Monday, February 26, 2018

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #314 – February 26, 2018

Dear Friends,

I am still shocked that Ball State University endorsed a bill allowing them to take over Muncie public schools while allowing them to ignore state laws requiring all students to study citizenship, the U.S. Constitution and American history.

The bill, HB 1315, allows Ball State to take over Muncie public schools without following the state laws that every other public school district must follow.

Is anybody looking out for the future of our democracy?

My reaction is personal. Ball State is my first alma mater. It is the place in 1967 where I confirmed my personal mission to become a social studies teacher to teach history and citizenship in support of our democracy, a mission that is obviously still important.

Has our democracy changed in a half century to the point where no one reads the fine print in a bill giving “flexibility” to ignore basic state laws that support the teaching of citizenship in our schools?

This flexibility goes too far. The bill actually removes the legal obligations in 20-30-5 for schools to say the pledge of allegiance, study the U.S. Constitution, study the Indiana Constitution and provide non-partisan voter instruction at the time of each general election to students in grades 6-12. No district should be waived from teaching students about citizenship in our democracy!

House Bill 1315 passed the House in this condition with the support of Ball State. It must be amended in the Senate.

HB 1315 is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee which normally meets on Thursday. It received a hearing on February 15th and awaits committee action, most likely at a committee meeting on March 1st, although no schedule has been posted. This is the last week in this session of the General Assembly for committee action.

We need your voice to contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week to amend HB 1315!

Four egregious problems were listed in the previous “Notes #313” about HB 1315:
  • Don’t let non-residents run public school districts. Ask Senators to return the public to the Muncie public schools by requiring that not just two but all seven members “reside within the boundaries of the Muncie school corporation district.”
  • Don’t let any public school district ignore the mandated curriculum for good citizenship. 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.
  • 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. 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.
Citizens from Gary and Lake County held a rally in the Statehouse last Thursday, Feb. 22nd in support of this point and asking that they keep their voice in their public schools through a school board.
  • Don’t permit preliminary discussions of watch lists in public meetings when they haven’t been vetted and certified. 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.
Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee listed below as soon as possible to amend HB 1315:

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 message to amend this bill to Senator Long, Senate President Pro Tem, and to your own Senator.

House Bill 1315 - School Corportation Financial Management

This deep concern about citizenship education was one of four points in my previous notes (See Vic’s Statehouse Notes #313 –Feb.21, 2018) calling for amendments to HB 1315. My personal connection to Ball State has prompted many questions:
1) Does Ball State really not care whether students study the US Constitution or did Ball State just sign on to HB 1315 without reading the fine print?

2) Are school laws created by the Indiana General Assembly now being spurned by the Indiana General Assembly itself? Why wouldn’t the General Assembly want students in Muncie public schools to follow the same laws that every other district follows?

3) Is every school district that falls into financial problems going to be turned into a charter-like district with little public control such as this proposal for Muncie?
Take Action This Week, the Last Week for Committee Action

This proposed step for Muncie is a huge historical change which has not been given adequate rationale by House leaders or by Ball State.

I urge you to contact the Senators listed above to correct this problem or the other problems with amendments to prevent HB 1315 from becoming a precedent in the deconstruction of the local control of public education.

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 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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