Saturday, August 30, 2014

Candidate Questionnaire 3: Public Meetings

In July, The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) contacted all 21 of the candidates running for federal and state offices in NE Indiana to ask them for their views pertaining to education issues. Each was sent a survey of 10 questions. So far 6 have returned the surveys. If and when others respond, those will also be posted. The comments below are unedited and are the words and thoughts of the candidates. NEIFPE shares this information so voters will be able to make informed choices at the polls on November 4.

(NOTE: A copy of the original (blank) questionnaire may be found HERE.)

Question: Do you agree any school receiving state money should hold board meetings open to the public?


(Note: Candidates are listed by district, and by alphabetical order within districts)

Candidates for State Representative

Charles Odier, D-52: "Without a doubt, let's open the doors and see whats inside! The charter schools in Ohio are now under investigation for changing grades, attendance lies and more."

Phil GiaQuinta, D-80: "Yes, and they should be elected."

Thad Gerardot, D-81: "Yes."

Mike Wilber, D-82: "School board meetings should always be open to the public as a forum for parents to voice their opinions or discontent. I have been vocal at several school board meetings and all parents should have that opportunity."

Fred Haigh, D-84: "Yes! Meetings should not only be held in public, I believe that all board members should be elected, not appointed."

Candidates for State Senate

Jack Morris, D-15: "Yes."

Candidates for U. S. Representative

Justin Kuhnle, D-3: "No board meeting should be held in private for any school receiving any form of taxpayer money. This is another level of accountability that needs adhered to for the promotion of education."

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The following candidates did not provide a response the the questions. (Answers from candidate questionnaires will be added to this page as they are returned.)

Candidates for State Representative
Dan Leonard, R-50
Dennis Zent, R-51
Benjamin Smaltz, R-52
Matt Lehman, R-79
Martin Carbaugh, R-81
David Ober, R-82
Christopher Judy, R-83
Bob Morris, R-84
Casey Cox, R-85

Candidates for State Senate
Dennis Kruse, R-14
Liz Brown, R-15
Jim Banks, R-17
Travis Holdman, R-19

Candidates for U.S. Representative
Marlin Stutzman, R-3

Complete Responses

Click the candidate's name below to see their entire questionnaire, including a statement of their vision for the future of education in Indiana. NOTE: Only those candidates who returned a questionnaire are listed.

INDIANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

INDIANA SENATE

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • Justin Kuhnle, candidate for U.S. Representative Indiana District 3
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #183 – August 29, 2014

Dear Friends,

Can you come on September 6th to the ICPE meeting at 2pm in Indianapolis to support public education?

Can you come on September 6th to see the remarkable documentary “Rise Above the Mark”?

Can you come on September 6th for greetings and comments from State Superintendent Glenda Ritz before the documentary is shown, including updates on the approval of Indiana’s federal waiver by Secretary Duncan announced yesterday?

Can you come on September 6th to hear discussion of the documentary by a panel including West Lafayette Superintendent Rocky Killion who originated and produced the video?

Can you come a bit early on September 6th to greet Bob Dalton as we honor his 63 years of service to public education at a reception beginning at 12:45?

I hope you can! All who support public education are invited. There is no charge to see the video.


The Indiana Coalition for Public Education Fall Meetings


This is the first of five ICPE meetings around the state this fall. All will feature “Rise Above the Mark” followed by a panel discussion. Dr. Killion will join the panel at each site. The five dates are as follows:

Sept. 6, 2014.....Indianapolis.....Washington Township Education Center, 86th & Woodfield Crossing

Sept. 27, 2014.....Merrillville.....Merrillville High School Auditorium, 276 East 68th Place

Oct. 4, 2014.....Fort Wayne.....IPFW Rhinehart Recital Hall, 2101 E. Coliseum Blvd

Oct. 18, 2014.....New Albany.....NAFC Education Support Center, 2801 Grant Line Road

Oct. 25, 2014.....Evansville.....Evansville Central High School Auditorium, 5400 First Avenue

All meetings begin at 2pm, local time. The reception for Dr. Dalton on September 6th begins at 12:45.

