Monday, January 25, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #242 – January 25, 2016

Dear Friends,

A bill expanding private school vouchers to allow spring semester voucher transfers has passed the Senate Education Committee and is heading to the Senate Appropriations Committee early this week.

Senate Bill 334 sponsored by Senator Yoder would be the biggest expansion of private school vouchers since Governor Pence’s 2013 expansion and is estimated to cost taxpayers $2.1 million dollars per year according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

Indiana should not expand private school vouchers in this way. All advocates for public education who oppose a further expansion of vouchers should contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as their own Senator to oppose Senate Bill 334.

Senate Bill 334 – More than Helping Expelled Students

Senator Yoder presented this bill as a method of helping a private school called The Crossing get voucher money to support students during the spring semester who have been expelled during the first semester or who have otherwise dropped out. He said The Crossing had 189 such students that needed tuition help last year for drop out recovery services.

The language of the bill, however, goes far beyond funding for drop outs to attend a private school. In fact, there is no reference in the bill to providing help for drop outs or expelled students.

SB 334 establishes a new window of voucher applications from September 2 to January 15 for the spring semester. Current law allows voucher applications from March 1 to September 1 for the upcoming school year.

SB 334 also removes a provision in current law that says if a voucher student leaves the voucher school for which the student was awarded a Choice scholarship, the student is responsible for the payment of any tuition required for the remainder of the school year. Removing this provision would allow Choice voucher students who are expelled from their private school to get a spring semester voucher to go to The Crossing.

ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand urged the committee to reject this broad expansion of private school vouchers in the spring semester, citing the LSA fiscal estimate that it would cost $2.1 million additional dollars if 1000 students signed up for a spring semester voucher, a conservative estimate. Other public education groups opposed the bill as well.

Senator Mark Stoops voted against the bill, saying he would perhaps consider this more favorably if it spoke directly to funding drop outs and expelled students, but the current language doesn’t do that at all. His was the only vote against the bill in the 9-1 committee vote. The committee seemingly heard the plea to help drop outs without requiring language specific in the bill providing help for drop outs and expelled students.

Will the Senate Appropriations Committee Narrow the Focus to Helping Drop Outs?

In the past, the General Assembly has been reluctant to spend great amounts of money on drop outs and on students who have been expelled. It would be highly unusual for the General Assembly to open up the budget during this short session to fund the extra money for spring semester vouchers.

Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to let them know you oppose this expansion of private school vouchers. Senator Kenley chairs the committee. Majority members include Senators Mishler, Boots, Charbonneau, Eckerty, Hershman, Pat Miller, Yoder and Zakas. Minority members include Senators Tallian, Rogers, Stoops and Taylor.

As you contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urge them to change the language of this bill to fund drop outs if that is their will, but don’t throw the doors open to a spring semester voucher transfer for all students.

Expanding vouchers in any way should not be on Indiana’s agenda during the crisis of ISTEP testing and the transition to tougher standards. Urge your legislators to get priorities straight and focus their energies on supporting public education in Indiana.

Thanks for speaking up in support of 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.


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