Monday, June 3, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #145 – June 3, 2013

Dear Friends,

Unbelievably, the Indiana General Assembly again deleted funding for Professional Development in the biennial budget. Then for the first time since it was passed 14 years ago, the 1999 accountability law known as Public Law 221 was revised by the General Assembly, but the high priority given to Professional Development in the historic 1999 reform effort has been forgotten.

Line Items in the Biennial Budget Passed on April 26th

Attached is a sampling of budget line items of interest to public school advocates, comparing the new budget to the previous budget passed in 2011. Tracking what went up, what went down and what stayed the same gives a good view of the priorities of the 2013 General Assembly.

It is telling that two items were dropped in the 2011 budget and remained gone from the new 2013 budget: Professional Development and the Circuit Breaker Grants. Both are apparently banished from the priorities of the legislature.

Professional Development Funding

With great fanfare, Public Law 221 was passed in 1999, with promises of funding for the resources needed to meet the lofty goals for accountability. One of those promises was the first state funding for Professional Development. The 2001 budget devoted $16.25 million for Professional Development in the 2002-03 school year to implement Public Law 221. It was distributed to local districts through formulas proposed by IDOE and approved by the State Board of Education.

When the post 9/11 recession hit and Indiana revenues fell, the O’Bannon administration reduced all categorical line items by 15%, so funding for Professional Development went down to $13.81 million, still a substantial priority.

Funding at that level continued from 2003 until Dr. Bennett’s first budget in 2009, when it was whittled to $5.5 million. Then in 2011, it disappeared altogether and was utterly forgotten again in 2013.

Has the need for Professional Development vanished simultaneously with new rules making it easier to get an initial teaching license? I think just the opposite is true. The General Assembly’s failure to fund Professional Development simply means that local districts must fund it from their General Fund, which is already inadequate. No district can update curriculum and operations without Professional Development for teachers.

Other Concerns about Specific Line Items
  • Technology Funding It makes no sense to cut the Sen. Ford Technology Fund. Schools are expected to expand technology capacity to administer ISTEP online. That will take more money.
  • Textbook Reimbursement Due to the recession, more students are now in the free/reduced lunch count, but funding for textbook reimbursement for free and reduced lunch students has been frozen for years. The excess percentage not paid by the state comes out of the General Fund of each local district budget. When districts have a high percentage on free or reduced lunch, this extra expense for textbooks becomes a budget burden that cuts funds which might help all students. In contrast, textbooks for home school and private school parents are tax deductible.
  • Summer School Funding Much has been written recently about the summer learning loss. Better summer school programs could remedy that problem, but the summer school budget remains frozen at the same level it has had for years.
  • Drop Out Prevention The February House budget listed $6 million for Drop Out Prevention, but that disappeared from the final budget. With all the lip service being given to preventing drop outs, it is hard to understand why the schools at the front line of the battle against drop outs, alternative schools, were cut in the 2013 budget by $180,000 each year.
  • Teacher Performance Awards The February House budget set the budget for Teacher Performance Awards at $11 million each year, up from $9 million. Then in the final budget, that figure dropped to $2 million, a clear indication of a lowering of the priority for that program between February and April.
  • Non English Speaking Fund Many districts teaching English to immigrant students have had to dip into their scarce General Fund dollars to pay for services to English Language Learners because the Non-English Speaking Program is funded so poorly. The need for more funding in this arena is clear, but the funding was frozen again at $5 million each year.
All in all, with the exception of the addition of $30 million dollars for a school performance awards program in 2014-15, categorical funding for school-related line items came out looking about as anemic as the 2% and 1% tuition support increases.

As you ask your legislators to support public education, ask them to include better support for these crucial programs such as summer school and gifted education that often get overlooked.

Thanks for supporting 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. We had an outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand working hard to support public education throughout the session. We still need new memberships, renewals and donations to make the final payment on his contract for the session. We need your help! 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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