Thursday, February 12, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #201 – February 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

Put this bill in the category of “Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse for Public Education”!

Yesterday afternoon (Feb. 11th) the Senate Education Committee heard Senate Bill 470. It would allow private schools receiving vouchers to ignore ISTEP and to take instead “another nationally recognized and norm referenced assessment” of their own choice. The bill instructs the State Board to develop an A-F system just for the voucher schools taking alternate assessments.

Last year, a similar bill was quickly rejected by the committee because of the obvious reduction in accountability for voucher schools if they aren’t held to Indiana’s standards and assessed via ISTEP. This year, the Senate Education Committee passed the bill 7-3 on a party line vote.

Now we see why the State Board in House Bill 1486 wants to eliminate the current ban on using peer comparisons (norm referenced assessments) in the A-F growth metrics. It’s a complicated web they weave.

Governor Pence strongly endorsed the bill via his education policy director Chad Timmerman, who said that private schools should be able to “choose their own test.”

If anyone doubts that Governor Pence and the leaders of the General Assembly and State Board are favoring private schools over public schools in Indiana’s intense competitive marketplace of school choice, this bill should remove all doubts. The voucher program was sold in 2011 by promising that private schools would take ISTEP and would be measured like all public schools using the A-F system. Now just four years later the voucher schools want to change the rules but keep the money.

This bill would give private voucher schools a direct competitive advantage in the marketplace of school choice because they could attract parents who dislike excessive testing. Public schools would also like to reduce the excessive testing that the General Assembly and State Board have mandated, but this bill only relieves testing mandates for private voucher schools.

This is one more reason why you should come to the Statehouse rally to speak out against the ongoing assault on public education. Can you come to the Statehouse rally on February 16th at 2:00pm?

Senate Bill 470

Senator Schneider is sponsoring Senate Bill 470, which is similar to a bill he brought last year that did not make it to a floor vote. This time around, he has added State Board authority to craft an alternate A-F system for voucher schools using alternate norm-referenced assessments.

Ten speakers testified for the bill including several parents who denounced the excessive testing currently required by the ISTEP testing program. In the current turmoil over the amount of testing, public school parents might have given the same speeches.

Five speakers testified against the bill: John Barnes, IDOE; Sally Sloan, AFT-Indiana; Ronni Embry, ISTA; Scott Turney, Small & Rural Schools Association; and I. Joel Hand returned from testifying for ICPE in the House Ways and Means budget hearing literally five seconds after Chairman Kruse closed the hearing on SB 470. A copy of my testimony in opposition is attached.

In the vote, Republican Senators Yoder, Bassler, Leising, Schneider, Raatz, Pete Miller and Kruse voted yes. Democrat Senators Rogers, Stoops and Mrvan voted no. The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee next week.

Contact your Senator or all Senators to express your outrage at the double standard for accountability that SB 470 would establish between voucher schools and public schools.

Come to the Rally!

Senate Bill 470 is just the latest example of the lack of support for public education seen so far in this General Assembly. If you have had enough, you are invited to come to the Statehouse rally in support of public education this coming Monday at 2pm in the North Atrium of the Statehouse.

The rally messages are: to STOP taking powers away from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to STOP the ongoing assault on public education and to LISTEN to voters and teachers.

The rally is organized by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and rally partners are ISTA, AFT-Indiana, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and the Indiana PTA. For more details, go to:

Share the message, bring friends and come to the Statehouse to the 2pm rally on President’s Day!

Thanks for all 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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