Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #299 – May 20, 2017

Dear Friends,

News reports say that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will announce her tax credit plan to fund private school tuition with federal money at a meeting in Indianapolis this Monday, May 22nd.

This is the first nationwide step in the Trump Administration plan to take to cut federal funding for public schools and start using federal funds to support private school tuition scholarships.

A bill to fund tax credits to help private schools has already been filed in Congress.

It is not surprising that Betsy DeVos wants to announce her plan in Indiana. She has been the most influential funder behind Indiana’s historic and damaging switch to giving public tax money to private and religious schools and the relentless deconstruction of public schools in Indiana.

According to reporters Stephanie Wang and Chelsea Schneider (Indianapolis Star, Jan. 15, 2017, p. 21A) DeVos has provided $2.5 million since 2004 to provide campaign funds for Indiana politicians who support vouchers. That paved the way to historic votes in 2009, 2011, 2013 and now 2017 which step by step have advanced the privatization of the public school system in Indiana.


The Deconstruction of Public Education

As the dust settles after adjournment of the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, it is clear that the deconstruction of public schools in Indiana has continued.

The third pillar of Indiana public education fell in this session. We will no longer have a Superintendent of Public Education but rather a secretary of education which will no longer be elected by the public after the 2020 election (House Bill 1005).

The deconstruction of public education is led by the followers of the policies of the late Milton Friedman and funded by Betsy DeVos. They have developed a strong power base in the Indiana General Assembly which has prevailed on this issue for nine years.


Previous Pillars

If the third pillar fell in 2017, what were the previous two pillars to fall?

1) The first pillar fell in 2009, when for the first time public money was budgeted for private school tuition through tax credits for donors to Scholarship Granting Organizations. The 2009 budget gave $5 million over two years for tax credits that would refund 50% of each donor’s gift toward private school scholarships. In the new 2017 budget funding for such tax credits, once $5 million, now stands at $26.5 million over the next two years.

This is the program that Betsy DeVos wants to begin nationwide to use federal money to pay for private school tuition.

The Indiana program passed in 2009 is the most generous tax credit available in Indiana. Donors giving to private school scholarship organizations get 50% back when they file state income tax forms, and there is no limit per taxpayer! A million dollar donation would produce a $500,000 tax credit, ideal for high income earners who want to support private schools. The only limit is the total annual appropriation, so taxpayers have to make their claim before others take the credits.

2) The second pillar fell in 2011 when the historic voucher law passed, giving public money directly to private school parents and schools for private school tuition. Funding for private school vouchers cost taxpayers $146 million in the current 2016-17 school year, up from $15 million in the first year of the program, 2011-12.

For those who would like to see the details of annual voucher costs, please see the attached six-year overview.

Sadly, the policies of the current leadership in the General Assembly have sent the message that more pillars will be attacked each new session in pursuit of Milton Friedman’s goal to end public education and provide universal vouchers.
Will the General Assembly’s Priority on Helping Private Schools Be Reversed?

The plan to diminish support and funding for public education is proceeding apace. Besides ending the independent voice of the elected State Superintendent, this legislative session:
1) created an eighth pathway for eligibility for a private school voucher. Seven pathways established in 2011 and 2013 have produced 34,299 students eligible for a voucher, 54.6% of whom have never enrolled previously in a public school. The eighth pathway is to attend a private preschool with a state pre-K grant and then stay on in the same private school for kindergarten and beyond at taxpayer’s expense (House Bill 1004).

2) made it possible to keep getting new voucher students when private schools get low school letter grades. HB 1384 was amended to allow a loophole for voucher schools making a D or F to continue to enroll new voucher students by filing an appeal to the State Board of Education. Currently, voucher schools making a D or F for two years can keep enrolling their current voucher students but can’t enroll new voucher students until their school grades improve.

3) made it possible for the first time for a new private school to get vouchers in the first year of operation (HB 1384). Previously, operation for at least one year was required while the school was reviewed for accreditation.
In Summary

All in all, it was a good legislative session for the privatizers. Public education remains on the ropes and now it is being attacked nationally through the work of Betsy DeVos.

Public education will remain in jeopardy until candidates and voters in election campaigns make it clear that the deconstruction our system of public education in Indiana and in the nation is unacceptable and is damaging to our democracy.

I urge you to write members of Congress that you oppose the DeVos plan to take federal money away from public schools and give it instead to private schools via federal tax credit scholarships.

