Friday, April 29, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #31– April 29, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

School voucher leaders and voucher supporting groups want more and more public money to go to private school vouchers. They are now trying to oust Senator Kenley in Senate District 20 by bankrolling his challenger Scott Willis.

Their latest scheme to expand vouchers to all parents including home schools would give parents approximately $7000 on a debit card, the amount that now goes to the school district, to fund their own child’s schooling at a private school or by paying an “individual, a tutoring agency, a distance learning program, or licensed occupational therapist, “ in the words of a bill filed in the 2016 session. It’s a wild and radical concept called Education Savings Accounts, which their lobbyist in the 2016 session called “the future of school choice in Indiana.”

This would be enormously expensive and a genuine budget buster. They no doubt would face opposition on the extra costs involved from Indiana’s guardian of the budget, Senator Kenley of Noblesville.

So they have deftly orchestrated a campaign against Senator Kenley in favor of his primary election opponent Scott Willis, who will not question their plans for more and more vouchers, despite their expense and despite the fact that Education Savings Accounts will dismantle our long heritage of public education.

The wealthy donors behind the voucher organizations have dominated the education agenda of Governor Pence for four years, but Senator Kenley has been an independent force controlling the integrity of the Indiana budget. Now they want to get Senator Kenley out of their way.

Public education advocates and all who support public schools in Senate District 20 in Noblesville and Hamilton County should not be fooled. They should see through this ploy and support Senator Kenley in any way they can in Tuesday’s May 3rd primary election.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
Senate District 20

Senate District 20 is made up of the northern portions of Hamilton County around Noblesville and Westfield. Senator Kenley has served the district for 24 years and through enormous work on budgetary matters has risen to the powerful chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, a position in which he oversees the two-year state budget for the Senate.

The First Irony

There are two ironies in this effort by wealthy heavy hitters in the school choice movement trying to oust the powerful Appropriations Committee Chairman Senator Kenley.

The first irony is that Senator Kenley has never voted against vouchers in the key votes in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. The voucher crowd still wasn’t happy. They wanted him to endorse all of their expansion plans without question, but Senator Kenley, as he has done on all issues, tried to protect the integrity of the budget by reigning in the costs of some of the voucher expansion proposals. He sought changes in committee to reduce the fiscal impact of some proposals.

The voucher leaders have apparently never forgiven him.

The Second Irony

The second irony is that Scott Willis is not talking about voucher issues supported by his financial backers but instead has focused on the need for greater funding for public schools in Hamilton County, as if a first year Senator can impact the funding formula in any way. After 24 years of hard work in the Senate, Senator Kenley now has the power to change the funding formula and indeed did change the funding formula in the 2015 budget to boost funding for suburban school districts like Noblesville by shifting $250 million away from complexity funding, to the disappointment of schools in urban and rural areas serving low-income students. He has the power to do more of that, but a first term Senator will not.

If the voters remove Senator Kenley from his powerhouse budget position, they will be throwing away their power to influence the funding formula.

The financial backers of Scott Willis from the voucher organizations really don’t care about the funding formula. They just want to show that anyone, even those in powerful positions, who questions and trims their plans to dismantle and privatize public education will be defeated in the next election.

They did it to Senator Waterman in District 39 in the 2014 primary. Now they are trying to do it to Senator Kenley in District 20.

A Clear Choice for Primary Voters

In a largely Republican area, the winner of the May 3rd primary election will be the clear favorite in the general election this fall.

In the tradition of democracy, the primary voters will help determine the future of public education in Indiana on May 3rd. I respect the voters. Democracy works best when all participate. Be sure to vote!

No one should be fooled in this match up. Luke Kenley deserves the support of all public school advocates over Scott Willis, especially those in Senate District 20.

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year.

Contact your friends in Senate District 20.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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