Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NEIFPE 2014 Survey Results

Decisions by law makers and policy makers affect the success and failure of local public schools yet often they don't take time to listen to parents, teachers or community members. Our 2014 Public Education Survey was an opportunity for respondents to express their opinions about some of the pressing issues facing local, state and national public schools.

The survey ran from October 5th through October 25th, 2014. Results can be accessed through the links below. All links are to pdf files. All comments are unedited.

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

NEIFPE Survey Results. Bar graphs for all survey questions except those which were open ended.

OPEN ENDED RESPONSES AND COMMENTS

Responses to the question: What is the highest level of school you have completed or the highest degree you have received? Answer: Skilled trades apprenticeship or other post-secondary education (please specify). Click here to see the specified answers.

Responses to the question: How are you involved with public education (choose as many as are appropriate)? Answer: Other (please specify). Click here to see the specified answers

Comments for the following questions

1. Are American public schools today...

2. Are your local public schools...

3. Should tax dollars support private (including parochial) education?

4. Do you agree charter and voucher-accepting schools should be held to the same standards as traditional public schools?

5. If charter and private (including parochial) schools accept tax dollars, should they be required to accept all students including students with special needs, English Language Learners, and children of all faiths?

6. Indiana spends nearly 50 million dollars every year on high-stakes testing. Do you think standardized test scores are an adequate measure of a child's learning?

7. Do you think standardized test scores should be the primary factor in evaluating schools, teachers, and students?

8. State law mandates that all public and voucher receiving schools receive a letter grade based primarily on standardized test scores. Do you think your neighborhood schools should receive a letter grade?

9. Have any programs been cut or minimized in your neighborhood school that you want to see restored?

10a. As a taxpayer/voter, what do you expect of the schools in your community?

10b. As a teacher, what do you think is the most important thing for you to teach and for your students to learn?

10c. As a parent, what do you hope your children will learn by the time they have finished school?

11. Additional Comments

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #24– October 29, 2014

Dear Friends,

Leaders of the Republican Supermajority who underfunded public education in the 2013 budget are sounding somewhat defensive as they try to entice voters who support public education to stay in their camp. Speaker Bosma on October 14th listed his first education platform plank as: “Increase base funding for K-12 education,” but he wouldn’t say by how much.

The 2013 budget he helped create gave public education only a 1% increase for the current school year, 2014-15. Glenda Ritz has said public schools need a 3% increase in the 2015 budget. The voters are making up their minds.

To get voter approval, Speaker Bosma apparently felt the need to say public school funding would be increased, but he didn’t make a firm dollar commitment to do better than the 2013 budget. Will the voters notice?

[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.]

Two Defenses for Low Public School Budgets

Republican leaders offer two defenses for the historically low public school funding they provided in the last budget, the lowest increases we have ever seen when there was a revenue surplus and no recession.

Both defenses discussed below are flawed. Voters should instead vote for candidates who genuinely support public education and want to make public school funding a priority.

The Republican leadership had the revenue available in 2013 but simply didn’t want to give it to public schools. Their actions gave an edge to private schools in the newly created marketplace of schools in which public and private schools compete.

It is as if they are telling parents: If you don’t like the cutbacks or class sizes at your child’s public school, just pick a private school.

Glenda Ritz has called for a 3% funding increase, far better than the 1% of the current year. We need to elect legislators who back her call to put a priority on funding for public schools.

Defense #1: “Indiana passed the largest budget in the history of Indiana for education two years ago.”

This was a quote from Representative Tim Brown, Chairman of the House Ways and Means at a legislative breakfast reported by the Montgomery County Journal Review in an online article by Bob Cox posted on October 20th.

This statement sounds good, but think about it for a moment.

In years prior to the Great Recession, the public school budget was the largest in Indiana history every time. That was hardly news because the public schools needed at least a cost of living increase each year.

Then came the Great Recession and the state of Indiana could not fund the budget promised to the schools in June of 2009. In December of 2009, the school budget was cut by $300 million.