I urge you to write members of the Indiana General Assembly that you are disappointed that they sent the message again in this session that public education is a low priority and that expanding public dollars for private schools continues to get priority attention from the leaders of the General Assembly.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana and nationwide!


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, May 5, 2017

NEIFPE Presentation at the People for the Common Good Forum

On May 2, 2017, the People for the Common Good held a forum at the Allen County Public Library.

Members of the coalition and other interested groups had a few minutes to present information about their group and their plans. NEIFPE member, and People for the Common Good board member, Meg Bloom, spoke on behalf of NEIFPE. Here are her remarks.
Remarks to People for the Common Good Forum, May 2, 2017 from NEIFPE ~ Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

We know that public education is one of the cornerstones of democracy, so we formed in 2011 in response to attacks on public education. We are tired of hearing the harsh statements. I am sure you have heard that public schools are failing. That is a blanket statement and too broad to be of any help in a discussion. Public schools are not failing. We hear that our test scores are lower than other countries. That particular sound bite is too simplistic to give you the whole picture. It doesn’t tell you that many countries only test select students while here in the U.S., we test everyone. Even more important, it doesn’t tell you that there is a high correlation between poverty and low test scores. The US poverty rate at almost 22% is much higher than most of the other industrialized countries who are part of that comparison. Our higher poverty rate lowers our average test scores.

Besides the effect of the negative propaganda, we have six other current concerns.

1. We are always worried when the Indiana legislature is in session because our state legislators are gullible and have made rash decisions that have had ill effects for our students.

2. Donald Trump is president and Betsy Devos, who has no public education experience, is Education Secretary. You have to be concerned about what they might have up their sleeves.

3. We are concerned about the voucher system. With vouchers, public education money goes to private schools and these are often religious schools. I want to emphasize that NEIFPE is not against parochial schools or religious education. Some of our members attended parochial schools and some have taught in parochial schools. What we are against is public funding for private schools.

4. Charter schools concern us. With charter schools, public education money goes to a private, often for profit, company with little oversight of how our tax dollars are being spent. The charter company then has the right to open a “public” school and make a profit on the education of the children.

5. We are concerned about the resegregation of our schools. Vouchers do not cover 100% of the tuition bill for private schools. This leaves out children from low-income homes. Not only that, voucher schools and sometimes charter schools can select their students and can refuse to accept students who are difficult to educate. With this, we are seeing a resegregation of American schools.

6. We are concerned about the emphasis on testing, on the expense of testing, on the amount of time spent testing and preparing for testing, and on the incorrect and punitive use of testing data.

Our current efforts are the same as our past efforts. We work to stay informed about education issues. We regularly contact our legislators with our concerns. We recognize the importance of explaining the situation to the public and so we write letters to the editor and op ed pieces for the paper. We give presentations to churches, civic organizations and college classes. Contact us if you would like us to speak to your group. This summer we will be cohosting a multistate meeting of public education activists.

How can fellow progressives support us? Follow us on Facebook and our blog to inform yourself about education issues. Support your public schools and help us elect candidates who support public schools. It would be helpful if we could organize ourselves and have an email list of others who are interested in public education issues. With this, we could send a quick email when legislation is in the works and people on the list could email or call their legislators with concerns about the effect the proposed legislation could have on public education. Many voices have a greater effect.

Thank you!

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Vic’s Statehouse Notes #298 – May 5, 2017

Dear Friends,

The General Assembly has given Indiana’s public schools a new unfunded mandate.

Action in the General Assembly has made it imperative that public schools establish quality pre-kindergarten programs. Without them, enrollment in public schools will wither.

Why, you say?

The 2017 Session of the General Assembly, reversing a key policy set in law in the 2014 General Assembly, has made pre-K students who get a state grant to attend a private pre-school eligible to enroll in that school’s K-12 program with a taxpayer-funded voucher .

The pre-kindergarten law passed in 2014 carried language ensuring no link between pre-kindergarten grants and K-12 vouchers: “The receipt of a grant under the pilot program does not qualify, nor have an effect on the qualification or eligibility, of a child for a Choice Scholarship.”

In the recently concluded 2017 session, the House passed a pre-K bill (HB 1004) to reverse this language and make pre-K grants a pipeline to K-12 vouchers. The Senate later deleted the House language on this point and again removed pre-K grants as a pathway to expanding K-12 vouchers.

