Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #279 – February 23, 2017

Dear Friends,

It was great to see so many public school advocates at the “Celebration of Public Education” last Monday!

Monday’s celebration was a fantastic day in the Statehouse. It lifted the spirits of all who came and it buoyed the resolve of supportive legislators, including Representatives Sue Errington and Sheila Klinker, both members of the House Education Committee who addressed the crowd. The day motivated all present to keep up the fight for strong public schools. As our speakers said many times, this is about democracy! We must keep it going!

The displays were great, the lunches were great, the speakers representing parents, educators and clergy were great, and the audience was great!

The day was a great success! Thanks to all who came and to all who couldn’t be present but were there in spirit!

Now let’s go to work. All the message cards to legislators were picked up and used on Monday. Keep those messages going! That is what this work is all about.

In the middle of the speakers, MC Joel Hand brought surprising information that had just come from the Senate Chamber. The Senate had rejected Senate Bill 179, the bill removing the power of voters to select the State Superintendent and giving that power to the Governor. The vote was 23-26!

The Senate respected the power of voters of Indiana and turned down a bill which would overturn the 166 year history of electing the State Superintendent. In addition, the bill removes the two year residency requirement now in law, opening the door to an out-of-state appointee with no personal knowledge of Indiana’s schools. Unbelievably, the bill also sets no requirements to be a teacher or administrator, opening the door to an appointee with no experience in education. This is just wrong!

Apparently, the Senate agreed, and the bill went down.

Listening to the Voters

Since the vote on SB 179, House Speaker Bosma and Governor Holcomb are having trouble listening to the voters and the Senate on this issue. Governor Holcomb still says he wants to appoint his own “secretary of education”, and Speaker Bosma has let it be known he would like to put the language of the House bill which passed on Monday on the same subject (HB 1005) into the budget.

The technique of putting controversial bill language into the budget has long been used as a hammer to get pesky legislators back into line. If it is in the budget, no one in the supermajority would vote against it.

That technique is how the first step was taken in 2009 to give public money to private schools. Tax credits for donors to private school scholarships, a program that cost taxpayers $18 million during this biennium, was passed on the last day in the 2009 special session budget, thus becoming the first domino to fall on Indiana’s path to creeping school privatization.

Tell your legislators, however, that changing the election of the State Superintendent is too big an issue to sneak by using the old budget ploy. We are talking about our Constitutional heritage with a 166 year history. If the people are ready to give up voting for their State Superintendent, there should be a clear and convincing vote of their representatives in the General Assembly. That has not happened this year, and Speaker Bosma and Governor Holcomb should restate their case next year.

Contact your legislators on this issue to say that no back room deals or budget tricks should be used on this one. Since it was voted down in the Senate, they should respect the voters and let it go for this session.

The Indianapolis Star (Feb. 21, p. 3A) quoted a Senate rule regarding a defeated bill that says “that exact language or substantially similar language shall be considered decisively defeated and shall not be considered again during the session.”

It will be up to the voters and the people to hold the Senators to this rule. Remind your Senator or any Senator that this concept has been decisively defeated for this session.

Listening to the Needs of One Million Plus Students

While these issues percolate, the needs of our K-12 students are being ignored in the budget.

The proposed House budget increases the tuition support budget only 1.1% for next year (2017-2018).

The House has put our school children back in the Great Recession.

In the worst part of the Great Recession when the economy was coming unglued in the long session of 2009, the General Assembly wrote a budget that gave public schools a 1.1% increase for 2009-2010. They repeated a 1.0% increase in the budget for 2012-13.

Ask your member of the House: Are we really back to the Great Recession for our school children?

Funding for K-12 tuition support is being given no priority and no urgency by the leaders of the House. They are willing to even raise taxes for roads but expectations for K-12 funding are being backpedaled and nearly ignored.

Only direct and pointed messages from parents, educators and public school advocates can change their budget priorities. Talk to House members and to Senate members about the needs of K-12 students. In the 2015 budget, K-12 funding increased by 2.3% and 2.3% in the two year budget. Here in 2017, as quietly as possible, the House leaders want increases for K-12 students to be 1.1% and 1.7% in the two year budget.

Compare these numbers to the latest inflation rate released Feb. 15th by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2.5% annual increase (from Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2017). Shouldn’t resources for our K-12 students at least keep up with inflation?

If no one speaks out about this, low funding for our K-12 students will prevail and programs will be cut. You know how it works: Superintendents and local school boards have to cut staff and programs, usually arts programs first, and then they get blamed. They should not be blamed for low funding. Now is the time to act to get legislators to raise these unreasonably low K-12 tuition support increases.

Today (Feb. 23rd) the House reviewed amendments to the budget on second reading, rejecting one amendment to restore $5 million per year for teacher professional development, a fund once set at $15 million annually when the 1999 school accountability law passed but zeroed out during the Tony Bennett years.

The budget bill is now ready for the final vote in the House on Monday, Feb. 27th. This weekend is the time to speak up! Tell them they can do better than 1.1% for our students!

Thanks for your advocacy for 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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