Friday, April 26, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #140 and #141 – April 26, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #140 – April 26, 2013

Dear Friends,

After guiding accountability in Indiana’s schools for 14 years since 1999, Public Law 221’s central goal of “improvement” is about to bite the dust. Language in House Bill 1427 presented at a 4pm conference committee yesterday (Thursday) replaces “improvement” with “performance” in five places as it calls for new metrics for school grades by November 15, 2013.

House Bill 1427 – Various Education Matters

House Bill 1427 was revived yesterday afternoon (Thursday, April 25) with great fanfare. It is a 53 page bill that among other things abolishes the Principal Leadership Academy in IDOE and the health and physical education consultant in IDOE. Back in early April, the Senate had added their language about reviewing the Common Core and the A-F system. Now, in what was described to me as a classic compromise, the Senate Republicans will get what they want on Common Core and the House Republicans will get what they want on the A-F system.

If you have any energy to call legislators today, call them about the horrendous voucher expansion bill, HB 1003, where your messages might make a difference, as explained in the previous “Vic’s Notes #139”. It seems clear that HB 1427 will pass.

The Good News about A-F in HB 1427

The best news about the A-F language is that it contains eleven lines that Indiana clearly needs:

“Sec. 5. (a) Not later than November 15, 2013, the state board shall establish new categories or designations of school performance under the requirements of this chapter to replace 511 IAC 6.2-6. The new standards of assessing school performance:
(1) must be based on a measurement of academic growth; and
(2) may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.
511 IAC 6.2-6 is void on the effective date of the emergency or final rules adopted under this section.

This language voids the current system and restricts the new system from including a growth model based on comparisons with peers. That is all that is really needed to restart the process of revising the categories required by Public Law 221. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

The Bad News about A-F in HB 1427

The most controversial addition to the new HB 1427 is to put the “A” through “F” labels in Indiana law.
Currently, the State Board can decide how many categories our accountability system will have, whether it is 3, 4, 5 or 6, and what labels to apply to each category. This latest version, coming two days before adjournment, takes the State Board’s authority on this away and dictates that Indiana will have five categories and that they will be called “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “F”.

As I have recalled in recent “Notes,” a hearing on using “A” through “F” labels was held by the State Board of Education on April 30, 2010 when Dr. Bennett sought to rename the categories. A total of 57 speakers came to the 5-hour hearing. Of those 57, 56 were opposed to using “A” through “F” to describe our schools. The one speaker in favor represented the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Proposing “A” through “F” in law came after the regular committee hearings during this session. There are many opposed to that approach, but the way HB 1427 is rolling out, public sentiment on this particular issue will not be measured through public hearings.

The rest of the A-F language was reduced from four pages when it was part of HB 1338 last Monday to one page. None of it is necessary to get the much-needed revision started. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has promoted the remaining language to drop “improvement” as the main theme of PL 221 and replace it with “performance.” It is a huge philosophical change in the purpose of accountability, a change which will get no public hearing.

I have quoted repeatedly as I campaigned for a better school grading system the words: “The categories or designations must reflect various levels of improvement.” This was always a clear statement that schools with challenging demographics could be rewarded for improvement. These words will be missed.

I am no expert on the Common Core issue, so I leave to others the analysis of pages 7-9 of House Bill 1427 on Common Core. It describes a substantial review process to be done this summer.

Thanks for standing up for public education!


Vic’s Statehouse Notes #141– April 26, 2013

Dear Friends,

The final version of the budget bill HB 1001 was posted online yesterday afternoon and will be voted on later today. No doubt it will pass.

The biggest news for public school advocates in the budget is that no caps or brakes were put on new vouchers that will be paid for out of the tuition support budget. No separate line item for vouchers was established. Without a protective mechanism such as a separate line item, voucher payments for current private school students who have never been in the count could take significant portions of the tuition support budget, resulting in pro-rata reductions in the amounts promised to public and charter schools in the funding formula.

Tuition Support in HB 1001

Here are the actual dollars each year for tuition support:

Current actual FY2013 funding for tuition support: $6.490 Billion (from the HB 1001 funding formula)

FY2014 budget for tuition support: $6.622 Billion (+$132 Million over current year)

FY2015 budget for tuition support: $6.691 Billion (+$201 Million over current year)

New money budgeted over two years: (+$333 Million – two year total)

HB1003 vouchers for students already in private schools FY2014: $23 Million (see attached & Notes #135)

FY2104 new tuition support for public & charter schools: $132 Million minus $23 M equals $109 Million

HB1003 vouchers for students already in private schools FY2015: $179 Million (see attached & Notes #135)

FY2015 new tuition support for public & charter schools: $201 M minus $179 M equals $22 Million

Actual new money for public and charter schools over two years: $109 M + $22M = $131 Million

The conclusion is that with voucher expansion in HB 1003, tuition support increases for public schools are not protected from erosion by unpredicted numbers of vouchers for students who are already in private schools.

The only way to know that public and charter schools will be getting the funds promised in the funding formula will be to vote down the voucher expansion bill later today.

Go for it! Call your legislators one last time to stop HB 1003. You may have done so already. See Notes # 139 sent a few hours ago for more details on the HB 1003 vote scheduled for later today.

On this last day of the session, I thank you again for all you are doing to support 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 during conference committees, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us! Thanks to all who have joined or sent extra donations recently!

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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