Here is the budget history for Indiana for education for the last ten years, which I copied right off the school funding formula summary page for each budget:

___________________________________________________________
2005 BUDGET:
FY 2006..................................$5.94 Billion
FY 2007..................................$6.02 Billion
2007 BUDGET:
FY 2008..................................$6.27 Billion
FY 2009..................................$6.48 Billion *
2009 BUDGET: (June 2009 during the Great Recession)
FY 2010..................................$6.55 Billion **
FY 2011..................................$6.57 Billion **
2011 BUDGET: (April 2011 during the Great Recession)
FY 2012..................................$6.28 Billion
FY 2013..................................$6.34 Billion ***
2013 BUDGET:
FY 2014..................................$6.62 Billion +2.0%
FY 2015..................................$6.69 Billion +1.0%
Footnotes:
*included Federal stimulus/stabilization funding of $.61 Billion
**reduced by $.30 Billion in Dec. 2009 due to revenue shortfall and by $.327 Billion during 2010-11
***adding the full day kindergarten line item to the formula during the 2013 General Assembly raised the actual FY2013 base expenditures to $6.49B.

Of course, Representative Brown is correct in saying the last budget was the highest in history. The $6.69 Billion for the current 2014-15 school year was indeed higher than the $6.57 Billion budgeted for 2010-11 which never happened. That budget was the one cut by $300 million in December 2009, and it took until the 2013 budget to finally surpass $6.57 Billion.

Legislators had the revenue, though, to do so much more for public school funding in 2013. They could have given public schools more than a 1% increase. They could have given them at least a cost of living increase, but they didn’t.

Any claims to the historical greatest of the last education budget should be put into the context of these numbers showing a paltry 1% increase.

Defense #2: “Most of the increase has been directed to administration of the schools. We seem to be adding administrators instead of passing the money to teachers and students.”

This was a quote from Senator Phil Boots in the same October 20th article. Senator Boots is running for reelection against Bob Burkett in Senate District 23. Then he added: “I think we will be looking at ways to better control allocation of state education funds.”

Senator Boots, who turned from hero to goat in the eyes of public school advocates by switching his 2011 no vote on vouchers to a yes vote on voucher expansion in 2013, is resorting to the “Dollars to the Classroom” arguments pioneered by Governor Daniels in 2006. This ploy was used make it look like the spending decisions of local administrators were the problem rather than the lack of state funding. If they would only restrict their spending to classroom dollars, there would be enough, Governor Daniels kept saying.

There is no evidence for the assertions of Senator Boots that local school officials are spending poorly. Representative Brown at the same meeting was quoted to say, “a recent study from Ball State University suggested the increase was directed by local school boards to administrators and not into the classroom.” This claim put Ball State professor and former IAPSS executive director John Ellis into action. He knew that no one at Ball State had even read such information, let alone conducted a study. His complaint resulted in a correction being posted that this information came from a study by Al Hubbard, not by Ball State.

Al Hubbard is a strong supporter of vouchers and school privatization.

The “Dollars to the Classroom” ploy is being used by at least two candidates in southern Indiana who are running their first campaigns. What else do you say to parents when you don’t want to say you support more money for public education?

Republican Holli Sullivan, an incumbent appointed mid-term to House District 78, is running against Democrat Stephen Melcher on the platform of “Dollars to the Classroom.”

Also, Erin Houchin, running against incumbent Senator Richard Young in Senate District 47, says on her Facebook page that she will “invest in education by directing more dollars to the classroom.” By using this phrase, she is saying she does not think the budgets for public schools are too small, but rather the schools are misdirecting the funding.

Try telling the cash-strapped districts of Washington, Harrison, Orange, Crawford and Perry County in Senate District 47 that they have enough money but they are just spending it on the wrong things.

The “Dollars to the Classroom” program of Governor Daniels was narrowly passed into law in 2006 and resulted in burdensome annual reports using a flawed system sorting all school expenditures into either classroom dollars or overhead dollars. Its flaws include listing payments for teacher pensions and for classroom construction as non-classroom overhead. Since 2006, the only use of this information has been for fodder during election campaigns.

Ironically, the whole purpose of the program was to second-guess the decisions of local school officials, contradicting Erin Houchin’s second point on her education agenda: “Maintain local control of our schools and curriculum.” If she is successful on her first point, local control will take another beating. This antagonism to local control is also found in Senator Boots’ quote above when he said: “I think we will be looking at ways to better control allocation of state education funds.”

