Friday, February 22, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #119– February 22, 2013

Dear Friends,

The attack on public education continues. The House passed the precedent setting voucher expansion bill 57-36 about 6:30 last evening as an ice storm was bearing down on Indianapolis. Public school advocates must now convince Senators that this enormous voucher expansion so unfairly favors private schools over public schools that it should be turned down.

As the floor calendar progressed in the House yesterday (Thursday), it began to look as if the vote on HB 1003 would be deferred until Monday. Today (Friday) is not a session day. Good news came late Thursday afternoon when Speaker Bosma announced that HB 1342 (Ending State Superintendent authority over the voucher program) and HB 1358 (parent trigger) would be reassigned to the Rules Committee. That is where bills are sent to die.

Then as the Speaker warned the members that a storm was coming, the voucher bill was called. Rep. Behning presented the bill and Rep. Huston spoke for it. Rep. Battles, Rep. Vernon Smith, Rep. VanDenburgh, Rep. Errington and Rep. Austin all spoke strongly and passionately against the bill.

Then came the vote. Seven members were “Excused from Voting” or “Not voting”, four Republicans (Representatives Clere, Rhoads, Soliday and Wolkins) and three Democrats (Representatives Bauer, C. Brown and Harris).

Of the 93 voting, all 28 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted against the bill in support of public education. All should be profusely thanked! The 8 Republicans were Representatives Bacon, Dermody, Koch, Mahan, McNamara, Neese, Saunders and Truitt.

All 57 other Republicans voted yes. Let them know of your disagreement and disappointment.

Some speculated that Speaker Bosma wanted to get the vote done Thursday before members went home to a long weekend of messages from public education supporters in order to keep from losing any votes. With the vote done, you can’t persuade House members this weekend to turn against the voucher expansion bill, but you can tell them what you think of their vote and you can start talking to Senators about voting against this bill which has a fiscal cost of $26 million of new funding to help private schools. Gone are the days when the voucher program saved the state money. Here are the big ticket items:
1) Special education students currently in private schools become eligible for a voucher. The most recent figures from the IDOE website show 4211 such students. An estimated 75% meet the income limit of $85,000 for a family of four. Cost to taxpayers at LSA’s estimate of $4083 on average for each voucher: $12.8 million.

2) The $4500 cap on the Grade 1-8 voucher is raised to $5000 the first year and to $5500 the second year. Cost to taxpayers according to LSA: $1.9 million at a minimum

3) Children of veterans currently in private schools become eligible for a voucher. IDOE data shows 72,000 students currently in private schools that report data to the department. An estimated 75% meet the income limit of $85,000 for a family of four. If just 3% of those students have a parent who is a veteran, the cost to taxpayers would be $6.6 million.

4) The preschool scholarship granting organizations in this bill would be able to give away $5 million in tax money as tax credits for donations to preschool tuition support.
The first three points, totaling $21 million, will come out of the tuition support budget in the funding formula. There is no separate line item for vouchers. The fourth point, tax credits, will reduce state revenues by $5 million.

These conservative estimates totaling over $26 million do not include the cost of vouchers provided for foster children currently in private schools or for kindergarten siblings of current voucher students.

Here are some pointed questions to ask members of the House who voted for HB 1003:
1) Why would you want to increase payments to private schools by 11% (raising the tuition payment for Grades 1-8 vouchers from $4500 to $5000) while you only raised the overall education funding for tuition support by 2%?

2) When the K-12 funding formula is to get only $129 million additional dollars (2%, $82 million of which was transferred in from the kindergarten grant) why would you want to send $21 million of this on to the private schools? Don’t public schools need this increase?

3) Won’t $21 million in new costs for vouchers send the tuition support totals over the appropriation cap and force a proportional cut in all school districts?

4) Aren’t you embarrassed to pass a bill sending $26 million additional state dollars to private schools while state funding for professional development was cut to $0 in 2011 and not restored in this budget?

5) Isn’t there a problem of priorities and proportionality here when you pass a bill giving $26 million additional dollars to private schools but vital public school programs have been frozen or cut, such as:

Summer School – frozen at $18.36 million Non-English Speaking Program – frozen at $5 million Gifted and Talented - frozen at $12.54 million Alternative Education – cut from $6.38 million to $6.14 million Sen. Ford Technology Fund – cut from $3.42 million to $3.09 million
Please talk to members of the House and now also members of the Senate about voucher expansion in your “Third House” and “Crackerbarrel” meeting this weekend, or through phone calls and emails. The voucher bill must now be derailed in the Senate.

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. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who lobbied 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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