Thursday, November 24, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #267 – November 23, 2016

Dear Friends,

Death by a thousand cuts.

That is the likely future for public education unless public education advocates are willing to rally to defend it vigorously against two proposals in the weeks and months ahead.

The November 8th general election has left public education under severe threat from those who would diminish and dismantle it at both the state and federal level. The defense should begin now by talking with members of the General Assembly and with members of Congress.

At the state level, the expensive proposal called Education Savings Accounts which would give state funding for the first time to unregulated home schools and would give a financial incentive for parents to leave the public schools will go forward, most likely as a part of the budget and touted incorrectly as a way to save money. It was sponsored in the 2016 short session by Ways and Means Chair Dr. Tim Brown in the House and by Senator Jeff Raatz in the Senate.

At the federal level, Donald Trump’s proposal to shift $20 billion from current federal education funding, presumably from Title 1 reading programs for low income students, to pay for private school tuition will go forward. He detailed his proposal in a speech in Cleveland on September 8th. His choice today of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, well known as a critic of public education and as a wealthy promoter of private school vouchers, is aligned with his stated plan to give public money for private school tuition in all 50 states.

The concept of public education is now in direct jeopardy both in Indiana and at the federal level.

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, the privatizers won the election.

Will Public Education Survive in Indiana?


The irony that these attacks on public education in Indiana are continuing during Indiana’s bicentennial year is astounding. It is as if we are celebrating our past with no awareness of how much of our success as a state can be attributed to our hard won battles to bring a strong public education to all.

Progress in Indiana can be directly linked to public education efforts written into our first Constitution in 1816 and strengthened in our second 1851 Constitution after public education advocates led by Caleb Mills gained influence in the 1840’s. Caleb Mills was the founder of Wabash College in Crawfordsville which ironically is now represented in the House by Representative Brown, the sponsor of the program to dismantle public education called Education Savings Accounts. Caleb Mills believed that public education serving all children and paid for by taxpayers should be both non-sectarian, so as not to offend the taxpayers who would balk at funding schools that are teaching a faith they could not support, and non-partisan, so as not to offend the taxpayers who would balk at funding schools that are teaching political views they could not support. This fundamental tenet of Caleb Mills held sway until 2011, when the voucher bill gave state funds for students to attend sectarian religious schools which can teach partisan points of view on public issues in line with their religion.

Now Dr. Brown’s plan to establish Education Savings Accounts would have taxpayers pay for totally unregulated home schools or any unregulated private school. The requirements of the voucher program to take state tests and comply with state letter grade requirements would be not be applied to home schools, but they would still get state money with no obligations or accountability.

To pass this extreme proposal would be to say that even though teachers can’t be trusted to teach without having the state require student test scores and extensive criminal background checks to monitor them, home school parents can be trusted with no accountability checkups. It’s a recipe to further demean teachers in Indiana and worsen the teacher shortage.

Education Savings Accounts

The Education Savings Account proposal being pushed by Chairman Brown is a radical proposal. It would:
  • give approximately $6000 on a debit card to any parent who signs a state agreement. This money would go directly to parents and would no longer go to school districts.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum and remove students from Indiana’s new standards. Parents getting the money only have to agree to provide an education in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” No music! No art! No physical education! No foreign language! No health! No vocational subjects! Who would think this bill would provide a good education? Yet the current broken high stakes testing program in Indiana’s schools would give incentives to parents to take the money and get their kids away from oppressive tests. Perhaps setting up an overbearing testing program was part of a plan all along to unravel the entire public school system.
  • end accountability for many students. Parents could take their child out of any school and pay “a participating entity”, which may be an individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or a licensed occupational therapist approved by the Indiana Treasurer. No requirement to take the state test is included unless students are enrolled in a voucher school.
  • expand vouchers to more students. The ESA bill would give public money to families earning up to $97,000 for a family of four. Families earning $97,000 would get a 70% voucher, far more than the 50% voucher now given to families earning $65,000 or less. Family income limits would disappear completely for special education students, giving even high income families taxpayer money for private schools. Currently for special education students, eligibility for taxpayer vouchers is capped at incomes of $85,000 for a family of four. Indiana’s voucher program was passed in 2011 as a program for low income families, but that rationale has now disappeared.
  • pay textbook fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. The ESA bill makes textbooks for private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. Parents who can afford to pay for their current private school have an incentive to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • give money to parents directly without strong fraud protection. The ESA bill has a weak section of fraud consequences for a “participating entity”, but no mention is made of parents who neglect their duties or commit fraud with their child’s money.
  • omit criminal background checks for parents taking K-12 money. Background checks are being expanded for public school teachers but this bill would give public money to parents without comparable background checks. Can all parents be trusted without background checks?
The Education Savings Account proposal brings to life Milton Friedman’s plan to end public education and give tax money directly to parents to educate their children. The scheme has gaping holes which must be brought to the attention of Indiana legislators as soon as possible.

