Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #27– October 6, 2015

Dear Friends,

This is the first “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” for 2015. Notes under this title contain my commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements. There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.

Public education advocates should know that John Gregg, candidate for Governor in 2016, has declared himself as a strong supporter of public education. In his 2012 race for Governor, his stance on public education seemed to be best characterized as non-involvement.

That has changed.

In the August 29th meeting of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, held in Indianapolis at the Dean Evans Center, John Gregg spoke clearly and directly about his support of public education. He did so in the presence of the State Superintendent Ritz, who was described as his “go to person” on education and who also spoke at the meeting.

After I heard him speak and then reflected on it, I decided that John Gregg deserves my full personal support for Governor in order to restore public education in Indiana to a high priority. I recommend that you read what he said and then make your choice as well.

[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

John Gregg’s Comments on Public Education
  • John Gregg began his comments at the meeting by saying that when he is elected Governor, “the war on public schools will end”. He said that many “wanted to blame everything on public schools.”
  • He said when he is elected, the war on the policies of the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will be over.
  • He said during the eight budgets he worked on in the House of Representatives, there was more money for public schools every time.
  • He said he is “100% against vouchers.” He said when he was Speaker of the House, several voucher bills were filed and he assigned them to the Rules Committee, well known as the committee where bills die.
  • He said we would “stop expansion” of vouchers and that we should “audit the choice schools.” He said as Governor he would oppose any expansion of vouchers with a veto if necessary.
  • He said we should separate voucher expenses as an independent line item in the budget.
  • He said we should limit the income base for choice scholarships.
  • He said that we should reform the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships. While we should eliminate the tax credit program “altogether”, it will take several “steps along the way” to accomplish that.
  • He said public schools are a source of “community pride.” He said that closing the public school “killed my home town.” He said he “hates to see what we’ve done” to our public schools.
  • He said we should “expand civics and government” in our schools. He said Indiana was “dead last in voter participation” last year.
  • He said we should “remove unnecessary testing.”
  • He said he would follow the lead of State Superintendent Ritz on education policies such as parental opt out policies.
  • He said he would ask for the resignation of all State Board of Education members appointed by the Governor to make sure we have a board willing to work with State Superintendent Ritz.

The Choice in 2016

These are unusual times. It appears that even before the November 2015 municipal elections, the candidates for Governor in November 2016 are clear. The incumbent Mike Pence will face the challenger John Gregg.

The choice for public education advocates is clear. Governor Mike Pence has favored policies sending ever increasing amounts of public tax dollars to private and religious schools through the voucher program. Candidate John Gregg supports public education and opposes vouchers.

As Governor, Mike Pence worked hard to pass a huge expansion to Governor Daniels’ voucher program in 2013, and then followed that up with pushing for more dollars going to private school vouchers in the 2015 budget. He is dedicated to giving more and more public money to private schools.

Governor Pence’s 2013 voucher expansion meant that many students no longer had to attend a public school first to get a voucher as Governor Daniels wanted. Governor Daniels gave a speech at Harvard after the 2011 voucher plan was passed saying that Indiana did it right by having families try public schools first. Then if they didn’t like their school, they could transfer with a voucher to a private school.

His plan saved the state money because vouchers were nearly all going to students transferring from public schools to cheaper private schools. This money saving feature helped sell the program to legislators in the original voucher battle in 2011.

Governor Pence threw Governor Daniels’ money-saving voucher plan under the bus in 2013.

With Governor Pence’s 2013 expansion, several pathways allowed students who had never attended a public school to get a voucher to pay for their private school. In other words, vouchers were no longer about funding a new choice.

Governor Pence arranged for taxpayers to start paying for religious school tuition for families that had already made the choice to go to private schools from the start. Each such student meant the state had to pay for the voucher as a new fiscal cost, approximately $5000 per voucher. IDOE fiscal analysts reported that the net fiscal cost to the taxpayers in 2014-15 was an astounding $40 million, up from $15 million in 2013-14, in the Choice Scholarship Annual Program Report, dated June, 2015.

If Mike Pence had campaigned in 2012 on a platform saying, “I’m going to get $40 million from the General Assembly to pay for the private and religious school tuition of 8379 current private and religious school students who have never tried a public school, but I’m only going to ask for $10 million for preschool and $0 for statewide teacher professional development”, I doubt if he would have been elected.

John Gregg has said he supports public education, as you have read above. He deserves the support of every public school advocate. He will need grassroots support from members of all parties who consider public education a high priority when they vote.

With the election over a year away and the stakes this high, it is time for public school advocates to go to work at the grassroots. Talk to friends and family about the clear difference in the two candidates on public school issues. Talk with them about the attacks on public schools and the need to stop them. Talk with them about the future of public schools in Indiana. It is time to go to work if a strong public education system is one of your priorities.

The stakes are high. We need a strong Governor who will reverse the low priority given to public education in recent years and stop the efforts to privatize our public schools.

Good luck in your work!

Thanks for advocating in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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