Friday, May 22, 2015

Letters: We are not alone in our concerns about education in Indiana

NEIFPE member Ron Crosby wrote this letter to the editor reflecting on the NPE National Conference.

Letter to the editor: We are not alone in our concerns about education in Indiana

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the annual NPE (the Network for Public Education) Conference in Chicago.

The conference was enlightening. It also brought hope to all of those who care about the education of our youth. In attendance were many wonderful, excited activists from all over the country. Let me share what I learned.

The status of education reform as implemented by Indiana’s legislators and many other state legislators is frustrating. The legislators are more interested in the wants and desires of their donors than they are either parents of Indiana’s students or teachers.

Many teachers and parents feel that they should give up. Many have. That is what legislators want.

What I personally was able to extract from the conference is that there is hope, progress is being made and we are not alone with our concerns.

Although Indiana’s legislators (In Indiana, it is primarily the Republican legislators) are continuing to follow the lead of various corporations who are interested in profiting from public education dollars, there is hope.
  • • On a national level, many groups have helped our federal legislators to look at NCLB. They have revamped NCLB by eliminating many items that created impossible issues for public schools. The changes include no longer federally mandating the use of tests to evaluate schools and teachers. The changes also minimized how high stakes testing should be used to judge students. The most important change is not allowing Federal Department of Education leader Arne Duncan to bully the states into implementing his agenda.
  • • The Opt-Out movement has sent a strong message to leaders in state governments. These states include New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and even Indiana.
In fact in a CNN article: “We’ve heard from almost every state in the country there’s opting out going on,” said Monty Neill, executive director of the testing reform advocacy group FairTest. “Last year, we probably heard from half.”
  • • There are groups all over the country, including Indiana, that are forming alliances to promote and help public education. The NEA, AFT, NPE, various parent groups and other local teacher groups are forming alliances to work to a common goal of saving and improving public schools. This includes NEIFPE. I am always impressed with how a few people can accomplish great things.
  • • The industries profiting from our public education dollars are being “outed” in terms of dollars earned, the lack of any accountability and the resulting shady situations these companies have become a part of.
What we can’t forget is we are not alone and progress is being made.

What was wonderful from this conference was meeting people from all over the country with similar problems. Via discussions with others it was clear that solutions are being found to problems faced by many of us in attendance.

National educational leaders were present. These leaders included Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the NEA president; Randi Weingarten, the AFT president; and my personal hero, Diane Ravitch, education historian and voice of all of us against the educational reform movement.

It was interesting that only one legislator from Pennsylvania attended the conference. I guess they don’t want the opinions of teachers.

What I learned was energizing. Many people are doing many things.

We need to collaborate and form alliances to coordinate efforts. What is happening to us is happening to people in many other states. Solutions to the common problems for public education are being found.

The biggest most exciting thing I learned was “we are not alone.”

Ron Crosby

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #222 – May 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

The step-by-step dismantling of public education in Indiana continued in the 2015 session. The passage of Senate Bill 1 on the final day of the legislative session marked a significant upheaval in the tectonic plates undergirding the once-sturdy foundation of public education in Indiana.

Under Senate Bill 1, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, elected by the public, will lose the power of chairing the State Board of Education, a power held by the State Superintendent since 1913, over a hundred years.

After December 31, 2016, the chair will be elected by the appointed members of the board, not the voters. Since no qualifications for the new chair were set by Senate Bill 1, the General Assembly has opened the door to have a non-educator chair the State Board of Education for the first time.

No effort was made in the bill to protect the importance of public education experience in chairing the State Board.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of "How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?" by saying "the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it." Demoting and marginalizing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction appears to be a step along the path endorsed by Dr. Friedman.


Governors and State Superintendents: Who Controls Education Policy?

There was a time in my career when every Governor did not want to be the "education Governor." I began teaching in the era of Governor Whitcomb who left education policy to the State Superintendent and the State Board. Governor Bowen, after engineering the landmark collective bargaining law of 1973, essentially did the same thing.

