Thursday, February 22, 2018

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #313 – February 21, 2018

Dear Friends,

The “Celebration of Public Education” Monday in the Statehouse was a tremendous event! Thanks to all who came and thanks to all who were there in spirit!

As our outstanding rally speakers said, public education needs our renewed support and protection.

This is true this week in House Bill 1315, which would set troubling precedents to deconstruct the local control of public education if it is not amended by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Here are the four concerns about HB 1315 that I testified on in the Senate Appropriations Committee last Thursday, Feb. 15:
Concern #1: For the first time, a public school district could be governed by school board members who do not live in the school district.

Concern #2: For the first time, a public school district could ignore state law mandates to display the flag and to study the US Constitution and citizenship. Even private voucher schools are not allowed to ignore the laws on citizenship mandates!

Concern #3: For the first time, a public school district in financial distress could lose its public school board in favor of an “advisory committee”.

Concern #4: For the first time, any public school district could be put on a watch list for financial mismanagement which could potentially become public before detailed reviews have guaranteed the accuracy of the financial assessment. The confidentiality of preliminary data must be guaranteed.
Chairman Mishler listened closely to lengthy testimony and said the testimony would guide an amendment he would bring to the bill at a later meeting. HB 1315 has not been included on the agenda for the next meeting on February 22nd so you have time to make your concerns known this week.

The bill needs to be amended. We need your participation.

Please review the details about each concern below and then contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee listed here as soon as possible:

Republicans: Senators Mishler (chair), Brown, Bassler, Boots, Bray, Charbonneau, Crider, Eckerty and Holdman

Democrats: Senators Tallian, Breaux, Niezgodski and Taylor

It would also help if you send a strong message to amend this bill to Senator Long, Senate President Pro Tem, and to your own Senator.

House Bill 1315 – School Corporation Financial Management

House Bill 1315, sponsored by Representative Tim Brown, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, proposes to restrict the voice of the public in the public schools in Muncie and Gary because district leaders over several years overspent their budget and fell into debt.

It also proposes to set up an assessment of the financial health of all public school districts, setting up a dashboard of financial indicators for all school corporations.

Concern #1: For the first time, a public school district could be governed by school board members who do not live in the school district.

HB 1315 as it passed the House on a party line vote says the Muncie city council and the Muncie mayor can each nominate a school board member “who must reside within the boundaries of the Muncie school corporation district.”

The other five members will be nominated by the president of Ball State and are not required to be residents of the Muncie school corporation. Under this plan, school board members would be setting property tax levies when they don’t even live in the community. This would surely be the basis for a lawsuit regarding representation and cost the district significant money for legal defense which has not been budgeted.

This is unprecedented among current school boards and would be a major step in the deconstruction of local public schools in Indiana which began in 2011.

Ask Senators to return the public to the Muncie public schools by requiring that all seven members “reside within the boundaries of the Muncie school corporation district.”

Concern #2: For the first time, a public school district could ignore state law mandates to display the flag and to study the US Constitution and citizenship. Even private voucher schools are not allowed to ignore the laws on citizenship mandates!

HB 1315 turns Muncie’s fiscal crisis into a grand academic experiment “to provide all administrative and academic flexibility to implement innovative strategies”, in the words of the bill. It makes Muncie schools subject to only 17 laws which they must follow instead of the entire body of school law which every other school district must observe.

This would make the entire Muncie Community School district akin to an experimental charter school.

This flexibility goes too far. The bill actually removes the legal obligations in 20-30-5 for schools to display the flag, say the pledge of allegiance, study the U.S. Constitution, and provide non-partisan citizenship instruction at the time of each general election. No district should be waived from teaching students about citizenship in our democracy!

Ask Senators to have the Muncie Community Schools follow the same Indiana school laws that the General Assembly has told all other school districts to follow.

Concern #3: For the first time, a public school district in debt and financial distress could lose its public school board in favor of an “advisory committee”.

The Gary Public Schools are already under control of an emergency manager who has full control of all district decisions under legislation passed last year in 2017. The powers of the school board have been suspended until the emergency manager recommends to the Distressed Unit Appeal Board (DUAB) that the financial crisis has been repaired and that a return to local control is appropriate. This process could require several years.

Given that it already has no power, it is surprising that HB 1315 ends the institution of the school board in favor of a new entity called an “advisory committee” which “may not hold a meeting more than once every three (3) months.”

The institution of the school board has served Indiana well for over one hundred years. When financial mismanagement requires that an emergency manager take over to make budgetary corrections, the citizens of Indiana can understand and would assume that after corrective actions have been taken and financial stability has been restored, power to run the public schools would be returned to the local school board under new leadership.
  • To say residents should permanently lose their voice on a school board because of past financial mistakes is to say those residents have lost their right to democracy.
  • Self-rule through the participation of residents in a school board must not be curtailed forever.
Opponents of public education have long said that school boards should be dissolved and all schools should become charter schools.

Is this bill the camel’s nose under the tent for the proposition that we don’t need school boards which represent the community? Is this the first step to losing control of our public schools by community school boards?

