Monday, February 6, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #273 – February 6, 2017

Dear Friends,

In its meeting last Tuesday (Jan. 31), the House Education Committee passed the biggest K-12 voucher expansion since the 2013 session.

This voucher expansion is in a high profile bill to expand pre-kindergarten, House Bill 1004.

Senate Bill 276 also expands pre-kindergarten but without expanding vouchers. SB 276 deserves your active support while HB 1004 deserves your active opposition.

I urge all public school advocates to contact members of the Senate Education Committee before they vote on Wednesday February 8th (1:30pm) to support Senate Bill 276 as it stands with no link to K-12 vouchers.

The members of the Senate Education Committee are:

Republican Senators Kruse, Raatz, Bassler, Crane, Freeman, Kenley, Leising and Zay

Democratic Senators Melton, Mrvan and Stoops

Lifetime Vouchers for Pre-K ($6 M to $10.5 M): Approaching Half the Annual Funding for Pre-K Itself

House Bill 1004 gives a lifetime K-12 voucher to any student that gets a pre-kindergarten grant. The bill sets the income cap for this voucher expansion at a high level: $89,900 for a family of four. This is 200% of the reduced lunch income level and higher than most pathways to vouchers which are capped at 150% of the reduce lunch level.

The bill also doubles the number of families that can apply for a pre-K grant and thereby qualify for a lifetime voucher by raising the pre-K income cap from $31,000 to $67,000 (for a family of four).

This expensive voucher guarantee would eventually lead to voucher eligibility for all students.

Universal vouchers have long been the Holy Grail for voucher advocates like Representative Behning. Obviously if they can hitch vouchers to pre-K, they can ride the pre-K escalator up as it eventually expands to reach the goal of universal vouchers.

The expense of the voucher provision hurts the funding available for pre-K students. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency estimated that giving vouchers to all pre-K students could cost the state between $6 and $10.5 million annually. The pre-K plan itself will cost the state $20 million annually. Clearly the money to be spent on vouchers would be better spent on raising the funding to help more pre-K students.

Senate Bill 276 expands the pre-K program without the expensive baggage of expanding the K-12 voucher program. Let Senators know that you support their approach and oppose using the pre-K bill as a cover to further expand K-12 vouchers.

It Could Have Been Worse

The original language of HB 1004 as presented by Representative Behning would have changed the income caps for all 50% vouchers to include all families of four up to $89,900, significantly lifting the current cap of $67,000 which has been in place since the fundamental compromise struck in 2011 to pass the historic voucher bill.

Before voting 9-4 to pass HB 1004, the committee approved Amendment 5 offered by Representative Ed DeLaney, who had detected this huge voucher expansion in the original language. Fortunately, Representative DeLaney’s amendment was approved, keeping the rest of the voucher program under current rules while the debate about voucher eligibility for pre-K students proceeds. Representative DeLaney should be thanked for his excellent work on this point.

Continuity Is Not Mentioned in the Bill Language

Representative Behning, the bill sponsor, claimed that the reason for giving lifetime voucher eligibility to all students receiving pre-K grants is to allow continuity from private and religious pre-school programs to the private and religious kindergarten programs in the same school. His language in the bill, however, does not say that. It says nothing about continuity. It says a voucher will go to any student who has received a pre-K grant “at any time” if they meet the income guideline ($89,900).

That is far more than a continuity rule. That is a pipeline to universal K-12 vouchers.

The program has been running effectively and with the strong support of parents for the past two years without any link to a lifetime voucher. The current language says: “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.”

Senator Kenley put this language in his 2014 bill that got Pre-K started in Indiana. There is no reason this language should be repealed to plunge the debate into an argument about the privatization of our public schools. We are already well behind other states in providing pre-K to young children. Representative Behning supports the Governor in asking for only a $10 million increase while asking for an attached K-12 voucher program that would cost $6 million to $10 million.

Adding K-12 vouchers to pre-K doesn’t make sense in the budget.

Contact Senators on the Education Committee by Wednesday February 8th, 1:30pm

It is time to tell members Senate Education Committee listed above that you support SB 276 in its current language with no link to K-12 voucher expansion!
  • Let them know that it would be wrong to entwine a highly controversial and expensive expansion of the K-12 private school voucher program with the much needed pre-K program.
  • Let them know that you oppose the House pre-K bill (HB 1004) which makes expansion of pre-school part of the march to privatize public education in Indiana.
  • Let them know that you support Senate Bill 276 and that you would strongly oppose any attempt to add amendments to link it to K-12 Choice Scholarships.
Public schools, in spite of their dire financial conditions, would have no choice but to make cuts in other areas to establish preschools to compete in the marketplace that now exists in Indiana. Under policies established by Sections 20 and 21 in HB 1004, public schools would need to be prominent in the pre-K arena in order to get their share of incoming kindergarteners, or their future enrollment would be seriously eroded with all the funding consequences that would bring.

Thank you for your dedicated support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand 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 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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