Friday, April 24, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #218 – April 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

If you object to the Republican supermajority taking away the power of the State Superintendent to chair the State Board of Education, you have one more weekend to communicate your concerns with legislators.

Senate Bill 1, taking the power to name the chair of the State Board away from the voters for the first time in 102 years and giving that power to appointees on the State Board, has been scheduled for a Conference Committee meeting at 10am on Monday, April 27, 2015 in Statehouse Room 130, a small room on the first floor.

Please note the conferees listed below and communicate your objections to this bill. They are shaping the final conference committee report. Then communicate your thoughts to your legislators or to all legislators, since all will be voting on the final version by Wednesday, April 29th, the last day of a difficult session.

You could also attend the Conference Committee meeting. There is no guarantee that public testimony will be taken on the Conference Committee proposal, although in many Conference Committees in this session, the chair of Conference Committee has invited public testimony. Whether public testimony is allowed is completely up to the chair of the committee.

A Partisan Bill

Senate Bill 1 is a controversial highly partisan bill. The most controversial part is the thought that the powers of the office of State Superintendent are being changed during the term of the office, without waiting for the next election.

This directly undermines the power of voters. This hurts our democracy by reducing the power of the ballet box.

A glimmer of hope was raised in committee discussions about the possibility that in the final version, the powers of the State Superintendent would not be reduced until after the 2016 election. That would allow the person who the voters thought that they were selecting to chair the State Board to serve out her term before the rules change. The rules should not change in the middle of a term.

A decision to make this change would take the most partisan sting out of the bill and would be worth advocating when you communicate with legislators about Senate Bill 1.

Members of the Conference Committee

Conference Committee members will resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill described below and will set the final language of the bill.

The Senate Conferees are Senator Holdman, chair of the committee, and Senator Lanane.

The House Conferees are Representative McMillin and Representative Vernon Smith.

Senate Advisors on the Committee are Senators Kenley, Breaux, Rogers, Kruse and Yoder.

House Advisors on the Committee are Representatives Behning, Cook, McNamara, Austin, Errington and Moed.

Communications this weekend on Senate Bill 1 should start with these legislators and then extend to others of your choice who will be voting on the bill by Wednesday.

The easiest way to email committee members is to go the Indiana General Assembly website and click on meetings for April 27 on the calendar. Then click on the Conference Committee on Senate Bill 1. When the committee information comes up, each member is pictured on the left. Clicking on each picture allows you to send an email to each member. Click HERE to open the Conference Committee on Senate Bill 1 page.

The Dispute over Appointments to the State Board

The dispute between Governor Pence and legislative leaders over who should appoint members of the State Board has pushed this controversial bill later in the session than expected. The versions that passed each house are quite different in appointive powers.

The Senate version, which passed 33-17, changes the board to nine members instead of the current 11, with 4 appointed by the Governor, 2 by the Speaker of the House and 2 by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. The State Superintendent would be the ninth member.

The House version, which passed 56-41, changes the board to 13 members, with 10 appointed by the Governor as he does now, 1 appointed by the Speaker, and 1 appointed by the President Pro Tem. The State Superintendent would be the 13th member.

Both versions said that the appointees would select the chair.

The House version gives the State Board the explicit power to hire staff and to request the help of the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in conducting evaluations and audits. The latter has become a huge issue because it represents an executive branch agency (State Board) tapping the services of a legislative agency (LSA) for potentially controversial purposes, threatening the non-partisan reputation of LSA.

Senator Holdman did not concur with the House changes, leading to the Conference Committee and the meeting on Monday.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Do the 1.3 million voters of Indiana who elected Glenda Ritz agree that the supermajority should reduce the powers of the State Superintendent without waiting for the next election to let the voters decide?

If not, let legislators know how you feel by Monday morning.

My testimony on Senate Bill 1 in the House Education Committee on April 9th is attached.

I opposed the bill strongly as an affront to our democracy and the power of voters. I called it a skirmish in a greater war over whether a strong public education system will survive in Indiana. I argued that the dissension in the State Board centered on policy disputes related to questions of maintaining a strong system of public education. I stated my belief that this bill clearly downgrades the power of the voters and tips the balance in policy debates in favor of the State Board. I concluded that reducing the power of the voters before the next election diminishes our democracy.

I urge you to consider these arguments and then to send your own message by Monday morning.

Thanks for your strong 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 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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