Ask Senators to maintain the institution of the school board for all public school districts so that when financial distress and debt problems have been resolved by an emergency manager, local control can be returned to the local community through a school board, an institution that has stood the test of time.

Concern #4: For the first time, any public school district could be put on a watch list for financial mismanagement which could potentially be made public before detailed reviews have guaranteed the accuracy of the financial assessment. The confidentiality of preliminary data must be guaranteed.

Our generational question in Indiana is “Can the public have confidence in our public schools?” Any appearance on a “watch list” for financial instability can deeply shake public confidence in any school district, so any such designation must be treated with extreme caution and vetted for absolute accuracy.

Some have called this plan a “shame list” and point out the damage that could be done to public confidence if premature and inaccurate data is made public.

Ask Senators to amend the fiscal indicators section of HB 1315 to permit the Distressed Unit Appeal Board (DUAB) to consider “watch lists” in confidential executive sessions so that no district will prematurely get a black eye in the public’s mind until accuracy has been certified.

Take Action This Week

Send the Senators listed above one or all of these messages to protect our public schools:
  • Don’t let non-residents run public school districts.
  • Don’t let any public school district ignore the mandated curriculum for good citizenship.
  • Don’t eliminate the school board but rather return the voice of the community to the school board after corrective actions have been completed by an emergency manager.
  • Don’t permit preliminary discussions of watch lists in public meetings when they haven’t been vetted and certified.
If you are concerned with any of these four points, it is important that you communicate your concerns to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee listed above as soon as possible. Go to the Indiana General Assembly website for easy connections to the email of Senators on the committee.

Thank you for actively supporting 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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Monday, February 19, 2018

Letters: Private school students have other options

NEIFPE member Kathy Candioto sent this letter to the editor. In it she discusses  Indiana's voucher program and the "choice" private schools have to accept or reject students.

Private school students have other options

Published: February 19, 2018
I am writing to respond to “Choice Scholarships give Hoosier kids a future” (Feb. 7). Reyna Rodriguez, a Bishop Luers graduate, supports the scholarship/voucher program. Rodriguez, who used voucher money to complete her private school education, wrote to object to an op-ed written by Phyllis Bush (Jan. 22).

Bush ended her piece (supporting public schools and objecting to vouchers) with a rhetorical question: “Whose choice is it, anyway?” Rodriguez insists choosing Luers was her personal decision but, in truth, the voucher school itself has the choice. If Rodriguez had had a disciplinary record or was a child with difficult learning or physical needs, Luers might not have accepted her. The private school has the choice. But every public high school in Allen County would, by law, accept this student and do its best to accommodate her needs.

In 2015-16, Bishop Luers used $1,626,778 in vouchers or choice scholarship awards. This money, taxpayer funds, was taken directly from the public school fund of the state budget.

In 2016-17, $146 million was spent on school vouchers across the state. This was money meant for public schools but moved, instead, to private schools.

In Allen County, 97 percent of schools receiving voucher funds are religious schools.

Students like Rodriguez have various paths available to fund their private education. Probably the best way would be through a state-sponsored program called the Scholarship Granting Organization, also referred to as the Tax Credit Scholarship. Enacted in 2009, this program awards a donor 50 percent of his donation as an Indiana State Tax Credit. And, there is no limit on the amount of the donor's gift. A graduate of Luers could donate to the organization and help give the gift of a private religious education to a prospective student.

Bush and I, along with educators, parents and grandparents across the state, support public schools that accept all students. We object to taxpayer money funding private and religious schools. We are concerned about the depletion of the public school fund, which continues to lose more money each year to vouchers. As retired public school educators, we are committed to saving public dollars for public schools.

Kathy Candioto

Fort Wayne
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Friday, February 16, 2018

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #312 – February 16, 2018

Dear Friends,

Plans are ready! Come to the “Celebration of Public Education” this Monday!

Here is your chance to stand up for public education! Come to the Statehouse on Presidents’ Day!

On February 19, 2018, you along with your friends, family and colleagues are invited to a “Celebration of Public Education”.

Visit displays of public education programs throughout the day.

Lunch is available courtesy of ISTA at 12:30 (reservations required at http://bit.ly/IndyRally2018).

Speakers begin at 2:00 pm in the South Atrium.

These are difficult times for public education, an institution that has undergirded our democracy for 180 years:
  • Those who would privatize public education hold power at both the federal and state levels. We must protect our public schools!
  • Further efforts to expand vouchers can be expected next year in Indiana in the budget session.
  • Efforts are expected after the 2018 elections to give public money directly to parents without accountability or oversight, a concept which goes by the deceptive phrase “Education Savings Accounts.”
With your support, these attacks can be turned back.

Public education has been under attack for a long time. For an even longer time, public education has been a tremendous cornerstone for progress in Indiana.

It’s time to celebrate and support public education!

Public officials in the Statehouse need to put a higher priority on PUBLIC education. Only constituents and voters can get them to do that. That’s where we need your presence in the Statehouse. I hope to see you there!

Event Partners

The Indiana PTA has added their name to the event partners since my previous listing!