This argument does not sit well with frustrated local school administrators who have been forced to cut programs to balance tight or declining budgets since 2009. It’s easy for Senator Boots to charge that local administrators are making poor spending decisions, and it is difficult for local administrators to refute the charge without getting into the weeds of complex budgets.

The fiendish aspect of the ploy for the supermajority is that they can pass the buck and get parents and voters to blame local administrators for public school budget cuts when in reality the fault lies squarely on the General Assembly putting a scant 1% increase into public schools this year, far less than the cost of living.

Voters should not be fooled by these flawed justifications for low public school funding. Voters should vote for candidates who most strongly and genuinely support public education.

Actively Support Public Education Candidates Now for the November 4th Election

The candidates in 51 House Districts who best support public education were detailed in “Vic’s Election Notes #21.” In 51 House races, public school advocates can make a difference.

The candidates in 15 Senate Districts who best support public education were detailed in “Vic’s Election Notes #22.” In 15 Senate races, public school advocates can make a difference.

If you need another copy of these lists, please feel free to email me.

I urge all public school advocates to do as much as they can to talk with neighbors, friends and colleagues in the last week of the campaign to lift the level of support for public education in the next General Assembly. The public school students of Indiana need your active support.

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com 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.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #23– October 27, 2014

Dear Friends,

A 1% increase in funding.

That’s all.

That’s all that public schools were given for the current school year, 2014-15.

That is less than the cost of living, which was 1.6% in testimony given by economists to the General Assembly at the time the budget was set. More recently, Social Security said the cost of living was 1.7%.

Members of the General Assembly voted a paltry 1% increase in funding for the current school year for the public schools of Indiana. Public schools budgets are hurting; programs that help students have had to be cut in nearly every district.

Unlike during the Great Recession, there was no revenue shortfall when they set the budget. Lawmakers were given projections of a surplus of nearly $2 billion. They just didn’t want to make public school funding a priority.

Now state lawmakers want voters to confirm their stinginess to the one million plus public school students and re-elect them to the House and to the Senate.

This inadequate 2013 public school budget passed with all 69 Republicans and 1 Democrat in the House voting yes; 30 Democrats voted no. In the Senate, the budget passed with all 37 Republicans and 2 Democrats voting yes. The other 11 Democrats voted no.

Will the voters approve of this kind of treatment for our public school students?

[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.]

Candidates Who Will Better Support Public Education are On the Ballot

In 51 House races and 15 Senate races, voters have an advocate for public education running who would put a higher priority on public education than found in the 2013 budget. Please see “Vic’s Election Notes on Education #21 and #22” for their names. If you need another copy, just email me.

Your work in the next week for pro-public education candidates in the Indiana Senate and the Indiana House will shape the future of public education in Indiana.

Year by Year Budget Increases: Decide for Yourself If We Need New Legislators Who Will Do Better!

The numbers below are not numbers that I calculated. These are the percentages printed for the General Assembly in the School Funding Formula. I took the percentages right off the summary page of the funding formula documents which I have held in my hand in the 18 years that I have been watching the General Assembly.

They show the downward trend from good times to recession, but when the Great Recession ended and the state had a revenue surplus once again in the most recent 2013 session, lawmakers chose not to restore public school funding to normal levels. Prior to the Great Recession, increases ranged from 2.4% to 4.7%. In the 2013 session, public school funding was degraded to 2% in 2013-14 and only 1% in 2014-15, the current school year.

Only 1%! Less than the cost of living. It is no wonder school districts are having financial problems and teacher salaries have stagnated.

