Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #279 – February 23, 2017

Dear Friends,

It was great to see so many public school advocates at the “Celebration of Public Education” last Monday!

Monday’s celebration was a fantastic day in the Statehouse. It lifted the spirits of all who came and it buoyed the resolve of supportive legislators, including Representatives Sue Errington and Sheila Klinker, both members of the House Education Committee who addressed the crowd. The day motivated all present to keep up the fight for strong public schools. As our speakers said many times, this is about democracy! We must keep it going!

The displays were great, the lunches were great, the speakers representing parents, educators and clergy were great, and the audience was great!

The day was a great success! Thanks to all who came and to all who couldn’t be present but were there in spirit!

Now let’s go to work. All the message cards to legislators were picked up and used on Monday. Keep those messages going! That is what this work is all about.

In the middle of the speakers, MC Joel Hand brought surprising information that had just come from the Senate Chamber. The Senate had rejected Senate Bill 179, the bill removing the power of voters to select the State Superintendent and giving that power to the Governor. The vote was 23-26!

The Senate respected the power of voters of Indiana and turned down a bill which would overturn the 166 year history of electing the State Superintendent. In addition, the bill removes the two year residency requirement now in law, opening the door to an out-of-state appointee with no personal knowledge of Indiana’s schools. Unbelievably, the bill also sets no requirements to be a teacher or administrator, opening the door to an appointee with no experience in education. This is just wrong!

Apparently, the Senate agreed, and the bill went down.


Listening to the Voters

Since the vote on SB 179, House Speaker Bosma and Governor Holcomb are having trouble listening to the voters and the Senate on this issue. Governor Holcomb still says he wants to appoint his own “secretary of education”, and Speaker Bosma has let it be known he would like to put the language of the House bill which passed on Monday on the same subject (HB 1005) into the budget.

The technique of putting controversial bill language into the budget has long been used as a hammer to get pesky legislators back into line. If it is in the budget, no one in the supermajority would vote against it.

That technique is how the first step was taken in 2009 to give public money to private schools. Tax credits for donors to private school scholarships, a program that cost taxpayers $18 million during this biennium, was passed on the last day in the 2009 special session budget, thus becoming the first domino to fall on Indiana’s path to creeping school privatization.

Tell your legislators, however, that changing the election of the State Superintendent is too big an issue to sneak by using the old budget ploy. We are talking about our Constitutional heritage with a 166 year history. If the people are ready to give up voting for their State Superintendent, there should be a clear and convincing vote of their representatives in the General Assembly. That has not happened this year, and Speaker Bosma and Governor Holcomb should restate their case next year.

Contact your legislators on this issue to say that no back room deals or budget tricks should be used on this one. Since it was voted down in the Senate, they should respect the voters and let it go for this session.

The Indianapolis Star (Feb. 21, p. 3A) quoted a Senate rule regarding a defeated bill that says “that exact language or substantially similar language shall be considered decisively defeated and shall not be considered again during the session.”

It will be up to the voters and the people to hold the Senators to this rule. Remind your Senator or any Senator that this concept has been decisively defeated for this session.

Listening to the Needs of One Million Plus Students

While these issues percolate, the needs of our K-12 students are being ignored in the budget.

The proposed House budget increases the tuition support budget only 1.1% for next year (2017-2018).

The House has put our school children back in the Great Recession.

In the worst part of the Great Recession when the economy was coming unglued in the long session of 2009, the General Assembly wrote a budget that gave public schools a 1.1% increase for 2009-2010. They repeated a 1.0% increase in the budget for 2012-13.

Ask your member of the House: Are we really back to the Great Recession for our school children?

Funding for K-12 tuition support is being given no priority and no urgency by the leaders of the House. They are willing to even raise taxes for roads but expectations for K-12 funding are being backpedaled and nearly ignored.

Only direct and pointed messages from parents, educators and public school advocates can change their budget priorities. Talk to House members and to Senate members about the needs of K-12 students. In the 2015 budget, K-12 funding increased by 2.3% and 2.3% in the two year budget. Here in 2017, as quietly as possible, the House leaders want increases for K-12 students to be 1.1% and 1.7% in the two year budget.

Compare these numbers to the latest inflation rate released Feb. 15th by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2.5% annual increase (from Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2017). Shouldn’t resources for our K-12 students at least keep up with inflation?

