Friday, March 5, 2021

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #353 – March 4, 2021

Dear Friends,

Milton Friedman, the famous economist who passed away in 2006, wanted to end public schools and get the government out of education. He proposed to just give tax money directly to parents to let them pay for their child’s education from vendors or schools in a competitive private marketplace.

He didn’t see public education as a public benefit to teach about democracy to each student in each new generation. He wrote in Free to Choose (1980):
  • “compulsory attendance laws are the justification for government control over the standards of private schools. But it is far from clear that there is any justification for the compulsory attendance laws themselves.” and
  • “The possibility exists that some public schools would be left with the dregs.”
Amazingly, Friedman’s stark view of parent-run schools has been approved for Indiana by the Indiana House in House Bill 1005 for 187,000 eligible students, about one in six Hoosier students. No supervision, no accountability, no community responsibility.

The parent grants to be given out through an online portal estimated to cost $5 million and run by the Indiana Treasurer are now called Education Scholarship Accounts (ESA’s).

Eligible students in House Bill 1005 include special education, activity military, and foster students. The real goal pursued for years by Friedman’s wealthy followers who have spread campaign cash across Indiana and the United States is to give ESA’s to all parents and to end public education.

In HB 1005, the ESA camel’s nose is under the tent.

The House Vote

The vote was 61-38. While 9 Republicans opposed this caucus-priority bill, it was not enough to stop it. The roll call is listed below. Now it must be stopped in the Senate.

Representative Behning, the author of HB 1005, cleverly mixed the radical Friedman plan into the bill alongside a “traditional” expansion of payments for current private school vouchers. Most of those who testified for the bill wanted to see bigger voucher payments, and that section of the bill is what the media has focused on. Bigger voucher payments would cost over $60 million over the next two years.

The real danger, though, is giving money to the parents of eligible students (approx. $7000 plus up to $9100 for special education students) with no regard to their support of extremist ideologies or their support of the U.S. Constitution. Parents can get these public funds simply by applying online but the flaws are obvious:
  • the parent “must agree that” they “will use part of the money” for the “student’s study in the subject of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, or science” or the student’s “individualized education program”. These quotes are directly from HB 1005.
  • That’s all! It’s the lowest standard imaginable, and no one will monitor even this parent responsibility because the bill specifically bans curriculum oversight by the state.
  • Criminal background checks, required for teachers, are not required for parents to get their ESA money. Parents with records of neglect or abuse or fraud are not excluded by HB 1005. No restrictions on parents are included in the bill!
HB 1005 carries the seeds of fraud and partisanship. Home schools using taxpayer funds to teach extremist ideology are an obvious possibility. Did the proponents really read this bill before approving it?

Bipartisan Opposition and Partisan Support

Those voting against HB 1005 in the House represented a bipartisan opposition:

Republicans Voting to Oppose HB 1005
Democrats Voting to Oppose HB 1005
Those voting to support HB 1005 in the House were all Republicans:
The 9 Republicans and 29 Democrats who opposed HB 1005 and stood up for public education deserve messages of thanks from public school advocates.

What Can You Do to Protect our Democracy from ESA’s in the Second Half of the General Assembly

Bills now switch Houses for consideration, so House Bill 1005 will be considered by the Senate. Write the Senators on the Senate Education Committee to let them know of your strong opposition to the flawed and dangerous threat to our democracy, House Bill 1005.

House Bill 1005 is not currently on the committee agenda for March 10th but could be heard in committee as early as Wednesday, March 17th.

Let the Senators on the committee know you oppose the dangerous concept of Education Scholarship Accounts and the expensive expansion of the current voucher system, especially when teacher pay has not been addressed. The committee members (click on the name for email addresses) are:

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

In the final days of the first half of the session, Senate Bill 412 was not passed out of committee. Senate Bill 413 was amended to reduce voucher expansion to only one element: foster students would become eligible for Choice Scholarships. It passed 32-15 and now goes to the House. Your messages certainly helped tamp down these flawed Senate bills.

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 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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