In the Conference Committee to reconcile the different House and Senate versions, the House won. Pre-K grants are now the latest pathway to K-12 vouchers, the eighth pathway.

This result has tremendous implications for Indiana’s public schools. If public schools want to enroll kindergarten students, they must now make immediate plans to establish pre-K programs to compete with private pre-K programs which now plan to lift their market share of K-12 students one pre-K student at a time.

As the pre-K program expands, all state-funded pre-K students could end up in private K-12 schools using a voucher unless quality public school options are available for pre-K as well.

If public schools decide to leave pre-K programs to private schools, HB 1004 will lead to the enrollment of most of the pre-K students on state grants into private school kindergartens, and into private school first grades the year after that.

Through House Bill 1004, private school advocates can now set plans to recruit every pre-K student to private pre-schools, taking away future public school students and filling up current private K-12 schools as well as national franchise private schools coming in the future.

For survival in the next decade, it is now clear that public schools must begin or expand quality pre-kindergarten programs.


The Conference Committee on House Bill 1004

The Conference Committee had to reconcile several differences between the House and Senate pre-K bills, but the issue with the most K-12 impact was the provision to give vouchers to those with pre-K grants in private K-12 schools that accept vouchers.

The language of the Conference Committee was trimmed from the original bill. Eligibility was secured for each pre-K student that “continues to attend the eligible school at which the individual attended a prekindergarten program.” The language left is plenty to force an unfunded mandate on public schools that want to compete for kindergarten students.

House conferees won one more expansion of voucher eligibility. Now as pre-K students with state grants move to kindergarten, they are eligible for a voucher. Projecting growth in pre-K over many years, voucher advocates no doubt were determined to secure this pathway to K-12 vouchers because it obviously could result in nearly universal vouchers as the goal of universal pre-K is reached.

Senator Melton, who worked hard to break the link between pre-K grants and K-12 vouchers, refused to sign the conference committee report and was replaced at the last minute by Senator Raatz.

The Fiscal Cost of Expanded K-12 Vouchers in HB 1004

In addition to the new funding for pre-K expansion, extra fiscal costs will be required to pay for the K-12 voucher commitments this new law makes to pre-K students who stay in voucher schools for kindergarten. In estimating those extra costs, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency found that “in FY 2017, there were 171 children attending preschool at Choice Scholarship schools” in the current programs. Then as a foreshadow of additional costs in future years, the LSA stated “As more students participate in the Pilot Programs, more Choice Scholarships would be awarded if participants choose to apply for Choice Scholarships and capacity is available in participating Choice Scholarship schools.”

You get the picture. There is enormous potential for growth and extra voucher costs.

As for now, basing potential costs on the 171 students now in the program, LSA stated “if all children enroll in Choice programs, and they would not have attended public school otherwise, there would be an increase in expenditures of $738,378 in FY2018 and $748,638 in FY2019.”

Paying for students to go to private school when they always planned to go to private school carries a significant fiscal cost.

Final Votes

In the final votes on the Conference Committee Report, support for pre-K expansion carried the day. The House approved the bill 82-16 and the Senate approved the bill 31-19.

The fight to stop K-12 voucher expansion through pre-K programs was lost in the closed door discussions of the Conference Committee.

Now public school leaders need to respond to this unfunded mandate to expand quality pre-K programs.

Thanks to all who sent messages to legislators to break the link between pre-K and K-12 voucher expansion.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!


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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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #297 – April 29, 2017

Dear Friends,

The 120th General Assembly reduced the powers of voters. Democracy in Indiana has taken a hit.

In the historic final vote on Tuesday April 18th, the power of voters to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was ended after 166 years. The power taken away from the voters was given to the Governor.

Starting in 2025, the Governor will appoint a Secretary of Education. The Governor is not required to appoint someone with K-12 experience. The illusory language of the bill leaves the impression that K-12 experience is required but when the words are examined closely, K-12 is not mentioned.

With this vote, democracy in Indiana was diminished.

For 166 years, voters could pick a State Superintendent who had an independent mandate from the electorate as the education leader in Indiana. Now, more power has been handed to the Governor. Voters who want to influence the direction of education policy in Indiana had better focus on the race for Governor.

If the privatization of public education in Indiana is to be reversed, voters will need to find a candidate for Governor who will be a champion for public education. After 2020, voters will no longer be able send a message to change the direction of education in Indiana by voting for a State Superintendent as they did in 2012.