In the 1980's, when the history of unending education reform began, Governor Orr ran on a platform of assisting with the early grades, and his interest resulted in major funding for Project Primetime, a popular and effective program to lower the class sizes in Grades K-3. He followed that initiative with the A+ reforms of 1987 which brought us the ISTEP tests. Governor Orr resisted President Reagan’s call for private school vouchers and consistently supported public education, but with his actions, gubernatorial involvement in Indiana education policy was firmly established.

Every Governor since has been deeply involved in education policy, but no Governor has sought to take over the duties of the State Superintendent until Governor Pence took office. In 2013, even before State Superintendent Ritz was inaugurated on January 19th, House Bill 1309 was introduced in the General Assembly on January 14, 2013 requiring the state board to elect a vice chairperson who “may call meetings; set and amend agendas; arrange for witnesses; and carry out any other administrative function as it relates to meetings of the state board.” The bill went nowhere, but the plan to diminish the previous powers of the State Superintendent was already in place as both Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz began their terms of office. Governor Pence has shown no willingness to work with the elected State Superintendent from the beginning.

Senate Bill 1: New Potential Sources of Confusion and Conflict

While the stated purpose of SB 1 was to resolve conflicts and bickering, the language of the bill appears to open a new arena for conflict. The supermajority decided it was too dangerous politically to change the powers of the State Superintendent in the middle of the term of office, so the removal of the State Superintendent as chair was delayed until the beginning of the next term of office, after December 31, 2016.

More immediately, however, under provisions of the new law, "a vice chairperson shall be elected at the first meeting of the state board after June 30, 2015" who "shall act as chairperson in the absence of the chairperson."

Here is the new problem: "The chairperson and the vice chairperson are jointly responsible for establishing agendas for state board meetings after receiving and considering recommended agenda items from the members of the state board." This last minute addition to the language of the bill leaves many questions:

1. Is the vice chairperson supposed to actually function as a co-chairperson?

2. If there is a disagreement about the agenda between the State Superintendent and the vice chairperson, does each have a veto over the final decision?

3. Why can’t the chair have the normal power of setting the agenda with the input of the board members, as it is now?

4. Did the General Assembly have to micromanage even the agenda powers of the State Superintendent?

It seems obvious that the seeds of further conflict have been sown by these words of the General Assembly.

Who Will Appoint State Board Members?

The reason Senate Bill 1 took until the last day was a disagreement between the Senate and the Governor over appointments to the State Board. The original House Bill 1609 left all 10 appointments to the Governor, as it has been since 1984, when the reform creating the State Board of Education was passed under Governor Orr. Senate Bill 1 reduced the total size of the board to nine, with four appointments by the Governor, two by the Speaker of the House and two by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent was to serve as the ninth member.

House Bill 1609 never got a hearing and died in the Senate. Senate Bill 1 was amended by the House and passed in the final meeting of the House Education Committee. The House version called for a 13 member board, with the Governor appointing ten, the Speaker one and the President Pro Tem one, with the State Superintendent serving as the 13th member.

Senator Holdman, the bill’s sponsor, dissented on the House changes and took the bill to Conference Committee. The Conference Committee did not meet until April 27th, only two days before the session ended. The proposed Conference Committee report sliced the State Board back down to nine members and delayed the removal of the State Superintendent until after the next election.

The bill remained in flux until the final day, April 29th. The final deal was to leave the number at eleven, the number on the State Board now, with the Governor getting eight appointments, the Speaker one, and the President Pro Tem one. No doubt the Governor was not pleased about losing two appointments to the legislative branch, but that is how it came out.

Senate Bill 1: Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition

Senate Bill 1 was passed by the supermajority Republican members, but some courageous members of the Republican caucus joined the Democrats in voting against the bill. Some Republicans were "taken to the woodshed" over their opposition to SB 1. It can be damaging to a political career to vote contrary to the wishes of the caucus leadership.

Public school advocates should thank the members of the Republican caucus and the Democrats who opposed Senate Bill 1 in the House and in the Senate.

