Thursday, April 2, 2015

Vic's Statehouse Notes #213 – April 2, 2015

Dear Friends,

In their meeting yesterday, the Senate Education Committee amended House Bill 1638 to take out all powers of the State Board to intervene in local school corporations. This is a good step in the right direction, removing an unprecedented new power.

Unfortunately, the bill is still alive. The remainder of the bill passed the committee 9-2.

It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is time to contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to let them know of your opposition.

Keep those messages and letters coming about House Bill 1638. They are making a difference in whittling away at this unnecessary bill which gives more school takeover powers to the State Board of Education.

Senator Leising reported in her discussion of HB 1638 that she has received 48 messages against the bill and zero messages for the bill. Keep it up!

Amendment 19

Senator Rogers worked with Chairman Kruse to bring Amendment 19, a more comprehensive amendment than last week's amendment. It deleted all references to State Board interventions at the school corporation level. It also deleted all references to transformation zones. All references to federal funding for takeover schools were deleted.

In a positive development, the new provisions regulating State Board closures of local schools proposed by Senator Rogers last week remained in the amendment. These provisions require a two-thirds vote and a 60-day response plan.

The amendment was adopted by the committee by consent.

What Remains in House Bill 1638?

The remaining parts of House Bill 1638 focus on extending the power of the State Board to take schools over quicker, moving from the current six year sequence to four years. State Board Member Dan Elsener in presenting the bill on March 18th said that the State Board wanted to have a Turnaround Office staffed by State Board staff under State Board control to fix these schools. The House budget includes a $5 million dollar appropriation for "Turnaround Support", which is more than the Indiana state budget now gives for technology in the Senator Ford Technology Fund, currently budgeted at $3.09 million.

The General Assembly rejected proposals to cut the timeline from six years to four years in 2009, in 2012 and in 2013. The Governor and the State Board are pushing hard this year to expand the powers of the State Board in this way. Should the General Assembly grant Dan Elsener and the State Board more power this year for quicker takeovers?

I say no, based on two reasons:
1) The five schools taken over by the State Board previously have been expensive disasters, marked by community upheavals, costly contracts, endless controversies and multiple lawsuits. Takeovers have changed the State Board from functioning as a statewide policy board to functioning as a local board debating specific details at length about specific schools they are now running. Despite all the effort, extra investments, and controversy, four of the five remain F schools and one is a D school, despite having much smaller enrollments. Instead of giving the State Board more power to take over schools quicker, the General Assembly should reign in the powers of the ambitious State Board and endorse the successful turnaround efforts of local districts that have now been well documented in data presented by the Indiana Department of Education. A net total of 103 schools statewide have moved from D/F schools to A/B/C schools in the past year under current IDOE turnaround programs.
2) Quicker takeovers are based on school letter grades. We in Indiana still do not have a school grading system in place that is proven and has the confidence of the citizens of Indiana. We are still using the same flawed system that the 2013 General Assembly found so problematic that they ordered it to be voided by November 15, 2013. The State Board missed the deadline and has dragged their feet, ignoring the emergency powers the General Assembly gave them to write temporary rules by that date. The General Assembly should not entrust the State Board with more power for quicker school takeovers until a measurement system for grading schools has been established which is respected by all. The A-F panel appointed in part by the General Assembly recommended a new A-F system in October, 2014, but the State Board nitpicked the panel's work and six months later still has not settled on a new plan. The State Board's defiance of the General Assembly's 2013 law should not be rewarded by giving them even more powers to take over schools quicker.
Contact Senators

I urge you to contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and other Senators as soon as possible. Just one week remains for committee work. They must consider HB 1638 by April 9th.

Tell them we don’t need more changes at this time when standards and testing are all changing. Tell them you oppose HB 1638.

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
“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 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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