Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #35– June 29, 2016

Dear Friends,

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

This November voters will decide whether to elect candidates who will allow public education to be dismantled in Indiana.

This fact must not get lost in the midst of an unprecedented presidential election and contentious state elections.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction chosen by the voters will play a crucial role in whether private school vouchers will be enormously expanded as envisioned in proposed bills filed last January in the 2016 legislative session.

The Republican Party at their June 11th convention has now chosen Jennifer McCormick to run for State Superintendent against the incumbent State Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Jennifer McCormick is the respected superintendent of the Yorktown Schools who was recruited to run by the leaders of the Institute for Quality Education and by the forces of Governor Pence in order to offer a candidate who would not oppose their plans to further expand vouchers and to further privatize our public schools. They have ambitious plans to do so, which are described below.

Whether to privatize and eventually dismantle our public schools is the biggest educational issue of our generation. A leader who stands silent and will not object as the privatization of public schools marches on is the wrong leader for Indiana schools.

I stand with State Superintendent Glenda Ritz in her bid for reelection. She opposes all efforts to privatize our public schools.

While consistently and fairly administering the voucher law that she inherited from State Superintendent Tony Bennett, she has also continued to advocate that public money should be focused on public schools and that any further expansion of vouchers is going in the wrong direction. She recently called for financing pre-kindergarten programs for all students whose parents choose it by shifting taxpayer money away from the private school voucher program.

I support her completely on these points.

The choice is clear on this crucial policy question. I endorse State Superintendent Ritz in this election and I urge all public school advocates to work for her reelection to halt the further expansion of private school vouchers that is on the drawing boards of those who are helping to bankroll the Jennifer McCormick campaign.

[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.]

The Path to Dismantling Public Education in Indiana

A proposal to dismantle public education called “Education Savings Accounts” was introduced last January in the 2016 General Assembly. It will certainly be on the agenda in the 2017 session, depending on who prevails in the election. It goes far beyond vouchers in privatizing our schools.

The “Education Savings Accounts” plan is being pushed by The Institute for Quality Education, a wealthy group dedicated to funneling more and more public money into private schools following the philosophy of Milton Friedman, who advocated that public education should end and schooling in America should be privatized.

On January 25, 2016 in a Statehouse rally, the Institute for Quality Education rolled out their vision of “Education Savings Accounts” for Indiana in House Bill 1311 and Senate Bill 397. The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education said in testimony that Education Savings Accounts are “the future of school choice in Indiana.” The powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Dr. Tim Brown sponsored House Bill 1311 and was the featured speaker at the rally.

House Bill 1311 would give each parent that signs an agreement approximately $6000 on a debit card, instead of giving that amount to the school district as is done now. The parent can then spend your tax dollars on home school services as the parent may choose, reducing by $6000 the funding for public school students in the local school.

The parent must only agree to teach “reading, grammar, math, science and social studies.” With no art, no foreign language, and no vocational subjects, this would drastically narrow the curriculum and skew the education of the next generation. There is no oversight, no accountability and no public approval process for the way parents spend the taxpayer’s money. Fraud could become a huge problem.

This is a radical and harmful proposal that would seriously undermine public education. The plan deserves to be firmly denounced by all who support public education to all who will listen.

Jennifer McCormick: The Candidate of Pro-Voucher Advocates

After introducing the radical plan described above, the Institute for Quality Education took steps to get a leader in the Statehouse who would not object to this plan.

On January 28, 2016, just three days after their rally for Education Savings Accounts, leaders of the Institute for Quality Education stood next to their chosen candidate for State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick in a Statehouse announcement of her candidacy. The leaders of the pro-voucher movement and the forces of Governor Pence tapped an experienced superintendent to be their candidate who would be willing to support Governor’s Pence’s approach to vouchers and the Institute for Quality Education’s push for Education Savings Accounts.

Public school advocates should know that Jennifer McCormick will not advocate against private school vouchers. Evidence of this is clear:
  • In an article about Jennifer McCormick’s candidacy on March 3, 2016, the Muncie Star Press wrote: “She also threw her support behind charter schools and vouchers, which Ritz has openly opposed in the past. ‘It’s here’ she said. ‘State Superintendent isn’t going to change that, so we have to coexist.’”
  • An article by Chelsea Schneider in the Indianapolis Star on May 29, 2016 said: “Although she is backed by party stalwarts, her support of private school vouchers and charter schools might be where McCormick finds herself most at odds with her peers in traditional public education. ‘I do agree with choice’, McCormick told Indystar.”
  • She has not spoken out in opposition to Education Savings Accounts as any public education leader should do.
  • She has accepted major donations and support from leaders of the Institute for Quality Education, the originators of the Education Savings Account proposal in Indiana.
Her lack of comment speaks volumes about what she will do regarding Education Savings Accounts, unveiled six months ago, the most damaging threat to public education in the 47 years since I started teaching in Indiana.

There is no question that Jennifer McCormick will tacitly support vouchers and the future expansion of vouchers being pushed by her prominent funders in the Institute for Quality Education.

The Institute for Quality Education and the Governor’s forces sought out a candidate to run for State Superintendent who would not stand in their way as they expand private school vouchers and Education Savings Accounts. They have found such a candidate in Jennifer McCormick.

Glenda Ritz: The Candidate Supporting Public Education and Opposing Education Savings Accounts

The incumbent candidate Glenda Ritz was under fire from day one after her 2012 election from Governor Pence’s forces who wanted to dominate the policy debate and undermine her authority over K-12 schools, especially regarding the generational goal of privatizing our public schools by supporting private and religious schools with public money.

I stand with Glenda Ritz in this election. In the year of Indiana’s bicentennial, we must not privatize and dismantle the public school system that has taken 200 years to build in Indiana and remains the bedrock of our democracy and the best hope for strong non-sectarian, non-partisan schools that can serve as the anchors of our local communities.

The voucher advocates have their candidate who will not mention vouchers, and their proposal to dismantle public education is ready to be filed again in the General Assembly.

Will the voters defend public education by reelecting Glenda Ritz or will they approve of the Institute for Quality Education’s candidate Jennifer McCormick to open the door for continuous voucher expansion and Education Savings Accounts?

I stand with Glenda Ritz in this crossroads.

The stakes are high. We need a State Superintendent who will oppose all efforts to privatize our public schools.

Thanks for advocating 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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