Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #239 – January 12, 2016

Dear Friends,

On January 4th, Governor Pence and Republican leaders of both the House and the Senate announced their support for “hold harmless” bills to protect both teachers and schools from the negative effects of the transition to tougher ISTEP tests. Governor Pence, Speaker Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Long had committed this fall to protecting teacher compensation but had not committed to protecting school letter grades until January 4th.

Thus, the Republican leaders finally agreed with State Superintendent Ritz who called for “hold harmless” protections a year and a half ago both for teachers and for school letter grades.

Then on January 6th, with newly clarified bipartisan support, HB 1003 passed the House Education Committee unanimously removing any impact from the 2014-15 ISTEP transition year on teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses.

In the afternoon of the same day, SB 200 passed the Senate Education Committee 10-1 removing any impact of the 2014-15 ISTEP tests on A-F school letter grades.

Today January 12th, just six days later, HB 1003 passed the House on third reading 95-1, and SB 200 passed the Senate on third reading 48-1.

These bills are the right thing to do in the transition year to new standards and tougher tests. Let your legislators know you support quick approval of both bills as each now moves to the other house.

House Bill 1003

Representative Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, unveiled the final language to protect teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses in Wednesday’s committee meeting (Jan. 6th). State Superintendent Ritz was the first one to be called on for testimony, and she strongly supported the concept.

HB 1003 specifies that after state bonus money is distributed to school districts, it must be distributed to teachers within twenty days.

The bill passed the committee unanimously.

On second reading yesterday (Jan. 11), Representative Delaney tried to add an amendment to say that these discredited ISTEP scores should not be used to qualify new students to be eligible for vouchers because they live in a school attendance area of an F school. His valiant effort went down to defeat on a party line vote, 27-68.

After approval today on a 95-1 vote, it now moves to the Senate Education Committee for consideration tomorrow, January 13th.

Hanging questions have been raised about HB 1003: How complicated will it be to assess both the best set of test scores and the best school letter grade for each and every teacher, especially in large school districts? Will it be possible to do this analysis and distribute the money in twenty days as the bill calls for? Is the mandate to use test scores still in place for this transition year?

Despite the questions, the bill should pass quickly to allow teachers to get their overdue compensation.

Senate Bill 200

Senator Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee, presented his bill to hold harmless school letter grades at the first meeting of the committee Wednesday afternoon, January 6th. Under the bill, a school’s letter grade “may not be lower than” the letter grade received in the previous 2013-14 school year.

Despite the strong bipartisan support, the bill was opposed in testimony by the Institute for Quality Education, a well-funded group that lobbies strongly for more private school vouchers. They apparently prefer the plan to see the number of F schools skyrocket in this ISTEP crisis so that students living in the attendance areas of those F schools would automatically become eligible for a private school voucher, even if they have always been attending a private school.

The pro-voucher group opposed SB 200 even though the bill carries a new benefit for voucher schools, reducing the accountability levels for private schools participating in the voucher program. Under current law in IC 20-51-4-9, if a voucher school gets a D or an F two years in a row, the consequences are that new voucher students can’t get a voucher to go to that school, although the students who have been going to the school may keep getting taxpayer-funded vouchers. SB 200 changes this provision for this year, taking away the penalty for getting a D, saying “the department may not apply the consequences unless the school was placed in the lowest category or designation for the 2014-15 school year.”

It is expensive to taxpayers to pay for private school tuition, and the Institute for Quality Education would like to see those costs to taxpayers go even higher, while ignoring the poor quality of the 2014-15 ISTEP letter grade formula. This marks the first time in my memory when Governor Pence and the Institute for Quality Education were not in mutual agreement on a major education bill.

Hanging questions have also been raised about SB 200: Shouldn’t we have a two-year transition to new tests? Shouldn’t those schools currently on the bubble for state intervention get extra consideration since it is not clear they truly deserve another F using this discredited ISTEP?

Senate Bill 200 reflects the bipartisan consensus that has been reached to prevent the transition to tougher standards and tests from lowering school letter grades in the wake of drastically lower passing rates approved by the State Board of Education for the new test.

Fast Track by January 19th

Representative Behning said on the floor of the House yesterday that an agreement has been made to fast track HB 1003 with a goal for passage in both houses and the Governor’s signature by January 19th.

When the General Assembly has the consensus and the will, it can take fast action to pass legislation. Last spring, the bill to fix the RFRA legislation was written, passed and signed into law in about a three day span. Fast action is needed on SB 200 and HB 1003 to get promised bonuses and compensation to teachers and to meet letter grade deadlines.

Fast action was actually needed earlier on Organization Day in November, as some legislators had proposed. If action to “hold harmless” had been taken then, no school reputations would have been sullied when preliminary grades were released and teachers would already have their bonus money.

That said, fast action is needed now, and you can help. Let legislators know you support fast action on HB 1003 and SB 200.

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 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. 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.


No comments: