Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #188 – December 18, 2014

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence in announcing his legislative agenda on December 4th seemingly gave a blank check to private school tuition increases which would all be paid for by the taxpayers.

Did he really mean to say that, or is a “correction” or “clarification” soon to come?

His agenda document calls for “removing the cap on Choice Scholarships” after noting that “On average, public charter and voucher schools are funded at lower levels than traditional public schools.”

Removing the $4800 cap on Choice Scholarships will help private school parents pay less out of pocket for the balance of the tuition, but it won’t help voucher schools get more funding unless the voucher schools raise their tuition. Apparently the Governor’s plan would allow whatever tuition increases the voucher schools want and the taxpayers would pay for all of it. No more caps!

I am told that Brebeuf, one of the voucher schools, charges tuition of $17,000 per student. Does the Governor think that taxpayers should pay for whatever tuition the private school may ask?

At state universities, tuition is set by the board of each institution, but legislators have never been asked to raise state funding to cover whatever the board asks. Does Governor Pence really want legislators to do so for K-12 private schools?

Let your legislators know you have a problem with the Governor’s blank check for funding private schools.

Fiscal Cost of Removing the Cap

The Office of the Governor has estimated the fiscal cost of lifting the cap on voucher payments as $3.5 million, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star.

Legislators should question this surprisingly low fiscal cost estimate. Using the Governor’s figure of 30,000 vouchers for this current school year, his $3.5 million estimate would mean an increase of only $115 per voucher. It is highly unlikely that private school parents are only averaging $115 as their share of the private school charges. That figure is less than public school parents pay for textbook rental.

In addition, the $3.5 cost estimate seems to completely underestimate the true cost of paying whatever the private schools ask in increased tuition. Is the Governor going to add a regulation saying that private schools may not raise their tuition to take inappropriate advantage of the Governor’s generosity?

Is this leading to price controls from the Governor on private school tuition increases?

Fiscal Costs of the Total Voucher Program

The voucher program in its first two years (2011-12 and 2012-13) had no fiscal cost to the state, even though the funds from the start have hurt public schools by diverting the money to private schools. Overall, the voucher payments were deliberately held below the costs of public school payments to guarantee an overall savings. A savings of about $4 million was redistributed to all public schools in those first two years.

Governor Pence’s 2013 voucher expansion turned a savings into a new fiscal cost. He expanded the eligibility list to the point that about 40% of all private school vouchers in 2013-14 went to students who had always been in private school. This move ended the savings and produced an overall $15.7 million new fiscal cost to the taxpayers.

Under Governor Pence, vouchers were no longer about facilitating a choice. They were about subsidizing private school parents to help the private and religious schools boost enrollment.

Even taking the Governor’s estimate at face value, his 2015 agenda would escalate the proven, most conservative listing of fiscal costs of the voucher program to $19.2 million. This is the sum of the $3.5 million for removing the caps plus the $15.7 million fiscal cost for 2013-14 reported in the most recent financial report on Choice Scholarships from the IDOE Division of Finance in June, 2014.
At $19.2 million, this financial benefit for private school parents now gets more state dollars than:
  • Summer school - $18.4 million per year
  • Gifted and talented programs - $12.6 Million per year
  • Preschool pilot scholarships - $10 million per year
  • Alternative public schools - $6.1 million per year
  • Non-English Speaking Program - $5 million per year
  • Senator Ford Technology program - $3.1 million per year
  • Professional Development - $0 per year (funding ended in 2011 budget)
Let your legislators know that you disagree with the idea of prioritizing more money for private school vouchers over all the other needs of the one million plus public school students. It just doesn’t make sense.

Governor Pence Has Thrown Governor Daniels’ Voucher Program Under the Bus

Governor Daniels’ gave a speech at Harvard in November, 2012 saying how Indiana created the voucher program the right way. “We said to the public schools, you get first shot!” he said. “If you do a good job they’re not going to want to leave. “ The Daniels’ program focused on giving parents a choice and on saving the state money.

Governor Pence when he became Governor in 2013 quickly changed the focus to helping private school parents pay for a choice they had already made. He passed a voucher expansion in the 2013 session creating four pathways to become eligible for a voucher when students had never attended a private school. It was no longer about choice. It was about subsidizing private school parents.

In 2013-14, about 40% of the 19, 000 vouchers were for students who had never attended a public school first and therefore were a new fiscal cost to the state. Any savings were wiped out, and the state was left with a new fiscal cost of $15.7 million. The distribution of $4 million in savings back to school districts which the Daniels’ program had bragged about for the first two years suddenly ended in under Governor Pence.

Contact your legislators now to let them know you disagree with this trend of sending more and more millions to private school parents when it is not even clear that there is enough money in the new budget to correct the shortages for public schools that have become so apparent after the paltry 1% increase in the current year, well below the cost of living.

Please keep up your great support of public schools!

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 the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need 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 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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