Sunday, December 31, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #308 – December 31, 2017

Dear Friends,

It was confirmed in a survey in my mailbox.

A direct attack on public education is coming in the short session starting January 3rd. Public education parents and advocates need to be ready to fend off a new form of privatization.

This attack would put in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card. My previous notes (#307, Dec. 18, 2017) detailed this plan called “Education Savings Accounts”.

Confirmation that this new attack on public education will be a high priority in the General Assembly came in my mailbox.

When I read the annual survey from my State Senator, Senator Ruckelshaus, one of only six questions asked whether I would support or oppose giving $6000 on a debit card to unsupervised home schools for special education students. Actually, this is my description of the Educational Savings Account proposal. Here is how the survey question read:

“Do you support or oppose giving parents of children with special needs the option to use state educational funding for services such as private-school tuition, tutoring or online courses?”

Questions don’t get on the legislative survey unless the issue has support.

This deceptive language tries to normalize a radical idea to give taxpayer tuition money to home schools for the very first time. It leaves out a lot of details:
  • It does not clearly say that parents of disabled children can already get a voucher for private-school tuition, so that would be nothing new.
  • It does not clearly say parents of disabled children will be given $6000 or more in taxpayer money on a debit card to be home schooled without supervision in exchange for giving up their right to a “free appropriate public education” and their right to an “individual education plan (IEP)” approved by the parent which has been guaranteed by federal law since the 1970’s.
  • It does not clearly say parents of disabled children could leave out teaching about our democracy if they want to. With this proposal, democracy is in peril.

The Battle to Come

Wealthy advocates for private school vouchers such as Fred Klipsch have contributed heavily to the campaign funds of Indiana legislators, so legislators will take it seriously when private school advocates ask for a radical plan like Education Savings Accounts. Plans like this have been passed in Florida and five other states with the support of the Jeb Bush Foundation.

This will be a major battle which needs your participation.

What Can You Do?
1) Let your legislator know how much you oppose diverting $6000 to $15,000 per student from our public schools to give to unsupervised and unaudited parents.

2) Share this alert with parents of special education students and ask them to get involved to stop this attack on special education programs in our public schools. This proposal will damage stable, high performing special education programs as budgets drop when money is diverted to unsupervised parents.

3) Speak against this radical plan at the hearing in the Senate Education Committee. The initial hearing on Senator Raatz’s bill to give debit cards to parents instead of sending money to their school will come at a 1:30pm Senate Education Committee meeting on a Wednesday afternoon, either Jan. 10, 17, 24 or 31. Please get ready, because no doubt the proponents are ready. Last year two speakers were flown in to the hearing from out of state by the Jeb Bush Foundation to tout the proposal.
Why Would “Education Savings Accounts” Undermine Public Education in Indiana?

Public education advocates should be ready to oppose this “foot in the door” attack to allow public school tuition money to be diverted directly to parents. Here is a brief summary of the problems of “ESA’s” which I described in depth in my last “Notes” dated December 18th:
1) Based on bills filed in both the House and the Senate in 2016 and 2017, ESA’s would put in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card. Parents of special education students would be eligible for $6,500 to $15,000 currently given to the school to pay for services for various levels of disability. Senator Raatz’s bill which was given a hearing in February 2017 applied to special education and Section 504 health impaired students.

2) To get the money, parents merely have to 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 allow parents to lower standards for students while standards for public school students are being raised to ever higher levels for testing and for graduation. That is not right.

3) The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation or public accountability of student achievement. This is just wrong.

4) ESA’s would remove all income limits in order to give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students. Currently, the State gives vouchers to disabled students when families earn less than $89,900 for a family of four. This vast expansion led LSA to cite Senator Raatz’s bill filed in 2017 to cost “between $144 million and $206 million.”

5) ESA’s would give the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents. This is a “foot in the door” to the real goal 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. This plan undermines the very concept of schools.

6) ESA’s would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for an approved provider, for a tutor and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely like to have the state pay for their textbooks as well, but public school parents must pay their own textbook rental.

7) The plan has no defined penalties for parents who commit fraud. Parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse or welfare fraud or addiction are not excluded.
In a year when radical federal policies have been normalized, the “Education Savings Account” plan tries to normalize a radical plan to bypass schools and give taxpayer money directly to parents without accountability checks or audits. This plan should not be normalized but should be seen as the radical concept that it is.

Our Indiana Constitution calls for the General Assembly to provide, “by law, a general and uniform system of Common Schools”. This proposal would hurt our Common Schools.

Our Indiana Constitution calls for educational improvements “by all suitable means”. This proposal is not suitable because it would harm our Common schools and the students that rely on them for services.

Republican leaders in the General Assembly typically have avoided allowing radical proposals to gain traction in an election year because they would make large numbers of public education parents and leaders angry. This proposal would make public education parents angry. You can help the leadership understand this fact so that they decide to back off in this short session.

I urge you to participate in turning back this attack on our public schools of Indiana.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #307 – December 18, 2017

Dear Friends,

The short session of the General Assembly beginning January 3rd will bring another frontal attack on public education to privatize education in a new way.

This attack will be in addition to debates about whether to fund controversial unfunded mandates for new graduation requirements passed by the State Board of Education on December 6th.

Demoralized public school educators don’t need another attack on public education. They came out in force to oppose the graduation requirements because adequate funding and specifics were not clear. The pleas of over 60 educators and parents who spoke against the plan were ignored by the State Board in a 7-4 vote.

Now a new attack is coming from a different direction.

Senator Raatz has again prepared a bill to undermine public school programs for special education students by creating “Education Savings Accounts”, a terrible idea promoted heavily by well funded groups that support privatizing education. The idea is detailed below.

The concept of “Educational Savings Accounts” for special education students is so detrimental to high educational standards and to maintaining accountability with public tax money that it should be rejected outright as soon as possible. It undermines the very concept of schooling.

After noting the huge problems of “Education Savings Accounts” listed below, I urge you to do three things:
1) Contact your own legislators in the House and Senate to tell them you deeply oppose “Education Savings Accounts”. Urge them to say absolutely no to ESA’s in their caucus meetings. The strongest voices for this effort would be parents of special education students who don’t want to see the services and funding for their children’s school programs eroded by this plan. Tell legislators that giving serious attention to radical ideas that undercut public education contributes to the demoralization of dedicated public schools educators, a direct cause of early retirements, reduced recruitment of young teachers and teacher shortages.

2) Contact Senator Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and urge him to stop the bill on “Education Savings Accounts” by not giving it a hearing. In February 2017 he allowed a hearing on Senator Raatz’s Senate Bill 534, but he announced before the hearing began that he would not allow a vote on the bill after the hearing. That move to stop the bill in the 2017 session was greatly appreciated. Ask Senator Kruse to protect the concept of public education in 2018 by stopping Senator Raatz’s bill on “Education Savings Accounts” again.