If no one speaks out about this, low funding for our K-12 students will prevail and programs will be cut. You know how it works: Superintendents and local school boards have to cut staff and programs, usually arts programs first, and then they get blamed. They should not be blamed for low funding. Now is the time to act to get legislators to raise these unreasonably low K-12 tuition support increases.

Today (Feb. 23rd) the House reviewed amendments to the budget on second reading, rejecting one amendment to restore $5 million per year for teacher professional development, a fund once set at $15 million annually when the 1999 school accountability law passed but zeroed out during the Tony Bennett years.

The budget bill is now ready for the final vote in the House on Monday, Feb. 27th. This weekend is the time to speak up! Tell them they can do better than 1.1% for our students!

Thanks for your advocacy for 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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 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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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Defending Democracy

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer is the chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County. If you live in South Central Indiana you can join ICPE–Monroe County HERE. Elsewhere in Indiana join the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

Below is the text to the speech she gave at the Celebration and Rally for Public Education at the Indiana Statehouse on Monday, February 20, 2017
“We are here once again to celebrate and rally to protect public education.

We’ve been here before.

Four years ago, we rallied to stop the spread of vouchers. Back then, in 2013, in the name of “school choice,” 37 million of our public tax dollars were siphoned away from public education to private, mostly religious schools. Today that number is near $134 MILLION.

Two years ago, we were here protesting the move by Gov. Pence and the state legislature to strip our then-superintendent, Glenda Ritz, of the role and responsibilities we elected her to perform. Today, there is a bill here in the statehouse that would now make that moot. The superintendent of public instruction will now be an appointed position instead of allowing the voters to decide. This is democracy in Indiana.

Now, in 2017, we are living in a Brave New World. Governor Pence is now vice-president Pence. And we have at the head of our nation’s education department a billionaire lobbyist, Betsy DeVos, who has no public school experience, no education background, and who has made it her life’s mission to destroy our system of public education. She has been quoted as saying that we must open up the “education industry because it is currently a “dead end, a monopoly.” She said, “government truly sucks.” Now she IS the government that she despises. A Brave New World, indeed.

We’re familiar with this rhetoric here in Indiana where DeVos’ friends in our legislature, as well as those donating to their campaign coffers, have said similar things. This is the narrative of corporate education reformers who disdainfully call our public schools “government” schools and who have been passing ALEC legislation for the past several years in order to dismantle it.

When we object, they accuse us of “defending the status quo” and argue that our schools are “failing.” They pass laws to void our votes while saying they want POLITICS out of education. SO: How do we fight back?

First, we must turn these words around and take back the narrative! We need to celebrate our successes in public schools, but we also must point out that the purpose of education is not to produce workers in the interest of the corporate world. My children are not widgets in a factory. I send my children to public schools to learn to become citizens for a democracy. They learn to respect people who think differently from them, who come from different backgrounds, and they find common ground. They find friendship. It’s not about a parents “right” to “choose.” We don’t ask for choices—we ask for healthy, vibrant public schools. No child is more deserving than another. The focus on personal choice distracts us from our collective, social responsibility for educating ALL of our country’s children. It also covers up the fact that “school choice” is actually about schools choosing the students—and creating separate (but equal?) systems of education that are not accountable, increasing the disparity in education outcomes and dividing our communities. This goes against our democratic ideals.

Second, we must organize and act. The outcry and controversy around the confirmation of DeVos should give us hope. Our country supports public education!

SO: Write letters to the editor, call your elected officials, form your own chapter of ICPE! We have some amazing parents from the Washington Township Parent Council in our midst and I’d like to give them a shout out for REPRESENTING all parents at education committee hearings and testifying. Thank you for standing up for public education. They are a great example of what engagement looks like. We should all do the same in our own communities.

