Monday, March 6, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #283 – March 6, 2017

Dear Friends,

A major expansion of K-12 vouchers is included in the pre-kindergarten expansion bill, House Bill 1004.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 1004 in their next meeting on Wednesday, March 8 at 1:30pm in the Senate Chamber.

If you can’t come to testify against the bill, I urge you to contact members of the committee before the Wednesday afternoon meeting to ask them to:

  • break the link between pre-K grants and K-12 vouchers, just as the Senators did in their own pre-K bill, Senate Bill 276.
  • amend HB 1004 to delete Sections 21 and 22 that guarantee lifetime voucher eligibility for any student who ever received a pre-K grant “at any time”. These sections are not needed to expand pre-K.
  • amend HB 1004 to undelete Section 18, language in current law that 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 There is no reason this language should be repealed to plunge the debate into an argument about the privatization of our public schools.
The members of the Senate Education Committee to contact are:

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

Democratic Senators Melton, Mrvan and Stoops
We must not entwine a highly controversial expansion of the K-12 private school voucher program with the much needed pre-K program.

Expanding K-12 Vouchers is Nearly as Expensive to Taxpayers as the Pre-K Expansion

House Bill 1004 makes every student that gets a pre-kindergarten grant eligible for a K-12 voucher for the rest of their 13 years of K-12 schooling. Some 2300 pre-K students would become eligible now based on the pre-K grants they have already received.

Eventually as the pre-K program grows to nearly universal levels, the expense of a K-12 voucher for nearly all students would fall on taxpayers as well.

The latest Legislative Services Agency fiscal note (Feb. 7) lists scenarios where pre-K students use a voucher to go on to kindergarten when they would “not attend public school otherwise” as costing the state between $5.9 million and $10.5 million, depending on whether family income would give them a 50% voucher or a 90% voucher. If all pre-K students “would have attended public school otherwise” but took a voucher instead, LSA says the state could save up to $4 million.

If the projected cost to taxpayers of $10 million turns out to be accurate, that means that the cost in HB 1004 for expanding K-12 vouchers is as high as the additional $10 million for pre-K expansion in the House budget.

Adding a K-12 voucher component to the pre-K bill doesn’t make sense in the budget.

I opposed HB 1004 in the House hearing because of this expensive and inappropriate link between pre-K and K-12 vouchers. This link does not currently exist in the pre-K pilot program, and it should not start now.

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, 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 family income guideline ($89,900). Thus, students attending public pre-K programs would also be eligible for a taxpayer-funded voucher. This provision, as cited above, could cost millions.

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

This bill would lock in eligibility for every child who receives a pre-school grant either from state funds or from private matching grant funds to receive a private school voucher for the next 13 years through high school.

Expanding to Higher Income Families

House Bill 1004 not only provides a lifetime private school voucher to every student receiving a pre-school grant, but it provides the voucher to wealthier families. HB 1004 expands eligibility for a school voucher to a family of four making $89,900, far more generous than the $67,432 income limit applied to most current applicants for a K-12 voucher. Only disabled students are currently allowed a voucher with the expanded $89,900 income cap.

All this makes HB 1004 the biggest K-12 voucher expansion since the 2013 session!

We must not make this important step for pre-school part of the march to privatize public education in Indiana.

I urge you to contact members of the Senate Education Committee before Wednesday (March 8) at 1:30pm to ask them to amend House Bill 1004 to delete Sections 21 and 22 and to restore Section 18 which is our current law quoted above separating pre-K grants and K-12 vouchers.

Ask them to amend House Bill 1004 to read like the Senate’s bill (SB 276) in expanding preschool without expanding K-12 private school vouchers.

We need to expand pre-K programs but it should not be done with a major increase in the K-12 voucher program.

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 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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