Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #116– February 18, 2013

Dear Friends,

Rep. Behning today amended his plan in House Bill 1337 to allow the State Board to dissolve a local school board or merge districts based on low school letter grades. His amendment would kick that discussion into a summer study committee.

No doubt responses over the weekend from you and others to House Bill 1337, the rewrite of Public Law 221, led Rep. Behning to amend the bill in today’s meeting. Another part of the amendment makes it possible for turnaround schools to be returned to the original school district or to be made independent schools.

Time ran out on the discussion of HB 1337 for the second meeting in a row. Rep. Behning announced a meeting at 8:30am tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 19th, Room 156C) to hear HB 1337 and the other bills he did not finish today, including HB 1339, HB 1360 and HB 1342. The latter two bills are controversial efforts to take powers away from the State Superintendent, one in co-chairing the Roundtable and the other in administering the voucher program.

Oddly, only verbal announcements of Tuesday’s meeting were made. Nothing is posted on the Indiana General Assembly website in the usual manner. Tomorrow is the last possible day for committee meetings under House rules for the first half of the session.

House Ways and Means Committee Action

Simultaneous to the House Education Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee passed the budget bill (HB 1001) and the voucher expansion bill (HB 1003). The voucher bill was amended to reduce the number of students already in private schools who could get vouchers. This was a step in the right direction, but still leaves a bill that deserves strong opposition from all public education advocates.

The amendments trimmed the number of vouchers going to siblings and linked income limits to vouchers going to special education students and children of veterans who are already in private schools. The fiscal cost of the newly amended bill has not yet been analyzed.

Tuition Support and Full Day Kindergarten: A Clarification and Correction

The good news from the budget that I wrote about yesterday was, unfortunately, not accurate.

The bad news from the budget that I wrote about yesterday was, unfortunately, very accurate.

Regarding what I thought yesterday to be good news: Today I learned that the when the Full Day Kindergarten Grant in the 2011 budget disappeared from the new budget, it did not mean as I had surmised that full day kindergarten would now be paid as a 1.0 count in the funding formula. There is still a fixed amount to be given to districts for each full day kindergarten student. Last year’s fixed amount of $2400 per student has been raised slightly, to $2448 in the first year and to $2472 in the second year of the budget. The long sought goal to fully fund full day kindergarten students was not achieved in this budget proposal.

Regarding what I wrote yesterday as bad news: The total school funding increase of $129 million in the first year did indeed subsume the Full Day Kindergarten Grant line item in the 2011 budget. This means that $82 million listed for Full Day Kindergarten in a separate line item is now part of the $129 million. That means the state is adding just $47 million in what can truly be called new money. Then if the voucher bill is passed, this $47 million will be reduced further to pay for vouchers for students who are already in private schools, a new expense to the state which we have not seen before.

Each school district will now see a new line item in their funding formula called Full Day Kindergarten. To truly compare the funding formula for last year to the funding formula for this new year, the amount for full day kindergarten would have to be backed out of the totals to make an apples-to-apples comparison.

Budget matters get complex very quickly. When Rep. Thompson said in the Ways and Means Committee today that K-12 funding would go up by $325 million, it sounded good. Many have heard how schools were “cut by $300 million.” His figure is arrived at by adding an increase of $129 for the first year and $194 in the second year of the budget. Schools, however, have lost $300 million each year for three years compared to what they were slated to receive before the Great Recession cuts. Then, as described above, his figure subsumes the Full Day Kindergarten grant ($82 million each year times 2 years) from the past budget. When this is considered, the new money for schools comes to about $160 million over two years.

And this is why all citizens should study math in order to keep an eye on their tax money!

Keep up the fight to support public education!

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 past 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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