Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #106– January 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

Yesterday’s committee vote on Senate Bill 184, the voucher expansion bill, was delayed until next Wednesday’s meeting. This gives us all more time to send additional messages of opposition before the vote.

Voucher Expansion

Senator Kruse announced at the beginning of yesterday’s Senate Education Committee meeting that the vote on SB 184, the voucher expansion bill, as well as on two other bills would be taken at the January 23rd meeting. The only bill voted on as scheduled was Senate Bill 189, which was passed 9-0 with bipartisan support after being amended.

I have no inside information about SB 184, but sometimes bills are delayed in this manner because the sponsor doesn’t have the votes lined up to pass the bill and wants more time to try to find the votes. Whether this is true in the case of the sibling voucher bill is up to speculation, but the net result is that the bill still has not passed the committee and public school advocates have until January 23rd to reach more Senators, especially those on the Education Committee, to share your deep opposition to sending more public money to private schools through an expansion of vouchers for siblings. In many legislative districts, this weekend will be the first “Third House” or “Crackerbarrel” meetings in which legislators meet with constituents back home. I hope public school advocates will show up at such meetings with the message that public schools need more support and supporting private schools with more vouchers is the wrong priority. Go to it!

Common Core

Senator Kruse then turned yesterday to a hearing on SB 193, the Common Core bill, subject of two rallies and much debate prior to the hearing. Many of us in fighting the voucher bill in 2011 argued that private schools should not want vouchers because the strings that come with public dollars will take away the independence of private schools. That is exactly what has happened in this case and should prompt a reassessment of the full consequences of the voucher law.

As I listened to the story of how the fight against the Common Core began in Indiana, I learned that private school independence has already been corrupted by the voucher program. Senator Schneider, in introducing his bill to take Indiana out of the Common Core program, described how two parents in his district came to him greatly concerned that their voucher-accepting parochial school was changing its textbooks and curriculum to comply with the Common Core curriculum and the new assessments to come, since voucher schools must take the state assessments. These parents were greatly distressed by the changes they traced back to the Common Core curriculum, especially in math, and thus, a movement to overturn the 2010 decision of the Roundtable and the State Board was born.

Without the voucher program requirement that schools accepting vouchers must take the state tests, the private school could have ignored the Common Core and used textbooks and tests that fit its preferred curriculum. Now this huge public policy debate with national implications is being driven by private and parochial school parents and the outcome will impact every public and private school in Indiana. The voucher law has thus entwined public and private schools in an unanticipated way through the Common Core curriculum battle.

The hearing, which Senator Kruse noted began at 1:37, went on until 7:00pm last night. The Senate Chamber and gallery were standing room only and some 50 chairs were filled in the hallway outside the Senate Chamber. The vote on SB 193 is scheduled for the next meeting, January 23rd.

House Education Committee

The first meeting of the House Education Committee was held this morning at 8:30am. House Bill 1012 amending the law governing the transfer of surplus buildings to charter schools was passed 12 to 1. The bill reduces the four year waiting period to sell a building to two years and includes a 30-day fast track procedure when a ready buyer is available. House Bill 1060 amending the law governing criminal background checks on teacher applicants was passed 12 to 0.

Chairman Behning announced that House Bills 1005, a complex bill regarding high school remediation, and 1295 regarding the IU School of Public Health would be given hearings at the next meeting on Tuesday, January 22nd. The new schedule for the House Education Committee is to meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 until the House convenes around 10:30.

Contact Senators

Senators need to hear again this week from the grassroots about Senate Bill 184. Please let them know of 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. Other voucher bills have been announced, and strong resistance to this first one, SB 184, will help us fight the others down the road. The Senators on the committee 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

Thanks for all you are doing to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education in the Statehouse as efforts are made this week to expand 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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