This was a choice by the legislators in charge. Voters need to respond in the only way they can: Elect new members who favor higher funding for public school students. Check out the data:

YEAR.................................TOTAL FUNDING (School Funding Formula Summary Page)

1999 BUDGET:
FY 2000...........................................................+4.7%
FY 2001...........................................................+4.7%

2001 BUDGET:
FY 2002...........................................................+3.5%
FY 2003...........................................................+3.5%

2003 BUDGET:
FY 2004...........................................................+3.3%
FY 2005...........................................................+2.9% ($5.87 Billion)

2005 BUDGET:
FY 2006...........................................................+2.6% ($5.94 Billion)
FY 2007...........................................................+2.4% ($6.02 Billion)

2007 BUDGET:
FY 2008...........................................................+4.1% ($6.27 Billion)
FY 2009...........................................................+3.6% ($6.48 Billion)*

2009 BUDGET: (June 2009 during the Great Recession)
FY 2010...........................................................+1.1% ($6.55 Billion)**
FY 2011...........................................................+0.3% ($6.57 Billion)**

2011 BUDGET: (April 2011 during the Great Recession)
FY 2012...........................................................[actual] -4.5% ($6.28 Billion)
.........................................................................[printed] +0.5% [due to reduced base]
FY 2013...........................................................+1.0% ($6.34 Billion)***

2013 BUDGET:
FY 2014...........................................................+2.0% ($6.62 Billion)
FY 2015...........................................................+1.0% ($6.69 Billion)

Footnotes:

*included Federal stimulus/stabilization funding of $.61 Billion

**reduced by $.30 Billion in Dec. 2009 due to revenue shortfall and by $.327 Billion during 2010-11

***adding the full day kindergarten line item to the formula during the 2013 General Assembly raised the actual FY2013 base expenditures to $6.49B.
__________________________________________________________

The Grand Competitive Marketplace of Schools

Led by Gov. Daniels, Gov. Pence, Speaker Bosma, President Pro Tem Long and Representative Behning, Indiana passed a voucher program which was supposed to create a grand marketplace of public and private schools for parent choice. By underfunding the public schools, these leaders gave the edge in the competition to private schools which market themselves as having low class sizes. Parents love small class sizes.

Public schools would love to offer low class sizes as well, but when state money dries up, public schools have had no choice but to put more students in each classroom. When public testimony was taken on the voucher expansion bill, HB 1003, the most frequent comment by voucher supporters was that their private school had low class sizes. Of course, private schools can limit enrollment and raise tuition to control their budgets and class sizes. Public schools admit all who show up at the door and depend on the legislature for proper funding.

Favoritism was clear in awarding budget increases. While public schools got a 1% increase this year, private school vouchers got double that amount: 2%. For the current school year (2014-15), vouchers were lifted from $4700 to $4800, a 2% increase and a higher per pupil amount than many school districts get in the funding formula. Last year, in 2013-14, while public schools got a 2% increase, vouchers got a 4% increase, going from $4500 to $4700.

Representative Behning, who wrangled with the Senate to win these voucher increases, started out asking for a 22% increase, from $4500 to $5500 for 2013-14, and an 18% increase for the current year, from $5500 to $6500 for 2014-15. This tells you how he would like to raise payments for private school vouchers if he has his way.

For Representative Behning and many others in the General Assembly, the priority is on helping private schools and not public schools. This is a fundamental problem that only the voters can change by electing new voices that support public schools. Representative Behning’s opponent in House District 91 Patrick Lockhart will do a much better job in funding education. Help him if you can!

The legislators let public schools down in the 2013 budget. Candidates who would do better in funding public education are available in 51 House races and 15 Senate races. Your strong support of one or two of these 66 candidates will make a huge difference for public school students in the next two years.

Just today I heard the first radio ad for Cindy Kirchhofer, the incumbent running in House District 89. In this final week before the election, radio and TV ads for those who feel they might be in trouble with the voters have begun. Voters must be wary of misleading ads! The ad said Cindy Kirchhofer has voted to invest in education.

Well, not much! Only 1%! An historically low increase.

Her opponent Debra Jenkins will do a much better job in funding public education. Help her if you can! Or help one of the other candidates standing up for public education. Word of mouth before November 4th among friends, family and colleagues will make the difference. Do it for the one million public education students all over Indiana who deserve better support.

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com 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.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #22– October 22, 2014

Dear Friends,

Your work in the next two weeks in 15 races for seats in the Indiana Senate will shape the future of public education in Indiana.