Third, we must engage politically. There is NO WAY to take politics out of education. Many people are reluctant to get “political.” Politics is not about Republican or Democrat. Politics is about your relationship to power. We are in the middle of one of the greatest power struggles for control of our public community schools that we have ever seen. I think they WANT you to feel disenfranchised and hopeless about politics. Why else do they talk about government with such disgust when they are sitting in government seats? When we stand up for our schools, our teachers, and our kids—they accuse us of being political. Okay… LET’S OWN IT. YES. We ARE political. Because in a democracy, power is found in the collective and in our votes. We may not have enough money to buy ourselves a cabinet seat, but we have local positions for which we can run. I am here speaking to you as a mother, and as the chairperson of the Monroe County ICPE, and, although I am not speaking in my official capacity as one, I am also a new school board member. Do you want to help ensure that we fulfill the promise of public education and equity? Run for school board or help get someone elected. If we improve public schools for our kids, we are improving them for ALL kids. None of us can pretend to be neutral politically. As Desmond Tutu has said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Finally: we must remember: We are not defending the status quo. We are defending democracy.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nevertheless, We Persist!

Presented by Phyllis Bush, Monday, February 20, 2017 at the Indiana State House.
2017 Celebration Of Public Education

Good afternoon, friends of public education!

Like so many of you, I am the product of and a passionate supporter of public schools. I am a retired teacher and an advocate for kids, for teachers, and for my community. I am a member of the Network for Public Education and of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, (the lime green renegades). According to my grandsons, I am a Legendary Slam Gram. While where we are now might not be called legendary, this is most definitely a critical point in time. We are at a moment of historic consequence, not only for my grandsons, but also for the future of all of our children.

For the past six years, every legislative session seems to have brought daily threats to public education. Along with so many of you here today, I have been doing all that I can to slow the education reform juggernaut. We have run into brick walls, condescending pats on the head, lectures on Ayn Rand and school choice, and much like a certain senator who was warned, Nevertheless, we have persisted!

Here are some of the facts that we need to keep in mind as we celebrate and defend public education.

1. Nearly 90% of all Indiana children (1,010,811) attend public schools.

2. The 3 largest school districts in Indiana are Fort Wayne Community Schools, Indianapolis Public Schools, and (ding, ding, ding) Indianapolis Charter Schools.

3. The number of Indiana students using vouchers has jumped from 4,000 students in 2011-12 to 32,686 students last school year. Since the voucher program began, over $330 million dollars have been sucked out of our general education funds.

How’s that for fiscal responsibility?

We have been sold a bill of goods both by politicians and reformers which says that standardized testing is a way to measure student achievement. Rather than spending nearly $130 million on instructionally inappropriate testing, we could more than likely get the same results simply by looking at zip codes.

What seems to have been forgotten in all of this desire to “fix education” is that education is the most important investment we can make in our society. We have to educate all of our children, not just the privileged.

We must educate our legislators to understand that children are more than test scores and that learning is more than obedience.

Even though many of you may be shocked to hear this, Betsy DeVos is the gift that keeps on giving. Because she is so supremely unqualified and manifestly entitled and because her obvious intent is to complete the job of privatization that a certain Indiana florist and his friends from ALEC have begun, she has managed to energize us into realizing that public schools in our communities are at risk.

Rather than arming our teachers to ward off grizzlies, she has awakened a bunch of Mama Grizzlies and Grandma Grizzlies and has put us in a state of major pissment because the threat she is posing is messing with our little ones.

So, my fellow Grizzlies, what do we need to do? Much, of course, depends on your comfort level, but here are some suggestions :

1. Inform and engage our families, our friends, our neighbors, and anyone who will listen.

2. Write letters to the editor. Contact our legislators and make appointments to talk with them and to engage them in conversations. We need to show them and our community leaders that supporting public education is in their best interest.

3. Go to town hall meetings in your district, not with pitchforks and a list of demands, but rather with one or two concrete requests. We need to show how these bills are hurting our families.

4. Talk with business people and community leaders to let them know that being college and career ready is not the only thing that we want for our children. We want critical thinking, caring, discerning human beings who will contribute to our communities and to our future. This kind of learning and knowledge, rather than dubious test scores, is the key to a good and just society where we are aware of the value of all citizens, not just the privileged few.

5. Join groups like Indiana Coalition for Public Education and the Network for Public Education to keep in the loop about what is happening and about action steps that are needed.

This election has provided a wake up call for all of us.

We are witnessing the dismantling and privatization of public education.

We are witnessing the dismantling of democracy.

Will you stand by and watch this runaway train, or will you speak out and do something?

