Vic’s Statehouse Notes #142 REVISED AND CORRECTED – May 1, 2013
It took last-minute changes and precisely-timed legislative maneuvering to complete passage of the voucher expansion bill on the last day of the session. As I left the Statehouse at 1am Saturday morning after both the voucher bill and the budget bill had passed, I was celebrating the small victory public school advocates had in stopping the inclusion of D schools in the voucher distribution plan.
The Final Day Story of House Bill 1003
I arrived at the Statehouse Friday on the final day to discover that the Conference Committee Report #2 for HB 1003 that I wrote about Thursday in “Notes #139” was not the final plan. They were still negotiating, I was told.
I thought, “Good, they don’t have the votes in the Senate to pass the D school plan.”
The Senate had narrowly passed the voucher bill 27-23. A shift of three votes on the final vote would kill the bill. Senator Waltz had told me directly last Monday that he had “drawn a line” and would not vote for any final version that went beyond the provisions of the Senate version. The D-school plan advocated by Rep. Behning clearly was an expansion of the Senate version, so I thought that including the D-school plan would jeopardize the final vote in the Senate.
As the afternoon wore on, no final version of the voucher bill emerged and the talk on the floor was that the voucher bill was somehow holding up the budget bill. There was even talk of coming back on Monday.
Then we heard that a new budget was coming out around 5:00pm. I thought, “This is going slower that the leadership wanted.”
Then about 6:30 pm, a Conference Committee Report #5 of the voucher bill was filed for final consideration. The final version omitted D schools from the voucher distribution plan.
I thought, “Good, they didn’t have the votes in the Senate to pass the D school plan.”
Then the sequence to final voting began. The House Rules Committee heard the bill about 7:00pm to officially shorten the time needed for a vote. Joel Hand had the opportunity to speak for ICPE against the bill one more time. It was clear that only F schools were in the plan. It passed House Rules on a party line vote.
The Senate Rules Committee heard HB 1003 about 9:30pm. Sen. Yoder clearly told the committee the bill affected “F schools only.” It passed Senate Rules on a party line vote.
The House took up HB 1003 for a final vote about 10:15. Rep. Behning introduced his bill by saying vouchers would go to failing schools, not D schools. Rep. Vernon Smith, Rep. Battles, Rep. Errington and Rep. Delaney spoke strongly against the voucher bill, and Rep. Huston and Rep. Tim Brown spoke for the bill. Rep. Delaney ridiculed the new plan for F schools, saying realtors would now put signs out saying “Good news! The neighborhood school just went F, so move here and you get a state voucher for the private school you are already going to.”
Then came the final vote: 55-44 with Rep. Turner not voting. Back in February, eight Republicans had opposed HB 1003, but in this final vote, 13 Republicans joined 31 Democrats in voting “no.” They should all be thanked:
Republicans voting “NO” to vouchers: Representatives Bacon, Baird, Dermody, Koch, Leonard, Mahan, McNamara, Neese, Niemeyer, Saunders, Soliday, Truitt and Wolkins.
Democrats voting “NO” to vouchers: Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Battles, Bauer, C. Brown, Candelaria Reardon, Delaney, Dvorak, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Harris, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, V. Smith, Stemler, Summers and VanDenburgh.
HB 1003 arrived for the final vote in the Senate about 11:30 pm. Senator Yoder presented the bill, saying the final version was “similar to the Senate version.” He said students in “failing schools” could go to the school of their choice. Senators Taylor and Stoops spoke against the bill. Then, in closing, Senator Yoder said we should “get kids out of failing schools,” schools that “can’t get their act together.”
I thought of William Bell School #60 and the injustice done to their brand new program which under arcane rules was labeled an “F” school. I thought of Nora Elementary doing a fantastic job of educating a student population that is 70% non-English speaking immigrants but catching no breaks when students who don’t speak English can’t pass the English portion of ISTEP+ for their age level.