They were standing up for the power of voters. In the 2012 election, voters had the power to choose the chair of the State Board, but in 2016, the voters will lose that power. As few as six appointed members of the State Board will gain the power to elect the chair of the State Board.

In the House of Representatives, this bill was opposed by ten Republicans and all Democrats in the final day 60-38 vote. Those voting no included Republican Representatives Arnold, Beumer, Braun, Dermody, Harman, Judy, Koch, Mahan, Nisly and Truitt and Democrat Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, C. Brown, DeLaney, Dvorak, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, V. Smith, Stemler, Summers and Wright.

In the Senate, the final day 31-17 roll call showed nine Republican Senators and all eight Democrats who voted opposing the bill. Those voting no included Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Delph, Ford, Glick, Head, Leising, Messmer, and Tomes and Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops and Tallian.

As the 2015 session of the General Assembly ends, the foundations of public education in Indiana are showing new cracks and the voters have lost an important power.

Many have called Senate Bill 1 a power grab. This has two meanings. One is that the Governor has grabbed power from the State Superintendent. In broader terms regarding our democracy, it also means that government appointees have grabbed power from the voters. Will the voters notice and react?

Our democracy and the role of voters have been diminished by the legacy of Senate Bill 1.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“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 the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need 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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Friday, May 8, 2015

Letters: Cooperation key to fight to save public education

NEIFPE member Phyllis Bush wrote this letter about reaching out to others.

Letter to the editor: Cooperation key to fight to save public education

May 8, 2015

I recently attended the second annual Network for Public Education Conference in Chicago. When I got back home, the end of the Indiana legislative session had happened and, as usual, our legislators’ latest and most flagrant power grab took place at the 11th hour. I cannot say that I was surprised; my only real surprise was that their hubris has no bounds.

This year’s conference afforded me the opportunity to see old friends, meet new people and share ideas with other activists. After a fast and furious session of education reforms coming at warp speed, I was looking forward to being re-energized and refocused by the conference, and I was.

What I came away with was a need for a different strategy. While I have been focusing on the single issue of the destruction of public education, there are other interrelated issues that have resulted in the crushing of the middle class. Thus, if we are to have any success, we need to reach out to other people with other issues (racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice and so on) to build bridges and to build coalitions.

As I exchanged ideas with various groups of people, our excitement and energy came from collaboration, despite the notion that we are constantly being told that we only get better when we compete. Whether we are talking about schools or any other social endeavor, our greatest strengths come when we work together for a common good. Saving our public schools and making them more fair and equitable to all – regardless of race, gender or economic status – are the key components in creating and maintaining a fair and just society.

Even though I know that making our world a good and just place is not going to be easy, I still believe that we can strive to be better, and as long as I have the strength to continue, I will keep fighting to create a better world.

In the words of Tennyson, we must continue to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. We must continue to do what is right for all of us.

PHYLLIS A. BUSH

Fort Wayne

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #221 – May 5, 2015

Dear Friends,

After watching 19 sessions of the General Assembly, I have come to expect a surprise on the last day. The surprise last Wednesday on the April 29th deadline was a bold last minute gambit to remove State Superintendent Ritz’s authority over private school vouchers and over Scholarship Granting Organization private school scholarships and give that authority to the State Board of Education, controlled by Governor Pence.

This unexpected cliffhanger power grab, a concept not discussed in any previous bill in the entire session, was part of the budget released to the public about 10pm on Tuesday night (April 28th). It is not clear who inserted the language in question, but it is clear who took quick action in their caucus to reverse it: Senate Republicans. The Senators did not endorse this last minute policy change over vouchers, a change which the Indianapolis Star highlighted in an online mid-day story. The Senate Republicans acted decisively to prompt a second draft of the final budget, which was released to the public about 5pm Wednesday and passed by both chambers just before midnight.

Give kudos to the Senate Republicans and direct your questions to the House Republicans and the Governor about this inappropriate last minute maneuver.


