Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #123– March 5, 2013

Dear Friends,

The budget bill (HB 1001) and the voucher expansion bill (HB 1003) now head to the Senate.

All advocates for public education are invited to come to the Statehouse on TUESDAY, MARCH 19th, to a RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION and IN OPPOSITION TO VOUCHER EXPANSION and to talk with Senators and Representatives. The rally organized by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education begins at 2:30 in the North Atrium of the Statehouse.

If you are convinced that public education budgets should be restored after being cut during the Great Recession, please come!

If you are convinced that the unprecedented expansion of vouchers to pay for students already in private schools will damage the education of public school students, please come!

It is time to talk with Senators and Representatives about how damaging the voucher expansion bill is for public education in Indiana. March 19th will be an opportune time to make your concerns known to the legislators. We hope for a good crowd at the 2:30 rally in the North Atrium, but equally important would be contacts you can set up with your own legislators when you come.

What messages will your presence in the Statehouse support?
1) Restore the recession cuts to public education

2) Stop the expansion of private school vouchers
Let’s look further at each of these:

Restore the recession cuts to public education

Senators will now review the House budget and craft their own budget plan by early April. Public education advocates have watched incredulously as Indiana has declared a huge surplus and cut taxes without first restoring the devastating $300 million per year cut in public education funding announced in December, 2009. Indiana’s excellent fiscal condition has been based on deep cuts for public school students.

The House budget gives $6.63 billion and $6.70 billion to tuition support in the next two years. If we would go back to pre-recession budgets and figure just a 1% increase each year (such as the House budget does for FY2015), tuition support should now be at $6.77 billion and $6.84 billion in the next two years. We need $140 million more each year than the House budget proposes to restore the deep cuts to public schools made by the Great Recession.

The budget for FY2011 (2010-11) devoted $6.57 billion to tuition support. It never materialized. It was cut by $300 million in the depths of the Great Recession. Here are the projected figures to where we should be if a conservative 1% annual increase had been followed:

FY2011....$6.57 billion
FY2012....$6.64 billion...(+1%)
FY2013....$6.70 billion...(+1%)
FY2014....$6.77 billion...(+1%)...(Compare to $6.63 billion now in HB 1001 = $140 Million short)
FY2015....$6.84 billion...(+1%)...(Compare to $6.70 billion now in HB 1001) = $140 Million short)

Thus, based on a conservative 1% increase, restoring funding to education that was cut in the Great Recession would require an additional $140 million for tuition support each year. The conclusion is that the budget increase for tuition support would need to be raised significantly in this budget to restore education funding to levels before the Great Recession.

Stop the expansion of private school vouchers

House Bill 1003 is far worse than the original voucher bill passed two years ago. It ends the rationale that vouchers save the state money. It pays more state dollars for each elementary voucher, and it pays for vouchers for students who are already in private schools. These major changes mean direct new fiscal costs. A conservative estimate of new costs comes to $26 million:
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. A superintendent whose district only gets $5300 per student deeply opposes this change.

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 enrollment 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. This $21 million cost equals about one-sixth of the $132 million in new money for tuition support in the House budget for next year. 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.

I have heard voucher proponents on media reports saying they need to increase the Grade 1-8 voucher from $4500 to $5500 so they can get more out-of-state private school operators interested in coming into Indiana to build new schools. Have they given up on the schools of Indiana to the point where they need to incentivize out-of–state companies to come to Indiana to take over educating our children? This is clearly going in the wrong direction.

Enough is enough!

The Outlook for Voucher Expansion in the Senate

Now is the time to share your concerns about voucher expansion with members of the Senate. Early in this session, Senator Kenley opposed Senate Bill 184 due to the new fiscal costs of vouchers for the siblings of voucher students. Senator Kruse later held the bill without a vote. They should both be strongly thanked for their positions on SB 184.

Two years ago, the Senate narrowly passed the voucher law 28-22. Current members fall into three categories:

There are 21 Senators who voted against vouchers in 2011 who are currently in the Senate. They should be thanked for their vote and asked to continue to vote against vouchers. They are:

Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Boots, Head, Mishler, Nugent, Tomes, Waterman and Zakas. (9)

Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Hume, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Skinner, Tallian, Taylor, Richard Young. (12)

There are 25 Senators who voted for vouchers in 2011 who are currently in the Senate. They should be reminded about the new additional fiscal costs for vouchers given to students who are already in private schools and asked to vote against expanding the voucher program at this time. They are:

Republican Senators Banks, Buck, Charbonneau, Delph, Eckerty, Glick, Grooms, Hershman, Holdman, Kenley, Kruse, Landske, Leising, Long, Merritt, Pat Miller, Paul, Schneider, Smith, Steele, Walker, Waltz, Wyss, Yoder, and Michael Young.

There are 4 Senators who are new to the Senate and did not vote on vouchers in 2011. They should be asked to hold to the original program and not expand vouchers due to the new excessive fiscal costs. They are:

Republican Senators Bray, Crider and Pete Miller and Democrat Senator Stoops.

Come to the Rally!

Will you come on March 19th? Now is the time to stand up for public education. If you can’t come, please share this invitation with a friend who strongly supports public education who might come.

More information on the legislators and advocates who will speak at the rally will be forwarded in the days ahead. Thanks for all you are doing for 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 working hard against voucher expansion, 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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