3) Contact Senator Raatz of Richmond to ask him to give up the idea of “Education Savings Accounts” due to their toxic impact undermining the funding for special education programs in public schools across Indiana that are doing outstanding work and clearly need stable funding.
Why would Education Savings Accounts threaten the existence of public education? Why are Educational Savings Accounts so detrimental to education standards in Indiana and to accountability?

Changes may be made in new bills filed in the 2018 session. This list of serious concerns is based directly on “Education Savings Account” bills filed in both 2016 and 2017.
1) Based on bills filed in both the House and the Senate in 2016 and 2017, ESA’s would put in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card. All parents would get a debit card of approximately $6000 which currently goes to schools. Parents of special education students would be eligible to get an additional $500 to $9000 currently given to the school to pay for special education services for various levels of disability. Senator Raatz’s bill which was given a hearing in February 2017 only applied to special education and Section 504 health impaired students. Other bills have been filed in the House in 2016 and 2017 which would apply to all students.

2) To get the money, parents merely have to 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 while standards for public school students are being raised to higher and higher levels for testing and for graduation.

3) The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation or public accountability of student achievement. This is just wrong and in total contrast to testing and accountability laws for Indiana schools.

4) ESA’s would give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students. For these students, all income limits would be removed. Under current law, the State gives vouchers to disabled students when families earn less than $89,900 for a family of four. This vast expansion led LSA to cite Senator Raatz’s bill filed in 2017 to cost “between $144 million and $206 million.” Unacceptable!

5) ESA’s would give the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents, paving the way for the real goal 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. This bill thus undermines the very concept of schools.

6) ESA’s would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for an approved provider, for a tutor and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely like to have the state pay for their textbooks as well, but public school parents must pay their own textbook rental.

7) The plan would give public money to parents with extremely weak provisions for fraud protection and no defined penalties for fraud. Parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse or welfare fraud are not excluded.

8) While public schools are pushed to ever higher standards, individual families would be allowed 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 Education Savings Accounts look attractive to individual parents, giving them an incentive to leave the public schools or even the voucher schools to run home schools or independent schools with taxpayer money.

This bill’s concept is based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end community public schools. It should be totally and promptly rejected by the General Assembly. If this concept is not decisively rejected, the future of public education in Indiana is bleak. Our hard working but demoralized teachers and administrators in Indiana would take this bill as a signal that General Assembly is ready to put public education into a death spiral, and some would make plans to leave for other states or other vocations, making our teacher shortage even worse.

This concept is too radical and potentially damaging for any further action. Legislators should absolutely reject “Education Savings Accounts.”

Let your legislators, along with Senators Kruse and Raatz as noted above, know that you support strong and well funded public education and that you oppose “Education Savings Accounts” that would lower educational standards and undermine funding for our public schools. This attack must be resisted.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Friday, November 17, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #306 – November 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

The fight against private school vouchers is not just about the money diverted from public school students. It’s about the survival of our democracy.

The money is an important factor. Under the 2011 private school voucher law, $146 million in taxpayer dollars were diverted from public schools to private schools in the 2016-17 school year.

That’s $146 million in one year. The amount diverted has gone up each year during the six years private school vouchers have been funded by the state. No doubt that figure will continue to go up each year.

This amount has an obvious impact on public school students. Their schools are getting millions less.

The debate, however, about strengthening or privatizing our public schools is about far more than money.

The deeper debate is about whether our democracy will survive without strong public schools. When our public schools are privatized, will our democracy be able to continue?

Many observers have expressed concerns about the health of our democracy since the 2016 election campaign. It’s a genuine concern.

Private school vouchers will undermine our democracy and our social fabric in at least five ways:
If you analyze recent trends, you can see they have already done so.
Private school vouchers have shattered the separation of church and state observed in K-12 funding in Indiana since the 1851 Constitution.

In Indiana, 98% of private voucher schools are religious schools. Government and religion have now been entwined by giving millions in state tax funds to religious private schools, a practice that had been assumed to be wrong for 160 years after Indiana adopted the 1851 Constitution which said (Article 6) “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” State funds are now going to private religious schools that teach creationism in science class in place of evolution. State funds are now going to religious schools that can legally discriminate based on RFRA since they were exempted from the famous “fix” to the RFRA law. Government and religion are now entwined.
We will segregate into religious enclaves. Private religious schools are sectarian; Public schools are not.

Vouchers give an incentive for every religious group to use public tax money to set up their own religious enclave with their own school paid for by taxpayers, leaving communities fragmented. This will complicate the transmission of the skills of listening to other points of view and learning to give and take which are vital to maintaining a democracy. Experience with diversity will diminish and perspectives will narrow.
We will have greater partisanship. Public schools are politically non-partisan by law; Private schools, however, can be politically partisan.

Vouchers give public money to private schools that can indoctrinate partisan political attitudes into the minds of young children, unlike the non-partisan pro and con debate tradition that is fundamental to public education. Engrained partisanship will begin in the early formative years, complicating the work of democracy which depends on a willingness to compromise.
Marketing will rule. The competition for the approval of parents will put marketing above curriculum and instruction in the priorities of each school.

Vouchers force all public schools to put marketing as a new top priority. In the new world of school choice in a marketplace of schools, if parents do not know how good the school is, they won’t choose it. We all know that in any marketplace, marketing and advertising can make all the difference and that even poor choices can be made to seem good by clever marketing. Public schools must now push to the back burner their focus on sound curriculum and instruction while they put top priority on marketing and public images. The Hamilton Southeastern Schools, for example, is one of several districts focused on updating their brand. They recently initiated a marketing strategy update and branding makeover along with a website redesign costing several thousand dollars, paid not from tax money but from their Coke fund. Public schools across Indiana will have no choice but to take similar steps to maintain their enrollment in competition with virtual charter schools and many other competitive private schools that are recruiting for enrollment in Indiana’s school marketplace.
Civics will be neglected. The competition for the approval of parents will force enormous attention only on the subjects used to grade schools in the mandated testing program: math and language arts.

Vouchers force all schools to put math and language arts as first priorities because those subjects are the basis for accountability letter grades which are the most visible marks by which parents judge and choose a school. This has left citizen education, civics and non-partisan voter education as expendable items in the K-12 curriculum, a tragedy for our democracy which must teach every new generation the civic values and procedures of our democratic society. Less attention to civics and citizenship has been well documented in Indiana. This is perhaps the most damaging way that the voucher movement is undermining our democracy.
Prophetic Predictions

Consider the prophetic statement of the former Wisconsin State Superintendent Herbert Grover back in the 1990’s when Wisconsin passed the first private school voucher program:
If you look closely, you can see the social fabric of America beginning to unravel. Private school vouchers permit us to fear one another, to surround ourselves with those who look and think like we do, and — in so doing — to abandon our commitment to pluralism and diversity.
Now consider the conclusion of a great article by Erica Christakos, who has written superbly on the vital importance of public schools in the October 2017 issue of the Atlantic entitled Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake. She closes her must-read article with this thought:
The political theorist Benjamin Barber warned in 2004 that ‘America as a commercial society of individual consumers may survive the destruction of public schooling. American as a democratic republic cannot.’ In this era of growing fragmentation, we urgently need a renewed commitment to the idea that public education is a worthy investment, one that pays dividends not only to individual families but to our society as a whole.
The public schools of the United States have been a bedrock for democracy for 180 years since Horace Mann led the way. For the reasons cited above, we could lose our democracy if public education is privatized.