Sections 234 and 236

One sentence in a 248 page budget set up the abrupt policy change on Scholarship Granting Organizations. In Section 234 of the first conference committee report, referencing IC 20-51-3-11, the word "department" was crossed out to read: "The state board shall adopt rules under IC 4-22-2 to implement this article."

That is all it took to end the authority of the State Superintendent to supervise Scholarship Granting Organizations.

A similar change in Section 236 ended department authority over choice scholarships and the voucher program.

Senate Republicans, however, had not agreed to this last minute change and took action to reverse it.

In the Senate version of the budget passed in early April, the Senators had frozen the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits at the current $7.5 million. The Governor and the House Republicans had endorsed an expansion to $12.5 million with an escalator clause that would automatically raise the amount each year by 20% if the SGO donations reached the maximum amount.

Many Senators have now recognized that this is an uncontrolled method of expanding vouchers to nearly all current private school students since a year with an SGO scholarship makes any student eligible for a choice scholarship voucher in the subsequent year. This makes the voucher program no longer about funding a transfer to private schools but about giving public funds for a private decision made long ago to students who have always been in private schools.

Consider these astounding numbers gleaned from the straightforward data in the Feb. 2015 Annual Financial Report on the voucher program prepared by the Indiana Department of Education: From 2012-13 to 2014-15, in just two years, the self-pay private school students dropped from 71,000 to 55,000, down 16,000, while the voucher funded private students jumped from 9,000 to 29,000, up 20,000. Overall, private school enrollment went up only 4000, from 81,000 to 85,000 in those two years. (Figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand.)

The conclusion is that tax dollars are not supplementing private school tuition to produce vast numbers of new voucher students, but rather tax dollars are supplanting private school tuition by funding students who have always been in private schools. Giving an SGO scholarship to a current private school student has become the biggest pathway to making that student eligible for a voucher the next year.

Final Budget Numbers

In the final budget compromise, the Senate and the House settled on raising the SGO tax credits to $8.5 million in the first year of the budget and to $9.5 million in the second year of the budget.

Clearly, advocates for public education should thank members of the Senate for trying to hold the line on voucher expansion through Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships.

Then it is time to ask the tough questions to members of the House. Why is the House so supportive of expanding vouchers through Scholarship Granting Organizations? Why does the House want to accelerate the shift of public money to private schools by allowing the unlimited growth of tax credit scholarships?

Removing the Cap on Grade K-8 Vouchers

In addition to the SGO expansion, Governor Pence wanted to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers for grades K-8, at a cost his office projected to be $3.8 million per year. Despite the objections of many public school advocates, the House and Senate both endorsed the expansion of vouchers in this way. The cap for K-8 vouchers is now the same as for 9-12 vouchers, that is, 90% of the per pupil funding in each school district.

The Education Controversy of this Generation: Will public tuition dollars go to private schools?

This is the fourth budget in a row in which the last minute education battles have been waged over funding private school tuition with public dollars.

In 2009, the General Assembly deadlocked and could not pass a budget by the end of April. In a June special session, a final budget deal which barely passed by July 1 included the first ever Scholarship Granting Organization tax credits funded at $2.5 million.

In 2011, the bill establishing the voucher program had to use the budget bill as a trailer bill to fix details in the voucher bill (HB1003) that Representative Behning couldn’t get fixed in a conference committee.

In 2013, the budget had to be amended one more time on the last day, just as this year, when key Senators balked on giving private school vouchers to areas served by D schools. Only F school areas were allowed in the voucher expansion plan in the final budget.

This year in 2015, the last day battle over control of the voucher program came out of the blue. In the 2013 session, House Bill 1342 to separate voucher administration from the State Superintendent passed the House Education Committee on a party line vote, but then died. In the 2014 or the current 2015 sessions, no bills addressed a voucher takeover until this final day budget maneuver.

This astounding move confirms that the battle over vouchers runs deep in the hearts and minds of the contestants vying to control the future of education in Indiana: Will education in Indiana be delivered through strong community public schools or will education gradually be privatized via vouchers as public schools lose priority?

