Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #305 – October 24, 2017

Dear Friends,

As he retires after 25 years in the Senate, Senator Kenley can be thanked for using his power and experience to be the driving force in adding $72 million to K-12 funding in the two-year budget passed last April.

$72 million more for K-12 students!

Senator Kenley’s retirement was effective September 30th. Obviously, he will be missed.

Here’s How Senator Kenley Influenced the K-12 Budget
  • In January, Governor Holcomb’s budget proposed to add $280 million to the two-year K-12 budget, with a totally inadequate 1% increase in the first year. A 1% increase would be treating public schools as if we were still in the Great Recession.
Strike one.
  • In February, the House of Representatives budget proposed to add even less: $273 million. They also proposed a mere 1% increase in the first year.
Strike two. Prospects for K-12 funding looked dismal.
  • Then in April, the Senate budget controlled primarily by Senator Kenley as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee added $358 million to the K-12 budget, $85 million more than the House proposal.
That was both great news for public schools and a measure of Senator Kenley’s influence on K-12 funding.

Strike three never came, thanks in large part to the influence of Senator Kenley.
The final budget was then negotiated by Senator Kenley, Chair of Senate Appropriations and Representative Brown, Chair of House Ways and Means to resolve differences in the two houses. Negotiations will sometimes simply split the differences in the two budgets, but that didn’t happen. Senator Kenley’s final negotiations with the House ended up with a budget giving K-12 funding an added $345 million over two years, $72 million more than the original House budget.

We should all thank Senator Kenley for running one more time and for using his final session to stand up for K-12 funding.

Answering the Questions

Some observers questioned why Senator Kenley ran for re-election if he wasn’t going to serve out his final term of office. His response to those questions was reported in the Indianapolis Star (7/6/17, p. 1) when he announced his retirement on July 5th: “Kenley said Wednesday that he ran last year to ensure that the two-year budget lawmakers passed earlier this year included a long-term road funding plan and maintained spending levels on K-12 education. With those goals accomplished, it felt like the right time to move on, he said.”

Public school advocates should be glad he was there and working to maintain K-12 funding on the Senate side, because the Governor and the House were willing to let K-12 funding levels slip to Great Recession levels.

We are fortunate Senator Kenley decided to run one more time to impact K-12 funding in the right direction. It wasn’t an easy election for him. He was challenged in the primary by a candidate strongly funded by pro-voucher groups, but he withstood the challenge with the help of many public school supporters.

Senator Kenley had good support from other Senators on the Appropriations Committee to lift K-12 funding well above the skimpy House proposal, especially from Senator Mishler, chair of the School Funding Subcommittee and a long-time supporter of public education. It is very good news for public education advocates that Senator Mishler has been named to replace Senator Kenley as chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Will Lackadaisical Funding for K-12 Become the Norm?

Since legislation passed in 2011 giving public money to private schools, I have been extremely concerned that legislators would grow lackadaisical about funding K-12 education to the level that our public school students need and deserve, citing the excuse that if parents don’t like the schooling their child is receiving, they can make another choice. Low priority on K-12 funding is now a consistent danger. This low priority is what we saw in the House budget, but Senator Kenley and his Senate colleagues were willing to press the issue for better K-12 funding, leading the way to $72 million more for our public school students.

As he retires, Senator Kenley should be thanked 72 million times for standing up in the budget debates for much needed K-12 funding.

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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