As the saying goes,

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

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Vic’s Statehouse Notes #278 – February 20, 2017

Dear Friends,

This morning in a late amendment to House Bill 1384, the House Education Committee voted on an 8-4 party line vote to ease penalties on voucher schools that have a “D” or an “F” for two consecutive years.

Currently voucher schools with a “D” or “F” for two years in a row can’t receive new voucher students although they can continue to take vouchers for current students.

House Bill 1384, a graduation bill, now has been amended to allow voucher schools to request that the State Board of Education “waive or delay” the penalties “if the eligible school demonstrates that a majority of students in the eligible school demonstrates academic improvement during the preceding year.”

The bill does not define the meaning of “academic improvement” in this sentence.

Thus on this Presidents’ Day when many are in the Statehouse to celebrate public education, the House Education Committee wants to give voucher schools another boost by easing the accountability rules.

I disagree.

If you are going to the Statehouse today and can talk with legislators, please ask them why consequences for public schools and charter schools can’t be “waived or delayed” if the “school demonstrates academic improvement during the preceding year”?

If the General Assembly is ready to ease the standards of school accountability, why don’t they allow waivers or delays for all schools, not just voucher schools? They should not show a bias toward voucher schools.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education! Perhaps you are already in the Statehouse for today’s “Celebration 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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 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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Friday, February 17, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #277 – February 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

Five updates on public education in the Statehouse:

UPDATE #1: Join us in the Statehouse this Monday on Presidents’ Day (Feb. 20th) for “A Celebration of Public Education”! We need your voice and the voices of your family and friends on issues updated below!

Lunch (if pre-registered) at 12:30. Choirs at 1:30. Speakers at 2:00 in the North Atrium.

The League of Women Voters has joined the list of sponsoring organizations:
AFT Indiana
American Association of University Women
Concerned Clergy
Indiana Coalition for Public Education
Indiana Parent Teacher Association
Indiana Small & Rural Schools Association
Indiana State Teachers Association (lunch & display sponsor)
Indiana Urban Schools Association
League of Women Voters
Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

Speakers at 2:00 pm in the North Atrium are being coordinated by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, and Joel Hand will serve as MC.

Displays on the 3rd and 4th floor will highlight a sampling of great things happening in public schools.

Bring new and gently used classroom supplies for ISTA ReSupply and book donations to celebrate Read Across America.

I hope to see you as we celebrate public education!

UPDATE #2: Senator Kruse announced Wednesday before the hearing that SB 534 (Education Savings Accounts for Special Education) would not advance. It is dead for this session. Senator Kruse deserves your thanks for stopping this bill!

He went ahead with the hearing on the bill after announcing its fate. An expert from the Foundation for Excellence in Education in Florida, funded by Jeb Bush and the Gates Foundation, extolled the virtues of Education Savings Accounts, which as I have written would undermine the entire concept of public education. No doubt we will fight this fight again in the future.

UPDATE #3: The Senate bill to expand pre-kindergarten programs (SB 276) passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday with no link to a lifetime K-12 voucher such as that passed in House Bill 1004. SB 276 now goes to the Appropriations Committee. In its present form, it deserves the full support of public school advocates!

UPDATE #4: Both bills to make the State Superintendent of Public Instruction into a secretary of education appointed by the Governor are ready for a final vote on as early as Monday. If you oppose taking power from the voters to select our State Superintendent, this is your last weekend to appeal to your Senator or House member to oppose Senate Bill 179 and House Bill 1005. Both bills require no experience in Indiana and, unbelievably, no experience in education! Since they are identical, they could be signed into law very soon.

UPDATE #5: It appears that the Indiana House is sending a message to our K-12 students that they can’t give them adequate support this year because our roads are bad!

The House budget released Wednesday gives even less for tuition support than did the Governor’s meager budget released in January.

  • The Governor asked for $70 million the first year (1.0% increase) and $210 in the second year (2.0% increase above the first year) or a total of $280 million new dollars.
  • The new House budget invests $77 million in the first year (1.1% increase) and $196 million in the second year (1.7% increase above the first year) or a total of $273 million new dollars.
  • In 2015, the final budget invested $157 million in the first year (2.3% increase) and $317 million in the second year (2.3% increase above the first year) or a total of $474 million new dollars. 
Is Indiana so poor this year that the support for public education must slip this much compared to 2015? The latest Consumer Price Index from the federal government showed the annual inflation rate in January 2017 to be 2.5%. Our school programs can’t even keep up with inflation next year when the increase is only 1.1%.