It is the education question of our generation.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education during the 2015 session of the General Assembly!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“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 the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need 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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Friday, May 1, 2015

This Isn't A Child's Job

by Anne Duff
(Reprinted from Anne Duff for Education: This Isn't a Child's Job)

This week-end I attended the Network for Public Education’s 2nd Annual Conference in Chicago. While I met and talked with some of the “rock stars” of public education, what touched my heart the most were the presenters at a session simply titled, “Student Panel.”

As I walked to this session, I made the assumption that these were college students. I have connected with college groups in the past who have become activists for public schools, and since this was a conference filled with well-known heroes of public education, this surely had to be a session with some of those college students. But as the panel began to speak, I became less sure as to who these students were, so I raised my hand and asked, “Are you high school students?”

After this group, students from the Newark Student Union and a student union in Tennessee, affirmed my question, my thoughts raced from feeling proud of these amazing young people to feeling incredulous and angry about what they had to do. These child-activists taught us the difference between a direct action and civil disobedience. They shared the actions they have taken because they want to save their public schools. They spoke from the heart about their sit-ins, walk-outs, and marches all in an effort to receive the education they desire. But what broke my heart was this: Shouldn’t public education be a “given?” Aren’t these children entitled to their right under the New Jersey constitution (“The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.”)? Why should these students have to fight the take over from charter schools, to demand an end to the reign of their corporate-driven appointed superintendent of public instruction, and to sit in the streets, arms locked together, to make a plea that their state return to community schools with wrap-around services for all children? This isn’t their job. This isn’t what they should be doing. This is their right. My heart broke.

While I am proud to be part of a school system that continues to be a pillar in our community and offers wrap-around services including arts, athletics, community outreach, a clothing bank, and partnerships with local businesses and community leaders, I know that the privateers, the corporate reformers, the charter invaders, and profiteers are alive and lurking in our state. Do we, as a community, have what it takes to fight off these groups? Are you willing, as these noble New Jersey students are, to stand together, arm in arm, to protest those who want to destroy our public schools? I hope you are willing. I hope that, together, we can continue to offer to our young people – the future of our community – a free, equitable education - an education where everyone is accepted, an education filled with math, music, physical education, art, libraries, extra-curricular activities, highly-qualified and caring teachers. After all, they are children. They are our future. This shouldn’t be their fight. It is their gift. Let’s fight for them and the gift they well deserve.

Sidebar:

If you are familiar with and follow those who fight this good fight, then you may be familiar with some of the attendees. This conference gives opportunity to meet and converse with the “rock stars” of public education – many bloggers and activists so as Diane Ravitch, Peter Greene with Curmudgucation, Jennifer Berkshire with Edushyster, Mercedes Schneider, author of A Chronicle of Echoes, Anthony Cody with Living in Dialogue, Fort Wayne’s own Phyllis Bush with NEIFPE, Chicago Teacher Union’s Karen Lewis, Randi Weingarten with AFT, and Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a with NEA.


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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world


by Phyllis Bush

Curiously, I have felt as though my brains have been in a blender of late.

Last weekend I attended the 2nd Annual Network for Public Education Conference in Chicago. I had planned to write about how uplifting the NPE conference was, but when I got back home, the end of the Indiana legislative session happened, and, as per usual, our legislators' latest and most flagrant power grab took place at the 11th hour. Given that this merry band of marauders has been drunk with power since they attained a super majority, I cannot say that I was surprised. Even though I was livid as I watched the Twitter feed, my only real surprise was that their hubris has no bounds.

Meanwhile back at my happy place, this year's conference afforded me the opportunity to see old friends, meet new people, and share ideas with other activists. Last year I came away from the NPE conference totally energized, thinking that we could turn the tide of education reform. This year, after another fast and furious session of education reforms coming at warp speed, I was looking forward to being re-energized and refocused by the conference, and I was.