Let your legislators know that you support strong and well funded public education because you believe we cannot maintain our democracy without it.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!


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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Friday, November 10, 2017

Warning: Cancer Schmantzer-free Blog

The following was posted today by Phyllis Bush on her blog, Kind of a Big Dill.
Warning: Cancer Schmantzer-free Blog

Dear Cancer Schmantzer friends,

This particular blog post will not be about cancer, but it will be about something which I care about deeply.


I am reaching out because at this is the time of the year, many of us search for good, charitable causes. As you search for a good cause, I hope you will think about the Network for Public Education where I have been a Board member for 4 years.  NPE has about 330,000 members nationwide. Our mission is to protect, improve, and strengthen public education for this present generation and generations to come.

As many of you know, there is a real movement afoot to destroy public schools. This movement is being fueled by Betsy DeVos, this administration, and Congress. The agenda is to replace and privatize public schools by using vouchers and charters, and in many states (like Indiana), they have had great success.

NPE fights back. Through reports, writing campaigns, films, and newsletters, we let the American public know that public education is the pillar of our democracy and if we lose it, we will not get it back. Even though we operate on a shoestring compared to most non-profit organizations, all of that work costs money. You can learn more about us here: https://networkforpubliceducation.org/

I hope that you can share some of your holiday generosity with NPE by making a tax deductible donation. You can make that donation online at https://networkforpubliceducation.org/about-npe/donate/ or send a check to:

Network for Public Education
PO Box 150266
Kew Gardens, NY 11415

Thank you so much.

Phyllis
๐ŸšŒ๐ŸšŒ๐ŸšŒ

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #305 – October 24, 2017

Dear Friends,

As he retires after 25 years in the Senate, Senator Kenley can be thanked for using his power and experience to be the driving force in adding $72 million to K-12 funding in the two-year budget passed last April.

$72 million more for K-12 students!

Senator Kenley’s retirement was effective September 30th. Obviously, he will be missed.

Here’s How Senator Kenley Influenced the K-12 Budget
  • In January, Governor Holcomb’s budget proposed to add $280 million to the two-year K-12 budget, with a totally inadequate 1% increase in the first year. A 1% increase would be treating public schools as if we were still in the Great Recession.
Strike one.
  • In February, the House of Representatives budget proposed to add even less: $273 million. They also proposed a mere 1% increase in the first year.
Strike two. Prospects for K-12 funding looked dismal.
  • Then in April, the Senate budget controlled primarily by Senator Kenley as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee added $358 million to the K-12 budget, $85 million more than the House proposal.
That was both great news for public schools and a measure of Senator Kenley’s influence on K-12 funding.

Strike three never came, thanks in large part to the influence of Senator Kenley.
The final budget was then negotiated by Senator Kenley, Chair of Senate Appropriations and Representative Brown, Chair of House Ways and Means to resolve differences in the two houses. Negotiations will sometimes simply split the differences in the two budgets, but that didn’t happen. Senator Kenley’s final negotiations with the House ended up with a budget giving K-12 funding an added $345 million over two years, $72 million more than the original House budget.

We should all thank Senator Kenley for running one more time and for using his final session to stand up for K-12 funding.

Answering the Questions

Some observers questioned why Senator Kenley ran for re-election if he wasn’t going to serve out his final term of office. His response to those questions was reported in the Indianapolis Star (7/6/17, p. 1) when he announced his retirement on July 5th: “Kenley said Wednesday that he ran last year to ensure that the two-year budget lawmakers passed earlier this year included a long-term road funding plan and maintained spending levels on K-12 education. With those goals accomplished, it felt like the right time to move on, he said.”

Public school advocates should be glad he was there and working to maintain K-12 funding on the Senate side, because the Governor and the House were willing to let K-12 funding levels slip to Great Recession levels.

We are fortunate Senator Kenley decided to run one more time to impact K-12 funding in the right direction. It wasn’t an easy election for him. He was challenged in the primary by a candidate strongly funded by pro-voucher groups, but he withstood the challenge with the help of many public school supporters.

Senator Kenley had good support from other Senators on the Appropriations Committee to lift K-12 funding well above the skimpy House proposal, especially from Senator Mishler, chair of the School Funding Subcommittee and a long-time supporter of public education. It is very good news for public education advocates that Senator Mishler has been named to replace Senator Kenley as chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Will Lackadaisical Funding for K-12 Become the Norm?

Since legislation passed in 2011 giving public money to private schools, I have been extremely concerned that legislators would grow lackadaisical about funding K-12 education to the level that our public school students need and deserve, citing the excuse that if parents don’t like the schooling their child is receiving, they can make another choice. Low priority on K-12 funding is now a consistent danger. This low priority is what we saw in the House budget, but Senator Kenley and his Senate colleagues were willing to press the issue for better K-12 funding, leading the way to $72 million more for our public school students.

As he retires, Senator Kenley should be thanked 72 million times for standing up in the budget debates for much needed K-12 funding.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #304 – September 23, 2017

Dear Friends,

Now that the Indiana General Assembly is funding a pilot program for pre-kindergarten students, it’s time to make sure all students in Indiana take kindergarten. Kindergarten is still not required for Indiana students.

At the very successful ICPE meeting in Indianapolis on August 26th, State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick spoke up for mandatory kindergarten.

Before the biggest audience since the fall ICPE meetings began at the Dean Evans Center in 2011, over one hundred ICPE members and other friends of public education heard former State Superintendents Suellen Reed and Glenda Ritz agree with Dr. McCormick, since both had supported unsuccessful efforts to require kindergarten when they were in office.

Dr. McCormick has advocated mandatory kindergarten in public comments since the meeting, saying that the estimated number of students who enroll in first grade without having kindergarten first is around 7000.

That is far too many students who in most cases are already behind when they enter first grade.

Let your legislators know that you support guaranteeing that students go to kindergarten. You can share with them the insightful argument that Dr. McCormick used at the August 26th meeting: It is not right to allow students who have had a year of pre-kindergarten at taxpayer expense to take a sabbatical for a year before they take first grade.



