Friday, February 15, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #114– February 14, 2013

Dear Friends,

This morning in the House Education Committee, Chairman Behning heard only one bill, House Bill 1337, the bill rewriting Public Law 221. He said the other bills would be deferred to the next meeting on Monday, February 18th, at 9:30am.

Five bills were listed for this morning’s meeting, including three which would diminish the powers of the State Superintendent. At the outset, Chairman Behning said only HB 1337 and HB 1339 (Various Education Matters) would be heard today. As it turned out, Derek Redelman of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce was asked by Rep. Behning to explain the parts of HB 1337 that would guide a new A-F system, and his testimony and questions from committee members took up the entire time available until they had to adjourn for the House session at 10:00 am

Of the many points in HB 1337, the one that I considered eye-popping was that the state board would for the first time have the power to dissolve the governing board of a local school district if it was a D or F for four years. It intrigued me that in Rep. Behning’s summary of the bill and in the discussion of the bill lasting over an hour, that provision was never mentioned by anyone. This new supremacy of the State Board over local school boards should certainly be a topic of conversation in Third House sessions this weekend. Other concerns about HB 1337 to discuss with legislators include:
  1. Giving the State Board authority to merge local school corporations.
  2. Creating independent schools from turnaround academies.
  3. Changing key provisions of Public Law 221 that have guided assessment policies.
  4. Adding science assessments into high stakes school letter grade decisions by 2014-15.
This list just scratches the surface. I recommend that you review HB 1337 yourself and share your concerns with your legislator.

House Education Committee on Monday, Feb. 18th, 9:30am

When Monday’s House Education meeting was posted later today, it showed that HB 1337 and HB 1339 would be completed and that one of the bills cutting powers of the State Superintendent had been dropped. House Bill 1309, a bill to cut the State Superintendent’s authority related to the State Board, has disappeared from the hearing list. Whether it will be reinserted into the agenda over the weekend remains to be seen.

Two remaining bills would curtail the State Superintendent’s duties. HB 1342 gives authority to administer the voucher program to a new entity, the Office of Accountability and Innovation. HB 1360 dilutes the State Superintendent’s powers over the Education Roundtable. Both bills are an affront to those who voted to put the duties of the State Superintendent into the hands of Glenda Ritz. If you have strong feelings about this partisan power play to diminish the powers of Glenda Ritz, this weekend is the time for House members to hear your thoughts before the committee meeting on Monday.


House Bill 1003, the voucher expansion bill, is scheduled for a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday morning. The meeting begins at 9:00am. Joel Hand testified on behalf of ICPE about the fiscal costs of HB 1003 approaching $50 million at the public testimony session last Tuesday.

House Bill 1004, the preschool pilot voucher program, passed second reading today. An amendment from Rep. Vernon Smith attempting to decouple the preschool scholarship program from automatic eligibility into the K-12 voucher program failed 69-28.

Contact House Members

It is time to contact House members on these issues before Monday, perhaps at your county’s Third House or Crackerbarrel meeting. They need to hear your thoughts about bills that will hurt public education.

Thanks for your efforts!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who testified this week in Ways and Means about the enormous fiscal cost of the voucher bill, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us!

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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