Friday, March 29, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #127– March 28, 2013

Dear Friends,

The saga of the historic generation-long experiment to privatize education in Indiana continues. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the 2011 voucher law is constitutional, giving legal blessing to using state tax dollars for sectarian education in private schools.

Now more than ever, the future of public education lies in the hands of members of the General Assembly. Currently, the expensive multifaceted voucher expansion bill is moving in the Senate. It is time to reconnect with your Senator about details below to secure their vote against expansion of vouchers at this time. No legislator can claim to be a friend of public schools who believes that House Bill 1003 is wise public policy.

If your contact with your Senator lets you know their position on House Bill 1003, please send me an email regarding their support or opposition. Every Senator is important in what is expected to be a close vote on the Senate floor as early as April 4th and as late as April 10th. Here are the details:

The Voucher Expansion Bill after Amendments on March 27th

The Senate Education Committee passed House Bill 1003 yesterday after adopting Senator Kenley’s amendment, which eliminated several provisions but still left a huge expansion which would siphon millions from the tuition support budget for public schools and would set new precedents for directly funding students already in private schools.

The committee vote was 8-4, with all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no.

Provisions still in the bill and their fiscal costs include the following:
  • $5 million for additional tax credits for K-12 school scholarships, above the current $5 million
  • $0.4 million (according to LSA) for next year’s increased payments for the minimum voucher ($4500 rises to $4600)
  • $12.8 million for special education students already in private schools (4211 now in private schools X 75% meeting means test X $4083 per voucher according to LSA)
  • $3.7 million for siblings of current voucher students already in private schools (Projecting just 10% of 9135 voucher students have a sibling X $4083 voucher)
These provisions total $22 million for next year, $17 million of which will be taken from the K-12 tuition support budget. The $5 million in tax credits is foregone revenue.

These conservative estimates do not include highly controversial additions:
  • 1) vouchers for 1st graders, no longer required to attend a public school to get a voucher. Kindergarten is now defined as sufficient time in public school to qualify for a voucher.
  • 2) vouchers for children in 148 F schools, a new concept for Indiana, utilizing the flawed and widely disrespected system of A-F school letter grades. Shouldn’t we have a valid A-F system before using it to pass out vouchers?
  • 3) vouchers for students who have never been in public school who have received an SGO scholarship under a new loophole allowing eligibility for a tax credit scholarship without first attending public school. Under current law, those receiving tax credit scholarships can get vouchers the next year. This loophole creates a universal voucher over a two-year cycle for any student meeting the $84,000 income guideline.
HB 1003 remains a bill that creates a huge and damaging expansion of the voucher program, despite the following positive changes in Senator Kenley’s amendment:
  • Eligibility for all kindergarten students for a voucher disappeared. Sen. Kenley cited the LSA fiscal note saying that kindergarten vouchers would cost the state $7.8 million year after year after year.
  • Approximately seven pages of the bill setting up Scholarship Granting Organizations for preschool scholarships disappeared, although the $5 million cost for additional tax credits remained in the bill for use by K-12 Scholarship Granting Organizations.
  • The payment of state special education money to private schools disappeared, although all special education students can still get a voucher, including those who are currently in private schools, as long as family income does not exceed $84,000 for a family of four.
  • Vouchers for children of veterans and for foster children disappeared from the bill.
  • The $500 increase in the Grade 1-8 voucher was cut to $100 (to $4600), rising to $4700 in the second year of the budget.
Some may claim that the Senate Education Committee reduced and “defanged” the voucher expansion bill. Even a brief look at the list of provisions above and the $22 million fiscal cost should show that HB 1003 has not been defanged.

The Next Step: Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee on Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Since HB 1003 had a fiscal cost, it was recommitted to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee for approval in their final meeting on Tuesday morning, April 2nd. It is important to share your deep opposition to HB 1003 with members of this committee between now and Tuesday. These Senators probably have not heard much about the problems with this bill until now. It is time to let them know. A list of talking points about HB 1003 is attached to help in your conversations.

Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chair: Senator Hershman

Republican Members: Senators Holdman, Buck, Delph, Kenley, Landske, Mishler, Smith and Walker

Democrat Members: Senators Skinner, Broden, Hume and Taylor

Contact All Senators

The voucher expansion bill could come to the floor for a vote anytime between April 4th and April 10th. Remember that 21 current Senators voted against vouchers in 2011. That group forms a strong base for opposition to voucher expansion. We need every public school advocate to be involved in contacting Senators to support public schools and to oppose HB 1003.

The list is attached showing these 21 and the 25 who voted for vouchers. I have heard that some of those who voted for vouchers are not interested in voucher expansion for fiscal reasons. It is time to share your concerns. Why should another $22 million be spent on more vouchers when the entire summer school program only gets $18 million and professional development for Indiana teachers is given $0?

Thanks for all your efforts to contact Senators on behalf of public education! It is time to turn back this relentless attack on public schools in Indiana.

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 now working hard against voucher expansion in the Senate, 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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