Monday, February 16, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #202 – February 15, 2015

Dear Friends,

Come one, come all to the Statehouse rally for public education tomorrow at 2pm in the North Atrium of the Statehouse. Take time on President’s Day to defend the power of voters in our democracy.

The General Assembly has advanced bills whereby voters lose powers they have had for a century. Will the voters notice? Will they speak out?

Currently, voters have the power to name the chair of the State Board of Education. Under current law, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction chairs the State Board. Voters elect the State Superintendent and therefore voters can name the chair of the State Board.

The State Superintendent has chaired the State Board since 1913 when the community high school movement was just kicking into high gear.

Now, after 102 years, House Bill 1609 and Senate Bill 1 would remove from voters the power to name the chair of the State Board. The bills would give the power instead to appointees on the State Board.

Are the voters of Indiana ready to give up these powers to a few appointees? If not, let your voice be heard at the rally or by contacting your legislators promptly.

Do it for democracy.

Changing the Powers of the State Superintendent in the Middle of the Term of Office

This whole episode since the election of State Superintendent Ritz has been a harsh lesson to voters in how the voters’ will to favor her policies can be subverted.

A huge clash of policies lies behind this conflict. The issue of our generation in education has been whether public money will be focused on public schools or whether public money will go to private schools. Will education be delivered through public schools or will education be privatized in a marketplace of schools?

State Superintendent Ritz represents the public education forces in this philosophical battle. Governor Pence and his allies favor private schools and turning Indiana into a marketplace of school choice which includes private and religious school choices paid for by taxpayers.

Many citizens are just now beginning to understand the depth of this chasm and to see that the Governor’s dominant forces are not willing to allow any dissent in the Statehouse power structure in this fundamental education debate. They started working to diminish the power of the State Superintendent from the first meeting of Governor Pence’s new State Board in July, 2013, when one member cut off a presentation by the State Superintendent on her vision for reading, and the board tabled her topic. At the time, that showed a level of disrespect never before given to a State Superintendent, but it was only the beginning.

The problem for our democracy is: What powers are given by the voters to an elected executive officer and do those powers extend throughout the entire term of office until the next election?

It is not fair to the voters in our democracy to change the powers of an office during the term of the office.

Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tulley said it exactly right in his February 13th column commenting on how an electoral republic should function to change powers: “Here’s what you do: You put up a candidate for superintendent in 2016 who includes these positions in his or her platform. And if that person wins, you implement them. If that person loses, you behave like adults and accept that Hoosiers want something different.”

I agree. A change in powers should wait until the next election when the voters should decide if the incumbent deserves reelection or whether a new voice is needed.

If you agree, come to the rally or contact your legislators. This is all about respecting the will of the voters, and you are the voters that will determine how this comes out.

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.

A rally brochure is attached.

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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