Sunday, December 31, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #308 – December 31, 2017

Dear Friends,

It was confirmed in a survey in my mailbox.

A direct attack on public education is coming in the short session starting January 3rd. Public education parents and advocates need to be ready to fend off a new form of privatization.

This attack would put in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card. My previous notes (#307, Dec. 18, 2017) detailed this plan called “Education Savings Accounts”.

Confirmation that this new attack on public education will be a high priority in the General Assembly came in my mailbox.

When I read the annual survey from my State Senator, Senator Ruckelshaus, one of only six questions asked whether I would support or oppose giving $6000 on a debit card to unsupervised home schools for special education students. Actually, this is my description of the Educational Savings Account proposal. Here is how the survey question read:

“Do you support or oppose giving parents of children with special needs the option to use state educational funding for services such as private-school tuition, tutoring or online courses?”

Questions don’t get on the legislative survey unless the issue has support.

This deceptive language tries to normalize a radical idea to give taxpayer tuition money to home schools for the very first time. It leaves out a lot of details:
  • It does not clearly say that parents of disabled children can already get a voucher for private-school tuition, so that would be nothing new.
  • It does not clearly say parents of disabled children will be given $6000 or more in taxpayer money on a debit card to be home schooled without supervision in exchange for giving up their right to a “free appropriate public education” and their right to an “individual education plan (IEP)” approved by the parent which has been guaranteed by federal law since the 1970’s.
  • It does not clearly say parents of disabled children could leave out teaching about our democracy if they want to. With this proposal, democracy is in peril.

The Battle to Come

Wealthy advocates for private school vouchers such as Fred Klipsch have contributed heavily to the campaign funds of Indiana legislators, so legislators will take it seriously when private school advocates ask for a radical plan like Education Savings Accounts. Plans like this have been passed in Florida and five other states with the support of the Jeb Bush Foundation.

This will be a major battle which needs your participation.

What Can You Do?
1) Let your legislator know how much you oppose diverting $6000 to $15,000 per student from our public schools to give to unsupervised and unaudited parents.

2) Share this alert with parents of special education students and ask them to get involved to stop this attack on special education programs in our public schools. This proposal will damage stable, high performing special education programs as budgets drop when money is diverted to unsupervised parents.

3) Speak against this radical plan at the hearing in the Senate Education Committee. The initial hearing on Senator Raatz’s bill to give debit cards to parents instead of sending money to their school will come at a 1:30pm Senate Education Committee meeting on a Wednesday afternoon, either Jan. 10, 17, 24 or 31. Please get ready, because no doubt the proponents are ready. Last year two speakers were flown in to the hearing from out of state by the Jeb Bush Foundation to tout the proposal.
Why Would “Education Savings Accounts” Undermine Public Education in Indiana?

Public education advocates should be ready to oppose this “foot in the door” attack to allow public school tuition money to be diverted directly to parents. Here is a brief summary of the problems of “ESA’s” which I described in depth in my last “Notes” dated December 18th:
1) Based on bills filed in both the House and the Senate in 2016 and 2017, ESA’s would put in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card. Parents of special education students would be eligible for $6,500 to $15,000 currently given to the school to pay for services for various levels of disability. Senator Raatz’s bill which was given a hearing in February 2017 applied to special education and Section 504 health impaired students.

2) To get the money, parents merely have to sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” That’s all! It’s an unregulated and narrow education. No art, no music, no physical education, no health, no vocational subjects. This would allow parents to lower standards for students while standards for public school students are being raised to ever higher levels for testing and for graduation. That is not right.

3) The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation or public accountability of student achievement. This is just wrong.

4) ESA’s would remove all income limits in order to give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students. Currently, the State gives vouchers to disabled students when families earn less than $89,900 for a family of four. This vast expansion led LSA to cite Senator Raatz’s bill filed in 2017 to cost “between $144 million and $206 million.”

5) ESA’s would give the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents. This is a “foot in the door” to the real goal to give the entire amount of public money to parents of all students on a debit card. These bills to privatize schooling would immediately divert money away from our public school students and over time would undermine funding for all students in both public schools and private voucher schools. This plan undermines the very concept of schools.

6) ESA’s would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for an approved provider, for a tutor and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely like to have the state pay for their textbooks as well, but public school parents must pay their own textbook rental.

7) The plan has no defined penalties for parents who commit fraud. Parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse or welfare fraud or addiction are not excluded.
In a year when radical federal policies have been normalized, the “Education Savings Account” plan tries to normalize a radical plan to bypass schools and give taxpayer money directly to parents without accountability checks or audits. This plan should not be normalized but should be seen as the radical concept that it is.

Our Indiana Constitution calls for the General Assembly to provide, “by law, a general and uniform system of Common Schools”. This proposal would hurt our Common Schools.

Our Indiana Constitution calls for educational improvements “by all suitable means”. This proposal is not suitable because it would harm our Common schools and the students that rely on them for services.

Republican leaders in the General Assembly typically have avoided allowing radical proposals to gain traction in an election year because they would make large numbers of public education parents and leaders angry. This proposal would make public education parents angry. You can help the leadership understand this fact so that they decide to back off in this short session.

I urge you to participate in turning back this attack on our public schools of Indiana.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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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