Legislators have not made increased funding for public schools a priority this year. The supermajority is trying to set an expectation that this is all that schools will get, but this is totally inadequate. They need to hear more from public school advocates!

In addition, the House budget would raise the amount for tax credits for private school scholarships from $9.5 million to $12.5 million each year. For the two-year budget, that means an increase of $6 million for private school tuition scholarships. This is the first point that public school advocates should press legislators on, so that at least $6 million could be shifted to shore up the clearly inadequate K-12 funding. If you talk with your legislator in the Statehouse when you come on Monday, this is an important point to make to stop the expansion of taxpayer money going to private schools!


Thanks for your advocacy for public education! I hope you can get to the “Celebration of Public Education” in the Statehouse on Monday!


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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 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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Monday, February 13, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #276 – February 13, 2017

Dear Friends,

Yet another attack on public education is coming at you.

This is in addition to (1) ending the power of voters to select the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and (2) using the pre-K program as a cover to vastly expand K-12 vouchers.

This new bill would start the process to end public education itself.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 15th) on SB 534 which puts in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card.

This bill was first filed last year using the deceiving name “Educational Savings Accounts.” This year SB 534 is using the name “Special Education Scholarship Accounts”. It would fund a huge expansion of private school vouchers Indiana for special education and Section 504 students. It would advance the privatization of our educational system in line with the plans of voucher-inventor Milton Friedman, who supported the abolishment of public education.

It is a direct attack on public education. It pushes forward a radical new private school voucher plan. It would be the biggest voucher expansion since Governor Pence’s voucher expansion was enacted in 2013. In the fiscal note on SB 534, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency has concluded that “the estimated increase in expenditures based on the current formula will be between $144 million and $206 million annually.”

This bill and this concept should be denounced by all public school advocates to any and all legislators, most immediately to the members of the Senate Education Committee before their meeting on Wednesday at 1:30pm in the Senate Chamber.


If you are offended enough by this bill to come speak against the bill yourself, please do so!

The members of the Senate Education Committee to contact are:
Republican Senators Kruse, Raatz, Bassler, Crane, Freeman, Kenley, Leising and Zay

Democratic Senators Melton, Mrvan and Stoops

SB 534 is a Voucher Experiment for Special Education Students

SB 534 is a radical experiment to give public money directly to parents as Milton Friedman wanted.

Using the same concept, HB 1591 has been filed in the House as an experiment for all students and all parents, carrying a fiscal price tag of $344 million to $366 million according to LSA.

These new experiments with our school children would undermine funding and support for the public schools of Indiana, which after five years of school choice have still been chosen by 92.5% of all students and need the support of legislators, not another attack.

Similar damaging bills have been passed in some form in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Mississippi and Tennessee, all states that perform below Indiana on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the respected national measure known as “the nation’s report card.”

Senate Bill 534 and House Bill 1591 are right out of Milton Friedman’s plan to take public schools out of our society and leave education to a marketplace of private schools, all funded by the taxpayers but without government oversight.

Both bills give money directly to parents in the amount that the average child gets in their school district. Parents can then pay for private schools or “approved educational services providers” including tutors or other private vendors.

The program is to be run by the Indiana Treasurer, not the Indiana Department of Education. SB 534 even provides for the Treasurer to outsource the program to be run by a bank. Unbelievably, this means they want to privatize management of the privatized voucher program!

It’s simply unacceptable and demoralizing to our hard-working public school teachers and administrators.

Not all Republicans in Indiana agree with the Republican leaders bringing these radical bills forward to further privatize our schools. These bills should not advance. Only grassroots citizens talking to their legislators can stop these bills and the death spiral for public education. It is time to speak up! The loss of funding and instability this would bring to public schools would obviously disrupt their ability to provide long-term quality programs for over one million Hoosier students.

Senate Bill 534 – Special Education Scholarship Account Program

SB 534 is sponsored by Senator Raatz, a first term Senator who formerly served as the principal of a Christian school. Students can already get vouchers to go to Christian schools. This bill would hurt enrollment at public schools and voucher schools alike by allowing the entire amount of public money for a special education student or a Section 504 student to be spent for “an approved educational services provider” which includes “a nonpublic school and a private tutor” with no standards stated for receiving IDOE approval and weak standards for provider fraud.

