Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #204 – February 18, 2015

Dear Friends,

The Senate voted yesterday on Senate Bill 1 to remove the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. The bill passed 33 to 17. It now goes to the House, which passed a different version on the same subject in House Bill 1609.

After all the efforts to convince Senators that voters picked the State Superintendent as chair of the State Board and only voters in the next election should have the power to select a different chair, the bill passed with the opposition of 7 Republicans and all 10 Democrats.

Regarding House Bill 1639, subject of the previous “Notes #203”, which proposed giving the State Board an independent computer system to handle student records, Chairman Behning said at Tuesday’s meeting that he got the bill from an out-of-state source from a state where the State Board was the entity already handling data, and he didn’t intend to give the State Board a new set of powers. He said he would bring an amendment to put the Indiana Department of Education in charge of the parent testing information his bill envisions. He held House Bill 1639 without a vote. It is now scheduled for a vote tomorrow, Thursday, February 19th, at the final House Education Committee of the initial portion of the General Assembly.

Chairman Behning has not often acknowledged publicly that his bills come from out-of-state sources, but on Tuesday in front of all present, that is what he said.

Senate Bill 1

Over a thousand people came to Monday’s Statehouse rally to try to convince legislators that now is not the time to remove the elected State Superintendent as chair of the State Board. That change should be made by voters, if that is their will, in the 2016 election. Action by the House and the Senate on this topic usurps the power of the voters to direct policies by electing officials who can hold the powers given to them by the electorate until end of the term.

The General Assembly, in favoring Governor Pence in his fundamental policy debate with Superintendent Ritz over whether public support of private schools will dominate the future, has proceeded at the Governor’s request to approve bills removing the State Superintendent as chair of State Board, a power of office that the State Superintendent has had since 1913. This move is part of the deconstruction of public education in Indiana, a cornerstone of our democracy and our economy which so many have done so much to advance over the past 150 years. Jettisoning strong support for public education seems to be on Governor Pence’s list for ways to mark Indiana’s 200th birthday.

This episode marks a deep tectonic shift in the powers of the voter and the relationship of elections to the exercise of power. From this point on, will any elected official be able to carry out powers of the office as they stood at the time the voters elected the official? Or will those elected officials be “Ritzed” to the point of losing legal powers they had when elected even before the next election? Will there now be a move to eliminate other officials elected independently by the voters? Will more and more power be concentrated in the office of the Governor? Will education policy now become the dominant issue in the election campaign for the office of Governor since trying to change education policy by electing a new State Superintendent has been shown to be a path with no power?

Seventeen Senators heard the call to leave any changes in the State Board chair to the voters in the next election. They are Republican Senators Alting, Becker, Delph, Glick, Head, Leising, and Tomes and Democrat Senators Arnold, Breaux, Broden, Lanane, Mrvan, Randolph, Rogers, Stoops, Tallian and Taylor.

These seventeen should all be thanked for standing up to the Governor and the leadership of the Senate in this dispute whereby the power of voters in Indiana has been diminished. It remains to be seen in 2016 whether the voters will remember this reduction in the power of voters when votes are cast for members of the House and Senate.

Advocates for public education need long memories to recall who supports public education on key votes and who doesn’t.

Senate Bill 1 changes the State Board membership from 11 to 9 and cuts the Governor’s appointments to four instead of the current ten. Two would be appointed by the House Speaker and two by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent would be the ninth member.

These are the key differences between Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1609 which made no changes in the number of members or the powers of appointment. The Governor would no doubt want the House bill to prevail to keep his current powers intact. The Senate may have other ideas. Stay tuned.

Thank you for your advocacy for wise policies, for the power of voters in our republic, and for strong 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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