One of the holes is the extra fiscal cost to the state when home school students who do not currently get any state payments are included in the state budget. If the estimate of 20,000 home school students is accurate and parents get on average $5000 on a debit card for each student, the program would cost Indiana taxpayers $100 million dollars per year, far more than current costs for pre-school ($10 million), summer school ($18 million) or even for state testing ($45 million). While those who take the incentive to leave the public schools would reduce the $100 million price tag by some amount based on the difference between the current amount per student given to the school district and the somewhat smaller amount given to parents on the debit card, the huge new cost of paying for home school students is clear.

Fortunately, State Superintendent-Elect Jennifer McCormick told the ICPE members meeting in Indianapolis on August 27th that she opposes the Education Savings Account proposal because it would take money from public schools. Based on this, she should be an ally in your efforts to defeat this proposal, even though the main sponsor of this proposal is the Institute for Quality Education which was Jennifer McCormick’s main financial backer in the election. We will soon see where she stands.

Will Public Education Survive in the United States?

Donald Trump’s plan to mandate private school vouchers to students in all 50 states would be the biggest federal intrusion into state education policy in US history. In a September 8th speech in Cleveland, Donald Trump said he would use the power of the Presidency to have all 50 states use public tax money to pay for private and religious school tuition. He said it would cost $20 billion in federal dollars and $110 billion in state dollars.

At this point, 20 states have completely resisted entwining church and state and completely avoided using public dollars for private and religious schools. They have very good reasons to resist. Of the other 30 states, some have very limited programs for special education students.

Under Article 10 of the US Constitution, education matters should be left to the states. Now Donald Trump wants to ignore Article 10 and push a federal mandate for private school vouchers in the name of school choice.

Does America want Donald Trump to dismantle public education in the United States?

I think not.

Donald Trump’s voucher program was nearly ignored during the campaign and certainly the voters did not give him a mandate to end public education based on one overlooked speech.

From its roots in the 1830’s, public education has brought the United States to a position of world power with its system of non-sectarian, non-partisan, publicly funded schools supervised by school boards elected following the rules of democracy and pledged to transparent public access and accountability in their records.

Now Donald Trump wants to spend billions in federal dollars to pay for tuition at sectarian and potentially partisan schools that are not run by elected officials and do not have to offer public access to records. In Betsy DeVos, he has chosen a well known advocate for private school vouchers to lead his side of this coming fight. The battle lines are drawn.

Tell members of Congress that you oppose Donald Trump’s plan and that you strongly oppose public money from any source paying for private and religious school vouchers.

What Can Public Education Advocates Do?

Many areas have meetings with members of the General Assembly and with members of Congress about upcoming legislative sessions. Start talking with elected leaders now about your opposition to Education Savings Accounts and to the federal intrusion of mandated vouchers.

This is a radical set of proposals. Let legislators know how they would damage the heart of our communities—our public schools.

Then join the Indiana Coalition for Public Education to support ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand as he works in support of public education in the Indiana General Assembly and against all proposals that would damage public education such as Education Savings Accounts. ICPE needs your support!

Thank you for your dedicated support of public education!


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 will represent ICPE in the new budget session which begins January 4, 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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Thursday, November 10, 2016

No Group is Ever Made Stronger by Division

The following guest post is from NEIFPE member Stu Bloom's blog.

No Group is Ever Made Stronger by Division

America's teachers showed up to school on Wednesday morning just like they do every school day. They did their best to help their students make sense of the events of the previous evening.

In many classrooms teachers had to ease the worry of children who feared the backlash against tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and for misogyny, bigotry, and xenophobia. They used the election, as teachers have used elections for decades, as a teaching moment...to explain how our nation's version of democracy works...to focus on the obligations of citizenship...and to highlight the diversity that strengthens, and divides, the nation.

