Monday, April 1, 2019

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #335 – April 1, 2019

Dear Friends,

Make plans now to come to a Statehouse rally for better K-12 funding on Tuesday, April 16th at 3:00pm!

Mark your calendars!

Look for details and a printable flier about the rally on the Indiana Coalition for Public Education website:


As we await the Senate budget, the crucial question remains: Will the Senate provide additional K-12 funding?

Where Could the Senate Find $70 Million More Money for K-12 Funding?

The teacher pay crisis is a fight to retain our strong teachers. During this crisis, Indiana does not need to expand vouchers or privatization programs.

The House budget used $70 million over two years to expand three voucher and charter school programs.

Contact your Senators to tell them that this $70 million should all be transferred to the tuition support budget to focus on the General Assembly’s stated priority: funding better pay for all teachers.

The goal is to improve the House budget to put more money into K-12 tuition support, the budget line that funds teacher salaries and all general expenses. The House budget raised tuition support by 2.1% in the first year of the budget and by 2.2% in the second year. ICPE and other groups have called for at least a 3% increase each year.

Transferring this $70 million to tuition support would help reach that goal.

Let Senators know that these three programs can be abandoned in favor of helping teachers get more pay in Indiana:

Program 1: The new 70% voucher expansion costs an extra $19 million.
  • The historic legislative fight in 2011 over the original voucher bill established a 90% voucher for families of four currently making $46,000 or less. This means that 90% of the per student support for a public school student goes to the parent to pay for private school tuition.
  • A 50% voucher was established for families of four currently making $69,000.
  • Now, for the first time in the eight year history of vouchers, the House wants to give $19 million more money for a new concept: a 70% voucher to families of four making between $46,000 and $57,500, while families between $57,500 and $69,000 would still receive a 50% voucher from Indiana taxpayers.
  • This would probably not add many students to the voucher count but would give significantly more money to the parents making between $46,000 and $57,000 who already have students in the voucher program.
  • The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency says the newly proposed 70% voucher would cost an extra $7.7 million in the first year of the budget.
  • It would cost $11.3 million in the second year.
  • Adding these two years together, this newly proposed 70% voucher would cost $19 million.
  • The 70% voucher was not debated in any bill but just appeared in the budget. The secrecy of how this concept appeared is stunning. In eight years, it has never before been proposed.
  • Giving more money to voucher parents is not the General Assembly’s stated priority. No case was made that this 70% voucher solves any problem. It received no debate or public review. It was a total surprise when it showed up in the budget. This program would undercut the priority on more money for teacher pay.
Program 2: The expansion of private school scholarships raised by Scholarship Granting Organizations costs an extra $4 million.
  • In 2009, the General Assembly budgeted $2.5 million of taxpayer funds to pay 50% back to donors giving to private school scholarships through a tax credit. It was the first state money ever given to pay tuition to private K-12 schools.
  • This year the House budget raises the tax credit funding by $1 million in the first year, from $14 million to $15 million.
  • In the second year, the House budget raises funding to $16 million or by 120% of what the scholarship granting organizations (SGO’s) actually raise, whichever is more. Applying the 120% figure to $15 million means that in the second year of the budget, taxpayers could pay out $18 million for private school scholarships. $18 million would match what has been budgeted for summer school for all of Indiana for many years.
  • This automatic escalator has been proposed twice before by the House and must be defeated.
  • The school scholarship tax credit is the most generous tax credit to donors in Indiana. It gives 50% back to donors when they file their taxes with no individual limit. The 2013 voucher expansion law said that any student getting a tax credit scholarship one year could get a state voucher scholarship the next year (Choice Scholarship). This has been the mechanism for allowing students who have never been in public schools to get a voucher, a figure that has risen to 58% of all voucher students.
Program 3: The expansion of the Charter School Grants program costs $47 million.
  • Again, the stated priority of the General Assembly is to provide funds to improve teacher pay, not to give more money to charter schools. Charter schools are funded by the tuition support line item that needs to get bigger for all schools.
  • The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency says the expansion of charter school grants would cost an extra $21 million in the first year of the budget.
  • It would cost an extra $26 million in the second year.
  • Adding these two years together, the proposed expansion of charter school grants would cost $47 million.
Three non-crisis programs costing $70 million!

Senators need to hear from you on these three programs. They undermine the stated goal of funding better teacher salaries and benefits to keep talented teachers from going to other states or other careers for better pay.

The Senate School Funding Subcommittee Hearing

A long public hearing was held on Thursday, March 14 allowing citizens to speak about the K-12 budget. An impressive number of teachers from all over Indiana showed up to speak about the low funding they have seen in their school district and how that has impacted their teaching and how it has hurt colleagues who have had to leave the profession due to financial hardships. The totality of the hearing for the Senators who were listening was that the teacher shortage in Indiana will only get worse until significant dollars are invested in the K-12 tuition support formula.

A similar loud message was delivered on March 9th in an impressive Statehouse rally organized by the Indiana State Teachers Association. The call for better funding has been effectively delivered, but the response by the Senate is still unknown.

The tuition support funding issue has followed this sequence in the expectations dance:
  • In November, Speaker Bosma predicted that a tight budget would mean at most a 0.7% funding increase for K-12.
  • In January, Governor Holcomb recommended a 2.0% increase each year of the budget. In addition, he called for pension payments to be taken from the surplus to give school districts about $70 million each of the next two years to be available for teacher pay increases.
  • In February, the House budget gave a 2.1% increase for the first year and a 2.2% increase in the second year, along with the pension money payments worth. they say now, $150 over two years.
  • On March 9, an impressive teacher rally attracting about 2000 on a rainy day gave notice that the House budget was insufficient to correct the teacher pay problems.
  • On March 14, the public hearing of the School Funding Subcommittee attracted not only public education organizations, such as the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE) asking for a 3.0% increase each year, but an impressive number of individual teachers and parents from Gibson County to Steuben County independently asking for better K-12 funding, a dimension that has not been seen in previous budget years.
I hope you will get involved in asking Senators for a 3% increase in K-12 funding.

Then later, members of the House need to get the same message to put a 3% increase in the budget for K-12 funding.

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 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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