House Bill 1005 – From Decisive Defeat to the Governor’s Desk

House Bill 1005 took a nearly unprecedented path to reach the final vote:
  • House Bill 1005 passed the House 68-29.
  • SB 179, identical to HB 1005, failed in the Senate 23-26. Many thought defeating the bill would end the proposal for this session.
  • Senate rules say that when a bill is defeated “that exact language or substantially similar language shall be considered decisively defeated and shall not be considered again during the session.”
  • In a Senate Rules Committee meeting in which Democrats pointedly argued that the rules say “shall not be considered again during the session,” the Republican leadership claimed that they were making the bill “substantially different.” Republicans had the votes to win the argument.
  • The “substantial differences” were found in three changes:
1) The date of the first appointment by the Governor was changed from 2021 to 2025.

2) A requirement of two years residency in Indiana was reinstated.

3) Qualifications were stated which give the illusion that experience in K-12 education is required to be appointed. In fact, K-12 experience is not mandated, a conclusion confirmed in a statement on the floor of the Senate by the bill’s sponsor Senator Buck while speaking against a proposed amendment: “While we are trying to consider the availability to the Governor of somebody that would be the administrator of our department of ed, I hope we realize that someone with the depth of experience of executive leadership and in higher ed such as former Governor Mitch Daniels would be excluded from that category . I think it gives the Governor a great deal of latitude in looking to somebody that has executive experience in the field of education.”
  • Read carefully the new slippery language on qualifications:
“(2) has demonstrated personal and professional leadership success, preferably in the administration of public education;”

“(3) possesses an earned advanced degree , preferably in education or educational administration, awarded from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university; and”

“(4) either:
(A) at the time of taking office is licensed or otherwise employed as a teacher, principal, or superintendent;

(B) has held a license as a teacher, superintendent, or principal, or any combination of these licenses, for at least five (5) years at any time before taking office; or

(C) has a total of at least five (5) years of work experience as any of the following, or any combination of the following, before taking office:
(i) Teacher.
(ii) Superintendent.
(iii) Principal.
(iv) Executive in the field of education.
  • The word “preferably” has no meaning under the law. It can obviously be ignored. It is surprising that such a word is used in the bill. Using “preferably” means that it is not necessary to appoint a public education administrator to be State Superintendent. Similarly it is not necessary to appoint someone with a degree in education or educational administration.
  • This “preferably” language and the phrase “Executive in the field of education” open the door to appointing a business leader with executive experience in an education field such as testing or technology. Superintendents in Indiana are no longer required to have a superintendent’s license.
  • Another concern is whether it was written for a higher education official to be appointed. No reference to K-12 experience or degrees is included in the amendment. It is not clear that those who wrote this legislation wanted a leader with K-12 experience.
  • After the Senate Rules Committee added these amendments, the full Senate passed the historic bill 28-20.
  • At this point, Speaker Bosma as bill sponsor had a choice. He could take the bill to a conference committee to restore the House’s bill language or he could ask the House to concur with the Senate language. After several days, he decided to opt for a concurrence vote in the House which passed 66-31 on April 18th.

Bi-Partisan Opposition and Partisan Support

For all the discussion of past Democratic leaders wanting this change, the final votes in both the House (66-31)and the Senate (28-20) on HB 1005 showed bi-partisan opposition and, except for one vote, partisan support.

  • In the House, the yes votes were cast by 65 Republicans and one Democrat, Representative Goodin.
  • In the House, the no votes were cast by 28 Democrats and 3 Republicans, Representatives Judy, Nisly and Pressel.
  • In the Senate, all 28 yes votes were cast by Republicans.
  • In the Senate, the no votes were cast by all 9 Democrats and 11 Republicans, Senators Becker, Bohacek, Crane, Glick, Grooms, Head, Kenley, Koch, Kruse, Leising and Tomes.

Will Voters React?

If voters are offended about losing the powers they have had for 166 years, they have only one way to react and that is at the polls in the next election if candidates make this an issue for voters to respond to. It is now up to the candidates.

Speaker Bosma made it clear that he is confident that there will be no voter backlash when he told the IndyStar “they could potentially present bills moving up the implementation date in future legislative sessions.” (April 19, 2017, p. 10A)

No polling has been done to my knowledge about how Hoosier votes feel about losing their power to elect the State Superintendent after 166 years. Some legislators reported that their constituent surveys showed opposition by wide margins to the loss of the power to elect the State Superintendent.

