Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #281 – February 28, 2017

Dear Friends,

The House has voted to tell our K-12 students that money isn’t there for them and school funding must be put back to the levels of the Great Recession.

On Monday (Feb. 27) the Indiana House passed a budget that gives a meager 1.1% increase for our K-12 students for next year, 2017-18. A 1.1% increase matches the 2009-10 budget written in January 2009 in the deepest part of the Great Recession. Also in 2012-13, later in the Great Recession, the K-12 increase was only 1.0%.

Now the supermajority is telling our K-12 students that 2017-18 gets 1.1% again, no better than the Great Recession.

Yet at the same time our public school students are being told that times are bleak, other parts of the budget contradict this pessimism:

  • The surplus will again exceed $2 billion.
  • The House budget added $7 million for more private school scholarships. Tax credits for private school tuition scholarships were lifted to $25 million for the two year budget, up from $18 million during the current biennium.

  • Virtual charter schools were treated generously, getting 100% of the state per pupil amount, instead of the 90% that they have been getting.
The House has let down our K-12 students, increasing total funding only 1.1% in the first year and 1.7% in the second year, figures adding $273 million in new money for K-12 in the two year budget. This is less than what Governor Holcomb recommended ($280 million) and far less than what the 2015 budget added ($474 million).

After a three day break, the General Assembly will return Monday for the second half of the session when the Senate will consider the budget. Public school advocates should contact Senators to make two points:

  • Tell them that they must do better than the House for our K-12 students. A 1.1% increase is simply inadequate and will mean program cuts. 
  • Tell them they should stop the expansion of private school support with tax dollars. Tell them they can put $6 million back into the K-12 budget by freezing the School Scholarship Tax Credits for private school tuition. Better yet, they can put $25 million back into the K-12 budget by canceling the School Scholarship tax credit program altogether, a program that duplicates what private school vouchers do already.

School Funding

On the floor of the House in the budget debate, both Representatives Greg Porter and Vernon Smith pointed out that under the budget proposal, 201 of the 292 public school corporations will either lose money in 2017-18 or will receive less than 1%.

Chair of Ways and Means Representative Tim Brown responded by saying that his job is not to “protect school corporations but to protect school children.” He said he is “agnostic” about corporations but he said the per-child funding goes up in this budget.

I took that as an invitation to look at the per-child funding in the House budget and discovered that it only goes up 0.6% in the first year and 1.4% in the second year, less than the increases for total funding cited above (1.1% and 1.7%).

These are meager increases for our students at a time when we are not in a recession. Despite all that has been said, neither our K-12 students nor our school corporations have been given a priority in the budget.

Our Senators need to hear pointed messages about K-12 funding from parents, educators and community members.

School Scholarships

Indiana really doesn’t need the School Scholarship program established in 2009 since the much bigger and better known Choice Scholarship (voucher) program was passed in 2011.

School Scholarships are given out to private school students for private school tuition by Scholarship Granting Organizations who get their money by taking donations and then authorizing the donors to take 50% of the donation as a credit off of their Indiana income tax. In 2009-10, the first budget for the program was $2.5 million. Private school advocates have grown the annual budget to $9.5 million in 2016-17. Now the new House budget would boost the budget to $12.5 million in both years.

That is a significant amount! That’s $25 million for two years, more than we spend on Alternative Education and the Senator Ford Technology Fund when both are added together!

If the Senate would freeze the budget for School Scholarships at $9.5 million, the Senators would have another $6 million with which to boost the K-12 tuition support for all students. If the Senate would start to roll back this privatization program, it would have even more to help the bottom line for K-12 support.

In 2015, the Senate froze the School Scholarship budget at $7.5 million, but the House pushed to raise it to the current levels.

Ask your Senator or any Senator to freeze or lower School Scholarships and use the money to restore better funding for all K-12 students.

Only the righteous indignation of parents, educators and community members can get the General Assembly to do better for our K-12 students and to stop the expansion of private school scholarships using public tax dollars.

Tell Senators that in the midst of a growing economy, they must do better than 1.1%.

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 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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