Like many others, history teacher Jim Cullen approached his Wednesday classes thinking about his response.
...necessity requires me to put aside my own unease and confusion as I try to help adolescents process an event that is necessarily unprecedented for them...

My role is to help them feel better as a matter of trying to alleviate despair, anxiety or indignation, but also to feel better in the sense of thinking more clearly, to bring their hearts and their heads into greater alignment...
Bringing hearts and heads into alignment is an often unconscious goal for many teachers. Below is an exchange between a retired teacher friend of mine and a former student (now adult) about the election. In her response, the teacher uses yet another former student's letter about the election. Both students express in their own way, how they have, as they have grown, aligned their hearts and heads. Both students have learned what every teacher hopes to instill in their students: Life is a series of learning experiences.

[Note: I have edited all three letters for brevity and clarity, and to remove identifying information.]
STUDENT ONE

...I have thought a lot about you this election season. Believe it or not, the unit we did on the election between Dukakis and Bush nearly 30 years ago taught me much and I wanted to thank you so very, very much. If not for you, I may have continued basing political views on just abortion. I'll never forget the day that you turned to me and said, "He's not FOR abortion. No one is FOR abortion!" I finally thought to myself, "she's right! Baby murderers wouldn't be wandering around the countryside. What the heck is this really about?" My parents had gone through such a bad spot when my sister had died 2 years before, abortion and euthanasia was all they ever discussed as far as politics during that time in my life. Thanks to you, my eyes were opened. Trade deals, global warming, social security, etc. – I had no idea those things even existed. I have made it my goal in life to learn as much as possible about issues and never accept the easy and emotional answers.

My family eventually healed and after we moved north...I started meeting friends from all over the world and expanding my views...

Today was painful for me, like many Americans. One of my best friends is Syrian and her family is stuck back there. She is terrified that even though she is an ICU doctor at a major university, she is going to be deported. Today I comforted a mother who was terrified that if Obamacare is repealed, her 4-year old son with leukemia will never qualify for insurance again. One of my students asked for permission to leave early so that she could go marry her girlfriend because she is afraid she will lose that right. I'm lucky - I'm an upper, middle class white woman with a doctorate. [The results of this election] will not have much impact to my life. But thanks to the seed that you planted nearly 30 years ago, I can see how devastating this was for others...thanks for teaching me a big part of what has made me who I am!


TEACHER

...Thank you so much for writing.

I tried to keep my own political views to myself when I was teaching, especially the election units. It seemed important to present things and let you students do your own thinking. But it pleases me no end to see that you took what we did and became a person with not just a strong mind but also with a big and good and loving heart.

I am trying not to panic or to prophesy. I have lived through many disappointing elections and this feeling, while deeper this time, is familiar. People talk trash during a campaign and while it sets a tone, their promises aren't easy to keep. I do believe in the power of our Constitution and its checks and balances. I do believe that there are plenty of good people in Congress who will not just sit there and let everything fall apart. He (can't say his name yet) passed the first test with his victory speech. That wasn't at all like the ugly campaign talk. It was rather...Presidential.

My heart goes out to the people you talk about in your last paragraph...the Syrian doctor, parents of sick kids and also kids with disabilities, gay people. I am hoping and praying that these fears stay only that – fears but nothing more.

[Another former student] wrote something yesterday that helped me. Here is what she said...

STUDENT TWO

I have mulled over my thoughts and feelings all day, and while I feel political posts are kind of just white noise at this point, I feel I must say my piece (perhaps if only for a little bit of peace for myself.) No group is ever made stronger by division and there are lessons to be learned in every situation. Yes, I voted for Hillary, this is no big surprise, but I am coming to terms with the Presidential race outcome and starting to open my heart and mind to what can be learned. I think that what we can learn is that we have a long way to go as a country. I think if HRC had won, it would have eased our "liberal minds" to think that change is upon us, but now, the tolerance of intolerance that America feels has light shed fully upon it.

When I think about those who voted for Trump, I have been digging deep to understand how so many people that I know and love, work alongside, and get along with, could look the other way at such a blatant display of negativity towards women, both in action and words, minorities, poor people, the LGBT community, immigrants, and on and on... and it is hard not to take it personally. You have to get to the core of WHY a compassionate, caring person could look the other way and choose someone like Trump as a representative for them, for their country. And the core issue that I have heard time and again is something I can whole-heartedly agree with – change in the political arena...desperate times call for desperate measures. Those that chose to vote for Trump are just so disenchanted with the way politics are run in this country, they were willing to overlook the other issues with him as a candidate.

