Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #350 – February 2, 2021

Dear Friends,

Shock and awe!

Public education in Indiana is truly under attack.

In a late move that I did not hear about until this morning, the Senate Education Committee has also scheduled their version of the Education Savings Accounts bill to be heard on the same afternoon as the House version. The Senate Education Committee begins tomorrow (Feb. 3) at 2pm, and the House Education Committee begins at 3:30pm.

The Senate version in Senate Bill 412 differs from the House version in House Bill 1005 in several ways:
  • SB 412 calls the money taken from schools and given to parents “Personalized Education Grants” instead of “Education Savings Accounts.”
  • SB 412 makes no changes in the income tiers of Choice Scholarships.
  • The Legislative Services Agency says SB 412 will cost $112 million over two years for the “grants”, less than the $202 million price tag over two years for HB1005. This reflects the omission of extra money in SB 412 for expanded Choice Scholarships.
Still, both bills take the fiscal cost right out of the tuition support budget, increased in the Governor’s budget by $377 million, but now reduced substantially by either of these two bills.

Senate Bill 412 would also authorize the Indiana Treasurer to set up an online portal costing, according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, as much as $11 million to let parents take the money that now goes to schools (approximately $7000 per student) so the parents can run unsupervised home or independent schools. The Treasurer can hire a bank to do the work and can keep 3% (instead of 1%) of every account for the trouble.

Senate Bill 412 makes 186,000 students eligible for these grants, 60,000 less than the House Bill. Again, the ultimate goal of Milton Friedman and his followers in the Indiana Senate is to make all students eligible for grants and let parents spend all education money without state supervision.

This is the Milton Friedman path to end public education in Indiana.

SB 412 is scheduled for a hearing this Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 2:00 in the Senate Education Committee.

You’re getting much practice in contacting legislators. Can you contact Senators about SB 412?

This is clearly the most serious attack on public education that I have ever seen.

Let Senators on the Education Committee listed below know that you support public schools and oppose bills that hurt public schools.

Email Senators on the Education Committee by Wednesday Afternoon

Here is the list:

Senator Jeff Raatz Senator.Raatz@iga.in.gov
Senator Scott Baldwin s20@iga.in.gov
Senator Brian Buchanan Senator.Buchanan@iga.in.gov
Senator John Crane Senator.Crane@iga.in.gov
Senator Stacey Donato Senator.Donato@iga.in.gov
Senator J.D. Ford s29@iga.in.gov
Senator Dennis Kruse Senator.Kruse@iga.in.gov
Senator Jean Leising Senator.Leising@iga.in.gov
Senator Eddie Melton Senator.Melton@iga.in.gov
Senator Fady Qaddoura Senator.Qaddoura@iga.in.gov
Senator Linda Rogers Senator.Rogers@iga.in.gov
Senator Kyle Walker s31@iga.in.gov
Senator Shelli Yoder Senator.Yoder@iga.in.gov

SB 412 contains Milton Friedman’s Plan to End Public Education. Please send your objections!

My testimony seen below has been sent to Senate Education Committee members. Feel free to use points from this and then add your own.


Testimony on SB 412 submitted by Dr. Vic Smith, Indianapolis RE: Hearing on February 3, 2021

I strongly oppose SB 412. Personalized Education Grants are the same as Education Savings Accounts, Milton Friedman’s method of ending public education, and will open the door to giving public education money to unsupervised and unaccountable parents instead of to accountable and transparent schools. Under SB 412:
  • Partisan extremists could use state home school money to teach their children to disobey the U.S. Constitution. They will get public money, but no civic education about our democracy is required.
  • Racist parents could use state money to teach racist ideology in their home or independent school. SB 412 bans any state supervision of independent school curriculum.
  • Parents of special education students could spend state money on therapy that does not work. There is no evaluation of student progress required.
  • The State Treasurer would be required to promote the tax advantages of the Personalized Education Grants as an incentive to get parents to leave their school districts and sign up for the program. Every student in the grants program takes about $7000 out of the budget of the student’s public school district. This would obviously hurt the public schools that educate 90% of our students. The State Treasurer gets to keep 3% of the grants for their work.
LSA puts the fiscal cost of SB 412 at $112 million for two years. SB 412 says on p. 26 that this money will come from the tuition support budget. That means that Gov. Holcomb’s proposed tuition support increase of $377 million for two years is actually only $265 million, clearly not enough for all the rest of the K-12 schools.

The concept of “Personalized Education Grants” for special education and 504 students and foster students included in SB 412 is so detrimental to high educational standards, so dismissive of maintaining accountability with public tax money, and so potentially dangerous to our democracy that it should be rejected outright as soon as possible.

Why would Personalized Education Grants, as known as Education Savings Accounts, be so detrimental to education in Indiana?
1) The grants would give public money on a debit card to parents who sign an agreement to educate their child in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies or science.” That’s all! The bill actually says “or” in this list, so studying just one subject would fulfill a parent’s obligation. It’s an unregulated and narrow education. No art, no music, no health, no vocational subjects. This would absolutely lower standards for students just as standards for public school students in recent years have been raised.
2) The plan includes no obligation for annual testing or public accountability except for students who enroll in schools giving ILEARN. No accountability is required of students in home or micro schools.
3) The bill would give 100% of ADM money (more than a 90% voucher) to high income parents of special education and 504 students and foster children. It would even allow wealthy parents who are already paying private school tuition to get a grant and put it in a Coverdell college fund.
4) The bill would give the entire amount of public money for eligible students directly to parents, paving the way in a few years 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 undermines the very concept of schools.
5) The bill 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 bill would give public money to parents with very weak provisions for fraud protection. Parents with past records of felonies or neglect or child abuse are not excluded.
If this Education Savings Account concept is not decisively rejected, it will confirm the theory that all of the standards and testing regulations heaped upon our public schools in the past decade have just been techniques to make privatized vouchers and grants look attractive to individual parents, giving them an incentive to leave the public schools in order to run home schools or independent schools with taxpayer money. This concept is taken from Milton Friedman’s plan to end community public schools. It should be totally and promptly rejected.

This concept of Personalized Education Grants, also known as Education Savings Accounts, is too radical and potentially damaging for any further consideration. The Senate turned down this concept in the 2017 session, and they should do so again.

Thank you for considering these major concerns.

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


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