Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #41– October 26, 2016

Dear Friends,

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


Glenda Ritz is trying to correct a wrong done to public school parents five years ago as she runs for State Superintendent for Public Instruction.

For five years now, since the passage of the Tony Bennett/Mitch Daniels 2011 voucher law, home school parents and private school parents have been able to claim a $1000 Indiana income tax deduction for textbooks and supplies. Public school parents were not included in this deduction for textbooks.

This is not fair to public school parents.

Public school parents should have an equitable right to deduct textbook costs just the same as home school and private school parents do. Glenda Ritz wants to see that they do, and she has put that goal in her campaign platform.

Jennifer McCormick, Glenda Ritz’s opponent in the race for State Superintendent, is opposed to correcting this inequity. At the August 27th ICPE membership meeting in Indianapolis, she said that she did not support the Ritz proposal saying that it would cost too much. She apparently sees neither the inequity in this policy that Glenda Ritz sees nor the depth of the public-private controversy embedded in this issue.

I stand with Glenda Ritz. Giving a tax break to home school and private school parents but not to public school parents is just wrong.

This policy which has been in effect since 2011 sends a powerful and demeaning message to public school parents. It should be reversed.

I urge you to support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent on November 8th.
[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.]
Senator Pat Miller’s Amendment to Help Home School and Private School Parents

The tax deduction in question came as a surprise during debate on the historic 2011 voucher bill.

The date was April 19, 2011. In an unexpected move, Senator Pat Miller rose on the floor of the Senate to propose an amendment to the voucher bill giving a $1000 tax deduction for textbooks and supplies to home school and private school parents. These are the words I wrote that day in Vic’s Statehouse Notes #80 (April 19, 2011):
“Unbelievably, an amendment was added to the voucher bill today which would give an income tax deduction to home school parents.

Yes, you read this correctly.

Home school parents, a group that had never even been discussed related to HB 1003 since the bill was introduced in January, would get the first tax break for home school expenses in Indiana history. Sen. Miller, the author of the amendment, said the tax break would have a fiscal cost to the state of $3 million.

This was already an historic bill in breaking the 160 year vision set by the 1851 Constitution that public money should go to public school students and not to religious or private schools. Now, add another “first”: The first state funding for home school parents.”
Listening in the Senate gallery that day, I was amazed and deeply troubled that public officials for the first time were considering giving public tax money to help totally unregulated home and private schools. While such unregulated schools had been free to operate since the beginning of our state, they had never done so with money from public taxpayers.

I had spent decades in my career participating in textbook adoption reviews to answer a vital question: Were our textbooks appropriately accurate and aligned with principles of our democracy, good science, and high standards of literacy and numeracy? Before a textbook could be adopted for use with students, it had to pass muster with committees of parents and teachers as well as the State Board of Education. All that was thrown out with Senator Pat Miller’s amendment. The state would now pay for a tax deduction for whatever textbook the home school parent picked, even textbooks that would not pass the textbook reviews for being unbiased, non-partisan, non-sectarian and accurate. No one would check.

It was a seed planted which could clearly damage our democracy, and it was all paid for by public taxpayers. To make matters worse, public school parents paying for textbooks which were all reviewed and monitored by publicly elected school boards were left out completely.

Voucher Bill Sponsors Needed Senator Miller’s Vote

To make a long story short, the pro-voucher forces needed Senator Miller’s vote on the crucial voucher bill. Her amendment was added to the bill to ensure her yes vote on the final bill, even while the Senate jettisoned the House amendment to have all voucher schools comply with the Americans for Disability Act. After tremendous controversy, the 2011 voucher bill narrowly passed the Indiana Senate by a vote of 28-22.

Now five years later, Glenda Ritz has proposed that equity be restored to public school parents by giving them the same right to the $1000 tax deduction that home school and private school parents have had since the Tony Bennett era and the 2011 vote.

It is a matter of fairness and equity that public school parents should have this deduction even though Jennifer McCormick disagrees.

I stand with Glenda Ritz in this election, and I hope you will too.

Thanks for your strong advocacy for 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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