And I get it, in a big way, I get it...I understand the desire for some change, some big change. And I am going to try to keep an open mind, as HRC and President Obama have encouraged. I am looking for silver linings and I am going to revel in the opportunity to talk about changing what we are tolerant of, to think about what ugliness has surfaced and to have respectful discussions with people about this topic. I am not naive enough to think that there weren't some people who did in fact vote for Trump BECAUSE of his racism and misogyny. And it's time we deal with this elephant in the room, bring it to the surface, because that is the only way we will ever weed it out for good.

...So, while the outcome was not what I wanted, perhaps it was actually what we needed as a country to grow and learn. Don't threaten to move away from the country if the outcome isn't what you wanted...threaten to stay and make a change. For now, I will try to continue to spread love, and compassion, and a thirst to understand my fellow man without judgment. I think we are all a lot closer the middle ground than we think we are and it is time we stop letting the media divide us with fear and finger pointing, and portray all politics as "us vs. them". It is time that we engage in more civil discourse to try to compromise and learn. I love people for their differences as well as their similarities. Life would be boring if we all held the same beliefs, so I want to embrace differences while working towards kindness. Always working towards more kindness...


TEACHER

With former students like you two, didn't I have the best job in the world? You are such a dear. We can do this. Thank you.


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Monday, November 7, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #44– November 6, 2016

Dear Friends,

[Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.]

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This election is so close in Indiana that public education advocates could swing the election.

For the sake of the future of public education in Indiana, making a final effort to get friends and family to support the strongest public education candidates such as John Gregg, Glenda Ritz, Evan Bayh and pro-public education legislative candidates such as Coach Phil Webster (Senate District 35) is extremely important.

The full list of letter grades on public education for incumbent legislators was included in the previous #43 edition of “Vic’s Election Notes on Education.” The ICPE letter grades can also be seen at www.icpe2011.com.

I urge you to make a few more calls or email contacts in these final hours. A few votes could make all the difference!
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
John Gregg

I have detailed John Gregg’s support of public education in editions #27, #34, #38 and #42 of “Vic’s Election Notes on Education.” John Gregg said on September 26th at the ISBA Conference at the Indianapolis Convention Center: “When my running mate and I win, that is the moment the war against public education ends.” (Indianapolis Star, 9-27-16, p.6A)

These are game-changing words. John Gregg deserves your active support!

Glenda Ritz

I have detailed Glenda Ritz’s support of public education in editions #35, #36, #37, #41 and #42 of “Vic’s Election Notes on Education.” Glenda Ritz has always been a strong supporter of public education and has refused to accept contributions from the biggest pro-voucher group called Hoosiers for Quality Education.

Follow the money. Jennifer McCormick, running against Glenda Ritz, received $30,000 from HQE last summer and another $60,000 in October, as reported in Secretary of State records, enabling her to fund last minute television ads. There is no question that Hoosiers for Quality Education, the prime advocate for supporting home schools with tax money via a proposal called Education Savings Accounts, would have strong influence if Jennifer McCormick is elected.

Evan Bayh

I have not previously written about the Bayh-Young Senate race. I seldom write about federal elections because the focus of Indiana public education policies is in the Statehouse, a fact which Evan Bayh has helped to maintain by his contributions to federal policy, a story explained below.

I was moved to reflect on the pro-public education record of Evan Bayh after seeing a startling fact in the headlines of the Indianapolis Star last week. Groups outside of Indiana have spent $14 million for pro-Evan Bayh ads and $24 million for pro-Todd Young ads. That’s $38 million in outside money for ads, and not one addressed positions on public education!

So here, at no charge, is your update on the historic Bayh-Young contest in relation to public education.

Todd Young strongly supports private school vouchers. His voting record is clear. That is all that needs to be said.

Evan Bayh has a long history of supporting public education going back to his years as Governor. Private school vouchers were first proposed in the 1995 General Assembly when the House turned Republican, but the proposal did not pass while Bayh was Governor.

