Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #118– February 20, 2013

Dear Friends,

The huge voucher expansion bill, House Bill 1003, is scheduled for a final vote in the House tomorrow morning, Thursday, Feb. 21st. The session begins at 10:00am. Please contact any and all members of the House tonight and tomorrow before the vote to express your deep opposition.

Many other issues have been raised this week, but the true damage to public education will come if the precedent setting voucher bill is passed. The focus tonight must remain on the educational question of our generation: Will education for young Americans be delivered through public schools or will education increasingly be privatized with state dollars?

Many of the current controversial bills have been raised as part of a strategy to distract public school advocates from the voucher bill. If the precedent can be set that state tax money can freely be spent directly for school vouchers, not just as a money saver for when public school students transfer over to private schools, but as state payments for students already in private schools, then the unraveling of public education is assured. House Bill 1003 sets this precedent.

How much money is to be freely spent for students already in private schools? The House Ways and Means Committee voted out a smaller version of HB 1003 on Monday by a vote of 14-7. The opposing votes included all Democrats along with Rep. Dermody and Rep. Truitt. They should be thanked.

Here are the improvements made Monday, no doubt due to your persistent messages of opposition:
  • the increase in the tax deduction for home school and private school parents for expenses was dropped altogether. It will remain at $1000 as in current law.
  • The minimum voucher will be $5000, not $5500. Current law says $4500.
  • Special education students already in private schools must have a family income of $85,000 or less to get a voucher. In the education committee version, no means test existed.
  • Children of veterans already in private schools must have a family income of $85,000 or less. In the education committee version, vouchers would go to those making up to $127,000.
Your notes, calls and letters helped immensely in trimming the cost of this bill in half. Instead of a $47 fiscal cost, the estimated cost now stands at $26 million. Tell your House member that is still too much!

That cost breaks down in this way:
1) $5 million more for tax credits going to preschools through Scholarship Granting Organizations.
2) $1.9 million more, according to the LSA fiscal analysts, for increasing the Gr. 1-8 vouchers from $4500 to $5000. That is an 11% increase, when K-12 tuition support is budgeted for a 2% increase.
3) $12.8 million more for special education students already in private schools! That is found by taking the number of special education students in private schools (4211) times 75% (estimated percent of such student in families making up to $85,000) times $4083 (LSA’s figure for each voucher).
4) $6.6 million more for children of veterans already in private schools. That is found by taking just 3% of the 72,000 counted in private schools on the IDOE website times 75% expected to meet the $85,000 income limit times $4083 per voucher.
This adds up to over $26 million, and it is a conservative estimate. It doesn’t include private school vouchers for all foster children already in private schools, and it doesn’t include the entering kindergarten siblings of current voucher students.

Of the $26 million above, $21 million will come out of K-12 tuition support. Even with this conservative estimate, $21 million dollars will eat up 16% -- one sixth! – of the $129 million dollar increase for K-12 tuition support in the House budget. Don’t let anyone tell you that schools are getting a 2% increase!

Many stories could be told about events of today or yesterday. It has been intense. The stories, however, must wait as you go to work contacting House members about the enormous voucher expansion bill, HB 1003.

Click here for House member emails and a see this handout on HB 1003. Anything you can do tonight and tomorrow will be a help!

Thanks for all you are doing 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 is lobbying hard against 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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