Monday, March 27, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #289 – March 27, 2017

Dear Friends,

This morning, the Senate Rules Committee decided that even though the bill to appoint the State Superintendent was “decisively defeated” on February 20th, they could revive it this session by amending it. The amended bill passed the committee 8-4 on a party line vote.

Check out the confusing new amendment, which is quoted below.

Ask your Senator and all Senators to stop diminishing the voter’s role in our democracy by maintaining the powers of Hoosier voters to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

House Bill 1005: The Governor Wants to Appoint the State Superintendent

Let’s review the story of HB 1005:
  • After 166 years, Speaker Bosma and the Governor really want to end the power of the voters to elect the State Superintendent.
  • The Senate voted down the bill to do so 23-26 on February 20th.
  • Senate Rule 81E (as quoted in the IndyStar) says when a bill is defeated “that exact language or substantially similar language shall be considered decisively defeated and shall not be considered again during the session.”
  • All four Democrats on the Rules Committee today made comments objecting to the way Senate Rule 81E is being skirted.
  • Senator Lanane made an impassioned statement that the changes being offered to get around Senate Rule 81E were just “window dressing.” “The heart of the bill” he said is to appoint the State Superintendent. He said this action is “diminishing the rule!” He said “This should not have been considered.”
  • Senator Randolph said this move to get around the Senate rule would hurt the “Senate’s credibility in the public eye.”
  • Chairman Long ruled against all objections and called on Speaker Bosma to present the bill and on Senator Hershman to present the amendment to HB 1005 which would allow compliance with Rule 81E.
  • The amendment changes the starting date to 2025, rather than 2021.
  • Secondly, the amendment reinstates the residency requirement: “has resided in Indiana for at least two (2) years before the appointment.”
  • Thirdly, the amendment sets qualifications. This needs to be quoted in its entirety for you to see the confusion that is possible when you take the power out of the voter’s hands:
“(2) has demonstrated personal and professional leadership success, preferably in the administration of public education;” (Editorial note: “preferably”???)

“(3) possesses an earned advanced degree, preferably in education or educational administration, awarded from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university; and” (Editorial note: “preferably” again???)

“(4) either:
(A) at the time of taking office is licensed or otherwise employed as a teacher, principal, or superintendent;

(B) has held a license as a teacher, superintendent, or principal, or any combination of these licenses, for at least five (5) years at any time before taking office; or

(C) has a total of at least five (5) years of work experience as any of the following, or any combination of the following, before taking office:
(i) Teacher.
(ii) Superintendent.
(iii) Principal.
(iv) Executive in the field of education.
I had to quote the exact language of the amended bill for you to understand my question: Is this confusing list what we have come to after 166 years of letting the voters sort it all out in the process of our democracy?

Can’t we instead trust the voters to select a qualified State Superintendent? Isn’t that what our democracy is all about?

Concerns about the New Amendment

This amendment is not ready for prime time!

The word “preferably” has no meaning under the law. It can obviously be ignored. It is surprising that such a word is used in the bill. Using “preferably” means that it is not necessary to appoint an educator to be State Superintendent. Similarly it is not necessary to appoint someone with a degree in education or educational administration.

My impression is that the amendment was written so that an MBA from the business world could fill the position after being employed as a superintendent. Superintendents are no longer required to have a superintendent’s license in Indiana.

Another concern is whether it was written for a higher education official to be appointed. No reference to K-12 experience or degrees is included in the amendment.

Let your Senators know how you feel about the new amendment. Let them know how you feel about taking the power to select the State Superintendent away from voters and giving it to the Governor.

If all 26 Senators maintain their no vote, the power of voters will not be diminished. They need to hear from voters loudly and clearly on this issue, and soon. The leadership is likely to seek action on the floor of the Senate this week.

Once again, the 26 Senators who voted no on February 20th are as follows:

Senator Becker Senator Glick Senator Leising Senator Stoops
Senator Bohacek Senator Grooms Senator Melton Senator Tallian
Senator Breaux Senator Head Senator Mishler Senator Taylor
Senator Crane Senator Kenley Senator Mrvan Senator Tomes
Senator Crider Senator Koch Senator Niemeyer Senator Young
Senator Doriot Senator Kruse Senator Niezgodski
Senator Ford Senator Lanane Senator Randolph

The 23 Senators who voted yes on February 20th but now should be asked to take a principled stand on Senate Rule 81E to call this bill “decisively defeated” are as follows:

Senator Alting Senator Charbonneau Senator Houchin Senator Ruckelshaus
Senator Bassler Senator Delph Senator Long Senator Sandlin
Senator Boots Senator Eckerty Senator Merritt Senator Smith
Senator Bray Senator Freeman Senator Messmer Senator Walker
Senator Brown Senator Hershman Senator Perfect Senator Zay
Senator Buck Senator Holdman Senator Raatz

One Senator who was excused and did not vote on the bill was Senator Zakas, who should also be contacted on these points.

Contact Senators to Keep the Power in the Hands of Voters

If you want to maintain your power as a voter in our democracy, it’s time to go to work. Contact any and all Senators to:
  • Tell them how you feel about keeping or losing the power to elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
  • Tell them how you feel about the wording of the new amendment cited above. 
  • Tell them how you feel about Senate Rule 81E and the Senators’ rationale to pass a “decisively defeated” bill.
Will Indiana voters defend their powers? It’s up in the air. Voters are about to lose a big one if they are not heard loudly and clearly in the next few days.

I was one of four speakers who spoke against the bill this morning, while three spoke for the bill. The Senators need to hear from the voters.

In this era of activism, the voters of Indiana who don’t want to lose their powers in our democracy need to go to work!

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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