Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #203 – February 16, 2015

Dear Friends,

Thanks to all who made today’s Statehouse rally a rousing success! It was a great afternoon!

There is, however, no let up in the Statehouse battles over public education. The entire Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on Senate Bill 1, removing the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. Let your voice be heard!

That’s not all; the salvos keep coming. A new bill deserves your immediate attention and action tonight to contact members of the House Education Committee:

House Bill 1639, scheduled for a hearing tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 17th) at 8:30am, would put control of a new system to expand access to student records in the hands of the State Board, not the Indiana Department of Education. For the first time, it would make the State Board an administrative agency, handling student data functions that have always been controlled by the Indiana Department of Education. The expanded data access through this data warehouse will cost $4.1 million as projected by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, requiring an independent computer staff for the State Board with a new stand alone computer system. The duplication of services is obvious.

The $4.1 million price tag is more than the current entire annual budget for the State Board of $3 million and of course far more than the annual budget for professional development, which stands at zero.

This is a major salvo in the battle to move functions out of the Indiana Department of Education under the control of State Superintendent Ritz and into the domain of the State Board controlled by Governor Pence.

The bill would also have the State Board prepare and require student and parent surveys to evaluate certificated staff at an estimated cost of up to $4.8 million per year.

Rep. Behning has scheduled House Bill 1639 for a hearing on Tuesday Feb. 17th at 8:30am in the House Education Committee in Room 156-C. It is also listed in the agenda for Wed., Feb. 18th at 8:30am in the same room.

Before that time, I hope all who believe that student data is too sensitive and too important to become a political football in the Governor’s power grab will contact members of the House Education Committee with a simple message: Delete the sections of HB 1639 giving the State Board a data warehouse and requiring student surveys of staff.

Expanded Access

The bill purports to improve parent access to student data and to help transfer data among schools. If that is truly a bigger priority problem in a state that has no money for teacher professional development, lawmakers could give the $4.1 million for computer work required by this bill to the Indiana Department of Education, the current trustee of student records.

This bill doesn’t do that. It gives the authority and the resources to the State Board, a policy making board that now for the first time would become an administrative agency with complete control over student records. This would be a monumental shift in authority and makes the bill a power grab to boost the control of the State Board over the IDOE.

This bill as well as House Bill 1486 would be the first efforts to have the Indiana General Assembly assign an administrative function to the State Board. The State Board is authorized by law as a policy board. It is hard to believe that the General Assembly really wants to make the State Board an administrative agency as well, setting up total confusion about the administrative roles of IDOE in relation to the State Board.

The Risk of HB1639

In this proposed bill, Rep. Behning and the Governor are playing with fire. If the parents and teachers of Indiana’s students come to believe for one minute that student test data are being used as a wedge in a political dispute between Governor Pence and State Superintendent Ritz, the trust built up over two decades that student data is being handled impartially and appropriately could vanish overnight. If parents sense that the data of their students are being used for political purposes, they may well demand that any test results be given only to them and for use by their local school, and not for state use. Such a step would collapse the entire accountability movement that this General Assembly has slowly built since the A+ program of 1987.

There must be no hint of political maneuvering related to student test data. This part of the bill has politics written all over it and must be turned down or withdrawn.

There is no reason to involve any agency other than the Indiana Department of Education in student records. IDOE’s work in handling student data has been accurate and above reproach. Any claim to the contrary has been made for political purposes to support a takeover of data by the State Board, to further undermine the authority of Superintendent Ritz. This bill puts at risk the faith and trust of parents in state authorities that has taken years to establish.

The Development of Parent Trust in State Records

I am old enough to remember well a time when Indiana did not have a state test. When I began my career in Indiana in the 1960’s, all testing was local testing, and local parents and teachers could assess the progress of their students. There was great mistrust in that era that state test results kept in the Statehouse might be used inappropriately by people that did not have local ties and might not have the best interests of the students in mind. It took years of patient reassurance that the privacy and sanctity of state test scores would be maintained. State tests were introduced in the mid-1980’s and student ID numbers allowing the state to track individual students by number were introduced around 2002, based on the availability of high speed computers. Approval of that step required tremendous trust on the part of parents. This bill could put that trust in jeopardy overnight.

Why does anyone other than IDOE need to supervise student data? They don’t. I have observed over many years that the Indiana Department of Education takes very seriously the trust that is placed in them to maintain the accuracy and the privacy of student data.

Please contact members of the House Education Committee and other House members as soon as possible. Of course, if you read this after tomorrow’s hearing, it would still help if they know of your opposition to HB 1639 in the days ahead.

Student data must not be made part of a political tug-of-war, but this bill does that. HB 1639 is unwise public policy in two areas: giving the State Board control of an expensive data warehouse and requiring student surveys to evaluate staff at a projected cost of up to $4.8 million. Let legislators know how you feel.

Thank you for your advocacy for wise policies and strong public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“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 www.icpe2011.com 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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