Then Senator Bayh had a key role in late December 2000 when President-Elect Bush “invited about twenty members of Congress to meet with him” on the education issue in Austin. (Andrew Rudalevige, 2002). Evan Bayh played a key role in getting George W. Bush to agree to exclude private school vouchers from the education plan that was taking shape which later became No Child Left Behind. This crucial contribution should be recognized and valued as the Donald Trump plan to divert $20 billion in Title 1 money from student reading programs to pay for private school tuition is under debate. We need Evan Bayh in the U.S. Senate to fight any such plan!

On November 5th, the Indianapolis Star ran a front page story about a staff member of Americans for Prosperity going door to door in Carmel to talk voters out of voting for Evan Bayh. Public school advocates should know that Americans for Prosperity is a wealthy group funded by the Koch brothers that opposes public education and strongly promotes private school vouchers. When pro-voucher groups held rallies in the Statehouse in recent years with hundreds of private school students bussed in on a school day, Americans for Prosperity was the financial sponsor and paid for the T-shirts. When Republican Senator Waterman in Senate District 39 voted to support public education and against the 2011 and 2013 voucher bills, Americans for Prosperity generously funded a candidate in the Republican primary who defeated Senator Waterman 51% to 49%.

Americans for Prosperity, with their vast financial resources, is out there working against Evan Bayh in large part because he supports public education. For the sake of public education, I hope you will support Evan Bayh and then speak up for Evan Bayh among your family and friends in these final hours before the November 8th election. Every vote to help public education makes a difference in a tight election!

I urge you to keep working Monday and Tuesday to protect public education at the ballot box!

Thanks for your strong support for public education throughout this election campaign!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #43– November 4, 2016

Dear Friends,

[Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.]

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Rachel Burke, a veteran advocate for public education in Indiana, is running for the Indiana House of Representatives in District 89 , which includes portions of Warren Township in Marion County and the city of Beech Grove.

Rachel has served as legislative chair for the Indiana PTA (Parent Teachers Association) for many years and has a long record of speaking up for public education in the Statehouse. In 2012, she was elected to the Warren Township School Board. She and her husband have three children in the Warren Township Schools. She is a truly a strong advocate for public education.

Rachel Burke deserves the support of every public school advocate in Indiana. If you can help her in any way or if you know someone who votes in District 89, please take action to help her win on Nov. 8th.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
Rachel Burke’s Opponent is No Friend of Public Education

The incumbent in House District 89 is Representative Cindy Kirchhofer.

In the ICPE 2016 Legislator Report Card showing the letter grades legislators earned for support of public education, Representative Kirchhofer received a D.

That happened because she voted against public education on four or the five bills picked by ICPE as indicators of support for public education.

You can see the full ICPE Report Card HERE.

This is the time to use the ICPE Report Card on public education. Please share it with friends and colleagues before the election on Tuesday. Public education advocates need to hold members of the Senate and the House accountable for their votes on public education in order to restore a high priority to public education in the General Assembly where it has been under attack for years.

Rachel Burke’s Opponent Cindy Kirchhofer Has Not Supported Public Education in Past Years

The letter grade of D given to Representative Kirchhofer in the ICPE Legislator Report Card is based on five bills passed by the most recent General Assembly in 2015-16.

Representative Kirchhofer’s lack of support for public education started long before 2015. She has represented District 89 for six years, since defeating incumbent Representative John Barnes by only 600 votes in the election of 2010.

In 2011, she voted to pass the history-changing voucher bill, which I vehemently opposed.

In 2013, as the huge expansion to the voucher program was being debated in Governor Pence’s first months in office, I happened to fall into a buffet lunch line next to Representative Kirchhofer at the annual legislative luncheon of the Indiana Urban Schools Association. I had never really spoken with her before that day. The lunch line was long, which gave us time for an excellent conversation about many education issues. For me, it was a chance to share all of my concerns about the expensive expansion of the voucher program being pushed by Governor Pence and how it would damage our public schools. She was respectful of my thoughts but non-committal while we waited to get to the food.

In turned out that my opposition to the 2013 voucher expansion did not persuade her. There were 13 House Republicans who we persuaded to oppose the voucher expansion, but Representative Kirchhofer voted for the bill which has now led to an annual extra cost of $53 million according to state financial reports.

In six years, she never cast a vote in support of public education on a key bill until late in the 2016 session, a point at which she knew that public school advocate Rachel Burke would be her opponent in the fall election. Whether that fact influenced her to vote against House Bill 1005 and earn a D instead of an F is left to your own speculation.

Support Rachel Burke for House District 89 and Others Who Support Public Education

The case that all public school advocates should support Rachel Burke is clear.