“Rise Above the Mark”, in its own words, was created “to educate the general public about the ‘corporate takeover’ of Indiana public schools and what parents, community members and educators can do to protect their local public schools.” It was originated by Dr. Killion after his inquiry into why many excellent teachers in West Lafayette were retiring early.

All parents, community members and educators should see this film!

Please circulate the attachment to let others know about this meeting.

An RSVP for September 6th is not necessary. Come and bring a friend! An RSVP, however, would be helpful at vic790@aol.com if you have not yet done so.

Please join us and bring your public education friends!

Thanks for participating! Please keep up your great support of public schools!

Best wishes for a great Labor Day weekend!

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. The fall ICPE membership meeting in Indianapolis will be held on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 2pm at the Washington Township Education Center on the corner of 86th and Woodfield Crossing. The video “Rise Above the Mark” will be featured at the meeting and Rocky Killion, the video’s producer, will be among the panelists to discuss the film afterward. Prior to the 2pm meeting, a reception will begin at 12:45 honoring Dr. Bob Dalton for his 63 years of enthusiastic service to public education. Come join us on Sept. 6th!

We need your membership to help pay the bills for ICPE lobbying efforts. 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 by going to our website.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session. 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.
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #182 – August 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

“Rise Above the Mark” is a remarkable documentary showing, in its own words, “what happens when politics enters the classroom” and when “public schools are boxed in by current corporate reforms.” It was originated by Dr. Rocky Killion, Superintendent of West Lafayette Schools, after his inquiry into why many excellent teachers in West Lafayette were retiring early.

Five meetings of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education will feature “Rise Above the Mark” followed by a panel of responders. Dr. Killion will join the panel at each site. The dates are as follows:

Sept. 6, 2014.....Indianapolis.....Washington Township Education Center, 86th & Woodfield Crossing

Sept. 27, 2014
.....Merrillville.....Merrillville High School Auditorium, 276 East 68th Place

Oct. 4, 2014
.....Fort Wayne.....IPFW Rhinehart Recital Hall, 2101 E. Coliseum Blvd

Oct. 18, 2014
.....New Albany.....NAFC Education Support Center, 2801 Grant Line Road

Oct. 25, 2014
.....Evansville.....Location TBA

All meetings begin at 2pm.

On Sept. 6th, a reception honoring Dr. Bob Dalton will precede the meeting from 12:45-1:45.

Please join us and bring your public education friends to one of these meetings!

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education Fall Meetings


Since its inception in 2011, ICPE has had fall membership meetings to bring together advocates for public education and to find new friends of public education. After single meetings in 2011 and 2012 at the Washington Township site, three meetings were held in 2013. Now the ICPE board of directors has set five meetings for this year.

We are convinced that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands who strongly support public education who have not yet heard of the work of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. We are out to change that! Please help us bring more people to the mission of supporting our public schools. Please help us get the word around to others about these five meetings and about ICPE.

September 6th Special Features

The September 6th meeting at the Dean Evans Center in Washington Township will have two features in addition to the showing and discussion of “Rise Above the Mark:”
  1. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz will bring greetings and updates as we begin the meeting at 2pm.
  2. Preceding the meeting from 12:45 to 1:45, a reception will be held honoring Dr. Bob Dalton and his 63 years of service and advocacy for public education, including his work as a founding board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. Come a little early to the meeting and tell Dr. Dalton thanks for his many efforts on behalf of public school students, including his 18 years as Superintendent in Kokomo and his 11 years as Deputy State Superintendent under both Dr. Dean Evans and Dr. Suellen Reed!
I hope you can make plans now to see “Rise Above the Mark” at one of the ICPE fall meetings. You can RSVP with a quick return email to vic790@aol.com.

Thanks for participating! Please keep up your great support of public schools!