Transparency for Spending Public Funds

All three speakers agreed on another key point for public education: There should be transparency in reporting to the state for any school that takes public funds, whether it is a public, charter or private school. Jennifer McCormick, calling for transparency, asked if school choice is made available, “shouldn’t it be a quality choice?” She called for a “safety baseline” based on state standards, and compared the situation to quality standards set for restaurants by the Department of Health. She said if choices are made available, we should have “quality, not a free-for-all.”

The ICPE audience applauded.

Suellen Reed quoted Mark Twain: “The greatness of our American democracy comes from our public schools.”

Glenda Ritz said the United States must invest in children holistically, including wrap-around services.

All in all, it was a great discussion in support of the future of public education. Mandatory kindergarten and greater transparency in spending public funds were two important topics out of several discussed. They are two that deserve your support and the support of your legislators in the short session starting in January.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!


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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Monday, August 14, 2017

Teaching the heart as well as the mind

This op-ed by NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the August 14 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Teaching the heart as well as the mind: Caring, kind adults can make all the difference
Monday, August 14, 2017 1:00 am
Back in the olden days, whenever I heard the cicadas or saw the lawn furniture in most retail stores being replaced by school supplies, I knew that the end of summer was around the corner, and I knew that it was time for me to take in the smell of freshly waxed floors at school, to get back into my classroom to hang new posters, to re-arrange the desks and to get new lesson plans ready.

While I always tried to mix things up with my lesson plans, I always started every school year the same way. If my room was large enough, I placed the desks in a circle or a semicircle, and I had the students introduce themselves with this:

My name is ---- and I like this. Then the next student introduced himself, repeating the intro from the previous student and so on. By the time we were finished with the exercise, not only had every student spoken, but the class had loosened up and had some little factoid to help identify everyone in the class.

The benefit of all of this was that it set the tone in my classroom and, by the end of the first day, I knew and remembered the names of about 99 percent of the 150 or so kids on my class lists. As I stood by my door the next day to welcome students each period, I greeted each of them by name. While this may not seem like a big deal, it helped establish a positive climate in my classroom.

The point of establishing a positive climate was pretty simple. Each of us wears an invisible sign that says I Am Lovable And Capable, and as we go through our daily lives, little pieces of our signs are slowly ripped away by the comments and actions of others. My goal each year was to get to know each of my kids and to find ways to instruct them without demeaning or tearing away at their signs. For example, if a student didn't understand a concept or an idea or whatever I was trying to teach, I would go to Plan B to see if I could find a better way to explain. Sometimes when I felt as though I was banging my head against a wall, I would ask if someone had a better way of explaining, and most often they did – and I would ask that student to come to the front of the room to help me.

Those who want to fix teachers and kids seem to forget that all of the testing and all of the online learning and all of the latest technology and all of the moronic plans of those who have no idea about what is instructionally or developmentally appropriate have little to do with children. While it may seem quaint now, teaching the whole child works. Children come from all kinds of backgrounds and conditions, and teachers need to be mindful that until we figure out who that child is and what he/she really needs, all of the technology in the world will do little to change that. Regardless of how tough or world-wise kids may act, they are still children. As a case in point, my classes always had weekly SAT and Words of Power vocabulary quizzes. After we graded the quizzes, I told the students that anyone who got 100 percent could have a sticker. While that seems pretty juvenile, most kids were eager to get their stickers, especially the AP students.

All of this goes to the point of what is currently being done to students in the name of reform. Do we really need to make our children college and career ready for jobs that will probably be obsolete by the time they are out of school? Perhaps we need to teach students to learn how to learn and to learn how to think critically rather than robotically.

I am profoundly saddened by a world that is all too ready to tell our children where they fall short. All of the technology in the world will not fix a broken child, but kind and caring adults are a good place to start.
Phyllis Bush taught English at South Side High School before her retirement. She is a founder of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and a board member of the Network for Public Education.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Letters: Scrutiny welcome as school funds depleted

NEIFPE member Kathy Candioto sent this letter to the editor. In it she discusses the cost of Indiana's voucher program.

Scrutiny welcome as school funds depleted

Published: July 22, 2017

I am writing to comment on the July 10 letter “JG's anti-voucher bias is getting tiresome” from Bill Dotterweich.

Dotterweich makes this comment at the end of his letter: “... the JG is just a mouthpiece of the teachers' union.”

Rather than a mouthpiece for any union, the JG is a strong supporter of Indiana's public schools. For this support, I am very grateful. While private schools are welcome and needed in our state, public schools, open to all, are the very cornerstone of our democracy. But public schools are being harmed by the school choice program, and the JG is making readers aware of this damage.

Between 2013 and 2016, Indiana's Education Fund has awarded $330,548,811 to private schools across the state through the school choice program or vouchers. In Allen County, during the same time period, $55,787,467 was given to 36 private (all parochial) schools.

This school choice money was diverted from the state's education pot. This is funding that should have gone to public schools if not for vouchers or school choice.

Indiana has the largest voucher expansion program in the country. While the program continues to grow, many of us, including editors at The Journal Gazette, want the public to understand the loss of funds to public schools. Perhaps we should step back and assess the school choice program. Do we want to continue on this path without careful analysis of what the program is doing to public education in Indiana?

Kathy Candioto

Fort Wayne

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #300 – July 8, 2017

Dear Friends,

School funding from the new state budget which kicked in on July 1st is inadequate for our public school students.

The Indiana General Assembly’s final budget gave a meager increase for K-12 funding by historical standards: 1.6% in the first year (2017-18) and 1.7% in the second year (2018-2019).

In the past twenty years, only five years had lower increases. These five included the four years of the Great Recession (FY 2010 through FY 2013) along with FY 2015. This conclusion can readily be confirmed by reviewing the Total Funding column of the attachment showing Indiana’s history of K-12 funding increases for the past 20 years.

The small increases in the new budget will not allow public schools to keep up with inflation, which the most recent federal data reported to be 1.9% for the twelve months ending May 2017, down from 2.2% the previous month.

With an average increase this small, many districts with static enrollment will not be able to maintain their current level of programs or provide a much needed boost to teacher pay to combat the teacher shortage. This will produce program cuts in the curriculum areas not related to English and math testing, such as music, art, physical education, foreign language, social studies and vocational programs. It will raise class sizes.

Public school administrators in Indiana are skilled and experienced at cutting budgets in ways that don’t make headlines. Nevertheless, the programs available for our public school students are being cut while $146 million was diverted last school year (2016-17) to pay for private school tuition, of which $78 million paid the tuition for the 54% of voucher students who had never attended public schools at all.

Meanwhile, Indiana projects a $2 billion dollar surplus.

A review of the attached table will give you the full picture of school funding increases for the past 20 years.

