Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #247 – February 16, 2016

Dear Friends,

Senate Bill 334, expanding private school vouchers to allow them to start in the spring semester, was the subject of a hearing lasting nearly two and a half hours today in the House Education Committee.

No vote was taken. Chairman Behning announced that consideration of amendments and voting would take place on Thursday, February 18th, after the House adjourns from its 10am floor session.

That means that if you have not done so already, it is not too late for you to send a message via email or phone by Thursday morning to members of the House Education Committee and to your own legislators expressing your strong opposition to this expansion of vouchers.

A Spirited Hearing

Six of the sixteen who testified on SB 334 spoke for the bill. Ten spoke against the bill, including ICPE members Richard Hamilton and Kristina Frey. Joel Hand had a schedule conflict, so I gave the testimony for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, which you can read here for your review as you plan your message to legislators.

Several opponents asked that the bill be amended to help drop outs, which has been the purpose stated by the sponsor of the bill from the start. Other speakers recommended the bill go to a summer study committee since the hearing brought out so many implications.

The Talking Points Still Pertain: 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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!

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.

Let them know what you think about expanding vouchers. 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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