If voters are strongly offended by this power grab by the Governor and the leadership of the supermajority, candidates in the next primary or general election may try to hammer this issue home with voters. If voters are willing to give up this power without a fight, not much will be heard. Whether the action becomes a controversy among voters is now up to the voters and the candidates. Candidates may decide that undermining the power of voters after 166 years is a bipartisan issue that would attract the attention of voters in the 2018 elections.

The Case that Democracy Has Been Diminished

The case that HB 1005 has undermined democracy in Indiana is clear:

The Governor and the State Superintendent, both duly elected by the people, strongly disagreed. Instead of letting the voters settle the disagreement at the next election, which is what elections and democracy are all about, the Governor and the Republican leadership have suppressed future disagreement by ending the independent mandate from voters held by the State Superintendent since 1851, 166 years ago.

Since Governors are elected on many issues and education is a minor issue in gubernatorial campaigns, voters have lost their direct power to correct the course of education when they are motivated to do so, as they were in 2012. Removing public dissent on education in this manner aligns with Milton Friedman’s plan to gradually deconstruct public education and fund a marketplace of private schools with public tax dollars.

Will this mean that the days of electing the Attorney General, the Auditor and the Treasurer are now numbered to avoid conflict and to give more power to the Governor? Are we on a slippery slope to a weaker and weaker democracy where the power of the ballot box is diminished?

Are Voters Angry?

Time will tell if voters are angry enough about this issue to bring it to the next election. If you as a voter feel strongly about losing your power to elect the Indiana State Superintendent, you should talk with candidates or potential candidates who might carry your message in the next election. As we have all seen nationally, calls to repeal laws can become potent campaign issues.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

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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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #296 – April 21, 2017

Dear Friends,

There is no joy in Mudville over the funding for public schools in the final budget.

The budget was posted for review in the wee hours this morning and will be voted on tonight.

If you want to see the budget and the school funding formula for yourself, it is posted on the General Assembly website on the House Republican page.

Here are my sad conclusions after a quick read. No doubt given more time there could be more concerns.

If you want to share your opinions with legislators, please feel free, although there is no doubt that the budget will pass tonight, perhaps after midnight.

1) Tax credits for private school scholarships run by Scholarship Granting Organizations hit a bonanza!
  • Current funding in 2016-17 was $9.5 million.
  • Funding for next year 2017-18 has been raised to $12.5 million, up 31%.
  • Funding for every year starting in 2018-19 will be $14 million, a 12% raise about $12.5 million.
  • This adds up to a $7.5 million increase in the two-year budget. This is a large increase to promote private school tuition when most public school categorical funding has been absolutely frozen. Summer School funding, for example, has been stuck on $18.3 million for years. The private school proponents showed their influence once again.
Let’s hope someone starts checking the SGO audits. These are largely unsupervised groups, and they are now getting more public money than Alternative Education ($6M) and the Senator Ford Technology Fund ($3M) combined. Under the law, the SGO can keep 10% for overhead and salaries. Do the math. They must be well paid.
2) The Senate budget’s excellent effort to put a line item in the budget for Choice Scholarships has disappeared from the final budget.

Money for private school vouchers will again be taken from the same Tuition Support budget line item used for all K-12 schools. Transparency in line items has been requested for years and is still not part of the budget.

There is a helpful statement of cost projections for Choice Scholarships on the last page of the School Funding formula. It projects $156 million (a 7.2% increase) for the first year and $167 million (a 6.9% increase) for the second year in funding Choice Scholarships based on an estimate that voucher enrollment would increase 5.8% the first year and would increase 5.5% in the second year.
3) The final budget funded K-12 schools with $345 million new dollars in the two-year budget, a total of $13 million less than the Senate budget. The hope that a $200 million gain in the April revenue forecast would give K-12 an extra boost turned out to be a mirage.
  • The House budget (Feb.) raised K-12 funding by $77 M in the 1st year and by $273 M over two years. (Percentage increases: 1.1% in the 1st year and 1.7% in the 2nd year)
  • The Senate budget (March) raised K-12 by $117 M in the 1st year and by $358 M over two years. (Percentage increases: 1.7% in the 1st year and 1.7% in the 2nd year)
  • The final budget (April 21) raised K-12 by $113 M in the 1st year and by $345 M over two years. (Percentage increases: 1.6% in the 1st year and 1.7% in the 2nd year)
It is extremely disappointing that the Senate budget increase of $358 million was not maintained in the final budget, especially given the new revenue forecast.