Then came the vote. The Senate vote was 27-23, identical to the first Senate vote on April 10th. The leadership, by changing the bill to exclude the D schools, had held on to all of the key votes that many public school advocates had peppered with messages in the past week in hopes of a reversal, Senators Bray, Nugent, Paul, Steele and Waltz. All remained “Yes” votes.
All 23 Senators voting “No” should be thanked for their votes:
Ten Republicans voted no: Senators Alting, Becker, Head, Mishler, Tomes, Waterman, Charbonneau, Glick, Grooms, and Landske.
Thirteen Democrats voted no: Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Hume, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Skinner, Stoops, Tallian, Taylor and Richard Young.
Then about midnight the budget passed the House 70-30, followed by passage in the Senate 39-11 about 12:45am.
The budget bill had several provisions regarding vouchers.
- The voucher minimums went up from $4500 to $4700 in the first year of the budget and $4800 in the second year. That added $800,000 to the cost of the bill but this apparently didn’t bother Senator Waltz’s “line” since it was in the budget bill.
- The $1000 school scholarship from an SGO required to get a voucher the following year was dropped to $500 to ease the path to a voucher.
- $25 million each year was made available at the discretion of the Budget Committee to protect the promised amounts for public schools if the number of vouchers siphons off unexpected amounts. This was perhaps the biggest victory in ICPE’s efforts to point out the fiscal damage to public schools that would come with voucher expansion. ICPE’s claim that the first year damage would be $23 million was verified by the decision to put $25 million in this augmentation fund.
Assessing the Damage Done to Public Education
It took me 24 hours to contemplate the deep damage done to public education on Friday, the final day of the 2013 legislative session. Then, my cold turned into bronchitis, which further delayed this depressing summary.
Just one year ago on the last day of the 2012 session, a happy surprise emerged as our efforts to kill the school scholarship expansion bill succeeded and other bad ideas disappeared.
This year was a completely different story. The last day was hard on public education.
It wasn’t just that the voucher expansion bill, opposed by so many with message after message, passed the House 55-44 and the Senate 27-23.
It wasn’t just that the budget gave a meager tuition support increase of $132 million (2%) in the first year and $201 million (an extra 1%) in the second year – less than the 1.6% cost of living rise reported in the revenue forecast -- in a year when Indiana had such a large surplus that tax give-backs of $1.1 billion were planned for the next four years.
It wasn’t just that the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s language rewriting Public Law 221 was adopted in the A-F revision bill, along with putting the “A” through “F” labels in law in House Bill 1427, which passed the House 54-44 and the Senate 34-15.
It was the totality of these setbacks along with a totally unexpected “kick-in-the-teeth”: Without hearings or any debate, language was passed in the budget bill allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree who passes a subject matter test to participate in the transition to teaching program. This language eliminates the need to meet a 2.5 GPA or a 3.0 GPA if the “recent college graduate” (with no definition of “recent”) can pass the “state approved content area examination in the subject area that the individual intends to teach.” This is apparently designed to give the new subject area tests created by Pearson more customers.
This left me thinking about the first supermajority I have observed in my 17 sessions of watching the General Assembly and crying “overreach!” The supermajority had the power to pass these controversial items in the fine print of the budget, and they did it. I learned about the teacher licensing gambit at noon on Friday, and by 1am Saturday when the budget bill passed the Senate, it was law. I am wondering how many legislators knew about these items when they voted on the 279 page budget.
Can public school advocates do anything about it?
They can resolve to get active in the next election. Really active.
I must defer further analysis of the budget and the historic HB 1427 to another day to avoid my friend Bob Pychinka’s claim that he feels like he’s reading War and Peace when he reads my “Notes.”
Thanks for supporting public education in the 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly!
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. We had an outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand working hard to support public education throughout the session. We need additional memberships and donations to make the final payment on his contract for the session. We need your help! Please join us! Thanks to all who have joined or sent extra donations recently!
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.