While there were many inspiring speakers and panel discussions, what I came away with was a need for a different strategy. While I have been focusing on the single issue of the destruction of public education, there are other interrelated issues which have resulted in the crushing of the middle class. Thus, if we are to have any success, we need to reach out to other people with other issues (racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, and so on) to build bridges and to build coalitions.

As I exchanged ideas with various groups of people, our excitement and energy came from collaboration, not competition, despite the notion that we are constantly being told that we only get better when we compete. While that is a lovely sound bite, it is dismissive of the importance of relationships. Whether we are talking about schools or any other social endeavor, our greatest strengths come when we work together for a common good. Saving our public schools and making them fair and equitable to all--regardless of race, gender, or economic status--are the key components in creating and maintaining a fair and just society. For those who speak of American exceptionalism, isn't access to that ideal part and parcel to our view of American greatness?

Even though I know that making our a world a good and just place is not going to be easy, I still believe that we can strive to be better, and as long as I have the strength to continue, I will keep fighting to create a better world.

In the words of Tennyson:
Come, my friends, Tis not too late to seek a newer world....

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Of course, Tennyson is right. We must continue to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. We must continue to do what is right for all of us.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #220 – April 28, 2015

Dear Friends,

$469 million dollars!

Speaker Bosma said on last Friday's edition of The Lawmakers (April 24th) that the budget for tuition support for Indiana K-12 schools would go up by $469 million dollars in the new biennial budget, despite a slight downturn in the revenue forecast.

It is good news that the lower revenue forecast is not dissuading legislative leaders from their plans to raise K-12 spending by 2.3% each year.

Then the Speaker went on to say that $469 million dollars is the largest school funding increase in state history.

Apparently, no one has told him about 1997. In the 1997 budget, state funding for K-12 tuition support went up by $482 million, more than the 2015 budget’s planned increase, but there is more to the story. In those days, the legislature also directed local property taxes to be levied for use by K-12 schools. Adding in the property tax, the 1997 school formula added $616 million new dollars for K-12 schools! Total funding went up 4.8% each year, double the percentage increase planned for this budget.

If another $14 million would be added to this year’s school funding, the claim that state funding has never been higher might hold. Certainly, another $14 million would help districts serving students of poverty. The low revenue suburban districts that have not been treated fairly in past budgets are getting needed relief in this year's school formula. Complexity dollars, however, for districts with concentrations of poverty have been reduced in the House and Senate budgets. They are the potential losers this year.

The final version of the budget is expected to be unveiled this afternoon.


School Funding in 1997 and Now

The school funding formula in 1997 and all budgets up through 2007 included both state dollars and local property tax dollars for K-12 schools. When the property tax crisis hit, the school general fund was shifted over to be funded exclusively by state dollars.

The state funding for schools in 1997 went up by 6.0% each year and the local property tax levy for schools went up by 2.8% each year. The combination of these two sources in the 1997 budget produced the increase of 4.8% each year.

Thoughts of 1997 hearken back to the days when public education was a high priority and the appropriation for K-12 public schools was not shared with private school vouchers. This year, when Speaker Bosma says school funding will get $469 million, his figure includes at least $15.7 million that the IDOE documented as the net fiscal cost of private school vouchers in 2013-14 along with the new cost of Governor Pence's plan to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers in the new budget, which carries a price tag of at least $3.8 million each year according to LSA.

All costs for vouchers come out of the K-12 tuition support budget because the Governor and the Republican leadership have refused to put all private school voucher costs in a separate line item for clarity and transparency purposes. It is hard to precisely track the cost of private school vouchers under our current budgeting procedures, and the Governor in his support for voucher expansion seems to like it that way.

The final school funding budget in the 2015 budget will be unveiled late this afternoon. The public will see it after a review by the Republican caucus. Both the House and the Senate will then pass it tomorrow on the final day of the session, and the cheering and the wailing will begin. All indications point to the fact that this school budget will have winners and losers.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education and for your efforts to make funding for public education a high priority in the General Assembly!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“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 the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need 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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