Sunday, May 4, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #19– May 3, 2014

Dear Friends,

Representative Behning is now running an amazing number of expensive negative TV ads against Michael Scott in the last days of the campaign. He apparently believes that one week of negative ads can make up for his egregious actions against public education since the voters last elected him two years ago.

Michael Scott apparently does not have money to run TV ads of his own. If the voters of District 91 decide to choose Michael Scott as their representative in the Indiana House, it will be because they have become aware of Representative Behning’s multiple actions against public schools, such as his drive to pass House Bill 1337 in the 2013 session:

For 14 years since passage in 1999, Indiana’s school accountability system known as Public Law 221 remained stable, respected by the legislature for its bipartisan origins. In 2013, Representative Behning ignored that line of respect and took it upon himself to introduce House Bill 1337 to alter PL221 for the first time without broad support.

His fellow Republicans found House Bill 1337 to be overly extreme and actually voted it down, a strong rebuke by his own party.

Then in a last minute Conference Committee bill which is not required to get a full public hearing, he passed a scaled back revision of Public Law 221 which most notably put A through F school labels in law, a controversial move that took the decision about how to label our schools away from the educators on the State Board of Education.

Initially, his bill even provided for the state to take over local school boards based on our flawed A-F school grading system.

Do the voters he represents in District 91 endorse his efforts like House Bill 1337 to flag more schools for state takeover from local school boards and to make Indiana’s accountability system more punitive?

I doubt it. Republicans in the legislature didn’t.

This is the time voters can have their say.

Michael Scott, a conservative Republican challenger, stands as an alternative to Representative Behning in the May 6th Republican primary election.

He opposes Representative Behning’s efforts which have hurt public schools, and despite the barrage of negative TV ads that Representative Behning has started with funds from wealthy backers who support private school vouchers, Michael Scott gives voters on May 6th a good alternative if they believe that Representative Behning has just gone too far in harming public education.

Does District 91 want to be represented by an opponent or a supporter of public education? The choice is clear, and the choice is in the hands of the voters on May 6th.

[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

Public Law 221: The Foundation of Accountability

Public Law 221 is not well known to the public but is certainly well known to educators. It is the basis for school ratings and state takeovers and has been a stable policy for over a decade during a period of steady improvement in Indiana’s educational outcomes.

Representative Behning decided in 2013 to change it and introduced House Bill 1337 which put more schools in line for quicker state takeover, taking them away from local school boards. It added science into the high stakes testing equations by 2014-15 without a budget to do so. It also made takeover schools independent with the status of a new small school district run by unelected boards, contradicting recent efforts to consolidate small school districts into bigger districts.

His own Republican caucus found his proposal to be over the top. When the vote came on the House floor after a desperate and unusual third reading amendment, 31 Republicans joined 30 Democrats to give Representative Behning a rare outright defeat.

Salvaging His Revision

Representative Behning found a way to salvage a scaled down version of his Public Law 221 revision by attaching it to another last minute bill that the Governor was backing, House Bill 1427. His biggest change was to put in law that schools would be labeled with A through F letter grades, a controversial labeling of schools that stakeholders have argued about for a decade. His swift move at the end of the session took the decision about labeling out of the hands of the educators on the State Board of Education.

My biggest gripe was that the way he did it, there was no opportunity for a public hearing on how to label our schools such as the hearings bills get during the regular part of the session. This was a major change affecting our schools that he handled in an arbitrary manner because he had the power to do so.

Representative Behning would no doubt prefer that the voters forget about House Bill 1337 and listen to his shrill ads against his opponent, ads that as I have watched have not even mentioned education. House Bill 1337, of course, came in the same session as his bill favoring expanded private school vouchers. His efforts against public schools in the past two years have been over the top.

It is time for a change.

Public education advocates in District 91 have a candidate in Michael Scott who will support public education.

Please support Michael Scott in the May 6th primary election for the District 91 seat in the Indiana House. His website for more information or to support his campaign with a donation is:

The May 6th election is now upon us. Be sure to vote! 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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