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. The fall ICPE membership meeting in Indianapolis will be held on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 2pm at the Washington Township Education Center on the corner of 86th and Woodfield Crossing. The video “Rise Above the Mark” will be featured at the meeting and Rocky Killion, the video’s producer, will be among the panelists to discuss the film afterward. Prior to the 2pm meeting, a reception will begin at 12:45 honoring Dr. Bob Dalton for his 63 years of enthusiastic service to public education. Come join us on Sept. 6th!

We need your membership to help pay the bills for ICPE lobbying efforts. 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 by going to our website.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session. 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.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Candidate Questionnaire 2: Equal Accountability

In July, The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) contacted all 21 of the candidates running for federal and state offices in NE Indiana to ask them for their views pertaining to education issues. Each was sent a survey of 10 questions. So far 6 have returned the surveys. If and when others respond, those will also be posted. The comments below are unedited and are the words and thoughts of the candidates. NEIFPE shares this information so voters will be able to make informed choices at the polls on November 4.

(NOTE: A copy of the original (blank) questionnaire may be found HERE.)

Question: Do you agree charter and voucher-accepting schools should be held to the same standards as traditional public schools?


(Note: Candidates are listed by district, and by alphabetical order within districts)

Candidates for State Representative

Charles Odier, D-52: "Yes, they came up with a A-F grade system and then wanted to exempt charter schools from it. They also wanted to exempt charters from the ISTEP tests, because they knew they would fail."

Phil GiaQuinta, D-80: "Yes."

Thad Gerardot, D-81: "Yes."

Mike Wilber, D-82: "If the funding can not be stopped, they should be held accountable to the same standards as public schools."

Fred Haigh, D-84: "Yes! In reality, I believe they should be held to a higher standard. For example, I believe that all institutions receiving any public tax revenues should be required to publish (for public knowledge) their educational philosophy, their support for state educational standards, and an itemized use of all public funds."

Candidates for State Senate

Jack Morris, D-15: "Yes."

Candidates for U. S. Representative

Justin Kuhnle, D-3: "Charter and voucher-accepting schools should be held to the same standards of traditional public schools. There does need to be accountability to how the tax money is used."

###

The following candidates did not provide a response the the questions. (Answers from candidate questionnaires will be added to this page as they are returned.)

Candidates for State Representative
Dan Leonard, R-50
Dennis Zent, R-51
Benjamin Smaltz, R-52
Matt Lehman, R-79
Martin Carbaugh, R-81
David Ober, R-82
Christopher Judy, R-83
Bob Morris, R-84
Casey Cox, R-85

Candidates for State Senate
Dennis Kruse, R-14
Liz Brown, R-15
Jim Banks, R-17
Travis Holdman, R-19

Candidates for U.S. Representative
Marlin Stutzman, R-3

Complete Responses

Click the candidate's name below to see their entire questionnaire, including a statement of their vision for the future of education in Indiana. NOTE: Only those candidates who returned a questionnaire are listed.

INDIANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

INDIANA SENATE

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • Justin Kuhnle, candidate for U.S. Representative Indiana District 3
###

Monday, August 18, 2014

Comments and Questions From NEIFPE Showing of Rise Above the Mark

On Sunday, August 17, the Fort Wayne Cinema Center, in collaboration with NEIFPE, presented the film, Rise Above the Mark.

From the Rise Above the Mark website...
Rise Above the Mark is a documentary narrated by Peter Coyote that brings to light the heartbreaking realities of public education. It’s the story of what happens when politics enters the classroom.

Public schools are boxed in by current corporate reforms. Rules and regulations restrict vision, depreciate funding, demoralize teachers, and turn students into test-taking machines, robbing them of time to foster creativity.

Rise Above the Mark focuses on Indiana’s struggles with public school reforms—the same types of struggles experienced in schools throughout the United States.

Experts Diane Ravtich, Linda Darling-Hammond, Pasi Sahlberg and others discuss how America can make positive changes to provide an exceptional public school system for all children.
A panel discussion with Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel, Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and Whitley County Consolidated Schools Business Manager Kirk Doehrmann followed the showing in the Theater.

