Friday, July 19, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #148 – July 19, 2013

Dear Friends,

Watching the last State Board of Education meeting on June 24th absolutely confirmed my previous conclusion that when IDOE has intervened in low performing schools, the lead partner approach has succeeded admirably while the state takeover by outside contractors approach has led to acrimony, fractured communities and contentious litigation. The latest litigation was the central item at the June 24th meeting and is part of an ongoing story that many are not familiar with.

Lead Partner Schools

Broad Ripple, Washington and Marshall High Schools were all assigned lead partner organizations to support professional development and to better use data to drive instruction. Within a year in each case, representatives of these schools came before the State Board to report impressive progress and express thanks for the professional development that spurred improvement.

State Takeover Schools

Arlington High School now operated by non-profit contractor Ed Power; Manual and Howe High Schools and Donnan Middle School now operated by for-profit contractor Charter Schools USA; and Gary Roosevelt High School now operated by for-profit contractor Edison have now seen two years of bickering and contentious litigation as control was taken away from the IPS and Gary School Boards. Enrollment dropped by as much as half in the transition to contractor control starting in the fall of 2012, which led to the latest adjudication before the State Board at the June 24th meeting.

Last fall, IPS and Gary Community Schools filed lawsuits saying the State Board gave the takeover operators more money than the law allowed, money which came directly out of funds for IPS and Gary public school students. For example, Arlington and Ed Power were given per pupil funding for 1105 students, the count taken in September, 2011. The true enrollment, however, in September 2012 when the school opened was 518. Essentially, they received double the per pupil funding compared to other public education students. IPS and Gary Community Schools were successful in court and won a judgment that IPS should get back $7,516,046 and Gary Community Schools should get back $1,741,321.

The Bennett administration appealed the decision in December, 2012.

The Ritz administration took a different approach. Since the money had already been spent at the schools, Glenda Ritz requested money from the General Assembly to pay the judgments. The budget passed in April provided 80% of the money, $6.012 million for IPS and $1.393 million for Gary, but it required that the State Board of Education vote to transfer the money by June 30th to conclude the litigation.

The State Board Meeting on June 24, 2013

That was the setting for the drama on June 24th, when six votes were needed to approve the transfer and only six members showed up for the meeting. Every vote would be needed to pass the measure.

In an adjudication of this nature, the State Superintendent does not vote. A representative of the Attorney General presided. Neil Pickett, in his final meeting, described how he was “torn by this. We made the right decision.” He said he doesn’t agree with the Superior Court decision. “The legislature decided to solve this problem by making funds available. … I’m torn.”

Board members discussed the matter for an hour. Many comments related to a desire to leverage their agreement to give up their right to appeal in exchange for a continuation of elevated funding for the five takeover schools, “at least at the same level in 2013-14 as in 2012-13,” in the words of Dan Elsener. After contentious debate, they ignored the five paragraphs the lawyers had presented to the board and instead passed a three-part motion: 1) IPS would get $6.012 million and Gary Community Schools would get $1,393 million, 2) turnaround school operator funding would be “at a level not less than they received in 2012-13”, and 3) the litigation is dismissed. The motion passed 6-0.

After the meeting, officials of IPS and Gary Community Schools seemed relieved that they will get back at least 80% of what they lost. All seemed happy that the litigation is concluded. Regarding funding levels for 2013-14, no one could explain to me how the turnaround schools would be able to get the same double-funding they had last year since the State Board has no power to appropriate money and procedures for determining how the schools will be funded have already been set based on the lower enrollments of September 2012. The future will tell us if the State Board has the power to make funding decisions of this nature.

Later today, the newly reconstituted State Board of Education with four new members will meet for the first time in the Senate Chamber of the Statehouse.

Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. We need all previous members of ICPE to renew their memberships for the 2013-14 membership year which began July 1st. Please join us! To all who have recently renewed, we say thank you! We have reduced our debt from the General Assembly session from $4000 to $2300. We need additional support to carry on our advocacy for public education. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help!

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.