Voters in all or part of the Warren Township Schools and the Beech Grove Schools are in District 89. If you know voters in either of these school districts let them know of your support for Rachel Burke. Send her a donation if you can.

We need more strong advocates for public education like Rachel Burke in the Indiana House of Representatives and we need to keep strong advocates who received high grades in the ICPE Report Card on public education bills.

Please study the letter grades below and support deserving incumbents who have high grades due to their support for public education. Then share the ICPE Report Card with friends and colleagues who support public education before the crucial election on November 8th.

In our democracy, voters are in control. Voters will decide in our bicentennial year whether more friends of public education will be elected and whether public education in Indiana will be supported or will be attacked and dismantled.

I urge you to get involved this weekend in the battle to protect public education at the ballot box!

Thanks for your strong support for public education throughout this election campaign!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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You can read the full ICPE Report Card HERE.

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Election letters

The following letters from NEIFPE members Donna Roof and Susan Berry are in support of Zubair Khan, candidate for school board in Northwest Allen County Schools.

Khan fights for kids
November 03, 2016

A vote for Dr. Zubair Khan, running for Northwest Allen County School Board, is a vote for public schools.

He is tenacious in his community outreach and involvement in the area.

As a resident in the district, he knows the quality education NACS schools provide his children.

He and his wife, owners of Kiddie Academy of Fort Wayne, realize the importance of early childhood education.

School funding, overtesting of students and teacher salaries are major concerns for him.

From his business acumen, he knows that school finance is critical in having successful schools.

I highly recommend Zubair Khan receive your vote.

Donna Roof

Fort Wayne


Khan did homework
October 28, 2016

I am a member of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and attend (as well as help sponsor) many educational and legislative events in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. Zubair Khan is always there! He attended the superintendent of public instruction debate, the showing of the Education Inc. movie and the Network of Public Education conference in North Carolina. Khan is learning about issues in education, is the father of three young children and cares about all kids. He deserves your vote in Northwest Allen County Schools.

Susan Berry

Fort Wayne

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #42– November 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

[Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.]

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Will the voters of Indiana remember?

Over 1.3 million voters cast ballots for Glenda Ritz in 2012, more than the total cast for Mike Pence in the 2012 Governor’s race.

Over 1.3 million voters thought they had corrected the direction of education of Indiana by voting for Glenda Ritz over Tony Bennett. They thought the State Superintendent of Public Instruction could lead education policy.

The correction away from Tony Bennett’s policies didn’t happen. Governor Mike Pence blocked her efforts to carry out the education policies she had run on including fewer high stakes tests. He showed all Hoosier voters that the real person needed to change the direction of education in Indiana is a new governor.

Mike Pence moved quickly to marginalize the power of the State Superintendent in ways that had never been done before:
  • He set up his own education agency in competition with the Indiana Department of Education, a move which became so controversial he had to back away from it.
  • He appointed members of the State Board of Education determined to question every policy proposal brought by Superintendent Ritz and to challenge her leadership.
  • He gave the State Board of Education members their own independent staff and attorneys to monitor Ritz’s every action, a situation never envisioned or even hinted at when Governor Orr reorganized the State Board of Education into the current structure in 1984.
  • He actively supported Senate Bill 1 in the 2015 General Assembly to have Glenda Ritz removed as chair of the State Board while she was still in her first elected term.

Were the 1.3 million voters outraged as I was by this political blockade on the part of Governor Pence?

Governor Pence acted as if the election of Glenda Ritz meant nothing about changing Tony Bennett’s policies. The voters need to deliver the message again on November 8th.

Will voters in Indiana remember all these efforts to undermine the elected State Superintendent and will they be outraged enough to put her back in office, this time with a Governor friendly to her policies, John Gregg?

That would be the best plan to move Indiana forward to solve problems of high stakes testing, teacher shortages and privatization that form the legacy of the Tony Bennett era.

Voters have only one shot every four years to influence policies of the Governor and the State Superintendent. In between elections, voters couldn’t stop the efforts of Governor Pence to undermine the powers of the elected State Superintendent, but they can have their say now on November 8th.

