Sunday, February 12, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #275 – February 12, 2017

Dear Friends,

If you are a voter, read this one right away.

The power of voters in Indiana is about to be reduced. Our democracy faces another hit.

As a voter, you can speak out to retain your power (1) as the Senate votes Monday on Senate Bill 179 and (2) at a Tuesday hearing on House Bill 1005. Both bills would remove from voters the power to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

  • Governor Holcomb wants the General Assembly to take away the power voters now have to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and let him appoint a “secretary of education”.
I disagree. Voters have had that power for 166 years since 1851, and voters should retain their current power to shape education policy in Indiana through electing this independent office.
  • Governor Holcomb wants the General Assembly to remove the residency requirement that the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction be an Indiana resident for at least two years, opening the door to out-of-staters with no background in the history or development of Indiana’s schools.
I disagree. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction should be a leader who knows Indiana schools from personal experience.

  • Governor Holcomb wants the General Assembly to open up the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction to anyone who will serve “at the pleasure of and at a salary determined by the governor”. No qualifications are stated in HB 1005. Teaching experience or teaching licenses are not mentioned.
I disagree. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction should be a skilled and respected educator with experience in Indiana’s public schools. Voters have seen to that for 166 years, but making the office an executive appointment could give us a Betsy DeVos-like candidate with no teaching experience. That should not happen. I say we should leave it to the voters!
If you disagree with Governor Holcomb and want to retain your power as a voter, prompt action is needed:
1) The Senate has scheduled SB 179 for Monday Feb. 13th (tomorrow) for a vote on Senator Kenley’s amendment to first allow an advisory statewide referendum of all voters on this question before an historic change of this magnitude is approved. Contact any and all Senators before Monday at 1:30pm to say you support the referendum amendment and you oppose the bill taking power away from the voters.

2) Testimony for and against House Bill 1005 which would fulfill Governor Holcomb’s wish to appoint the State Superintendent will be heard in the House Education Committee this Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in the House Chamber. The meeting begins at 8:30am.

If you oppose removing this part of our heritage from the control of voters, you have a chance to show up Tuesday to speak against the bill.

If you can’t get to the Statehouse Tuesday, I urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee about your opposition to HB 1005 before the Tuesday meeting.
The members of the House Education Committee are:

Republican Representatives Behning, Cook, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Jordan, Lucas, Thompson and Wesco

Democratic Representatives V. Smith, DeLaney, Errington and Klinker.

The 1851 Constitution Made the State Superintendent an Independent Office Elected by the Voters

Since 1851, voters have controlled who serves as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The 1851 Constitution set the term of office as two years, and included the State Superintendent as a state official to be elected. A constitutional amendment in 1970 took the office out of the Constitution and gave the power to the General Assembly to decide how the State Superintendent would be chosen. The General Assembly at that time passed a law setting a four year term which first took effect with Harold Negley’s election in 1972.

Now in 2017, Governor Holcomb and Speaker Bosma, the sponsor of HB 1005, want to cut the voters out of the selection process.

If You Speak Against the Bill, You Will Not Be Alone

When this same concept was brought to the Senate Elections Committee on February 6, Senate Bill 179 passed 6-3, but it had the opposition of both Democratic Senator Tim Lanane, Senate Minority Leader and Republican Senator Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee. In fact, the bill was routed through the Senate Elections Committee rather than the Senate Education Committee because of the opposition of Senator Kruse.

Senator Kruse was quoted in the Indianapolis Star (Feb. 7, page 1A): “I am a strong believer in the election of the superintendent. I have been my whole life and will continue to be. I think it’s better to have the position elected than appointed. I think it gives another voice to the people.”


For the people, however, to keep this voice, they are going to have to speak up promptly!

Voters Will Have to Speak Up for the Power of Voters

The power of voters is under attack here, and individual voters will need to speak out directly if they are going to turn this agenda around. We have seen it time and time again in this election cycle. People have turned out to express their positions. Will they turn out to retain the power of voters in choosing Indiana’s State Superintendent?

First, contact your Senator or all Senators to support the referendum amendment to SB 179 when it comes up on second reading on Monday.

Second, if you have strong feelings about taking this power away from voters, come and testify on Tuesday in the House Chamber. You can state your opposition in four sentences, but your presence would make a difference. Nothing about the process is convenient, but that is way it is. The meeting begins at 8:30 am. To testify on House Bill 1005, you need to sign in before 8:30 after going through security at the east or west doors and then wait to be called in the meeting, which can often be a long time.

It depends on how offended you feel as a voter that after 166 years you will no longer have a say in the selection of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Is anyone concerned about this diminishing power of voters in our democracy?

Of course, the Governor would like more power. Is anyone concerned that there will be no checks and balances on the Governor’s policies on education from an independently elected State Superintendent?

The ongoing historic debate of the past forty years has been over privatization and whether public money should be given to private schools. These bills to give the governor more power in this fundamental debate won’t take politics out of education as some have said but will only focus the historic privatization question on the governor’s race, which is also influenced by a myriad of other issues. Education will get lost in the shuffle of election issues.

Is anyone concerned that the name will change under HB 1005 from “State Superintendent of Public Instruction” to “Secretary of Education”? This is clearly a major step in the ongoing effort to unravel the long and proud heritage of public education in Indiana.

Here is your chance to stand up for your own power as a voter in our diminishing democracy! Contact Senators about SB 179 on Monday. Contact House members or come to the Statehouse on Tuesday regarding HB 1005 to speak up to retain the power that voters have had since 1851 to choose the State Superintendent.

Thanks 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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