On October 17th, I sent to you an analysis of races for the Indiana House of Representatives based on the votes cast by incumbents for voucher expansion, House Bill 1003 in the 2013 budget session. House Bill 1003 was the most damaging bill to public education in the past two years. This same analysis was applied to candidates for the Indiana Senate.

I urge you to read this message carefully about Indiana Senate candidates who would restore public education to a high priority. Then I urge you to take action before the November 4th election to help one or more of the candidates in the 15 races. The other 10 races are already decided.

Special Note: Be sure to read below and participate if you can in the astounding story of Senate District 39 (Daviess, Greene, Martin & Sullivan and parts of Clay, Knox & Owen Counties), the attempted invasion of the Koch brothers into the Indiana Senate.

[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.]

Two Clarifications Regarding Contests for the Indiana House of Representatives


I was correct in thinking that many would read carefully the “Election Notes” I sent out October 17th about candidates for the Indiana House who support public education. Two clarifications are in order:

House District 60 - Morgan & Monroe Counties

My friends in District 60 who support Daymon Brodhacker for election over incumbent Peggy Mayfield wanted me to make clear that District 60 includes a large portion of Monroe County as well as Morgan County. They are working hard in both counties to elect an educator who strongly supports public education in place of incumbent Peggy Mayfield who voted in favor of voucher expansion in 2013 and also voted for historically low public school funding increases (2% in 2013-14 and only 1% in 2014-15) that have left schools in dire financial condition and often unable to simply maintain current programs for students.

House District 4 – Porter County (Union, Center & Washington townships and parts of Liberty & Jackson townships).

My friends in District 4 who support Deb Porter for election over incumbent Ed Soliday wanted me to broaden my analysis to review more than the vote on 2013 voucher expansion to determine support of public education. When that is done, the historic 2011 voucher battle which for the first time gave public money directly to private school parents found Representative Soliday on the wrong side of the interests of public school students. He voted yes to vouchers in 2011. He also supported the low funding levels for public schools in the 2013 budget.

That 2011 voucher bill supported by Representative Soliday was a watershed moment for our generation. On April 28, 2011, I wrote in “Vic’s Statehouse Notes #86”:
“I am more than sad to report that at 4:00pm yesterday, April 27th, the voucher bill passed the Indiana House of Representatives 56-43. The vote to concur with the Senate version of HB 1003 completed the bill. It now goes to the Governor for his signature.

This is not just another important bill. Whether to privatize Indiana’s public schools has been the question of our generation. I first heard of the proposal in 1978 and have fought the concept ever since. The question has now been answered for Indiana pending a court review for constitutionality. Based on this vote, Indiana will fund a system of private schools as well as a system of traditional schools and charter schools. Indiana will now become a leading state in the voucher experiment. I think it is a monumental mistake, but it is done.”
Deb Porter has never supported vouchers throughout her long career as a public school teacher. Clearly, she deserves the support of public school advocates in this important race.

You Can Make a Huge Difference in the Senate in the Next Two Weeks!

The grassroot advocates for public education need to go to work in a big way in the days left before the November 4th election. Public schools were hammered by the Indiana General Assembly elected in the last election. The assault on public education can be stopped in 15 Senate races outlined below, analyzed in relation to the damaging vote on voucher expansion, House Bill 1003.

The pundits who have announced that there is no interest in this election must be proved wrong by your actions to help public school students regain a high priority in the Indiana General Assembly.

Voucher Expansion: The Ultimate Offense to Public Education

The ultimate offense to public education in the 2013 session of this current General Assembly was voucher expansion, House Enrolled Act 1003. It turned an already harmful 2011 voucher program into a subsidy for private school tuition for students who had already been going to private schools for all of their school careers. It was no longer about helping parents make a choice. The parents had already made the choice. HEA 1003 was about taxpayers paying the bill for private and parochial tuition, a step toward the leadership’s goal of getting taxpayers to pay the entire bill for the religious education of all private school students.

We testified repeatedly that the bill would bring a huge new fiscal cost to the taxpayers, ending the overall savings to the state provided by the 2011 voucher program. The majority passed the bill anyway, and fourteen months later when the figures were in, IDOE announced that voucher expansion cost the state $15.7 million. That was subsidy money going to private school parents and to private schools.