I hope you will join me in supporting a team that agrees on education policy: Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent and John Gregg for Governor.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

A Positive Re-election Campaign While Voters Remember Senate Bill 1

Glenda Ritz should be commended in the current re-election campaign for running on her positive record and for not reminding the voters about the blatant political attempts to undermine her tenure in office. She has maintained her focus on student learning and school improvement and has helped 193 schools get off the list of low-performing schools. She is fighting to make optional Pre-K available to all families who want it. In her campaign commercials to date, she has not reminded voters of how Governor Pence undermined the authority of the State Superintendent and the Indiana Department of Education.

Nevertheless, the voters should remember the Governor’s political attacks. Senate Bill 1, passed by the General Assembly in April 2015, was a direct affront to the power of voters. Since 1908, the State Superintendent had served as chair of the State Board of Education. Senate Bill 1 removed that power from the State Superintendent and gave the power to name the chair to the appointees of the Governor on the State Board. Diminishing the powers of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was an obvious symbol of diminishing Indiana’s priority on public education.

Senate Bill 1 as proposed removed the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board immediately, even before the end of her first elected term of office. At the last minute, apparently thinking that voters would be outraged by this level of partisanship, the General Assembly supermajority backed off and left Glenda Ritz as chair of the State Board until after the 2016 election. Going forward, members of the State Board which are mostly appointed by the Governor will elect the chair.

Therefore in the November 8th election, voters have less power. Voters can no longer directly select the chair of the State Board of Education but only indirectly through a vote for the Governor.

Was Senate Bill 1 really the way democracy is supported to work? The voters in 2012 had a chance to ratify the policies of State Superintendent Tony Bennett, but they didn’t. They chose instead to elect State Superintendent Ritz, decisively. The 1.3 million voters were extremely clear.

According to Senate Bill 1, however, the voters were wrong. The voters do not, according to Senate Bill 1, have the power to pick the chair of the State Board of Education. The Governor and his activist board members did not like the priorities and policies of the new State Superintendent. They systematically worked for two years to diminish her power in order to win the philosophical battles on education policies including debates on teacher training, teacher evaluations, student testing, administrator training, and school letter grades.

In my observation, this effort began in July 2013 in the first meeting of the newly appointed board when Superintendent Ritz was presenting her vision for improving reading. She is after all a literacy specialist and she did after all win the election, but her presentation was interrupted and cut off by one board member and tabled before she could even finish the presentation. Two years later, the Governor’s efforts to take complete control of education policy culminated in a legislative priority in the 2015 General Assembly to permanently reduce the powers of the State Superintendent.

Senate Bill 1 was a partisan bill that raised the powers of appointed State Board members above the powers of the voters. It clearly diminished our democracy.

We pride ourselves on being a democracy with powers of government derived from the voters. Clearly Senate Bill 1 took power from the voters. It was wrong to do that. The voters need to send the message again, this time by voting for both Glenda Ritz and a Governor that will support her policies, John Gregg.

Senate Bill 1 took power from the voters, an affront which should be remembered on November 8th.

The best response to Senate Bill 1 is for the voters to elect John Gregg. He will appoint State Board members who support the policies of Glenda Ritz.

On September 26, 2016 speaking at the ISBA conference at the Indianapolis Convention Center, John Gregg said, “When my running mate and I win, that is the moment the war against public education ends.” (Indianapolis Star, 9-27-16, p.6A)

May it be so. I hope you will vote for Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent and John Gregg for Governor on November 8th.

Thanks for your strong advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Letters: Ritz the only choice for Indiana’s children

NEIFPE member Meg Bloom sent this letter to the editor to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette supporting Glenda Ritz for reelection as the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Ritz the only choice for Indiana’s children

Published: October 31, 2016

In late summer I went to Indianapolis to hear both Glenda Ritz and Jennifer McCormick speak at a forum hosted by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. Both are educators, both have worked within the public school system, and both are concerned with the so-called reforms that have been forced onto our school children. It sounds like this election might be a wash – but look again.

At the forum, McCormick was open about the fact that her campaign was taking money from the same donors who backed former State Superintendent Tony Bennett. This is money coming from foundations that have backed the same reforms that McCormick and Ritz abhor. And yet McCormick doesn’t see this as a problem or a conflict of interest. I couldn’t decide whether she was very naive about how the political system operates or whether she thinks we voters are the naive ones.

Ritz has performed her duties with grace and good humor in the worst of circumstances, and those circumstances have been funded by McCormick’s donors. If you care about our Indiana schools and the children who attend, Ritz is the only candidate.

Meg Bloom

Fort Wayne

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