Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #212 – March 31, 2015

Dear Friends,

House Bill 1638 is still alive and still gives the State Board new powers to take over schools quicker and unprecedented new powers to intervene in local school districts.  This bill needs your attention before the Senate Education Committee vote on April 1st at 1:30pm.

Despite amendments which improved House Bill 1638 last week, it is still an unnecessary bill which gives the State Board of Education more power when this State Board has not earned the confidence of Indiana citizens to wield more power.  The section empowering intervention in school corporations would be a first and a direct reduction of local control by elected school boards.

I urge you to contact members of the Senate Education Committee before the vote on HB 1638 at the 1:30meeting on Wednesday.  Tell them we don't need more changes at this time when standards and testing are all changing.  Tell them you oppose HB 1638.

Amendment 17 

Senator Rogers proposed Amendment 17 after consulting with Chairman Kruse, and it was accepted by the committee by consent.  She described her efforts to improve the bill as "putting lipstick on a pig" and did not commit to voting for the final bill.  Amendment 17 made several key changes:

1.      The changeover to shrinking the school takeover timeline to four years instead of six years was moved back by one year to schools initially place in the lowest category after June 30, 2016.

2.      Having the State Board assign an expert team to a school in the year after being placed in the lowest category was changed from a "shall" to a "may" provision.

3.      It delayed the time that a school on the brink of a possible State Board takeover must submit a facilities master plan and an asset inventory to the State Board.

4.      It inserted new procedures for when the State Board determines that a school should be closed as they did recently in the case of Dunbar-Pulaski School in Gary, including the requirement for closure of a two-thirds vote of the State Board and an alternative plan to closure to be submitted by the school corporation.

5.      The new power to intervene in local school corporations was delayed by a year for those school corporations initially placed in the lowest category after June 30, 2016 and remaining in the lowest category for four more years.

6.      It removed from the list of State Board interventions in school corporations the option to assign "a special management team to operate all or part of the school corporation."

7.      It removed from the list of State Board interventions in school corporations the option to assign "a special management team to develop a transformation zone plan and assist the school corporation with implementing the plan."

The Power to Intervene in Local School Corporations

Deleting the last two points above and thereby removing State Board powers to appoint outside managers to operate school districts were welcome developments.  What remains, however, is a new and unprecedented power in Indiana history for the State Board to intervene at the school district level based on school letter grades and Public Law 221, a new development that has not been given nearly enough public attention or discussion.

Three options for State Board intervention in school corporations remain in the amended bill:  

"(1) Implementing the department’s recommendations for improving the school corporation. (2) Other options for school improvement expressed at the public hearing.  (3) Filing a petition with the distressed unit appeal board established under IC 6-1.1-20.3 seeking to have the school corporation designated as a distressed political subdivision.  The distressed unit appeal board may designate the school corporation as a distressed political subdivision under IC 6-1.1-20.3-6.5 solely on the basis of the petition of the state board notwithstanding IC 6-1.1-20.3-6."

These options would give the State Board wide discretion and don’t rule out the drastic takeover options that were eliminated by the amendment.  It would clearly be better if assigning a private manager would be overtly banned by the bill, but it is not.

Does Indiana really want to give the State Board of Education these new powers over school districts and their elected boards? 

I say no. 

Does Indiana really want to entrust the State Board of Education with new powers to take over schools quicker?  The General Assembly has said no to this proposal in three previous sessions, and it is back because the hard-charging State Board wants to set up a Turnaround Office run by the State Board.  Do we want them to do that in conflict with the successful turnaround efforts documented by the Outreach Office of the Indiana Department of Education?

I say no.

You can have your say with the Senate Education Committee if you communicate with them before 1:30pm tomorrowApril 1st. 

Contact Senators

Once again, an easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on the name of the committee.  The pictures of committee members appear on the left.  As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to register your concerns with each member.

Thanks for your support of strong local control of public schools and your advocacy for 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 is again serving as 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 still must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which began 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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