The following comments and questions were provided by the Cinema Center audience after the film. Some comments and questions were difficult to read. Please forgive any errors. They are in no particular order. NEIFPE answers follow the questions and are highlighted.

###
1. I was wondering if this show will be televised throughout the state? I would also like to hear the panel's reaction to Mitch Daniel's remarks on satellite schools this week.

2. How did the position of the Teachers Unions allow this change to occur? Now, how can the unions reorganize to create influence to move the pendulum back the other direction?

3. 1) Embrace the ISTA Amendment. 2) The Business Plan of Shadow Government. 3) Please talk about poverty and education.

4. Karen, you are a spokesperson for pre-school education. What would you suggest IN should do to move this along? Are vouchers the "way to go?"

5. (COMMENT, RHETORICAL QUESTION) Feels so good to be validated as a public school teacher and to have such a cohesive, fervent, research-driven piece created and presented. I am so thankful to have retired from teaching in Ohio before they started using test scores as a teacher evaluation tool instead of a student diagnostic tool. When teachers are so much about creating a positive atmosphere for students, how can legislators require administrators to treat teachers in such negative ways, creating such a demoralizing environment? My such excellent teacher friends are beside themselves with stress.

6. How do we get state legislators to watch this movie and to engage in these issues?

7. In an age of accountability, how can we show that local control can work?

8. Why test at all? How should school effectiveness be measured?

9. Getting government/politics out of education: How to do it soon? How to "fight" the monied interests? How to change the conversation with the current crop of politicians?

10. Can you identify legislators who are in support of public schools?

NEIFPE sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates running for office. We'll be posting the results of the survey on this blog and on our Facebook page over the next several weeks.

11. How do you think the situation in Ferguson, MO impacts our thinking about the role and necessity of public schools?

12. Get the schools back the right way schools should be.

13. So true is the statement that those who are making all the decisions in education know nothing about teaching. Also, I agree that the legislators in Indianapolis care only about money -- not the students, not public education. Karen Francisco does a great job covering education issues. Keep up the good work.

14. I went to school in NY back in the 70s. I think the point is that teachers allowed to teach and were were allowed to use our minds. In the 50s we as a country got off our butts due to sputnik and cared to kick our education system up.

15. Is there a comparable group of activists in S. IN and other parts of the state?

The Monroe County Coalition for Public Education is in Bloomington.
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education is in Indianapolis.
Other groups in Indiana can be found HERE.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Candidate Questionnaire 1: Tax Dollars for Private Schools

In July, The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) contacted all 21 of the candidates running for federal and state offices in NE Indiana to ask them for their views pertaining to education issues. Each was sent a survey of 10 questions. So far 6 have returned the surveys. If and when others respond, those will also be posted. The comments below are unedited and are the words and thoughts of the candidates. NEIFPE shares this information so voters will be able to make informed choices at the polls on November 4.

(NOTE: A copy of the original (blank) questionnaire may be found HERE.)

Question: Do you believe tax dollars should support private and parochial education?



(Note: Candidates are listed by district, and by alphabetical order within districts)

Candidates for State Representative

Charles Odier, D-52: "No, if a company wants to start a business it should pay it's own way, the charter schools failed, but were forgiven their debt. I believe in separation of church and state, I don't think we should pay to teach one kind or another of religion."

Phil GiaQuinta, D-80: "No."

Thad Gerardot, D-81: "No."

Mike Wilber, D-82: "Absolutely not. Tax dollars should support public schools."

Fred Haigh, D-84: "Absolutely not! I believe the first ten words added to the constitution (the first sentence of the first amendment) outline a wall of separation between church and state. Tax proceeds should not be used to support the parochial, ideological, or dogmatic views of a minority or, for that matter, a majority of the public."

Candidates for State Senate

Jack Morris, D-15: "No."