To the legislators who voted for voucher expansion, that was a bigger priority than preschool, which got $10 million, than gifted and talented programs, which got $12 million, than English as a Second Language programs, which got $5 million, and certainly more than teacher professional development programs, which got $0 in the new budget.

The 2013 budget gave historically low increases to public education: 2% in 2013-14 and 1% in 2014-15. Indiana had never treated public school so poorly in good economic times. They had a huge surplus available. The majority of the current Indiana General Assembly simply turned against public education, both in funding and in expanding vouchers.

Voucher expansion had bipartisan opposition thanks to the intense lobbying by public school advocates. In the final Senate vote, 10 Republicans and all 13 Democrats voted against it. They should all be thanked for this crucial final day vote.

Voucher expansion passed in the Senate by the vote of 27 Republicans. Voters who support public education now have their only chance to speak, and that chance is in the November 4th election. If legislators who passed voucher expansion can waltz to easy victories, the decline of public education in Indiana will be confirmed. Public school advocates need to take action before November 4th to restore a priority for public education in the Indiana General Assembly.

Here is the analysis of Senate District races where public school supporters can make a difference:
Group 1: In 4 races, incumbents who failed public schools by voting for voucher expansion are running against opponents who support public education.

Group 2: In 4 races, incumbents who stood up for public schools by voting against voucher expansion are running against opponents who either support vouchers or have not made support of public education part of their campaign.

Group 3: In 1 race, an incumbent who stood up for public schools by voting against voucher expansion is running against an opponent who supports public education.

Group 4: In 6 races, incumbents have left the arena and there is a contest for the open seat.
That totals 15 Senate races where public school advocates can have an impact.

In the other 10 races, the result for public education is already clear, as follows:
Group 5: In 3 races, incumbents who stood up for public education have no opponent in the November 4th election. They should be welcomed backed and thanked for their support of public schools. They include Republican Senators Alting and Tomes and Democratic Senator Tallian.

Group 6: In 7 races, incumbents who failed public schools by voting for voucher expansion have no opponent. They include Republican Senators Zakas, Kruse, Banks, Holdman, Buck, Eckerty and Merritt.
I strongly urge you to review the 15 Senate races outlined below. If you live in one, go to work there for the candidate who supports public education. If you don’t live in one, pick out one or two others to support by:
  • Contacting friends or family who do live in those districts
  • Joining the many volunteers who are already working hard on behalf of the candidates who are supporting public education.
  • Sending a contribution
This is what the battle to save public education in Indiana looks like. I applaud any efforts you can make in the next two weeks to convince friends and neighbors to support public education when they vote!

Group 1: Incumbents Who Have Failed Public Education

A total of 4 incumbent members of the Senate degraded public education by voting to expand the private school voucher program and now have an opponent who supports public education.

The incumbents deserve an F for voting to expand vouchers in the historic 2103 voucher expansion vote on House Bill 1003.

Their opponents deserve the support of all public school advocates. If public education is going to reverse its losses in the General Assembly, a new group needs to be elected. I urge you to pick one or two of these races and get involved:


Senate District 23 – All of Fountain, Montgomery, Vermillion, Parke and Warren Counties and portions of Boone County

Incumbent Phil Boots (R) voted to expand vouchers. Bob Burkett (D), owner of a State Farm Insurance Agency who supports public education, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Bob writes on his website:
"I want to support the public schools that we have. I am afraid that, as we reduce the financial support for schools and extend privatization, we will return to education for the wealthy only."
"The Republican Super Majority seems dedicated to privatizing our public schools. We cannot fund both public and private schools without reducing our commitment to public education."
Senator Boots voted against vouchers in 2011, but he turned the tables and voted against public education in 2013 with a vote for voucher expansion, telling constituents that he thought there was only one more bite out of this apple. His comment shows he has misjudged the resolve of Governor Pence’s voucher supporters to keep biting this apple until all private schools tuition is paid for by taxpayers.

Senator Boots was one of three Senators who changed their tune and voted for voucher expansion in 2013 when they had voted against vouchers in the historic 2011 vote. The others were Senators Nugent and Zakas. The 2013 voucher expansion bill passed the Senate 27-23, so if these three Senators had voted no, the bill would have failed. This election is the only time that voters who support public education can hold Senator Boots accountable for his vote to expand vouchers.

