Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #133– April 10, 2013

Dear Friends,

In a close and disappointing vote about noon today, ten Republican Senators joined all thirteen Democrats to vote against the voucher expansion bill, HB 1003. It was not enough. The other 27 Republican Senators voted yes, and the bill passed 27-23. The amended bill now goes back to the House, where Rep. Behning will either send his bill to a conference committee or ask the House to concur with the Senate version. Efforts of public school advocates to oppose the bill should now shift back to the House.

The Debate

Senate leaders obviously knew coming out of a 10:00am caucus that they had the votes to pass the bill. The bill was called down first today as the Senate began work about 11:30. Senator Yoder presented the bill, rather than the Senate sponsor, Senator Eckerty. Passionate statements in opposition to the bill followed from Senator Tallian, Senator Rogers and Senator Skinner. Senator Yoder, the only Republican who spoke for the bill, then gave closing comments and the vote began.

The Vote

Ten Republicans voted no: Senators Alting, Becker, Head, Mishler, Tomes, Waterman, Charbonneau, Glick, Grooms, and Landske. The first six also voted against vouchers in 2011, while the last four voted for vouchers in 2011 but changed to vote against the expansion today.

Thirteen Democrats voted no: Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Hume, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Skinner, Stoops, Tallian, Taylor and Richard Young. All were in the Senate and voted against vouchers in 2011 except Sen. Stoops who is new to the Senate this year.

All 23 Senators deserve thank you notes from public school advocates for their vote today.

27 Republicans voted yes: Senators Banks, Boots, Bray, Buck, Crider, Delph, Eckerty, Hershman, Holdman, Kenley, Kruse, Leising, Long, Merritt, Nugent, Pat Miller, Pete Miller, Paul, Schneider, Smith, Steele, Walker, Waltz, Wyss, Yoder, Michael Young and Zakas. Senators Boots, Nugent and Zakas voted no in 2011 but yes today. Senators Bray, Crider and Pete Miller are new to the Senate since the 2011 voucher vote. The other 21 all previously voted for vouchers in 2011.

Next Steps

Since the Senate amended the bill, the bill sponsor in the House Rep. Behning must now decide whether to dissent from the amendments and send the bill to a conference committee or to concur with the amendments and seek a House vote to concur with the Senate version.

There are several controversial differences between the House version and the Senate version that need more public discussion in the next two weeks:
1) The Senate version for the first time uses the flawed A-F system to make voucher eligibility decisions. That is a first for the voucher program, which in the past has never been linked with failing schools. A strong consensus has emerged that the A-F system must be revised, but the revision won’t be done before this new voucher bill would use it to make voucher decisions. That’s not right.

2) The Senate version requires new state rules from the State Board of Education regulating special education programs in private schools. State regulation of any program in a private school would be a controversial step, and state regulation of a complex program like special education will raise even more questions about the scope, the method and the accountability of the regulations needed to monitor special education services in private schools.

HB 1003 says: “The state board shall adopt rules under IC4-22-2, … for the provision of special education or related services to an eligible choice scholarship student who receives an amount under section4(2) of this chapter. The rules adopted under this section shall include annual reporting requirements, monitoring ,and consequences for noncompliance by an eligible school.

This seemly is in direct conflict with the current voucher law which says (IC 20-51-4):

A nonpublic eligible school is not an agent of the state or federal government, and therefore:
........(1) the department or any other state agency may not in any way regulate the educational program of a nonpublic eligible school that accepts a choice scholarship under this chapter, including the regulation of curriculum content, religious instruction or activities, classroom teaching, teacher and staff hiring requirements, and other activities carried out by the eligible school;
........(2) the creation of the choice scholarship program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, the state's officers, or a school corporation to impose additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those necessary to enforce the requirements of the choice scholarship program in place on July 1, 2011; and
........(3) a nonpublic eligible school shall be given the freedom to provide for the educational needs of students without governmental control.

The conflict looming over special education regulation is clear.
Other Votes Today

HB 1338 Charter School Administration passed 34-16. Among many changes, this bill provides a hefty raise in payments for each student in a virtual charter schools, moving from 87.5% of the state per pupil amount to 100% of the per pupil amount.

HB 1381 Public School Transfers passed 43-7.

HB 1423 Antibullying passed 36-14.

HB 1427 Various Education Matters passed 37-13. The Senate’s version of guidelines for revising the A-F system and the Common Core review are two of many topics in this bill.

HB 1357 School Administrators passed 26-25. An amazing story emerged on this bill which removes the requirement that superintendents have a teacher’s license or a superintendent’s license. Sen. Pete Miller presented the bill as a change to let the local school board decide who should be their superintendent without requiring a licensed superintendent. He said the bill is “not saying an educator’s license is not important, but rather that it is not essential.” An amendment was added yesterday which says that a superintendent must have a Masters degree in any field.

This, of course, has been an extremely controversial bill among school administrators. Sen. Skinner derided the bill for implying that “anybody can do this job” and that “licensing and experience are no longer a good thing.”

Senator Leising asked questions of Sen. Miller to clarify the REPA rules that already allow someone without a superintendent license to be selected as the superintendent. She then spoke to the bill, saying that the bill would be dead if she had been present during the vote in committee. She had to present a bill in another committee during the vote on HB 1357. Had she been there, she reported, the bill would not have passed 6-5 but she would have voted no, making the vote 6-6. She asked the Senate to vote no today.

Senator Banks then rose to support the bill to empower “our locally elected boards to make the best decision about leadership.”

Senator Rogers then rose to speak, holding up the four-inch thick book of school laws and administrative code that superintendents must master, saying that experienced administrators are needed in schools. She said local boards can be pressured to appoint people not well trained and “flexible means yielding to influence.”

Senator Miller closed by listing the presidents of major universities in Indiana and saying, “None of them hold educator licenses. None could be a superintendent.”

Then came the vote. The reds and greens appeared balanced on the board. Senators Kenley and Delph did not vote at first and were reminded to vote before the machine closed. These two votes appeared to be the swing votes. Then just before the machine was closed, they both voted “yes.” The tally showed 25 to 25.

A tie vote.

When this happens, the presiding officer of the Senate, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann casts the deciding vote. She quickly voted yes, and the bill passed 26-25.

Twelve Republican Senators voted no on HB 1357: Senators Alting, Becker, Crider, Glick, Grooms, Head, Landske, Leising, Nugent, Steele, Tomes and Waterman.

Thirteen Democrats voted no on HB 1357: Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Hume, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Skinner, Stoops, Tallian, Taylor and Richard Young.

25 Republican Senators voted yes on HB 1357: Senators Banks, Boots, Bray, Buck, Charbonneau, Delph, Eckerty, Hershman, Holdman, Kenley, Kruse, Long, Merritt, Mishler, Pat Miller, Pete Miller, Paul, Schneider, Smith, Walker, Waltz, Wyss, Yoder, Michael Young and Zakas.

Competing Visions of the Future

The future of schooling in Indiana according to Senate action today seems clear. More and more resources will be shifted to religious and private schools as overcrowded public schools, run by superintendents not familiar with the history and procedures of public education, struggle to restore programs to pre-recession levels. Our one million public school students deserve a better vision of excellence, adequate resources and well-prepared, experienced leaders. Keep up the fight!

Thanks for all the letters, emails and calls made to Senators! Thanks for supporting public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. I keep hearing reports that some public school supporters read these “Notes” with great interest but don’t translate that interest into joining ICPE. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who worked hard against voucher expansion in the Senate, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us!

Go to for membership and renewal information.

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.

No comments: