Friday, March 10, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #284 – March 10, 2017

Dear Friends,

House Bill 1004, the pre-kindergarten expansion bill, would create yet another pathway for students to receive a K-12 private school voucher. HB 1004 would be the biggest expansion of K-12 vouchers since 2013.

The hearing on HB 1004 was held last Wednesday March 8th, and the committee vote on the bill will be on Wednesday March 15th. Please contact members of the Senate Education Committee before March 15th to say you oppose HB 1004 unless the expansion K-12 vouchers is removed from the bill.

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
From Seven Pathways to Eight: Yet Another Pathway for K-12 Vouchers Would Be Created by HB 1004

Indiana currently has seven pathways to K-12 vouchers, and HB 1004 would create number eight.

Under this bill and this new pathway, any student who gets a pre-K grant “at any time” will get a K-12 voucher as long as their family income meets a generous cap: $89,900 for a family of four.

This is a higher income cap than for any other pathway except for that of disabled students. Most pathways are capped at $67,400 for a family of four (150% of reduced lunch income).

Here are the other seven pathways and the number of vouchers they created in 2016-17, numbers found in the latest (Feb., 2017) report on vouchers recently released by the Indiana Department of Education:

Continuing Choice 25,020
Previous Choice 610
Previous SGO 2,330
Two-Semesters 2,828
Special Education 1,140
F School 178
Sibling 2,193

Total 34,299

The report says that the voucher total (34,299) has gone up by only 1600 since the previous year (32,686). This is the smallest increase in the voucher program’s 6-year history (since 2011). Yet the reported cost of the program went up by about $12 million, jumping from $134 million up to $146 million. Despite the added costs to taxpayers, the number of private school students in Indiana actually went down by 316 students this year (2016-17) compared to last year (2015-16).

One would think that if taxpayers paid an additional $12 million this year for vouchers that the total enrollment in private schools would go up, but it did not go up. Enrollment dropped by over 300 students.

How could this be? How could private school voucher numbers and costs go up when fewer students are attending private schools?

The answer is that more students who have always gone to private schools are finding ways in the rules to get a voucher. The new report provides data showing that 54.6% of all voucher students have never before attended a public school, up from 52.4% last year (2015-16).
It is not about making a new choice. It is about getting taxpayers to subsidize the private school tuition for a choice already made.

This is how our public education system in Indiana, a heritage of 180 years of work by those who came before us, is being privatized.

Now HB 1004 is trying to expand K-12 vouchers once again in a new way. Rep. Behning’s bill would add “Pre-K Grant” as the eighth pathway that students could use to claim a voucher without ever trying a public school. Governor Daniels when he established our voucher system said it should be set up to “try public schools first”, but Governor Pence threw his predecessor’s advice under the bus in 2013.

The eighth pathway would be an expensive addition to the pathways, perhaps as much as $10 million for new vouchers in the first year alone, according to the Legislative Services Agency.

Ask the Senators to save taxpayer money by deleting the K-12 voucher expansion in HB 1004.

The Committee Hearing on HB 1004 – March 8, 2017

Last Wednesday, of 25 speakers who testified on HB 1004 during the two and a half hour hearing:
  • 11 focused solely on the importance of expanding pre-K
  • 10 spoke against linking pre-K grants with an expansion of K-12 vouchers
  • 4 spoke in favor of linking pre-K grants with K-12 vouchers.
As you see, the position that we should break the link between pre-K grants and guaranteed K-12 vouchers was well represented. There was great testimony given by parents from the community on this point.

The testimony made it clear how the Senators could refocus the bill solely to expand pre-kindergarten programs:
  • amend HB 1004 to delete Sections 21 and 22 that guarantee voucher eligibility for any student who ever received a pre-K grant “at any time” up to an income of $89,900 for a family of four. These sections are only about K-12 voucher eligibility and 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. Senator Kenley is a member of this Senate Education Committee. His language should be preserved to focus HB 1004 on pre-K expansion rather than turning it into an argument about the privatization of our public schools.
Tell the Senators that with these changes, HB 1004 would become a good bill to expand pre-K. Without these changes, HB 1004 should be defeated and pre-K expansion should be handled through Senate Bill 276 which the Senate has already passed and carries no link between expanding pre-K and expanding K-12 vouchers.

I urge you to contact your Senator and the Senators on the Senate Education Committee listed above this weekend or at least before the committee votes on Wednesday March 15th at 1:30pm.

We must not entwine a highly controversial expansion of the K-12 private school voucher program with the much needed pre-K program.

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