Senate District 29 – Portions of Boone, Hamilton and Marion Counties

Incumbent Mike Delph (R) voted to expand vouchers. J.D. Ford (D), who has a Masters Degree in Education from Purdue and works for the Theta Chi Fraternity based in Indianapolis, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. His website says: “To help Indiana's public schools be the best they can be, I'd like to partner with Superintendent Ritz's office, the Indiana State Teacher's Association, the Indiana Parent Teacher Association, and any other entity that would be willing to work with me. It "takes a village" and is a team effort. Having healthy schools is a positive for all Hoosiers and will definitely attract businesses looking to call Indiana home.”

J. D. Ford sponsored a rally for Public Education along with Patrick Lockhart on the steps of the Monument Circle in Downtown Indianapolis on October 11th. At the rally, he opposed vouchers and school privatization and he supported better funding for public education.

Senate District 41 – Bartholomew County & portions of Johnson County

Incumbent Senator Greg Walker (R) voted to expand vouchers. Andy Talarzyk (D), who works in marketing and who supports public education, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Andy writes on his website:
  • "I am firmly opposed to the idea of spending Taxpayer money to fund private schools, religious organizations, or charter schools."
  • “I worry that my children will go to severely underfunded public schools. That my tax money will instead be paying for out of state, for profit corporations, private schools and religious organizations. I worry that we will not have quality educators, because they will have relocated to a state where they're appreciated."
Libertarian Damian Stanziano is also running in District 41.

Senate District 45 – Jefferson, Scott & Switzerland Counties & parts of Clark and Jackson Counties

Incumbent Senator Jim Smith (R) voted to expand vouchers. Julie Berry (D), a former 3-term County Commissioner in Jefferson County and a 6th-generation Hoosier who supports public education, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Julie writes on her website:
  • “We believe that Stabilization of our Public Schools deserves the Indiana General Assembly’s primary focus. Some of the reforms touted by the current administration and the Republican supermajority in the Statehouse benefit out-of-state, for-profit corporations over what is best for Indiana students. Public Schools are struggling in southern Indiana, and throughout the state, with fluctuating budgets, due in part to Vouchers and Charter Schools. The majority of Indiana’s students will remain in public schools and it is our duty to maintain and improve Indiana’s public school system.”
  • “The Indiana Dept. of Education estimates that Vouchers cost our state $16 million this past school year. Meanwhile, when adjusting for inflation, our average teacher salary has declined – which is not the best way to keep talented teachers in our state classrooms. Our teachers deserve our respect and our help in making Indiana a leader in educational attainment.”
Group 2: Incumbents Who Have Supported Public Education

Four incumbent members of the Senate who voted against the 2013 expansion of the voucher program now have an opponent who either supports vouchers or has not made public education part of the campaign.

These incumbents deserve an A for voting to oppose voucher expansion in the historic 2103 vote on House Bill 1003.

These good friends of public education need your strong support to return to the General Assembly. I urge you to pick one or two of these races and get involved. Here are the races where you can help incumbents loyal to public education:

Senate District 1 – Lake County

Incumbent Senator Frank Mrvan (D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion and deserves the support of public school advocates. He has consistently opposed vouchers and supported better funding for public schools. His opponent is Ken Stevenson (R).

Senate District 25 – Madison County

Incumbent Senator Tim Lanane (D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion and deserves the support of public school advocates. As Senate Minority Leader, he has strongly supported public education and has always opposed vouchers. His opponent is Libertarian Mark Vogel.

Senate District 38 – Vigo and Clay Counties

Incumbent Senator Tim Skinner (D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion and deserves the support of public school advocates. As a retired high school social studies teacher, he has been a pillar of support for public education in the Senate and of opposition to vouchers and privatization. His speeches and votes in support of public education have won the admiration of public school advocates across Indiana. His reelection is vital, but his district was redrawn in 2010, and now he needs the help of those statewide supporters in his reelection fight. His opponent is Jon Ford (R).

