Sunday, February 22, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #205 – February 22, 2015

Dear Friends,

On Thursday (February 19th), the Senate Appropriations Committee modified Senate Bill 470, a damaging bill that would have allowed voucher schools to ignore ISTEP and instructed the State Board set up an alternative school letter grade system just for private voucher schools based on a test of their choice. This bill which obviously favored voucher schools over public schools was amended Thursday.

The amendment approved turned the whole bill into a summer study committee proposal that would study “issues related to the development by the state board of education of acceptable tests from which all schools may select a test that meets the requirements of IC 20-32,” which is the article in Indiana law on student assessments.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee should be thanked for their actions to amend the bill, which in its original form would have reduced accountability for voucher schools without equal treatment for public schools.

Senate Bill 470

The news that Senate Bill 470 passed in the February 11th Senate Education Committee on a party line vote surprised and angered public school advocates. The bill when passed by the committee clearly favored private voucher schools, giving them an opportunity to use an alternative “norm-referenced” test in place of ISTEP and not giving the same opportunity to public schools. Then the bill went further to empower the State Board to establish a school letter grade only for private voucher schools based on the alternative assessment allowed for voucher schools.

The bill had passed the Senate Education Committee 7 to 3. All Republicans had voted yes; all Democrats had voted no.

By the time SB 470 got to the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on February 19th, the last meeting of the committee for the first part of the session, the majority clearly saw the need to back up and give this concept further study. Amendment 4 written by Senator Kenley to study assessments this summer was offered by Senator Schneider, the bill’s sponsor, in his presentation of the bill before the committee. The amendment was accepted by consent. The amended bill to study assessments this summer passed 10-3.

Private school voucher advocates testified on February 11th that they don’t like the way Indiana standards and ISTEP assessments control the curriculum and instruction in their private schools. Public school parents and educators have complained about the same problem in public schools.

Private schools have an option that public schools don’t have. If they simply decline the public tax money and withdraw from the voucher program, then they are free to use any assessment whatsoever to measure student achievement. Instead, they want to change the terms of accountability that they signed on to in the 2011 voucher legislation by changing to an optional test, but they still want to keep the voucher money. This backward step on accountability should be a non-starter.

One would think that Governor Pence would see the crucial nature of accountability for private schools in the state’s voucher program and resist their overture to opt out of ISTEP. The Governor, however, didn’t do that. Instead, he strongly endorsed the original version of Senate Bill 470, instructing his representative to support the bill and to say private voucher schools should be able “choose their own test.”

Once again Governor Pence has confirmed that he favors private schools over public schools. He has apparently not realized that in the marketplace of school choice that he helped to create in Indiana, all schools whether public or private receiving public tax dollars must be treated equally and fairly.

The language of the amendment to have a summer study on “acceptable tests from which all schools may select a test” that meets state requirements fits well with Senate Bill 566 sponsored by Senator Mishler and Senator Kenley which contemplates a new kind of assessment system. Senate Bill 566 is still moving in the Senate.

Committee meetings have now ended for the first part of the session. All bills must pass a third reading floor vote by Wednesday, February 25th.

Thanks to all who contacted legislators about making changes to the original version of Senate 470. You have been heard.
Thanks for your advocacy 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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