Candidates for U. S. Representative

Justin Kuhnle, D-3: "Tax dollars that are designed and designated for use by public education should be provided to public education. I believe if a child was chosen to attend a private or parochial school, the parent(s) or guardian(s) should provide for the cost of that education."

###

The following candidates did not provide a response the the questions.

Candidates for State Representative
Dan Leonard, R-50
Dennis Zent, R-51
Benjamin Smaltz, R-52
Matt Lehman, R-79
Martin Carbaugh, R-81
David Ober, R-82
Christopher Judy, R-83
Bob Morris, R-84
Casey Cox, R-85

Candidates for State Senate
Dennis Kruse, R-14
Liz Brown, R-15
Jim Banks, R-17
Travis Holdman, R-19

Candidates for U.S. Representative
Marlin Stutzman, R-3

Complete Responses

Click the candidate's name below to see their entire questionnaire, including a statement of their vision for the future of education in Indiana. NOTE: Only those candidates who returned a questionnaire are listed.

INDIANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

INDIANA SENATE
  • Jack Morris, candidate for Indiana Senate District 15

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • Justin Kuhnle, candidate for U.S. Representative Indiana District 3

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #181 – August 5, 2014

Dear Friends,

During the 2013 budget session of the Indiana General Assembly, Joel Hand testified repeatedly on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education that the voucher expansion bill would add a major new fiscal cost to the state. The era when vouchers would save the state money would be over.

I and others gave similar testimony, but the General Assembly passed the huge voucher expansion bill anyway.

Now the data for 2013-14 are in and the Indiana Department of Education has reported that the voucher program cost the state $15.7 million dollars to pay for private school tuition. The savings of $4.9 million in the previous 2012-13 school year was transformed into a significant outright cost of $15.7 by Governor Pence’s voucher expansion bill.

Indiana is now spending more of your tax dollars to pay for private school tuition for students who have always been in private schools than programs for gifted and talented students ($12.8 million), for preschool ($10 million), for Non-English speaking students ($5.5 million) and for teacher professional development ($0).

How Did This Happen? Paying for Students Where the Choice was Already Made


In large part, the voucher bill was sold to legislators in 2011 on the argument that it would save the state money. Vouchers were set at a fixed amount for elementary students ($4500 in 2011-12 and then upped to $4700 in 2013-14), a level below the average state tuition support in most but not all public school districts. For secondary students the voucher was set at 90% of what the student’s public school was getting for that student.

Most importantly, vouchers were given only to students who had attended public schools in the previous two semesters. It was a formula to guarantee the state would save money when students transferred from public schools to private schools, a formula that worked for two years, saving $4.2 million and $4.9 million in the first two years of the program, according to the financial officials writing the IDOE report.

The projected savings even became a talking point in the historic 2011 debate on the original voucher bill. Rural legislators who did not expect that their schools would be impacted by vouchers were told that their schools would make money on the voucher bill because the savings would be distributed to all schools based on the school funding formula rather than going back to only the schools where the students had transferred out. Based on that belief, some legislators went along with the voucher bill to help their small districts back home.

A bill in the 2012 short session would have opened up the voucher system to high school students who had never been to public schools by allowing them a tax credit scholarship without first attending a public school, but the bill failed due to strong opposition by public school advocates and ICPE.

Then came the 2013 voucher expansion bill. Representative Behning, the bill’s sponsor, with the strong support of Governor Pence, Speaker Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Long, went all out to dismantle the concept that students needed to go to public school first to qualify for vouchers. Governor Daniels had endorsed a “try public school first” philosophy and had even trumpeted that philosophy in a speech at Harvard as the right way to go. The Daniels philosophy was quickly thrown under the bus by Gov. Pence and Rep. Behning in HB 1003 in 2013.

Representative Behning’s original bill would allow kindergarteners with no public school experience to get vouchers. Senator Kenley contested that approach, questioning the fiscal cost. In a memorable debate in the Senate Education Committee, Representative Behning told Senator Kenley that he really wants universal vouchers, endorsing the concept that all private school students could get vouchers, despite the $500 million cost to taxpayers that Senator Kenley had projected.

