Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #125– March 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

Tuesday’s 2:30 Statehouse rally (March 19th) in support of public schools and in opposition to voucher expansion will be followed on Wednesday (March 20th) with a 1:30pm public hearing on House Bill 1003, the voucher expansion bill.

Public school advocates are urged to bring a friend and attend the rally and, for those who can speak against voucher expansion, come back for the Senate Education Committee hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

Come to the Rally, March 19th at 2:30pm

The rally is set for Tuesday, March 19th, starting at 2:30pm in the South Atrium on the second floor of the Statehouse. An opponent of voucher expansion from each of the four caucuses will speak, as well as several advocates for public education:

Senator Vaneta Becker, Republican, Evansville

Senator Tim Skinner, Democrat, Terre Haute

Representative Randy Truitt, Republican, Lafayette

Representative Vernon Smith, Democrat, Gary

Sharon Wise, Indiana PTA, Indianapolis

Danny Tanoos, Superintendent, Vigo Co. Schools, Terre Haute

Julie Hollingsworth, School Board Member, Fort Wayne Community Schools

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, ICPE-Monroe County, Bloomington

Phyllis Bush, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, Fort Wayne

Carole Craig, ICPE Board, Indianapolis

Joel Hand, ICPE Lobbyist, Fishers

Vic Smith, ICPE Board, Indianapolis

This rally against voucher expansion may not be as large as last week’s rally in favor of vouchers. On that occasion, over half the participants were school children brought in during class time to support this partisan bill. Our rally will be primarily voters and taxpayers. We have no deep-pocketed sponsors, so don’t come expecting T-shirts. We do have bipartisan grassroots supporters of public education from all over Indiana who believe deeply that public schools deserve better support and that public school students will be damaged by the costly expansion of vouchers provided in House Bill 1003. Before and after the rally, please look up your Senator and Representative to express your opposition to voucher expansion, especially in light of the hearing on HB 1003 scheduled for the next day.

Come to the Public Hearing on HB 1003 on Wednesday, March 20th, 1:30pm in the Senate Chamber

The Senate Education Committee will meet on March 20th at 1:30, first to vote on four bills heard last week, and then to hold a public hearing on three bills. House Bill 1003 – Voucher Expansion - is the first bill listed for the hearing. Chairman Kruse will most likely impose a 5-minute time limit on testimony. Those who sign up on arrival may speak.

The House hearing on HB 1003 in February lasted for four hours with 20 speaking for and 13 speaking against the bill. Opponents had only 19 hours notice to prepare for that hearing. I hope to see more speakers against the bill in the Senate hearing. If you can come on Wednesday to testify against HB 1003, please do so.

Talking Points: Say “Yes!” to Public Schools
  • We must restore the cuts to public education made during the Great Recession.
  • Public school budgets were cut by $300 million annually in December, 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession and were not restored in the 2011 budget.
  • In the budget passed this year by the House, $132 million is restored in the first year and $202 million in the second year, far short of the annual $300 million needed to restore the recession cuts.
  • If voucher expansion (HB 1003) is passed, at least $21 million of the $132 million next year – one- sixth! --would not go to the 1.04 million public school students who need it but instead would pay for vouchers for private school students who are already in private schools.
Talking Points: Say “No!” to Voucher Expansion
  • 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 and brings direct new fiscal costs of at least $26 million to taxpayers.
  • Special education students currently in private schools become eligible for a voucher. An estimated 75% of the 4211 such students meet the income limit of $85,000 for a family of four. Cost to taxpayers at LSA’s estimate of $4083 for each voucher: $12.8 million.
  • 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 in the first year.
  • Children of veterans currently in private schools become eligible for a voucher. IDOE data shows 72,000 students currently in private schools. 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.
  • The above three points, totaling $21 million, will come out of the tuition support budget for all schools in the funding formula. There is no separate line item for vouchers.
  • 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.
  • These conservative estimates totaling over $26 million do not include the cost of vouchers provided for (1) foster children currently in private schools, for (2) the siblings of current voucher students or for (3) all incoming kindergarten students.
  • A path to a nearly universal voucher is found in a little-noticed change in eligibility policy in the tax credit “School Scholarship” program, whereby students get tuition scholarships from Scholarship Granting Organizations. House Bill 1003 removes the requirement that to receive a tax credit scholarship, a student must have been enrolled in a public school during the preceding school year. With this change, any student can receive a tax credit scholarship from the SGO, and then in the following year can get a voucher. Current law gives a voucher to any student who has previously received a tax credit scholarship. In this two year sequence, the requirement disappears that students must be enrolled in a public school before becoming eligible for a voucher, if their family meets the $85,000 income limit.
Pass the Word

This is the week for advocates for public education to take action.
  • Come to the rally! If you can’t come, sign the petition in support of the rally. Here is the link:
  • · Participate in Wednesday’s public hearing on HB 1003 in the Senate Education Committee.
  • · Contact your Senator about HB 1003 to express your opposition to voucher expansion.
It is time for the grassroots to go to work to stand up for public education. Thank you for all your efforts!

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 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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