Here’s How Public School Programs are Being Dismantled in a Climate of Inadequate Funding

Ask any local school leader and you can hear numerous examples of how inadequate funding hurts the education of public school students in Indiana. Here are two:
1) The Indianapolis Public Schools fared poorly in the budget battles of the 2017 session. The House budget passed in February projected a cut of $8 million from the previous year and an actual cut in per pupil funding of $90 or 1.2%. The Senate budget passed in late March gave IPS more hope, projecting a gain of $4 million from the previous year and a small gain in per pupil funding of $29 or 0.4%. The final budget negotiated in April dashed hopes for budget relief, giving IPS a projected cut of $100,000 from the previous year and an actual cut in per pupil funding of $7 per student or 0.1%.

Contrast this with state totals which increased per pupil funding by $74 per student or 1.1%.

If the Senate budget funding had prevailed, IPS would be getting $1.1 million more in 2017-18, after enrollment projections are equalized. This last minute loss of $1.1 million in the budget negotiations now looks big when considering the current community agony of closing three of seven IPS high schools for the stated goal of saving $4 million per year in general fund money. In retrospect, the Senate budget, if the House had agreed to it, would have given major help to the students and families of IPS.

The Senate budget funded public education at a higher level than the House budget. Public education advocates should thank the Senate for giving public education funding a higher priority than did the House. Senator Luke Kenley, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, played a powerful role in taking this stance. He has now announced his retirement on September 30th after 25 years in the Senate. His influence in prioritizing funding for public education will be missed.

2) Brown County Schools lost 27 students to private school vouchers in 2016-17, a diversion of $186,000 which put the budget in a precarious position. When the French teacher took a job in another district for 2017-18, the French language program which had been offered in Brown County for decades was ended to save the cost of one teacher. Hopes of an infusion from the new state budget to keep up current programs were dashed. The new state budget for Brown County projected a 3% cut from last year based on the projection that enrollment would drop by 72 students to 1801 in 2017-18. Dollars per student in the new budget climbed by $64, less than 1% (0.9%) and not enough to maintain programs. Once again, the inadequate state budget means fewer options for public school students.
When such cuts are made, local administrators get the blame when in most cases state legislators who write the state budget are actually the ones responsible for forcing such cuts to be made in some program by local leaders.

Previous budgets in earlier years, as the attachment shows, have given public school students a better opportunity for stable programs. Cuts in programs, larger class sizes and meager or non-existent teacher salary increases will be common stories for the public schools of Indiana during the two year budget which started July 1st.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Monday, June 26, 2017

Education wake-up call

This op-ed by NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the June 26 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
DeVos' dangerous incompetence reinforces the threat to public education

No matter what the education issue is that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is addressing and no matter where the venue, she manages to show how ill-prepared she is to lead the U.S. Department of Education with her vacuous and insensitive remarks. She has shown herself to be completely tone-deaf about what is instructionally appropriate or what is best for children. Through all of her malaprops and her sense of entitlement, she has managed to do what pro-public education folks like me have been unable to do – she has managed to get people to pay attention.

As a founding board member of the Network for Public Education, I have watched as our NPE membership has grown from 22,000 before the DeVos appointment to 350,000 since she was nominated. For those of us who have been calling attention to the corporate reform assault on public schools, this is welcome news. I can only hope that this spontaneous growth is due to more people waking up to the possibility of what is at stake if public education, the bedrock of our society, is further decimated by those who wish to “reform” it.

Education should be about kids and about learning, and it never should have become a political football, and yet politicians and pundits of all political stripes have done precious little to help support policies that will create equity among schools. In fact, in recent years state legislatures have worked to underfund, to overregulate and to privatize public schools. Those of us across Indiana and across the country who have been fighting to save public education have done nearly everything we can think of to bring the plight of education to the attention of our fellow citizens. No matter how many forums and conferences we have hosted, no matter how many opeds we have written, no matter how many times we have testified at our statehouses, we have found it difficult to engage those who are not closely involved in education.

Arne Duncan's tenure over the Department of Education ushered us into the Race to the Top era of test and punish. While Race to the Top has been an unmitigated failure, at least Duncan had some marginal qualifications. DeVos is unqualified to hold any Cabinet position, let alone one which will affect all of the nation's children. Now that she has made a gaffe-filled entrance into the political landscape, more people seem to be aware of her lack of qualifications. While taking notice is a start, it is up to all of us to actively stand in support of our public schools, our kids, our teachers and our communities.

Will Betsy DeVos be the lightning rod who might awaken us to the potential destruction of public education? I have no idea whether this focus on DeVos will be more than another example of our short attention span with ever-breaking news stories. My hope is that people are finally getting fed up with this anti-public education push and will choose to fight back to save our schools for the nation's most precious resource, our children.
Phyllis Bush, a retired English teacher and Fort Wayne resident, is a member of NEIFPE and treasurer of the Network for Public Education.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

ISTEP+RESCORE INFORMATION

The Spring 2017 ISTEP+ Rescore window will be open June 19, 2017 through July 7, 2017.

The opportunity for parents and schools to seek a rescore is an important element when open ended items are a component of assessment.

For more information about ISTEP+Rescore, contact your child's school or click the link to the Indiana DOE, below.

http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/spring-2017-istep-rescore-window.pdf

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NEIFPE Talks With Jennifer McCormick

McCormick: “irresponsible” not to review voucher program
“You know, we’re spending roughly $146 million on a program and not really reviewing it. That is irresponsible,” said McCormick, a Republican who took office in January.
Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, has been in the news lately since she was interviewed by National Public Radio for an article titled, The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers.

Earlier this month NEIFPE sat down with Superintendent McCormick to discuss the education policies in Indiana and what we could do to help support public education. Our discussion was very cordial and we were happy to discover that Dr. McCormick agrees with us on several important issues. She is convinced that there are some things we cannot change, like vouchers and charters. Our goal, instead, should be to prevent them from draining more resources from public schools. This goes along with her public comment about the irresponsibility of spending millions on vouchers without any review of the program.

Dr. McCormick emphasized the need for public accountability for every school receiving tax dollars. Transparency, she said, is an important part of the Republicans' political message. We should remind our Republican legislators of the need for transparency in education when we contact them.

