Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #246 – February 13, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334, expanding private school vouchers to allow them to start in the spring semester, has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Education Committee on Tuesday, February 16th at 8:30am in Statehouse Room 156-C.

I urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee or any House member to express your opposition to expanding private school vouchers in this way or in any way. If you can contact legislators via email or phone before Tuesday’s meeting, please do so.

Talking Points: Why SB 334 Should be Rewritten
  • Senator Yoder the sponsor said he introduced the bill after a private school called The Crossing came to him to get funding to help 189 drop out students they enrolled in the spring semester, but the language of the bill says nothing about drop outs.
  • The bill should be amended to focus on helping drop outs instead of allowing a huge increase in midyear general voucher transfers, estimated by the Legislative Services Agency to cost $2.1 million per year.
  • This LSA estimate makes SB 334 the biggest voucher expansion since Governor Pence’s 2013 voucher expansion which ended up costing taxpayers $40 million extra dollars, according to the annual financial report on Choice scholarships.
  • Senator Breaux tried to amend SB 334 on the Senate floor to focus on drop outs, but her amendment was voted down. The Senate amended the starting date to be July 1, 2017.
  • The current window for private school voucher applications is March 1 to September 1. SB 334 would establish a new enrollment window from September 2 to January 15. This extension would mean that the marketing and recruitment competition between private schools and public schools would go on for 10.5 months instead of the current 6 months.
  • Private schools have always had to have a marketing program to gain enrollment, but marketing and recruiting is new to public schools since Indiana was abruptly transformed into a school choice marketplace in 2011. Now just like private schools, if public schools don’t recruit students, they won’t survive. A superb public school with superb teachers must still be marketed well to parents or it may falter in the competition for enrollment. And now, SB 334 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months.
  • Marketing and recruiting take money and staff time that public schools don’t have, but now they must find it. To compete, public schools have to take money from other important services to budget for marketing and recruiting. Currently, marketing is largely confined to spring and summer months. Once fall enrollments are in place, schools can pay full attention to instruction while marketing and recruitment take a back seat. Now Senator Yoder wants to extend the competitive marketing pressure all the way through January 15th, although he has not made this clear in his verbal rationale for the bill. All he has talked about is helping drop outs.
  • 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 is moving backward on accountability to the taxpayer. It would allow Choice voucher students who are expelled from their private school to get a spring semester voucher to go to another private school.
  • Legislators should say no to ever- increasing voucher expansion. The ISTEP crisis and the transition to tougher standards deserve the full attention of our General Assembly and our school personnel, and not another battle over voucher expansion.
  • We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.
Contact Your Legislators!

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz had it right this week when she called for a pause on school voucher expansion. She urged the General Assembly to set up a thorough study of the impact of the voucher program, a study that is clearly needed but has never been authorized in the five years since the voucher program was established.

Please contact members of the House Education Committee with your concerns about Senate Bill 334 and the expansion of vouchers into the spring semester:

Republicans on the committee include Representative Behning, chair; Representative Rhoads, vice-chair; and Representatives Braun, Burton, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas and Thompson.

Democrats on the committee include Representative Vernon Smith, ranking member; and Representatives Austin, Errington and Moed.

Then contact your own member of the House or others about your opposition to expanding vouchers.

The participation of many voices from the ranks of public education advocates makes all the difference in the minds of legislators. Thanks for your 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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