The bill specifies that approved providers will not be regulated. Thus, the bill wants to give out government money to private providers with absolutely no government control.

The bill would also:
  • reduce accountability. Approximately $6000 in public money will be given to parents of special education and Section 504 students with no requirement for annual testing or evaluation or accountability for student progress.
  • expand taxpayer-funded vouchers to high income families. SB 534 removes all income limits. Remember how Indiana’s voucher law was pitched and passed in 2011 as a program to help low income families? That rationale has disappeared. Currently, families of disabled students with incomes up to $89,900 are eligible for vouchers. This expansion contributes to the projected fiscal cost of $144 million to $206 million.
  • narrow and weaken the curriculum. Education is reduced to “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science” for special education students. It is unacceptable to allow students to be educated under this program with no art, no music, no health, and no physical education. This reduction of the educational curriculum is hard to fathom.
  • pay textbook and computer fees for private schools while public school parents get no help with textbooks. SB 534 makes textbooks for private schools or private programs a taxpayer expense.
  • allow parents to divert money intended for K-12 education to their 529 college fund. This is an incentive for parents who can afford to pay for their current private school to enroll in the program, take the money intended for K-12 education and put it in a 529 college account instead.
  • allow the money to go to parents without strong fraud protection. No penalties are listed when parents commit fraud with their child’s money. After audits of a random sample of accounts, authorities are only given power to suspend or close an account. The bill says nothing about repaying taxpayer money that has been misspent or about fraud. This bill is a recipe for fraud and would require an expensive Educational Bureau of Investigations to root out problems.
  • allow parents to sign up for the money without criminal background checks. Teachers are under increased scrutiny for criminal background checks. If parents have a criminal record or a record of abuse or neglect, they should not be given $6000 on a debit card to educate their child. SB 534 does not address this crucial issue.

Troubling Questions

The fact that SB 534 is being given consideration by Republican leaders in the General Assembly raises troubling questions which you should ask your legislators:
1) Does this mean that those advancing SB 534 no longer support public education?

2) Does this new way of giving out vouchers mean they have given up on the current voucher program?

3) With Indiana schools in a crisis over ISTEP testing and assessment, do we really need to stop everything and take time for a battle over more vouchers with less accountability?
Let them know that plunging Indiana into another all-out battle over privatizing our public schools would be damaging to all schools, including the private voucher schools that could well lose students to “providers” in the radical remake of our system envisioned by SB 534 and HB 1591.

SB 534 and HB 1591 should disappear from consideration while all efforts are focused on solving the complexities of Indiana’s assessment problems and the teacher shortage.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” by saying “the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.” SB 534 would help his plan to abolish public schools.

I urge you to contact Senators listed above on the Senate Education Committee by Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 15th) to tell them you strongly oppose Senate Bill 534.

Thanks for speaking up about this radical bill, and thanks for your advocacy for 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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 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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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #275 – February 12, 2017

Dear Friends,

If you are a voter, read this one right away.

The power of voters in Indiana is about to be reduced. Our democracy faces another hit.

As a voter, you can speak out to retain your power (1) as the Senate votes Monday on Senate Bill 179 and (2) at a Tuesday hearing on House Bill 1005. Both bills would remove from voters the power to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

  • Governor Holcomb wants the General Assembly to take away the power voters now have to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and let him appoint a “secretary of education”.
I disagree. Voters have had that power for 166 years since 1851, and voters should retain their current power to shape education policy in Indiana through electing this independent office.
  • Governor Holcomb wants the General Assembly to remove the residency requirement that the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction be an Indiana resident for at least two years, opening the door to out-of-staters with no background in the history or development of Indiana’s schools.
I disagree. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction should be a leader who knows Indiana schools from personal experience.

  • Governor Holcomb wants the General Assembly to open up the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction to anyone who will serve “at the pleasure of and at a salary determined by the governor”. No qualifications are stated in HB 1005. Teaching experience or teaching licenses are not mentioned.
I disagree. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction should be a skilled and respected educator with experience in Indiana’s public schools. Voters have seen to that for 166 years, but making the office an executive appointment could give us a Betsy DeVos-like candidate with no teaching experience. That should not happen. I say we should leave it to the voters!
If you disagree with Governor Holcomb and want to retain your power as a voter, prompt action is needed:
1) The Senate has scheduled SB 179 for Monday Feb. 13th (tomorrow) for a vote on Senator Kenley’s amendment to first allow an advisory statewide referendum of all voters on this question before an historic change of this magnitude is approved. Contact any and all Senators before Monday at 1:30pm to say you support the referendum amendment and you oppose the bill taking power away from the voters.