Some other topics we discussed...
  • The Legislature may not let the change to the appointment of the State Superintendent wait till 2025. She thinks they'll move up the date during an upcoming legislative sessions. If (and when) that happens our focus should be on publicizing what the Gubernatorial candidate's education platform has been/will be.
  • We suggested that, since the Superintendent will become an appointed position, we should lobby for an elected State Board Of Education. While she didn't disagree with the idea, she doesn't think it will happen.
  • She said that the Indiana Association of School Business Officials seems to be the only group that has the ear of Indiana legislators – more than principals, school boards, superintendents, and, of course, teachers. This group would include school system business managers and chief financial officers. Lobbying them could be helpful.
  • The Superintendent's office will be sending people to legislative conferences including ALEC. She was very clear about her distaste for ALEC, but is sending someone to find out what the legislators are hearing. She will also be sending representatives from her office to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a more middle-of-the-road legislative conference. The people she is sending will include educators. Her goal is to be able to combat the information coming to legislators with the truth about public education in Indiana.
  • She accepts that vouchers and charters are here to stay. Her goal in the IDOE and in discussions with legislators is to try to minimize the damage the funding drain for those programs does to public schools. For example, she said she worked hard to get voucher money separated from the education budget. She succeeded in the Senate version, but the House stripped it out.
  • We discussed Indiana state legislators. She said that Senator Dennis Kruse is very willing to listen to what she has to say and, while they disagree on some things, she will continue to talk to him. She indicated that she is also in contact with Senators Luke Kenley and David Long. Her feeling seems to be that the Senate has had enough of "education reform."
  • Testing: Dr. McCormick came from a school district where there wasn't a lot of mobility among the families, but she understands how unfair it is that schools are being judged when their student population is transient. In addition, she understands the effect of poverty on student test scores. She said she is still hoping to get an "off the shelf" test for K-8. She is also concerned with the problems associated with testing at the secondary level.
  • She and her team are coming up with policy points for the next legislative session. They intend to disperse the points throughout the state for citizens to use when contacting legislators so that they hear the same information over and over again...to give us a united focus.
Read more about Dr. McCormick's views on Indiana's voucher plan. See Steve Hinnefeld's blog, School Matters.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #299 – May 20, 2017

Dear Friends,

News reports say that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will announce her tax credit plan to fund private school tuition with federal money at a meeting in Indianapolis this Monday, May 22nd.

This is the first nationwide step in the Trump Administration plan to take to cut federal funding for public schools and start using federal funds to support private school tuition scholarships.

A bill to fund tax credits to help private schools has already been filed in Congress.

It is not surprising that Betsy DeVos wants to announce her plan in Indiana. She has been the most influential funder behind Indiana’s historic and damaging switch to giving public tax money to private and religious schools and the relentless deconstruction of public schools in Indiana.

According to reporters Stephanie Wang and Chelsea Schneider (Indianapolis Star, Jan. 15, 2017, p. 21A) DeVos has provided $2.5 million since 2004 to provide campaign funds for Indiana politicians who support vouchers. That paved the way to historic votes in 2009, 2011, 2013 and now 2017 which step by step have advanced the privatization of the public school system in Indiana.


The Deconstruction of Public Education

As the dust settles after adjournment of the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, it is clear that the deconstruction of public schools in Indiana has continued.

The third pillar of Indiana public education fell in this session. We will no longer have a Superintendent of Public Education but rather a secretary of education which will no longer be elected by the public after the 2020 election (House Bill 1005).

The deconstruction of public education is led by the followers of the policies of the late Milton Friedman and funded by Betsy DeVos. They have developed a strong power base in the Indiana General Assembly which has prevailed on this issue for nine years.


Previous Pillars

If the third pillar fell in 2017, what were the previous two pillars to fall?

1) The first pillar fell in 2009, when for the first time public money was budgeted for private school tuition through tax credits for donors to Scholarship Granting Organizations. The 2009 budget gave $5 million over two years for tax credits that would refund 50% of each donor’s gift toward private school scholarships. In the new 2017 budget funding for such tax credits, once $5 million, now stands at $26.5 million over the next two years.

This is the program that Betsy DeVos wants to begin nationwide to use federal money to pay for private school tuition.

The Indiana program passed in 2009 is the most generous tax credit available in Indiana. Donors giving to private school scholarship organizations get 50% back when they file state income tax forms, and there is no limit per taxpayer! A million dollar donation would produce a $500,000 tax credit, ideal for high income earners who want to support private schools. The only limit is the total annual appropriation, so taxpayers have to make their claim before others take the credits.

2) The second pillar fell in 2011 when the historic voucher law passed, giving public money directly to private school parents and schools for private school tuition. Funding for private school vouchers cost taxpayers $146 million in the current 2016-17 school year, up from $15 million in the first year of the program, 2011-12.

For those who would like to see the details of annual voucher costs, please see the attached six-year overview.

Sadly, the policies of the current leadership in the General Assembly have sent the message that more pillars will be attacked each new session in pursuit of Milton Friedman’s goal to end public education and provide universal vouchers.
Will the General Assembly’s Priority on Helping Private Schools Be Reversed?

The plan to diminish support and funding for public education is proceeding apace. Besides ending the independent voice of the elected State Superintendent, this legislative session:
1) created an eighth pathway for eligibility for a private school voucher. Seven pathways established in 2011 and 2013 have produced 34,299 students eligible for a voucher, 54.6% of whom have never enrolled previously in a public school. The eighth pathway is to attend a private preschool with a state pre-K grant and then stay on in the same private school for kindergarten and beyond at taxpayer’s expense (House Bill 1004).

2) made it possible to keep getting new voucher students when private schools get low school letter grades. HB 1384 was amended to allow a loophole for voucher schools making a D or F to continue to enroll new voucher students by filing an appeal to the State Board of Education. Currently, voucher schools making a D or F for two years can keep enrolling their current voucher students but can’t enroll new voucher students until their school grades improve.

3) made it possible for the first time for a new private school to get vouchers in the first year of operation (HB 1384). Previously, operation for at least one year was required while the school was reviewed for accreditation.
In Summary

All in all, it was a good legislative session for the privatizers. Public education remains on the ropes and now it is being attacked nationally through the work of Betsy DeVos.

Public education will remain in jeopardy until candidates and voters in election campaigns make it clear that the deconstruction our system of public education in Indiana and in the nation is unacceptable and is damaging to our democracy.

I urge you to write members of Congress that you oppose the DeVos plan to take federal money away from public schools and give it instead to private schools via federal tax credit scholarships.

I urge you to write members of the Indiana General Assembly that you are disappointed that they sent the message again in this session that public education is a low priority and that expanding public dollars for private schools continues to get priority attention from the leaders of the General Assembly.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana and nationwide!


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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Friday, May 5, 2017

NEIFPE Presentation at the People for the Common Good Forum

On May 2, 2017, the People for the Common Good held a forum at the Allen County Public Library.

Members of the coalition and other interested groups had a few minutes to present information about their group and their plans. NEIFPE member, and People for the Common Good board member, Meg Bloom, spoke on behalf of NEIFPE. Here are her remarks.
Remarks to People for the Common Good Forum, May 2, 2017 from NEIFPE ~ Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

We know that public education is one of the cornerstones of democracy, so we formed in 2011 in response to attacks on public education. We are tired of hearing the harsh statements. I am sure you have heard that public schools are failing. That is a blanket statement and too broad to be of any help in a discussion. Public schools are not failing. We hear that our test scores are lower than other countries. That particular sound bite is too simplistic to give you the whole picture. It doesn’t tell you that many countries only test select students while here in the U.S., we test everyone. Even more important, it doesn’t tell you that there is a high correlation between poverty and low test scores. The US poverty rate at almost 22% is much higher than most of the other industrialized countries who are part of that comparison. Our higher poverty rate lowers our average test scores.