Here is the list of event partners to date:

AFT Indiana
American Association of University Women
Concerned Clergy
Indiana Coalition for Public Education
Indiana Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
Indiana Student Education Association
Indiana State Teachers Association
ISTA-Retired
Indiana Urban Schools Association
IPS Community Coalition
Indiana Small & Rural Schools Association
Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE)

Rev. Dr. Charles Luke, a strong advocate for public education representing Pastors for Texas Children and a former school superintendent, will be a special guest speaker at the rally.

I hope to see you as we celebrate public education!

A rally flyer you can share with friends and colleagues is attached.

Bring friends! Bring posters!

Thank you for actively supporting 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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NEIFPE Statement on Gun Violence

The issue of gun ownership and Second Amendment rights is something our society has failed to address, and until we address it, schools can only try to prepare to respond to active shooters. The plans and practice to prepare school staff and students places one more unfunded burden on schools when legislators are unwilling to fund public schools fully and equitably to insure they have enough teachers, counselors, and support staff to meet the needs of students and to support their learning.

NEIFPE is working to combat the forces that have depleted resources for public schools to operate in the best interest of students.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

School choice reality much less appealing

This op-ed by NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the January 22 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
School choice reality much less appealing
Monday, January 22, 2018
Every January, the education reform takeover artists orchestrate countless “school choice” events, presenting us with quasi-infomercials about their miraculous successes.

The school choice rhetoric is so hypnotic that unless a person digs into the details, it is nigh on impossible to cut through all of the jargon to understand what is really meant by “school choice.” In fact, some ideas that look good on the surface often morph into not-so-great realities.

What, you might ask, are those not-so-pleasant realities?

Perhaps an acquaintance with some review of the true cost of charters and vouchers (aka opportunity scholarships/Education Savings Accounts) might be helpful.

Here are some of the unadvertised side effects of vouchers and charters:
  • Vouchers drain state tax dollars from the entire education funding pot. This often causes district budgeting deficits and/or the need for tax increases, referenda and the like.
That loss of revenue to public schools increases class sizes and diminishes student resources such as counselors, support personnel, supplemental materials and buses.
  • From the vantage point of a traditional public school supporter, vouchers are a gift of taxpayer funds given to private schools without any accountability.
  • The expansion of choice is creating two separate school systems. In this parallel system, one pathway will be for those who can afford quality choices. The other pathway will be an underfunded, separate-but-unequal road, marked by poverty and by ZIP codes. As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students, while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don't speak English.
The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with the most difficulties will be housed in the least well-financed schools. Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.”

While the reformers and the takeover artists and the hedge fund managers talk and talk and talk about the miraculous results of school choice, research shows that these results are uneven at best. As thoughtful citizens and taxpayers, wouldn't it be prudent if we asked ourselves what is best for our traditional public schools, our communities and our kids?

Perhaps the fundamental question is: What does society stand to lose in the name of “school choice?” Whose choice is it, anyway?
Phyllis Bush, a retired Fort Wayne teacher, is a founder and board member of the Network for Public Education.
✏️✏️✏️


Choice, Phyllis Bush,

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #309 – January 17, 2018

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the messages you sent to legislators opposing “Education Savings Accounts.”!

Your messages of opposition have apparently stalled this radical proposal before it got off the ground in the short session.

The deadlines for filing bills in the House and Senate have come and gone, and Senator Raatz never filed his “Education Savings Accounts” bill for special education students that he filed in 2016 and 2017.

Representative Lucas never filed his “Education Savings Accounts” bill for all students as he did in the budget session in 2017.

Representative Tim Brown, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed an ESA bill for all students in 2016, but not in 2018.

It’s good news for now, but remember the concept of “Education Savings Accounts” because they could show up as an amendment to another bill or as a new bill next year in the budget session to try to privatize our public schools.

A Radical Proposal

“Education Savings Accounts” is truly a radical proposal. With the support of wealthy backers who donate heavily to legislators, it has been passed in six states: Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi and North Carolina. It would:
  • give approximately $6000 per student directly to parents on a debit card, or up to $15000 for special education students, allowing parents to spend the education money on their child unsupervised and unaudited.
  • subtract that money away from the funds that normally go to the local school district, a “foot in the door” to the real intent espoused by Milton Friedman of undermining public education itself. ESAs subvert the very concept of schooling.
  • require parents to provide a bare minimum education in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science” (no art, no music, no health, no physical education, no vocational courses) with no standards and no obligation for annual testing or public accountability.
  • fund home schools for the first time and remove all income limits in order to give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students, leading to an estimated cost of up to $206 million according to a Legislative Services Agency fiscal note for the 2017 version of the bill.
  • not provide any fraud detection department nor would it define penalties for parents who commit fraud nor would it exclude parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse or welfare fraud or addiction.
This plan to bring “Education Savings Accounts” to Indiana must not stand.

During the past fall, this plan appeared to be moving. The concept got “baked in” to the constituent surveys that Republican legislators send out before the session, surveys that are printed far in advance of the session. Then no bill was filed.

Thank you for your vigilance. Stay alert to amendments to bills this session and to bills next year that would undermine our public schools with “Education Savings Accounts.” For now, no bill on this topic has been filed as was done in the previous two sessions.

Thank you for actively supporting 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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