Friday, November 2, 2018

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #46– November 1, 2018

Dear Friends,

“Vic’s Election Notes on Education” contain commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements.
There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.


The biggest threat to public education in Indiana is Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s).

ESA’s are in line with Milton Friedman’s plan to do away with public education. His plan was to stop funding public schools and instead give the money to parents.

This radical proposal was thoroughly rejected in the Indiana Senate in 2017. Now two candidates, one in Indiana House District 59 and one in House District 17, want to resurrect ESA legislation. They should be actively opposed in this election by all who support public education.

In this election season, candidates are listening to voters. Voters should let all candidates for the Indiana General Assembly know that Education Savings Accounts are a terrible idea (see below) and any candidate supporting ESA’s will lose their vote.

[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

House District 59 – An open seat after the retirement of Representative Milo Smith

In House District 59 (a large portion of Bartholomew County), I oppose ESA supporter Ryan Lauer, a Republican. I endorse his opponent Columbus North math teacher Dale Nowlin, a Democrat, and I urge all who support public education to do so as well.

Ryan Lauer tried to oust incumbent Republican Representative Milo Smith in the 2016 primary election, saying at the time that his primary reason for running was to bring ESA’s to Indiana. Without explaining that diverting the dollars from public schools would hurt the education of all current public school students and without saying that any student who meets the income guidelines can already go to a private school with a voucher, Mr. Lauer wrote in his January 28, 2016 candidacy announcement that “I will sponsor legislation to bring Education Savings Accounts to Indiana which place more power and greater choice in the hands of parents so that each child has the opportunity to attend the school that works best for them regardless of income.”

He apparently wants to have taxpayers pay the private school tuition for wealthy families and also for home schools, which would be a new and expensive step with no accountability for student outcomes and with a clear potential for fraud. His 2018 website has nearly identical words supporting Education Savings Accounts.

House District 17 – Now held by incumbent Representative Jack Jordan

In House District 17 (all of Marshall County and a large portion of Fulton County), I endorse Michelle Livinghouse over incumbent Representative Jack Jordan in order to stop the attack on public education through ESA’s, and I urge all who support public education to do so as well.

Representative Jordan, a Republican, said in October 2018 in an interim study committee that he supports ESA’s for students with special needs and is considering new ESA legislation, according to a an article in Chalkbeat (Oct. 4, 2018).

We’ve been down this path before. Voters need to speak out now against ESA’s.

The concept of “Educational Savings Accounts” for special education students, which candidates Lauer and Jordan now want to resurrect, was thoroughly rejected in 2017 in Senate Bill 534. The concept is so detrimental to high educational standards and to maintaining accountability with public tax money that it should be abandoned outright as soon as possible.

Why are Educational Savings Accounts so detrimental to education standards in Indiana and to accountability?
1) ESA’s would give public money on a debit card to parents who sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” That’s all! It’s a narrow, unregulated, skimpy education. No art, no music, no physical education, no health, no vocational subjects. This would absolutely lower standards for students just as standards for public school students are being raised to higher levels.

2) 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 in Indiana law.

3) The plan would give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students. This would remove all income limits for this form of voucher. This vast expansion led LSA in 2017 to cite the bill cost as “between $144 million and $206 million.”

4) The plan would give the basic per pupil amount plus the entire amount of public money for special education students directly to parents, paving the way for the real goal detailed in HB 1591 in the 2015 session 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 undermines the very concept of schools.

5) The plan 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.

6) The plan would give tax money to parents without strong provisions for fraud protection and no defined penalties for fraud. Parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse are not excluded.

7) While public schools are pushed to ever higher standards, individual families would be allowed by this plan 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 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. This concept is too radical and potentially damaging for any further action.

I urge all public school advocates to share your opposition to ESA’s with your own candidates for the Indiana General Assembly. Between now and Tuesday’s election, candidates will be listening and trying to get your vote. This is the best time to secure their opposition to ESA’s in the coming session.

Then share your concerns with voters you may know in District 59 to support Dale Nowlin and with voters you may know in District 17 to support Michelle Livinghouse.

ESA’s would put public education in Indiana into a death spiral. Your efforts can prevent that outcome. If public education is going to survive in Indiana, voters will make all the difference.

Thank you for actively supporting public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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. In April, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.


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