Monday, January 14, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #105– January 14, 2013

Dear Friends,

The Senate Education Committee will vote on the voucher expansion bill, Senate Bill 184, on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 16th.  Please contact the Senators on the committee before the vote to express your 

The hearing on Senate Bill 184 sponsored by Senator Yoder revealed a division within the committee.  Even before public testimony on the bill began, Senator Kenley expressed his continued support of the position the Senate took when the voucher bill was passed, that is, that students should try public schools first.  Eligibility for vouchers required a year in public schools for that reason.  Then if students move to a private school, there is a cost savings. Under Senate Bill 184, the cost savings disappear when siblings who have not been in public schools receive a voucher and a new fiscal cost must be funded in the budget.
Senator Kenley, as quoted in Scott Elliott’s story in the January 12th Star, said it well:  “We passed the original bill on the assumption that you go to public school first.  This changes the premise.  It’s a pretty fundamental change.”

Fiscal Cost for Indiana Taxpayers

Scott Elliott’s story also quoted the testimony of ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand citing the extra fiscal costs that a sibling voucher expansion would bring: “Based on the $3932 average voucher, he said, if just one in 10 of the 9,130 students in the program had a sibling not in public school who used a voucher next year it would cost Indiana about $3.5 million annually.  If a quarter of the students had a sibling who used a voucher it would cost Indiana nearly $9 million a year.”

The extra fiscal cost in the millions of dollars is clear and substantial, in a state that in the last budget zeroed out state funding for professional development, which in the previous budget was given $5.5 million a year.  Is helping private school parents pay tuition a higher priority than professional development?

Financial Relief for Private School Parents

Keep in mind that the biggest impact of SB 184 would be financial relief for private school parents.  With the exception of incoming kindergarten and first graders, it would allow no new students to go to a private school.  The older students covered by this bill are already in private schools.

Instead for all older siblings, this bill is about giving financial relief to the parents of current private school students, parents who happen to have another younger child who has qualified for a voucher.

Giving a voucher to an older sibling who is already in a private school does nothing to expand school choice.  The choice was already made. Now this bill helps parents pay for their previous choice with your tax money.

Giving financial relief to parents of private school students would be a generous thing for the state to do, but other parents would wonder why they aren’t being favored by the state with financial relief as well.  Public school parents have been asking for financial relief for school textbook rental for over a decade.  Why, they should ask, are private school parents getting relief when we are not?

Testimony on the Bill

In public testimony on Senate Bill 184 last Wednesday, five speakers spoke in favor of the bill followed by eight speaking against the bill.  Karen Combs of Lafayette in her testimony against the bill gave a timely reminder to the Senators that Gov. Daniels himself in a speech given at Harvard explained to his audience how Indiana did it right by having families go to public school first before they are eligible for a voucher.

No additional testimony will be taken, but the committee vote on SB 184 is scheduled for this Wednesday, January 16th in the Senate Chamber, along with votes on three other bills, including the cursive writing bill.  Then the rest of the afternoon is scheduled for testimony on SB 193, the Common Core bill.  Apparently a large crowd is expected which accounts for scheduling the hearing in the Senate Chamber.

As of Monday evening, no meeting has yet been scheduled for the House Education Committee.

Contact the Committee Members

It is time to contact Senators on the committee on Tuesday and Wednesday before the vote to express your opposition to expanding the voucher program in a way that will for the first time add new and expensive fiscal costs to the program.  That this bill was taken up first in the session shows the wrong priority.  The Senators to contact are as follows:

Chair:  Sen. Kruse

Republican Members:  Senators Yoder, Banks, Buck, Kenley, Pete Miller, Leising and Schneider

Democrat Members: Senators Rogers, Broden, Mrvan, Taylor

You should also add your own Senator to the contact list.  If you made contacts last week, it would not hurt to send another email or note before the vote.  They need to know that public school advocates are watching every step of the way.  One strong advocate opposing Senate Bill 184, Patricia Logan, had an excellent letter to the editor printed in the Indianapolis Star just this morning, January 14th.  Thanks, Trish!  Let’s all turn up the volume!

Thank you for speaking up for public education!

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education in the Statehouse as efforts are made to take public money away from public schools through an expansion of vouchers.  We are well represented by our lobbyist Joel Hand, but to keep him in place we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education.
Go to 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.

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