Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #198 – January 31, 2015

Dear Friends,

House Bill 1486 restoring peer comparisons to measure student growth in the A-F system and transferring operational authority in several areas from the IDOE to the State Board passed the House Education Committee Thursday morning (Jan. 29th) by a vote of 9-4, with 9 Republicans voting yes and 4 Democrats voting no.

Chairman Behning postponed until Thursday afternoon the hearing on House Bill 1609 removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. After the hearing, House Bill 1609 passed the committee in a party line vote of 8 to 3.

On Monday Feb. 2nd, the Senate Rules Committee will hold hearings on all three Senate Bills which would remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board, Senate Bills 1, 452 and 453 in Room 431 after adjournment of the 1:30 floor session of the Senate.

On Tuesday Feb. 3rd at 8:30am, the House Education Committee will hold hearings on three bills, including House Bill 1009, the “Freedom to Teach” bill, a complex set of changes endorsed by the Governor.

On Wednesday Feb. 4th at 1:30pm, the Senate Education Committee will hold hearings on three new bills, including Senate Bill 566, a long bill changing ISTEP, end-of-course assessments, innovation school availability, teacher licensing and collective bargaining.

On Thursday Feb. 5th at 8:30am, the House Education Committee will hold hearings on two bills, including House Bill 1638, a massive rewrite of PL221 shrinking the time for State Board intervention in failing schools from 6 years to 4 years and defining failing schools that require State Board intervention to include D schools. Public schools advocates will want to be active on this bill.

House Bill 1486

Thursday’s continuation of the hearing on HB 1486 carried over two speakers who signed up for Tuesday’s hearing, starting with my testimony. First, I urged the committee to reject changes that would allow peer comparisons in calculating student growth in the A-F system. Second, I urged the committee to maintain the current line between giving the State Board control of policy and giving IDOE control of implementing that policy, rather than giving the State Board new powers of operational control. My complete testimony is attached.

The second speaker called by Chairman Behning was James Bentley, a State Board staff attorney who said he was asked to testify by Brad Oliver. He spoke in detail about several programs where the State Board wanted clarification about additional authority, including teacher evaluation, ISTEP contracts, turnaround academies and calculating A-F grades. He also detailed testing expert Damian Betebenner’s advice that Indiana law should be changed yet again to allow peer comparisons in student growth formulas.

Dr. Betebenner, the consultant hired by the State Board as requested by Dan Elsener to advise the 16-member A-F panel, is no stranger to Indiana. His center was the source of Student Growth Percentile data prominently used by the IDOE for many years and incorporated into Dr. Bennett’s A-F growth metrics. His center provided the peer comparison growth data under a contract. Presumably, no further contracts would be possible if Indiana continues its ban on peer comparison growth measures.

Mr. Bentley touted Dr. Betebenner as one of two national experts saying Indiana should return to peer comparison growth data, but he did not disclose the past contracts with Dr. Betebenner or the possibility of future contracts for growth data. If the State Board staff is going to hold up Dr. Betebenner as the national expert telling the Indiana General Assembly we should remove the ban on peer comparisons, they should also reveal past contract information in order for the committee to review whether financial interests are linked to this advice.

I am hoping that the General Assembly’s new found interest in ethics and the media’s recent flurry of investigations into conflicts of interest will be applied in this case to see if any conflict of interest exists in this situation.

House Bill 1609

When Chairman Behning moved the hearing on House Bill 1609 to the afternoon, I could not participate in the hearing. My written testimony was distributed to the committee, and it is attached if you care to read more. My main point of opposition is that voters now pick the chair of the State Board, and this bill removes that power of the voters and gives it to ten appointees of the Governor. That shift reduces the power of voters in Indiana and thereby diminishes our democracy.

It should be noted that the bill expires on January 1, 2016, which means it only applies to the last two years of the State Superintendent’s term. The voters who elected Glenda Ritz in order to chair the State Board would have the intent of their vote changed mid-term by this bill.

You probably have seen in media coverage that State Superintendent Ritz testified personally against the bill, and then the committee voted to approve the bill in a party line vote.

Bills to be Heard Next Week

I have been following the work of Chairman Behning’s committee since he first became chair of the House Education Committee in 2005. For the first time in ten years, Representative Behning has announced the bills for the House Education Committee a week in advance. He has already posted the meeting agendas for Feb. 3 and Feb. 5.

What accounts for this remarkable change? Democrats on the committee, especially Representative Smith and Representative Austin, have been vocally critical of the procedures of the committee and the lack of notice about agendas. They should be thanked for their efforts, and Representative Behning should be thanked for responding with earlier agendas, giving the public a longer chance to review bills and talk with legislators about bills coming up next week.

Many such discussions with legislators are in order. The most controversial bills in my list are Senate Bills 1, 452 and 453 (Monday), House Bill 1009 (Tuesday), Senate Bill 566 (Wednesday) and House Bill 1638 (Thursday).

Senate Bills 1, 452 and 453 would all remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. It would be great to see a big turnout of speakers against these bills.

House Bill 1009 would create “transformation zone” schools which would not be covered by collective bargaining and would allow higher pay for highly effective teachers.

Senate Bill 566 would replace ISTEP testing with the BEST testing program.

House Bill 1638 would make D schools eligible for state takeover as well as F schools and would reduce the time to state intervention from 6 years to 4 years. These concepts were soundly defeated on the floor of the House in 2013 (in House Bill 1337) but they are back to be considered in HB 1638 by the request of the very active State Board of Education.

Contact Your Legislators

Contact members of the House Education Committee and the Senate Rules and Education Committees with your thoughts these important bills.

One good way to contact legislators is to go to the website of the Indiana General Assembly and click on the committee hearing the bill. On the left you will see the committee members. Then click on each one and click on “Send an email.”

Thanks for your efforts in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.


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