Friday, March 22, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #126– March 21, 2013

Dear Friends,

The outstanding crowd at the rally on Tuesday (March 19th) and the powerful testimony against voucher expansion in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday (March 20th) gave public education a strong boost in the Statehouse this week. Thanks to all public education advocates who participated in person or through the petition and emails!

The Enthusiastic Rally - March 19th

Anyone in the Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon could not miss the strong double-message of the hour-long rally in the North Atrium: Say yes to public schools! Say no to voucher expansion! Eleven speakers fired up the crowd, introduced with great expertise by ICPE Board Member Marilyn Shank. The Indianapolis Star reported the crowd to be about 500 and pointed out that our rally was primarily adults and voters, in contrast to the busloads of young school children from private schools that dominated the voucher proponent’s rally during the previous week. There is no question that legislators who support public education were heartened by the turnout of citizens from all over the state, from Gary to New Albany, from Fort Wayne to Terre Haute. All of the speakers and all of the participants are to be commended for coming to the rally and also for contacting so many legislators while they were in the Statehouse, personal contacts that make a vital difference in the legislative battle under way.

The Hearing – March 20th

Coming off the enthusiasm of the hearing, many came back the next day to testify at the public hearing on House Bill 1003, the voucher expansion bill. Chairman Kruse convened the Senate Education Committee at 1:30 for votes on bills heard the previous week. The vote on HB 1004, the pilot preschool bill, was deferred until next week. The remediation bill HB 1005 was passed unanimously after several amendments. Then about 1:50, Chairman Kruse opened the hearing on voucher expansion, HB 1003, which lasted all the way until 6:15, forcing the postponement of hearings on two other bills which had been scheduled for Wednesday. After bill sponsors Sen. Eckerty and Rep. Behning presented the bill, Sen. Kenley engaged in a probing question and answer exchange with Rep. Behning, expressing his concern that HB 1003 fundamentally changes the voucher program enacted two years ago when, in words he quoted from Gov. Daniels, public schools “would be given the first shot.” He called this a “cataclysmic change” and speculated at one point that a universal voucher program, giving a $5000 voucher to all 100,000 in private schools would cost $500 million. Rep. Behning agreed with the goal of having a universal voucher for all children to go to a private school. Sen. Kenley expressed preference for giving the current program five years and then assessing its impact before expanding it.

After the legislators asked questions, the public testimony began. Fourteen speakers supporting the bill were called on first, followed by 21 speakers who opposed the bill. Testimony against the bill was strong and varied, coming from parents, teachers, administrators, education associations and several member of the general public. It was a memorable set of statements from a variety of dedicated public education advocates.

I was called on as the 35th and final speaker. I have attached my testimony along with one of the documents showing the problem of accountability for the Fort Wayne Scholarship Granting Organization during the administration of Dr. Bennett mentioned in my testimony.

The vote on HB 1003 will come next Wednesday at 1:30pm in the next Senate Education Committee meeting. Please do not let up on contacting Senators this week about your opposition to voucher expansion in HB 1003. This is the crucial week when Senators will choose between Sen. Kenley’s point of view and Rep. Behning’s point of view. Please do your best to persuade your Senator and other Senators to oppose House Bill 1003.

Thanks for all you have done this week for public education! Keep contacting Senators about your deep opposition to voucher expansion through the committee vote next Wednesday, March 27th!

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 and spoke eloquently at the rally and at the hearing, 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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