Besides the effect of the negative propaganda, we have six other current concerns.

1. We are always worried when the Indiana legislature is in session because our state legislators are gullible and have made rash decisions that have had ill effects for our students.

2. Donald Trump is president and Betsy Devos, who has no public education experience, is Education Secretary. You have to be concerned about what they might have up their sleeves.

3. We are concerned about the voucher system. With vouchers, public education money goes to private schools and these are often religious schools. I want to emphasize that NEIFPE is not against parochial schools or religious education. Some of our members attended parochial schools and some have taught in parochial schools. What we are against is public funding for private schools.

4. Charter schools concern us. With charter schools, public education money goes to a private, often for profit, company with little oversight of how our tax dollars are being spent. The charter company then has the right to open a “public” school and make a profit on the education of the children.

5. We are concerned about the resegregation of our schools. Vouchers do not cover 100% of the tuition bill for private schools. This leaves out children from low-income homes. Not only that, voucher schools and sometimes charter schools can select their students and can refuse to accept students who are difficult to educate. With this, we are seeing a resegregation of American schools.

6. We are concerned about the emphasis on testing, on the expense of testing, on the amount of time spent testing and preparing for testing, and on the incorrect and punitive use of testing data.

Our current efforts are the same as our past efforts. We work to stay informed about education issues. We regularly contact our legislators with our concerns. We recognize the importance of explaining the situation to the public and so we write letters to the editor and op ed pieces for the paper. We give presentations to churches, civic organizations and college classes. Contact us if you would like us to speak to your group. This summer we will be cohosting a multistate meeting of public education activists.

How can fellow progressives support us? Follow us on Facebook and our blog to inform yourself about education issues. Support your public schools and help us elect candidates who support public schools. It would be helpful if we could organize ourselves and have an email list of others who are interested in public education issues. With this, we could send a quick email when legislation is in the works and people on the list could email or call their legislators with concerns about the effect the proposed legislation could have on public education. Many voices have a greater effect.

Thank you!

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Vic’s Statehouse Notes #298 – May 5, 2017

Dear Friends,

The General Assembly has given Indiana’s public schools a new unfunded mandate.

Action in the General Assembly has made it imperative that public schools establish quality pre-kindergarten programs. Without them, enrollment in public schools will wither.

Why, you say?

The 2017 Session of the General Assembly, reversing a key policy set in law in the 2014 General Assembly, has made pre-K students who get a state grant to attend a private pre-school eligible to enroll in that school’s K-12 program with a taxpayer-funded voucher .

The pre-kindergarten law passed in 2014 carried language ensuring no link between pre-kindergarten grants and K-12 vouchers: “The receipt of a grant under the pilot program does not qualify, nor have an effect on the qualification or eligibility, of a child for a Choice Scholarship.”

In the recently concluded 2017 session, the House passed a pre-K bill (HB 1004) to reverse this language and make pre-K grants a pipeline to K-12 vouchers. The Senate later deleted the House language on this point and again removed pre-K grants as a pathway to expanding K-12 vouchers.

In the Conference Committee to reconcile the different House and Senate versions, the House won. Pre-K grants are now the latest pathway to K-12 vouchers, the eighth pathway.

This result has tremendous implications for Indiana’s public schools. If public schools want to enroll kindergarten students, they must now make immediate plans to establish pre-K programs to compete with private pre-K programs which now plan to lift their market share of K-12 students one pre-K student at a time.

As the pre-K program expands, all state-funded pre-K students could end up in private K-12 schools using a voucher unless quality public school options are available for pre-K as well.

If public schools decide to leave pre-K programs to private schools, HB 1004 will lead to the enrollment of most of the pre-K students on state grants into private school kindergartens, and into private school first grades the year after that.

Through House Bill 1004, private school advocates can now set plans to recruit every pre-K student to private pre-schools, taking away future public school students and filling up current private K-12 schools as well as national franchise private schools coming in the future.

For survival in the next decade, it is now clear that public schools must begin or expand quality pre-kindergarten programs.


The Conference Committee on House Bill 1004

The Conference Committee had to reconcile several differences between the House and Senate pre-K bills, but the issue with the most K-12 impact was the provision to give vouchers to those with pre-K grants in private K-12 schools that accept vouchers.

The language of the Conference Committee was trimmed from the original bill. Eligibility was secured for each pre-K student that “continues to attend the eligible school at which the individual attended a prekindergarten program.” The language left is plenty to force an unfunded mandate on public schools that want to compete for kindergarten students.

House conferees won one more expansion of voucher eligibility. Now as pre-K students with state grants move to kindergarten, they are eligible for a voucher. Projecting growth in pre-K over many years, voucher advocates no doubt were determined to secure this pathway to K-12 vouchers because it obviously could result in nearly universal vouchers as the goal of universal pre-K is reached.

Senator Melton, who worked hard to break the link between pre-K grants and K-12 vouchers, refused to sign the conference committee report and was replaced at the last minute by Senator Raatz.

The Fiscal Cost of Expanded K-12 Vouchers in HB 1004

In addition to the new funding for pre-K expansion, extra fiscal costs will be required to pay for the K-12 voucher commitments this new law makes to pre-K students who stay in voucher schools for kindergarten. In estimating those extra costs, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency found that “in FY 2017, there were 171 children attending preschool at Choice Scholarship schools” in the current programs. Then as a foreshadow of additional costs in future years, the LSA stated “As more students participate in the Pilot Programs, more Choice Scholarships would be awarded if participants choose to apply for Choice Scholarships and capacity is available in participating Choice Scholarship schools.”

You get the picture. There is enormous potential for growth and extra voucher costs.

As for now, basing potential costs on the 171 students now in the program, LSA stated “if all children enroll in Choice programs, and they would not have attended public school otherwise, there would be an increase in expenditures of $738,378 in FY2018 and $748,638 in FY2019.”

Paying for students to go to private school when they always planned to go to private school carries a significant fiscal cost.

Final Votes

In the final votes on the Conference Committee Report, support for pre-K expansion carried the day. The House approved the bill 82-16 and the Senate approved the bill 31-19.

The fight to stop K-12 voucher expansion through pre-K programs was lost in the closed door discussions of the Conference Committee.

Now public school leaders need to respond to this unfunded mandate to expand quality pre-K programs.

Thanks to all who sent messages to legislators to break the link between pre-K and K-12 voucher expansion.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!


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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #297 – April 29, 2017

Dear Friends,

The 120th General Assembly reduced the powers of voters. Democracy in Indiana has taken a hit.

In the historic final vote on Tuesday April 18th, the power of voters to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was ended after 166 years. The power taken away from the voters was given to the Governor.