There was no time for a full analysis of how school districts fared in the final funding formula, but the Senate budget is an indicator of the stress to school districts that will come with this budget since the final budget is close to the Senate budget. The Senate budget gave 144 districts either a negative percentage increase or less than a 1% increase, which is well below inflation.

These low increases mean hard times ahead for the resources available to many K-12 students in approximately half of the school districts in Indiana.

It is sad that Indiana leaders could not do better for their K-12 students. While the 1.6% and 1.7% increases are better than the 1.0% in FY 2013 and FY 2015, they are well below recent increases given in FY 2014 (2.0%), in FY 2016 (2.3%) and in the current year FY 2017 (2.3%).

Keep talking with your legislators about how you feel they are doing for public schools.

Thank you for your strong support of public education in Indiana!

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, April 19, 2017

Blog Launch: Kind of a Big Dill

NEIFPE co-founder, Phyllis Bush has started her own Blog, Kind of a Big Dill. Her latest post is

Just when you thought you had read enough blogs...
...Today I had a PET scan. We went to the PET Scan office, and what seemed like a scene straight out of a Sci-Fi movie, a tech in a white lab coat came out and said, “Here is your drink, Phyllis.” While it wasn’t nearly as nasty as drinking Miralax laced with Gatorade for other lab preps, it took half an hour to drink. Then I was escorted into another room where I sat in a recliner with my arm hooked up to an IV filled with some radioactive stuff. I asked the tech if I would glow in the dark when I got home, and he assured me that I wouldn’t. However, I plan to test out my theory by going into the basement and turning out the lights just to make sure. After an hour of this, I got into the PET scan machine, which had an opening large enough that my borderline claustrophobia did not kick in. All in all, the whole process took about two and a half hours, and it gave me a lot of time to think...

[...]
Click HERE to read the entire blog post. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email address in the "Follow My Blog by Email" box in the right-hand column of Phyllis's blog page.

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Vic’s Statehouse Notes #295 – April 19, 2017

Dear Friends,

Thanks to all who came to Tuesday’s rally for better K-12 funding!

The letter delivery and contacts with legislators afterward brought excellent conversations such as mine with Senator Ruckelshaus. Joel Hand and Indiana PTA leader Deb Fox were both interviewed on Channel 59 to get the message out that we need to do better for our K-12 students in the budget.


House Bill 1004 - PreKindergarten

This afternoon (Wed., April 19) the Conference Committee Report on the prekindergarten bill (HB 1004) was released. The final bill will be voted on tomorrow.

The final version, while it narrowed the problem, did not break the link between getting a pre-K grant and getting a K-12 voucher. The final version thus creates a new eighth pathway to K-12 vouchers. Those who get a pre-K grant will be eligible for a K-12 voucher in many cases.

This is a provision that has nothing to do with the pre-K experience but will help private and religious schools build their voucher program.

The final version of the 1004 also reverses a ban on using pre-K grants funds to expand capital facilities. This reversal would allow private or public preschools to use the grant funds for facility expansion. This would of course be especially helpful to expand private facilities that serve K-12 voucher students.

If you oppose the K-12 voucher expansion in the pre-K bill, please contact your Senator or any Senator tonight or tomorrow morning to let them know you oppose the final version of HB 1004 and ask them to vote against it.
  • Remind them that the Senate version passed with no language to expand K-12 vouchers and that’s the way it should be. The path to universal vouchers should not go through the pre-K program.
  • Remind them that the pre-K pilot program has been running just fine with no provision to give pre-K students a lifetime K-12 voucher.
  • Remind them if pre-K students go to private schools that want them to stay for K-12 enrollment, they can get a School Scholarship from the vastly expanded tax credit program run by Scholarship Granting Organizations. The new budget is going to give $3 million additional dollars each year (a 31% increase) to the tax credit School Scholarship program, bringing the annual total available to $12.5 million. This should adequately cover any tuition need for pre-K students to enroll in private K-12 schools.
Thank you for any contacts you can make with Senators tonight or tomorrow and for your active support of public education in Indiana!

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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