Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #15– April 26, 2014

Dear Friends,

In the 2014 session of the General Assembly, Representative Behning had a chance to help school music programs in our schools which have been damaged by his high stakes accountability policies.

He refused to do so.


Representative Behning, while carrying a long record of support for more testing, refused to support Senator Kruse’s bill to make sure students get the opportunity to be in a music ensemble. Here’s the story:

Senate Bill 276 and the Plight of Music in the Schools

Music programs are slowly fading from the public schools of Indiana. There are two reasons for this. Intense testing in language arts and math has led to a lower priority for music and other non-tested subjects in the education of students. Secondly, consistently underfunded school budgets for the past six years have produced cuts to music programs while language arts and math programs are protected.

Many across the state have seen music programs suffer from budget cuts. There is no better evidence of this problem than the fact that Senator Kruse, Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee and a leading conservative in the Senate, apparently heard the pleas from citizens and brought a bill to the legislative arena to try to improve the situation of music in the schools.

He sponsored Senate Bill 276 to restore music opportunities in schools. This is the first time in the 18 years I have watched the General Assembly that I can remember a bill getting serious attention in support of music in the schools. After review by the Senate Education Committee, it was amended into a simple bill. In the area of law mandating that music be offered in the curriculum, the bill added “music ensembles.” Apparently, students in Senator Kruse’s area have been losing out on the opportunity to participate in music ensembles in the rush to narrow the curriculum and to meet tighter budgets.

After passing the Senate, the “music ensemble” bill moved to the House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Behning. He refused to give the bill a hearing, and the bill died.

Strike one against music, courtesy of Representative Behning.

The Attempted Revival

As many have seen in the General Assembly, a dead bill can be revived. During the Conference Committee on House Bill 1319, I witnessed an amazing sight. Representative Behning, sponsor of the bill to track data on gifted students, opened up the bill to others who had bills that faltered somewhere along the path to passage. He heard pleas about four bills that might be added to his bill. One of these was Senator Kruse asking to add his “music ensemble” bill. Representative Behning then said he would take the other bills under consideration.

End-of-session bills that get ornamented with many other bills in this manner are known as “Christmas tree bills.” The sponsor of such a bill gains many friends who feel indebted to the sponsor for getting their bill through at the last moment. This is one source of Representative Behning’s power.

In the second and final Conference Committee meeting on HB 1319 in the closing days of the session, Representative Behning presented his final version, which included several of the additional bills, but not Senator Kruse’s music bill. Senator Kruse reacted with great surprise in the public meeting, saying he thought Representative Behning had agreed to include the music bill in HB 1319.

Representative Behning said no.

Strike two against music, courtesy of Representative Behning.

Will Music Education Survive in our Schools under the Accountability Program of Representative Behning?

The story of Senate Bill 276 reflects on Representative Behning’s priorities. The accountability program he has championed for years has narrowed the priorities of the school curriculum to language arts and math. He refused to help his counterpart in the Senate, Senator Kruse, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, who has become convinced that music needs a little help.

Senator Kruse’s conservative credentials can’t be disputed, and he helped pass Representative Behning’s voucher bills both in 2011 and 2013, serving as sponsor in the Senate. Such assistance was not returned by Representative Behning when it came to music.

Representative Behning has an opponent in the Republican primary named Michael Scott who is not convinced as Representative Behning seems to be that more and more testing in language arts and math tests is what the schools need. He wants to stop the attacks on public education, and he is willing to listen to the voters as Senator Kruse tried to do regarding music.

Michael Scott is a worthy alternative who deserves the support of all who support public education and all who support music in the schools. Representative Behning said no to music in the 2014 General Assembly. It is time for a change.

Please support Michael Scott in the May 6th primary election. His website for more information or to support his campaign with a donation is:

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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