It was clear in that debate that vouchers as a money-saver for the state was just a ploy to get a foot in the door. Vouchers for all private school students was the real goal. Taxpayers would eventually be asked to pay for all religious and private school tuition.

What were the Numbers for 2013-14?

The IDOE financial report has reported the number of vouchers and the costs for the first year after the voucher expansion bill was passed into law. In 2013-14, Indiana taxpayers paid for 19,809 vouchers to private schools, costing $81,066,786. Dividing these two figures shows that the average per voucher was $4092.

To understand how the savings has disappeared, it is best to break the voucher total into two groups. In Group 1, 12,030 vouchers went to students who transferred from public to private schools, the “choice” students the original bill was designed to help. In Group 2, 7,779 vouchers went to students who had always been in private schools and had never been in a public school. These “always been in private school” students were given vouchers based on four expanded pathways in the 2013 expansion law: (1) sibling vouchers, (2) vouchers for all special education students, (3) vouchers for students residing in the attendance area of an F school, and (4) expanded use of vouchers for students receiving a Scholarship Granting Organization scholarship for students who had never attended a public school.

Taking the 12,030 students in Group 1 who transferred from public to private school and multiplying by the $4092 average produces a total of $50 million for students of families who made a choice to leave the public school and transfer to a private school. This $50 million was diverted from public schools, so that meant $50 million less in resources available to the remaining public school students across the state. From the point of view of the state, however, this portion of the voucher program saved money, somewhere in the order of $15 million.

For the other 7,779 getting vouchers in Group 2, there was no money saving for the state. These students had never gone to a public school and had already chosen from the start of their schooling in Indiana to go to a private school. Thanks to the 2013 voucher expansion bill, they got vouchers anyway. Multiplying 7,779 students times the average voucher amount of $4092 produces a total of $31 million. This is all a new expense for the state.

Thus there are two groups of voucher students. One group of students chose to leave public schools for a less expensive private school, as the 2011 program envisioned. This group cost the state $50 million in 2013-14 and saved the state approximately $15 million compared to what the state would have paid if those students had remained in public schools.

The second group did not follow this path. It is comprised of students that have always been in private schools. This group cost the state $31 million, and totally wiped out the $15 million savings from group one, leaving a net fiscal cost to the state of roughly $16 million as reported by IDOE.

Thus endeth the voucher program as a money saver for the state of Indiana. Now we are hearing all the arguments from voucher proponents about why taxpayers should shell out even more for private and religious schools. Their goal again is to have the taxpayers of Indiana pay for all private and parochial school tuition.

From What Budget Does the New Fiscal Cost for Vouchers Come?

The General Assembly did not set up a line item for vouchers in the state budget. Given that, where will the $15.7 million come from to pay for the new voucher costs?

Voucher payments to private schools have always come out of the line item for public school tuition support. This fit with the theory that whatever the costs of vouchers for students transferring out of public schools, the costs would always be less than the costs for those students had they stayed in public schools. Now, this has all changed.

The General Assembly added $132 million to the tuition support budget for 2013-2014, an anemic 2% increase over the previous year. The $15.7 million for vouchers has to come from that amount. Subtracting out the bill for private school vouchers shows that the true increase for 2013-14 was about $115 million, turning the 2% increase into a 1.74% increase.

That 2% increase was already an historic low increase for public school funding. Except during the Great Recession budgets in 2009 and 2011, schools had not dipped below 2.4% in the last 20 years. A 2% increase has left many school districts in dire financial condition as they just try to maintain current programs. Now the extra money for private school vouchers will dig further into the money for public school programs.

This is exactly the scenario that Joel Hand painted for legislators as he lobbied on behalf of ICPE against voucher expansion in the 2013 session. At the last moment of the budget session in the final budget version, legislators acknowledged that the problem was real by adding a $25 million dollar emergency fund which the budget committee could vote to use to supplement the tuition support budget. In the words of Ways of Means Chairman Tim Brown as the final budget was presented for passage, this fund “would protect the foundational support.” Otherwise, public schools would have to give back a share of what they had already been promised to pay for the $15.7 million in new costs for vouchers.