2) Testimony for and against House Bill 1005 which would fulfill Governor Holcomb’s wish to appoint the State Superintendent will be heard in the House Education Committee this Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in the House Chamber. The meeting begins at 8:30am.

If you oppose removing this part of our heritage from the control of voters, you have a chance to show up Tuesday to speak against the bill.

If you can’t get to the Statehouse Tuesday, I urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee about your opposition to HB 1005 before the Tuesday meeting.
The members of the House Education Committee are:

Republican Representatives Behning, Cook, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Jordan, Lucas, Thompson and Wesco

Democratic Representatives V. Smith, DeLaney, Errington and Klinker.

The 1851 Constitution Made the State Superintendent an Independent Office Elected by the Voters


Since 1851, voters have controlled who serves as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The 1851 Constitution set the term of office as two years, and included the State Superintendent as a state official to be elected. A constitutional amendment in 1970 took the office out of the Constitution and gave the power to the General Assembly to decide how the State Superintendent would be chosen. The General Assembly at that time passed a law setting a four year term which first took effect with Harold Negley’s election in 1972.

Now in 2017, Governor Holcomb and Speaker Bosma, the sponsor of HB 1005, want to cut the voters out of the selection process.

If You Speak Against the Bill, You Will Not Be Alone

When this same concept was brought to the Senate Elections Committee on February 6, Senate Bill 179 passed 6-3, but it had the opposition of both Democratic Senator Tim Lanane, Senate Minority Leader and Republican Senator Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee. In fact, the bill was routed through the Senate Elections Committee rather than the Senate Education Committee because of the opposition of Senator Kruse.

Senator Kruse was quoted in the Indianapolis Star (Feb. 7, page 1A): “I am a strong believer in the election of the superintendent. I have been my whole life and will continue to be. I think it’s better to have the position elected than appointed. I think it gives another voice to the people.”

Amen.

For the people, however, to keep this voice, they are going to have to speak up promptly!

Voters Will Have to Speak Up for the Power of Voters

The power of voters is under attack here, and individual voters will need to speak out directly if they are going to turn this agenda around. We have seen it time and time again in this election cycle. People have turned out to express their positions. Will they turn out to retain the power of voters in choosing Indiana’s State Superintendent?

First, contact your Senator or all Senators to support the referendum amendment to SB 179 when it comes up on second reading on Monday.

Second, if you have strong feelings about taking this power away from voters, come and testify on Tuesday in the House Chamber. You can state your opposition in four sentences, but your presence would make a difference. Nothing about the process is convenient, but that is way it is. The meeting begins at 8:30 am. To testify on House Bill 1005, you need to sign in before 8:30 after going through security at the east or west doors and then wait to be called in the meeting, which can often be a long time.

It depends on how offended you feel as a voter that after 166 years you will no longer have a say in the selection of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Is anyone concerned about this diminishing power of voters in our democracy?

Of course, the Governor would like more power. Is anyone concerned that there will be no checks and balances on the Governor’s policies on education from an independently elected State Superintendent?

The ongoing historic debate of the past forty years has been over privatization and whether public money should be given to private schools. These bills to give the governor more power in this fundamental debate won’t take politics out of education as some have said but will only focus the historic privatization question on the governor’s race, which is also influenced by a myriad of other issues. Education will get lost in the shuffle of election issues.

Is anyone concerned that the name will change under HB 1005 from “State Superintendent of Public Instruction” to “Secretary of Education”? This is clearly a major step in the ongoing effort to unravel the long and proud heritage of public education in Indiana.

Here is your chance to stand up for your own power as a voter in our diminishing democracy! Contact Senators about SB 179 on Monday. Contact House members or come to the Statehouse on Tuesday regarding HB 1005 to speak up to retain the power that voters have had since 1851 to choose the State Superintendent.

Thanks 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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 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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