Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #122– February 27, 2013

Dear Friends,

At 11:15pm Monday night (Feb. 25th) in the last vote of the first half of the session, the Indiana House defeated House Bill 1337 by a vote of 33 to 61. Kudos to all who spoke to legislators last weekend about the major problems with this bill, problems detailed in “Vic’s Notes #120”. The grassroots were heard!

House Bill 1337

It was clear earlier Monday evening when HB 1337 first came up that many members of the Republican caucus were not supporting Chairman Behning’s bill. When the bill was called, Rep. Behning offered a rare third reading amendment, saying it would reduce the bill to only two subjects: “a larger dependence on growth” in the A-F metrics and “how we deal with turnaround schools.” He said that there would be “no speed up of Public Law 221” and “no testing in science” in the A-F metrics.

Representatives Austin, Battles, Vernon Smith and Summers all closely questioned the sponsor on how the third reading amendment changed his bill. No one likes third reading amendments. It is generally a sign of desperation; amendments are supposed to be done on second reading. Then Speaker Bosma stepped in and asked Rep. Behning to withdraw his bill to prepare a mock up of the amended bill for all to read and consider later in the evening.

After the budget was passed and all other bills were considered, Speaker Bosma returned to HB 1337. Written copies of the amendment had been circulated since the earlier discussion. House Democrats were animated in questioning and speaking against the bill. Rep. Austin, after getting Rep. Behning to confirm that science tests as part of A-F school grades were indeed still in the bill and that unelected school boards would run the new “independent” schools, concluded that this bill would create “chaos for our communities.” Rep. Battles said the amended bill “is still awful.” Rep. Summers said that at 5 minutes until 11 o’clock, the amended bill is “not vetted: We don’t know what it is about.” Rep. Vernon Smith said, “This bill is one person’s thoughts. Others ought to be involved.”

Then Rep. Huston, former chief of staff for Tony Bennett, defended the bill and the current A-F system. He was followed by opposition from Rep. Charlie Brown and Rep. Porter related to athletic recruiting and the A-F system.

Then came the vote.

The lopsided 33-61 tally was a surprise. A total of 31 Republicans joined 30 Democrats in voting no. All 33 remaining Republicans who voted were for the bill. About half of the Republican caucus sent Rep. Behning a clear message of opposition.

Click here for the roll call for you to check the votes of each member.

Senate Bill 416

Last week on Wednesday, February 20th, Senate Bill 416 passed the Senate Education Committee 11-0 with the supportive testimony from 15 speakers from all over Indiana, including State Superintendent Ritz. The bill sponsored by Sen. Yoder would void the current A-F system and set a guideline that school grades “may not be based on the measurement of student growth compared with peers.” A bipartisan consensus has emerged in the General Assembly that the current A-F system is seriously flawed, and SB 416 proposed that the State Board produce a revised system. Click here for my testimony strongly supporting SB 416.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon, Feb. 25th, on the Senate floor: Senator Yoder withdrew and thus killed Senate Bill 416, saying his bill to revise the A-F system will be fit into HB 1337 when it comes over from the House in the second half of the session. By adjournment that night, however, the House had defeated HB 1337.

The reasons for Senator Yoder’s action in killing his own bill are mystifying, and considering what happened to HB 1337, his actions now seem premature. It is also mystifying why Senator Yoder thought that the massive and problematic HB 1337 would be a better vehicle to discuss A-F metrics than his own simpler SB 416 which focused only on the A-F system.

As the second half of the session gets under way next week, the vehicle for legislative action regarding the A-F system remains unclear. Senator Yoder’s withdrawal of SB 416 gives comfort for now only to those members of the State Board who still like their A-F system that has so clearly lost the confidence of the public and most of the members of the General Assembly.

Thanks to all who supported Senate Bill 416 with testimony and with emails!

Thanks to all who helped in the demise of House Bill 1337!

And thanks to all who continue to stand up for 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 testified last week against HB 1337 and for SB 416 on behalf of ICPE, 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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