Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #307 – December 18, 2017

Dear Friends,

The short session of the General Assembly beginning January 3rd will bring another frontal attack on public education to privatize education in a new way.

This attack will be in addition to debates about whether to fund controversial unfunded mandates for new graduation requirements passed by the State Board of Education on December 6th.

Demoralized public school educators don’t need another attack on public education. They came out in force to oppose the graduation requirements because adequate funding and specifics were not clear. The pleas of over 60 educators and parents who spoke against the plan were ignored by the State Board in a 7-4 vote.

Now a new attack is coming from a different direction.

Senator Raatz has again prepared a bill to undermine public school programs for special education students by creating “Education Savings Accounts”, a terrible idea promoted heavily by well funded groups that support privatizing education. The idea is detailed below.

The concept of “Educational Savings Accounts” for special education students is so detrimental to high educational standards and to maintaining accountability with public tax money that it should be rejected outright as soon as possible. It undermines the very concept of schooling.

After noting the huge problems of “Education Savings Accounts” listed below, I urge you to do three things:
1) Contact your own legislators in the House and Senate to tell them you deeply oppose “Education Savings Accounts”. Urge them to say absolutely no to ESA’s in their caucus meetings. The strongest voices for this effort would be parents of special education students who don’t want to see the services and funding for their children’s school programs eroded by this plan. Tell legislators that giving serious attention to radical ideas that undercut public education contributes to the demoralization of dedicated public schools educators, a direct cause of early retirements, reduced recruitment of young teachers and teacher shortages.

2) Contact Senator Kruse, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and urge him to stop the bill on “Education Savings Accounts” by not giving it a hearing. In February 2017 he allowed a hearing on Senator Raatz’s Senate Bill 534, but he announced before the hearing began that he would not allow a vote on the bill after the hearing. That move to stop the bill in the 2017 session was greatly appreciated. Ask Senator Kruse to protect the concept of public education in 2018 by stopping Senator Raatz’s bill on “Education Savings Accounts” again.

3) Contact Senator Raatz of Richmond to ask him to give up the idea of “Education Savings Accounts” due to their toxic impact undermining the funding for special education programs in public schools across Indiana that are doing outstanding work and clearly need stable funding.
Why would Education Savings Accounts threaten the existence of public education? Why are Educational Savings Accounts so detrimental to education standards in Indiana and to accountability?

Changes may be made in new bills filed in the 2018 session. This list of serious concerns is based directly on “Education Savings Account” bills filed in both 2016 and 2017.
1) Based on bills filed in both the House and the Senate in 2016 and 2017, ESA’s would put in place Milton Friedman’s blueprint to end public education by giving public money directly to parents on a debit card. All parents would get a debit card of approximately $6000 which currently goes to schools. Parents of special education students would be eligible to get an additional $500 to $9000 currently given to the school to pay for special education services for various levels of disability. Senator Raatz’s bill which was given a hearing in February 2017 only applied to special education and Section 504 health impaired students. Other bills have been filed in the House in 2016 and 2017 which would apply to all students.

2) To get the money, parents merely have to sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” That’s all! It’s an unregulated and narrow education. No art, no music, no physical education, no health, no vocational subjects. This would absolutely lower standards for students while standards for public school students are being raised to higher and higher levels for testing and for graduation.

3) The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or evaluation or public accountability of student achievement. This is just wrong and in total contrast to testing and accountability laws for Indiana schools.

4) ESA’s would give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students. For these students, all income limits would be removed. Under current law, the State gives vouchers to disabled students when families earn less than $89,900 for a family of four. This vast expansion led LSA to cite Senator Raatz’s bill filed in 2017 to cost “between $144 million and $206 million.” Unacceptable!

5) ESA’s would give the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents, paving the way for the real goal to give the entire amount of public money to parents of all students on a debit card. These bills to privatize schooling would immediately divert money away from our public school students and over time would undermine funding for all students in both public schools and private voucher schools. This bill thus undermines the very concept of schools.

6) ESA’s would allow parents to home school their child with public money, paying for an approved provider, for a tutor and for textbooks. Public school parents would surely like to have the state pay for their textbooks as well, but public school parents must pay their own textbook rental.

7) The plan would give public money to parents with extremely weak provisions for fraud protection and no defined penalties for fraud. Parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse or welfare fraud are not excluded.

8) While public schools are pushed to ever higher standards, individual families would be allowed to adopt lower standards. That is not right.
If this concept is not decisively rejected, it will confirm the theory that all of the standards and testing regulations heaped upon our public schools have just been techniques to make privatized vouchers and Education Savings Accounts look attractive to individual parents, giving them an incentive to leave the public schools or even the voucher schools to run home schools or independent schools with taxpayer money.

This bill’s concept is based on Milton Friedman’s plan to end community public schools. It should be totally and promptly rejected by the General Assembly. If this concept is not decisively rejected, the future of public education in Indiana is bleak. Our hard working but demoralized teachers and administrators in Indiana would take this bill as a signal that General Assembly is ready to put public education into a death spiral, and some would make plans to leave for other states or other vocations, making our teacher shortage even worse.

This concept is too radical and potentially damaging for any further action. Legislators should absolutely reject “Education Savings Accounts.”

Let your legislators, along with Senators Kruse and Raatz as noted above, know that you support strong and well funded public education and that you oppose “Education Savings Accounts” that would lower educational standards and undermine funding for our public schools. This attack must be resisted.

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 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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