I have not heard if the budget committee has made any plans to implement this $25 million “foundational protection” fund, but they will need to do so unless somehow they over budgeted for public school tuition support. We should all be watching for that move, which no doubt will be done quietly and close to the vest in order to avoid the questions this raises about the expensive 2013 voucher expansion.

As if this situation wasn’t bad enough for public school funding, the school budget for the second year of the biennium in 2014-15 lifted school funding by only 1%, well below the 1.6% cost of living cited in expert testimony during the 2013 budget process. This 1% increase meant an additional budgeted amount of $69 million for tuition support in 2014-15. If another $15 million is spent in 2014-15 on the voucher program, the new tuition support amount for public schools would drop to $54 million, making the true increase only 0.78%.

Fortunately, the $25 million “bailout fund” was set up for 2014-15 as well. It looks like it will be needed.

All this makes funding for the 1 million plus students in public schools look like an afterthought, and indeed it has become that. We should never lose track of the thought that lower resources for public school students translate to higher class sizes and lower funding for student programs, especially for extra programs addressing students who need extra help. Public schools serve the vast majority of students of poverty, and the historically low biennial budget of 2% and 1% has certainly hurt programs to help them.

Spinning

When these voucher figures were released in June, the voucher proponents went right to work to spin the message. Their protests led columnist Matthew Tully, a voucher supporter, to write “the state Department of Education released a report claiming, dubiously, that the state’s recently expanded voucher program cost Indiana $16 million last year.” (Indianapolis Star, June 25, 2014)

There is nothing dubious about the IDOE figures. The steps IDOE followed to determine the savings from the voucher program were written by the General Assembly.

The General Assembly, not the IDOE, set up the formula for determining savings in non-code provisions of the budget bill. The five steps prescribed in the budget are summarized as follows and can also be seen on page 21 of the IDOE report:

Step 1: determine the total amount distributed in the year for voucher scholarships.

Step 2: determine the total amount public schools including charter (but not virtual charter) schools would have received if those students who received voucher scholarships and who were enrolled in a public school during the preceding two semesters “had instead remained enrolled in public schools and had not enrolled in private schools.”

Step 3: subtract the first number from the second number.

Step 4: determine the percentage of the total state tuition support distributed to each school district and to each charter school (excluding virtual charter schools).

Step 5: multiply the amount of savings in Step 3 by the percentage in Step 4 to determine how much of the savings goes back to each district and charter school.

In the words of the report, “The five-step calculation resulted in no savings from the Choice Scholarship Program for the 2013-14 school year. Therefore, the Department will not make a savings distribution to school corporations and charter schools.”

It seems obvious that when 7779 vouchers (39%) were given out for students who had never attended a public school and for which the state had to pay the full amount without any savings factor, there would be no overall savings. The 2013 voucher expansion law clearly turned the voucher program from a money saver to new fiscal cost for the taxpayers of Indiana.

Let your legislators know you are very disappointed that they expanded vouchers in 2013 and created an expensive additional fiscal cost of nearly $16 million. That money could have been used for preschool or similar important education priorities other than paying for students to go to the private schools that they have always gone to.

Your messages on behalf of public education make a big difference. Thanks for participating! Please keep up your steadfast support of public schools!

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. The fall ICPE membership meeting in Indianapolis will be held on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 2pm at the Washington Township Education Center on the corner of 86th and Woodfield Crossing. The video “Rise Above the Mark” will be featured at the meeting and Rocky Killion, the video’s producer, will be among the panelists to discuss the film afterward. Prior to the 2pm meeting, a reception will begin at 12:45 honoring Dr. Bob Dalton for his 63 years of enthusiastic service to public education. Come join us on Sept. 6th!

We need your membership to help pay the bills for ICPE lobbying efforts. 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 by going to our website.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session. 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.
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