Monday, February 22, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #249 – February 21, 2016

Dear Friends,

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, the seed for the destruction of Indiana’s 165 year heritage of public education has been planted in Senate Bill 93, which passed the House Education Committee on Thursday and now proceeds to the floor of the House.

It is a small but significant seed. SB 93 is an omnibus bill covering over twenty various education issues. At the very end it calls for a summer study committee on a concept right out of the playbook of public education opponent Milton Friedman.

The concept is called “Education Savings Accounts”, and the summer study committee would study how that concept could be used to establish “special education scholarship accounts and a special education scholarship fund” in the words of SB 93 on page 19.

I am supporting a second reading amendment on SB 93 on the floor of the House to remove this proposed summer study. The summer study is in the bill because Senator Kruse denied a full hearing to Senate Bill 397 introduced by Senator Raatz but then put the concept of SB 397 into SB 93 as a summer study.

Senate Bill 397 along with House Bill 1311 were the subjects of “Vic’s Statehouse Notes #240” on January 19, 2016, in which I described them as “the biggest expansion of private school vouchers Indiana has ever seen”, saying they ”would advance the privatization of our educational system in line with the plans of voucher-inventor Milton Friedman, who supported the abolishment of public education” and calling all public school advocates to denounce these two bills and the radical experiment contained in them.

The House of Representatives should reject this summer study to give a clear signal that they will not expand the current voucher program into the radical concept of giving parents a debit card to spend on schooling with no public oversight.

I urge all public education advocates who reject the Friedman plan to phase out public education to contact members of the House by Tuesday in support of a second reading amendment to delete this proposed study from Senate Bill 93.

Testimony Against the Proposal

In the House Education Committee hearing on SB 93 last Tuesday (Feb. 16th), I testified against this proposed summer study on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, as follows:

“I rise today to oppose just one provision in this multifaceted bill. The last provision of the bill, lines 7-9 on page 19, recommends a summer study committee on the topic of “special education scholarship accounts”. I urge you to delete this radical concept known as “Education Savings Accounts” from your summer study committee list.

Sending the concept of “Educational Savings Accounts” for special education students as presented in Senate Bill 397 to a summer study committee would give it more respect than the concept deserves. The concept is so detrimental to high educational standards and to maintaining accountability with public tax money that it should be rejected outright without any promise to study it further.

Why are Educational Savings Accounts so detrimental to education standards in Indiana and to accountability?
1) ESA’s would give public money on a debit card to parents who sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” That’s all! It’s an unregulated and narrow education. No art, no music, no physical education, no health, no vocational subjects. This would absolutely lower standards for students just as standards for public school students are being raised to higher and higher levels. The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation.

2) ESA’s would give the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents, paving the way for the real goal detailed in HB 1311 to give the entire amount of public money to parents of all students on a debit card. These bills to privatize schooling would immediately divert money away from our public school students and over time would undermine funding for all students in both public schools and private voucher schools.

3) ESA’s would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for “a tutor, another person, or an organization” and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely also like to have the state pay for their textbooks, but public school textbook rental is now paid by the parents.

4) The ESA plan would give public money to parents without provisions for fraud protection or penalties for fraud.

5) The ESA plan would give public money to high income parents of special education students. This would end all income limits for this form of government subsidy. Under current law, the State gives vouchers only to disabled students with families making up to $85,000 for a family of four.

6) While public schools are pushed to ever higher standards, individual families would be allowed by Educational Savings Accounts to adopt lower standards. That is not right.
If this concept is not decisively rejected, it will confirm the theory that all of the standards and testing regulations heaped upon our public schools have just been techniques to make privatized vouchers and savings accounts look attractive to individual parents, incentivizing them to leave the public schools or even the voucher schools to run home schools or independent schools with taxpayer money. This concept is based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end community public schools. It should be totally rejected by the General Assembly. Important discussions are needed this summer on the future of Indiana’s assessment system. A summer study committee on Educational Savings Accounts would detract from that important work and signal in this election year where the current General Assembly wants to take Indiana. If this concept is not decisively rejected, the future of public education in Indiana is bleak.

This concept is too radical and potentially damaging for any further action, including a summer study committee.”

End of testimony given Feb. 16th.

The Forty Year Strategy

All public school advocates who think that our General Assembly would never vote to give the full amount of education funding to unregulated home schools through a debit card while public schools are overregulated with testing should think twice. This once unthinkable scenario is rolling along on a forty year strategy for ending public education and turning all education funding appropriations into vouchers.

Milton Friedman, the inventor of private school vouchers, in a speech to state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006 answered his own question of “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” by saying “the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

Earlier, Milton Friedman had written about the fate of public education in Free to Choose: “The possibility exists that some public schools would be left with the dregs.”

A dedicated and wealthy group of Friedman advocates have pushed for forty years the concept that vouchers should replace publicly funded public schools run by elected non-partisan school boards. They had a watershed victory in Indiana in 2011 to fund private school vouchers for low income families via the voucher program along with a tax deduction for home schools, and since then they have continued to pursue the real goal, a parent-controlled debit card using public taxpayer money for schooling which would be available regardless of income. They call it a universal voucher.

And now they want to have a summer study on a universal voucher for special education students (SB 397). In the 40-year plan, this would pave the way for the universal voucher for all students, as set out in House Bill 1311, which was introduced but did not receive a hearing.

It is right on schedule in their 40-year plan.

The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education called Senate Bill 397, in testimony on Senate Bill 93 in the Senate, “the future of school choice in Indiana.” Senator Kruse passed the concept along to the House.

Now the House Education Committee has heard my testimony opposing the concept last Tuesday. On Thursday, when they amended and voted on Senate Bill 93, Chairman Behning removed two study committees from SB 93 and added another on school calendars at the request of Holiday World, but he left the summer study on special education savings accounts in place. Clearly, he likes the concept. Representative Behning has advocated vocally for universal vouchers for years.

The leaders of the House and Senate have boldly introduced these radical concepts in an election year, without giving them a full hearing. Now if they are reelected as they expect, they will no doubt claim that they ran on these ideas and that the people reelected them.

The path is clear for the death march of public education as envisioned by Milton Friedman.

Public education advocates can interrupt this path and help protect public education.

Take a moment to send a message by Tuesday noon to any or all House members saying they should remove the summer study on special education savings accounts from Senate Bill 93.

Tell them they should decisively reject this concept. They should not fund education through experimental debit card vouchers with no public oversight. They should not lower education standards.

Contact House members on this one! Your messages make all the difference.

Thanks for your vital 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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