Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #332 – February 12, 2019

Dear Friends,

Update on House Bill 1641

Your opposition to egregious parts of HB 1641 has helped immensely. Amendment 18 adopted yesterday, Feb. 11, by the House Education Committee drops all language requiring public school boards to share general referendum funding with charter schools in the district. Your objections were heard!

In addition, language to sell a vacant building for 50% market value has been removed. The amendment now says that if a charter school or a neighboring school corporation does not want the building, “the school corporation must sell a vacant school building to a nonpublic school, a postsecondary educational institution, or a nonprofit organization that sends a letter of intent to the school corporation to purchase the vacant or unused school building for an amount not more than the fair market value.”

Thanks for contacting legislators on these two issues!

Stop Voucher Expansion: Oppose Senate Bill 55 Creating Partial Vouchers

We need your help today and tomorrow! Public education advocates should contact Senators in opposition to Senate Bill 55, which expands the voucher program by creating a second-semester partial voucher. We do not need a voucher expansion!

SB 55 will be amended and then voted on in the Senate Education Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon Feb. 13th starting at 1:30pm. Please contact the Senators on the committee listed below to urge them to abandon this proposal.

SB 55 would resurrect House Bill 1005 passed in a partisan vote in a controversial battle in the short session of 2016. The provisions of the law were rescinded when the second count date for all schools was dropped. The Indiana Coalition for Public Education strongly opposed the concept of partial vouchers in 2016, and the reasons for opposing this major voucher expansion have not changed:
  • The bill establishes a second window of applications, September 2 to January 15. IDOE requested in testimony that this window be amended to say November 1 to January 15. Thus the bill creates for the first time a partial-year voucher, but this partial voucher is not defined in the bill. Is the amount exactly half? Does the spring semester student wait until spring semester to enroll? Or can the student transfer to a voucher school at any time, even before spring semester? Is the voucher prorated by day? The bill does not define the partial-year voucher to answer these basic questions.
  • This bill has a significant fiscal cost at a time when budget makers are searching for ways to provide more money for teacher pay. LSA has said that “in FY 2018, 1378 students exited the choice scholarship program within the school year.” Under current law, the remainder of the choice scholarship reverts to the state coffers, and in FY 2018 according to LSA, this reversion was “just under $500,000 from choice schools due to students leaving before the end of the school year.” SB 55 would spend that money to let the student transfer to another voucher school, something the original 2011 voucher bill specifically prevented, sending the message at the time that students could not jump around to different schools on the taxpayer dime. Removing this provision is moving backward on accountability to the taxpayer. If families make a bad choice, the result would be extra costs falling on the taxpayers.
  • In addition to the $.5 million fiscal costs for students to transfer, this bill sets up a second semester voucher for students who have not had a voucher before. That will mean increased fiscal costs. The fiscal costs projected by LSA for the 2016 bill were $2.1 million for a second semester voucher program.
  • Is SB 55 the first program that gives taxpayer money for expelled students during the school year for which they are expelled? Expulsions are for serious problems, including bringing guns or drugs to school or threatening the school. A state law says that expelled students as part of their penalty cannot be enrolled in another public school for the balance of the school year in which they were expelled. SB 55 bill does not rule out helping expelled students go to a private school with a tax payer voucher. Is this undermining the meaning of expulsion? Will students expelled for the most serious offenses including gun violations or serious threats to the school be allowed to simply transfer to a private school with a voucher in the second semester? Are there major expulsion offenses for which taxpayer money should not be used when students are expelled for the most serious reasons?
  • The current window for private school voucher applications is March 1 to September 1. SB 55 would establish a new enrollment window from extending to January 15. This extension would mean that the marketing and recruitment competition between private schools and public schools would go on for 10.5 months instead of the current 6 months.
  • Private schools have always had to have a marketing program to gain enrollment, but marketing and recruiting is new to public schools since Indiana was transformed into a school choice marketplace in 2011. Now just like private schools, if public schools don’t recruit students, they won’t survive. A superb public school with superb teachers must still be marketed well to parents or it may falter in the competition for enrollment. SB 55 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months. Meanwhile, House Bill 1003 passed yesterday in the House sets up incentives to keep public schools from spending money on marketing, a move by the General Assembly that makes no sense given that they set up the competitive school marketplace in 2011.
  • Legislators should say no to ever-increasing voucher expansion. The teacher shortage and the teacher pay crisis deserve the full attention of our General Assembly and our school personnel, and not another battle over voucher expansion.
  • We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.

Send Messages Today (Feb. 12) or Early Tomorrow (Feb 13) Before the Committee Vote!

Just let Senators know that you oppose SB 55 and that you oppose any expansion of private school vouchers. The length of your message is not as important as the number of messages to Senators.

Please send your messages to Senators on the Senate Education Committee right away:

Republicans: Senators Raatz (chair), Buchanan, Crane, Freeman (bill sponsor), Kruse, Leising, Rogers, and Spartz

Democrats: Senators Melton, Mrvan, Stoops

You can cut and paste this list of Senate Education Committee members into the "to" field of your email:

S27@iga.in.gov; S7@iga.in.gov; S24@iga.in.gov; S32@iga.in.gov; S14@iga.in.gov; S42@iga.in.gov; S11@iga.in.gov; S20@iga.in.gov; S3@iga.in.gov; S1@iga.in.gov; S40@iga.in.gov

Good luck in your efforts! Thank you for your active support of 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 the 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 represented ICPE extremely well during the 2018 session. 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. In April, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.


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