Starting in 2025, the Governor will appoint a Secretary of Education. The Governor is not required to appoint someone with K-12 experience. The illusory language of the bill leaves the impression that K-12 experience is required but when the words are examined closely, K-12 is not mentioned.

With this vote, democracy in Indiana was diminished.

For 166 years, voters could pick a State Superintendent who had an independent mandate from the electorate as the education leader in Indiana. Now, more power has been handed to the Governor. Voters who want to influence the direction of education policy in Indiana had better focus on the race for Governor.

If the privatization of public education in Indiana is to be reversed, voters will need to find a candidate for Governor who will be a champion for public education. After 2020, voters will no longer be able send a message to change the direction of education in Indiana by voting for a State Superintendent as they did in 2012.


House Bill 1005 – From Decisive Defeat to the Governor’s Desk

House Bill 1005 took a nearly unprecedented path to reach the final vote:
  • House Bill 1005 passed the House 68-29.
  • SB 179, identical to HB 1005, failed in the Senate 23-26. Many thought defeating the bill would end the proposal for this session.
  • Senate rules say that when a bill is defeated “that exact language or substantially similar language shall be considered decisively defeated and shall not be considered again during the session.”
  • In a Senate Rules Committee meeting in which Democrats pointedly argued that the rules say “shall not be considered again during the session,” the Republican leadership claimed that they were making the bill “substantially different.” Republicans had the votes to win the argument.
  • The “substantial differences” were found in three changes:
1) The date of the first appointment by the Governor was changed from 2021 to 2025.

2) A requirement of two years residency in Indiana was reinstated.

3) Qualifications were stated which give the illusion that experience in K-12 education is required to be appointed. In fact, K-12 experience is not mandated, a conclusion confirmed in a statement on the floor of the Senate by the bill’s sponsor Senator Buck while speaking against a proposed amendment: “While we are trying to consider the availability to the Governor of somebody that would be the administrator of our department of ed, I hope we realize that someone with the depth of experience of executive leadership and in higher ed such as former Governor Mitch Daniels would be excluded from that category . I think it gives the Governor a great deal of latitude in looking to somebody that has executive experience in the field of education.”
  • Read carefully the new slippery language on qualifications:
“(2) has demonstrated personal and professional leadership success, preferably in the administration of public education;”

“(3) possesses an earned advanced degree , preferably in education or educational administration, awarded from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university; and”

“(4) either:
(A) at the time of taking office is licensed or otherwise employed as a teacher, principal, or superintendent;

(B) has held a license as a teacher, superintendent, or principal, or any combination of these licenses, for at least five (5) years at any time before taking office; or

(C) has a total of at least five (5) years of work experience as any of the following, or any combination of the following, before taking office:
(i) Teacher.
(ii) Superintendent.
(iii) Principal.
(iv) Executive in the field of education.
  • The word “preferably” has no meaning under the law. It can obviously be ignored. It is surprising that such a word is used in the bill. Using “preferably” means that it is not necessary to appoint a public education administrator to be State Superintendent. Similarly it is not necessary to appoint someone with a degree in education or educational administration.
  • This “preferably” language and the phrase “Executive in the field of education” open the door to appointing a business leader with executive experience in an education field such as testing or technology. Superintendents in Indiana are no longer required to have a superintendent’s license.
  • Another concern is whether it was written for a higher education official to be appointed. No reference to K-12 experience or degrees is included in the amendment. It is not clear that those who wrote this legislation wanted a leader with K-12 experience.
  • After the Senate Rules Committee added these amendments, the full Senate passed the historic bill 28-20.
  • At this point, Speaker Bosma as bill sponsor had a choice. He could take the bill to a conference committee to restore the House’s bill language or he could ask the House to concur with the Senate language. After several days, he decided to opt for a concurrence vote in the House which passed 66-31 on April 18th.

Bi-Partisan Opposition and Partisan Support

For all the discussion of past Democratic leaders wanting this change, the final votes in both the House (66-31)and the Senate (28-20) on HB 1005 showed bi-partisan opposition and, except for one vote, partisan support.

  • In the House, the yes votes were cast by 65 Republicans and one Democrat, Representative Goodin.
  • In the House, the no votes were cast by 28 Democrats and 3 Republicans, Representatives Judy, Nisly and Pressel.
  • In the Senate, all 28 yes votes were cast by Republicans.
  • In the Senate, the no votes were cast by all 9 Democrats and 11 Republicans, Senators Becker, Bohacek, Crane, Glick, Grooms, Head, Kenley, Koch, Kruse, Leising and Tomes.

Will Voters React?

If voters are offended about losing the powers they have had for 166 years, they have only one way to react and that is at the polls in the next election if candidates make this an issue for voters to respond to. It is now up to the candidates.

Speaker Bosma made it clear that he is confident that there will be no voter backlash when he told the IndyStar “they could potentially present bills moving up the implementation date in future legislative sessions.” (April 19, 2017, p. 10A)

No polling has been done to my knowledge about how Hoosier votes feel about losing their power to elect the State Superintendent after 166 years. Some legislators reported that their constituent surveys showed opposition by wide margins to the loss of the power to elect the State Superintendent.

If voters are strongly offended by this power grab by the Governor and the leadership of the supermajority, candidates in the next primary or general election may try to hammer this issue home with voters. If voters are willing to give up this power without a fight, not much will be heard. Whether the action becomes a controversy among voters is now up to the voters and the candidates. Candidates may decide that undermining the power of voters after 166 years is a bipartisan issue that would attract the attention of voters in the 2018 elections.

The Case that Democracy Has Been Diminished

The case that HB 1005 has undermined democracy in Indiana is clear:

The Governor and the State Superintendent, both duly elected by the people, strongly disagreed. Instead of letting the voters settle the disagreement at the next election, which is what elections and democracy are all about, the Governor and the Republican leadership have suppressed future disagreement by ending the independent mandate from voters held by the State Superintendent since 1851, 166 years ago.

Since Governors are elected on many issues and education is a minor issue in gubernatorial campaigns, voters have lost their direct power to correct the course of education when they are motivated to do so, as they were in 2012. Removing public dissent on education in this manner aligns with Milton Friedman’s plan to gradually deconstruct public education and fund a marketplace of private schools with public tax dollars.

Will this mean that the days of electing the Attorney General, the Auditor and the Treasurer are now numbered to avoid conflict and to give more power to the Governor? Are we on a slippery slope to a weaker and weaker democracy where the power of the ballot box is diminished?

Are Voters Angry?

Time will tell if voters are angry enough about this issue to bring it to the next election. If you as a voter feel strongly about losing your power to elect the Indiana State Superintendent, you should talk with candidates or potential candidates who might carry your message in the next election. As we have all seen nationally, calls to repeal laws can become potent campaign issues.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

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 is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. 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 www.icpe2011.com 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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