Monday, November 2, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #235 – November 2, 2015

Dear Friends,

Did the Indiana General Assembly really think it would be right for Grace College and Theological Seminary, a private religious college in northern Indiana, to intervene controversially in the public education climate of Monroe County, 150 miles away, against the wishes of the Bloomington-Ellettsville community?

On January 19, 2011, just twelve days after ICPE was born, Joel Hand gave testimony for the first time on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, opposing a bill to allow private colleges to authorize public charter schools.

He said that private colleges should not be authorizers of public charter schools because they are not accountable to public tax payers.He was joined by three other public school advocates including me in opposing this provision, but the General Assembly passed the bill anyway with the strong support of State Superintendent Tony Bennett.

Now four years later, the Seven Oaks charter school proposal that was turned down twice in 2014-15 by the Indiana Charter School Board could be given life by the privately appointed trustees of Grace College, of Winona Lake, Indiana, near Warsaw.

Should privately appointed trustees, living far away and not accountable in any way to public voters and taxpayers, have the power swoop in to commit public tax dollars to establish charter schools resisted by the local community and already turned down by the Indiana Charter School Board? I say no.

You can say no also in two ways:
1) Speak against the charter school proposal at the only public hearing on this charter school plan. It will be held on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 5:30 to 7:00pm at the Holiday Inn Express, 117 S. Franklin Rd., near 3rd Street and 37 on the west side of Bloomington.
2) Let your own Senators and Representatives know that this power obviously undermines local control and the wishes of the local community to point where this law should be changed and the power to shop failed charter school proposals to private colleges should be reined in.
Meanwhile, the private trustees of Grace College should withdraw this proposal so as not to prompt a legislative initiative to end authorizer shopping for failed charter school proposals.

Authorizer Shopping

This charter school was reviewed by the Indiana Charter School Board in the fall of 2014 and rejected by the board, a rare event. The proposal was resubmitted to the same body in the spring of 2015 but was withdrawn without a vote after the ICSB staff recommended that it be declined a second time.

Then the same proposal was shopped to other authorizers, and Grace College got involved. Grace College sponsors two other charter schools, one in Dugger new this year and one in Fort Wayne with a two year track record of F in 2013 and F in 2014. Grace College gets 3% of the tuition for authorizing a charter school. Thus, for example, if the state tuition for a charter school is $6000 per student, Grace College would get a cut of $180 per student.

Is Grace College doing this for the money or are they out to make a name for themselves, and I would say, muddy their name with public school advocates across Indiana?


In the first attachment to “Notes #235”, you can read for yourself the numerous problems found by the Indiana Charter School Board staff in their recommendation saying this proposal should be declined by the ICSB in the spring of 2015.

In the second attachment, Steve Hinnefeld of Bloomington has documented that no significant changes were made in the proposal before shopping it to Grace College. Steve has carefully detailed in a blog dated October 27, 2015 the shortcomings of the charter proposal, providing an excellent summary that need not be repeated by me. If you are not familiar with Steve’s work, he does a masterful job of analyzing public education issues, and I highly recommend his blog, entitled School Matters.

Local Opposition

For two years in a row, the leaders of the Monroe County Community School Corporation and the Richland- Bean Blossom School Corporation in Ellettsville have opposed this ideologically driven school proposal linked to an out-of-state charter school network based at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Judy DeMuth, superintendent of the Monroe County Schools, has written a strong letter objecting not only to the charter school but to the frustrating fact that the same proposal was turned down twice after a thorough review by the Indiana Charter School Board but was then revived controversially by shopping the proposal to Grace College.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education – Monroe County has opposed this proposal for two years and is actively looking for public school advocates who will speak at the November 4th hearing. You can email them at for more information about speaking out against this proposal at the hearing.

If you don’t live close enough to get to Wednesday’s hearing, raise this issue with your own State Senator or your own member of the House of Representatives. This practice of authorizer shopping should stop.

If the Indiana Charter School Board rejects a proposal, it should not be shopped ad infinitum around the private colleges of Indiana. Ask the General Assembly to revisit and correct that part of the charter school law.

Private colleges should not have the power to commit public tax dollars to public charter schools without giving tax payers who want to hold the private officials accountable a recourse for their objections.

This practice muddles the lines between private and public authority and in this case between church and state, and it further fragments our local school communities and our society in general.

I hope you can attend the November 4th hearing or else communicate with your legislators about your opposition.

Thank you for 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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on as we prepare for the short session beginning in January. We welcome 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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