The all-out attack on public schools continues unabated in the House Education Committee. Since last week:
- House Bill 1003, the enormous voucher expansion bill costing at least $47 million dollars and paying for vouchers for thousands of students currently in private schools, passed committee on a party line vote on Feb. 7th.
- House Bill 1004, described by the House leadership as the “Pre-Kindergarten voucher pilot program”, which funds preschool scholarships with state money for the first time but then entwines the bill with the voucher controversy by making these students eligible for K-12 vouchers without first trying out public schools, passed the committee 10-2 on Feb. 7th.
- House Bill 1358, the parent trigger bill which takes authority away from school boards over low performing schools and hands them over to an unelected cohort of parents if they petition to make them charter schools, passed the committee on Feb. 12th on a party line vote, 8-4.
- Now tomorrow’s meeting (Feb. 14th) will hear House Bill 1337, which would give the state new authority to dissolve the governing board of local school corporations as part of a gigantic rewrite of the famous Public Law 221. Such takeovers would be based on school letter grades, despite the consensus that has emerged in the Statehouse that the A-F system is flawed.
- Also scheduled for hearings tomorrow (Feb. 14th) are three bills I would dub the “Sour Grapes Election Bills” which cut the powers of Glenda Ritz to lead the state board (House Bill 1309), to co-chair the Education Roundtable (House Bill 1360) and to administer the voucher program (House Bill 1342). Senator Kruse said he would not cut the powers of Glenda Ritz, but no one in the House ever said that.
- As if that is not enough, a House Bill 1339 will be heard as well, postponed from Tuesday and the subject of great consternation by many over evaluation and labor issues.
Here are some details:
House Bill 1003 – Voucher Expansion (Click here for my testimony on HB 1003)
This is the worst bill for public school advocates, expanding payments for vouchers to $5500 each, when many public school administrators I talked to today only get $5200 to $5300 per child for their students. In the following year, minimum payments go up to $6500. This all adds up to over $47 million in new money for private schools, as I detailed in Vic’s Statehouse Notes #112.
HB 1003 is not scheduled for second reading amendments tomorrow, but it could be as early as Monday, Feb. 18th. If you keep pouring on your objections to House members, they will perhaps have to deal with many amendments and slow down the progress on this bill. Pour it on!
House Bill 1004 – Preschool Grants (Click here for my testimony on HB 1004)
HB 1004 is scheduled for second reading amendments tomorrow. It is likely an effort will be made to delete the final section of the bill which makes students getting preschool scholarships eligible for K-12 vouchers. Without this final “poison pill” feature, the bill provides new support for preschool education in Indiana, a reform that Gov. Daniels and Dr. Bennett completely ignored in their agenda. Rep. Behning explained that the final section linking the concept to vouchers was a direct request of Speaker Bosma.
House Bill 1358 – Parent Trigger (Click here for my testimony on HB 1358)
Rep. Huston, former Chief of Staff for Dr. Bennett, who sponsored HB 1357 to give local school boards more power in picking whoever they want for superintendent, also sponsored the parent trigger to take power away from local school boards when schools get a D or an F. If parents get 51% of parent signatures on a petition, they can turn the school over to a charter school operator. A fierce battle over this concept came in 2011, and the matter was settled in the charter school bill when the Senate gave the local school board the final say over the parent petition. Now Rep. Huston is bringing the battle back to give parents final authority based on a petition. Two speakers led off supportive testimony representing a California group called Parent Revolution. No one explained who paid their way to come to Indiana to testify. After lengthy testimony, the bill passed 8-4 on a party line vote.
House Bill 1337 – School Accountability and Turnaround Academies
I started reading this bill today thinking it was mostly the Turnaround Academy bill that never made it through the General Assembly last year. I totally underestimated the scope. This massive bill rewrites Public Law 221, the law passed in 1999 with bipartisan support which has been the guidepost for accountability in Indiana. After 14 years, Rep. Behning brings a radical new plan. Among other features:
- It gives the state authority to dissolve or merge local school corporations.
- It creates independent schools, a new creation for when turnaround academies have turned around.
- It removes “improvement” as the stated goal of PL 221, replacing it with “performance.”
- It requires science assessments to be included in high stakes school letter grade decisions by 2014-15.
- It allows students to be assessed in relation to peers (norm-referenced) by removing the well known language from PL 221: “Compare each school and each school corporation with its own prior performance and not to the performance of other schools or other corporations.”
- It focuses these vast new powers on school corporations and schools getting a D or an F, even though the current A-F system is clearly broken.
The “Sour Grapes Election Bills”
More than 1.3 million Hoosiers voted for Glenda Ritz, more than for Gov. Pence. In December, over 10,000 signed a petition to honor her victory after Gov. Pence said at a press conference that her election would not change his education agenda. All of those voters and petition signers should go to work on House Bills 1309, 1360 and 1342. They all cut major powers of the State Superintendent in three different arenas. They are blatantly political efforts to change the powers she won in the election. All those who are outraged by these three bills should contact members of the House with your thoughts.
Contact House Education Committee Members
It is time to act, preferably before tomorrow morning’s hearing, but any time in the next few days. Please contact members of the House Education Committee:
Chairman: Representative Behning
Republican Members: Representatives Rhoads, Arnold, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Huston, Lucas, and Thompson
Democrat Members: Representatives Vernon Smith, Battles, Errington and VanDenburgh
Then contact your own Representative to express your thoughts about these crucial bills. Taken together, the bills in the House Education Committee since February 5th constitute a bigger attack on public education than the monumental 2011 agenda: vouchers that don’t just save money but pay for thousands already in private schools, state powers to dissolve local school boards, and dismantling the powers of the State Superintendent.
If you’ve had enough, you need to tell the members of the House, promptly and decisively.
Thanks for your efforts on behalf of public education!
ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. I keep hearing reports that some public school supporters read these “Notes” with great interest but don’t translate that interest into joining ICPE. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who testified this week in Ways and Means about the enormous fiscal cost of the voucher bill, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us!
Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information.
Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:
I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.