members of the House Education Committee are:
Republican Representatives Behning, Cook, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Jordan, Lucas, Thompson and Wesco
Democratic Representatives V. Smith, DeLaney, Errington and Klinker.
3) You can email or call the members of the Senate Education committee to support Senate Bill 276 in its present form because they did it right. They are expanding the pre-school program without expanding K-12 vouchers at the same time. They could amend the bill to read like the House bill at any time, so they need to hear from you on this issue. The members of the Senate Education Committee are:
Republican Senators Kruse, Raatz, Bassler, Crane, Freeman, Kenley, Leising and Zay
Democratic Senators Melton, Mrvan and Stoops
We must not entwine a highly controversial expansion of the K-12 private school voucher program with the much needed pre-K program.
We must not make this important step for pre-school part of the march to privatize public education in Indiana.
“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!
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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.