Senate District 47 – Washington, Harrison, Orange, Crawford, Perry and part of Dubois Counties

Incumbent Senator Richard Young (D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion and deserves the support of public education advocates. I have been observing the General Assembly for 18 years, and Senator Young has consistently supported public education and opposed private school vouchers. His opponent is Republican Erin Houchin.

Erin Houchin most recently has been on the staff of Senator Dan Coats who supports private school vouchers at the federal level. Her Facebook page on education says she will “invest in education by directing more dollars to the classroom.” This phrase, pioneered by Governor Daniels, means that she believes that schools are inefficient and have too much overhead, and if they would only cut the overhead, they would have enough money to help students. By using this phrase, she is saying she does not think the budgets for public schools are too small, but rather the schools are misdirecting the funding.

Try telling the cash-strapped districts of Washington, Harrison, Orange, Crawford and Perry County that they have enough money but they are just spending it on the wrong things.

The “Dollars to the Classroom” program of Governor Daniels was narrowly passed into law in 2006 and resulted in burdensome annual reports using a flawed system sorting every expenditure into either classroom dollars or overhead dollars. Ironically, the whole purpose of the program was to second-guess the decisions of local school officials, contradicting Erin Houchin’s second point on her education agenda: “Maintain local control of our schools and curriculum.” If she is successful on her first point, local control will take another beating.

If public school advocates in these southern counties want to have an advocate for public schools in the Senate, they need to get behind Senator Young in a big way in the closing two weeks of the campaign. Primary vote totals show that newly drawn reapportionment lines have made him an underdog for reelection.

All of these pro-public education incumbents in Group 2 need your support. Primary vote totals indicate the incumbents in this list with the tightest races where your help is vital include Senator Skinner (SD 38) and Senator Young (SD 47). In fact, Senator Young’s newly drawn district lines have put him at a precarious disadvantage.


Group 3: An Incumbent Who Stood Up for Public Education by Voting Against Voucher Expansion Who Now Has An Opponent Who Also Supports Public Education.

There is one district in this rare situation:

Senate District 46 – Floyd County and part of Clark County

Incumbent Ron Grooms(R) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Chuck Freiberger, a 31-year Floyd County teacher with 14 years of experience as Floyd County Commissioner and 12 years of experience on the Floyd County Council, who opposes vouchers and wants more funding for public education. On his website, he says about Senator Grooms: “He silently went along as his buddies gutted the education budget.”

If we look beyond the 2013 voucher expansion vote to determine which candidate deserves the support of public school advocates, the historic 2011 must be added to the analysis. In “Vic’s Statehouse Notes #82 – April 21, 2011”, I wrote: “Here are the 28 Senators who abandoned the interests of public school students in the most crucial privatization vote of our generation and have endorsed the diversion of public dollars to private and religious school students as well as to home school students:” Senator Grooms, in the first year of his term, was on the list. He voted against public education and for vouchers in a vote where a change of only four Senators would have stopped the voucher program.

No matter what Senator Grooms does now to help public schools, history will show that when he had the chance to protect public education in 2011, he let public education advocates down. On November 4th, Chuck Freiberger deserves the support of public school advocates.

Group 4: Open Seats With No Incumbent

There are six districts in this situation:

Senate District 6 – Lake & Porter Counties

Senator Landske, who voted against the 2013 voucher expansion bill, has retired from a seat she held since 1984, and the open seat is a contest between Rick Niemeyer (R) and Roxanna Hanford (D).

Rick Niemeyer was elected to the Indiana House in 2012. In an interview with the Times of Northwest Indiana on January 11, 2013 as the session began, he said: “Education is a big issue, especially in our area. We need to make sure that the local schools have the tools and the finances that they need to work. Also, with the voucher system now in place, we need to make sure that both those systems are going to work. We are going to be using both. Some (students) will go to the voucher system, some think that’s the best for their children; some will stay in the local schools. We need to make sure they both have the same resources to work with.”

In two key votes at the end of the session, he voted against voucher expansion in the 2013 session and then he voted to support a budget with historically low funding for public schools, giving a paltry 1% increase for the current year of 2014-15. This funding level absolutely contradicts his words that local schools have the “finances they need to work.”

Roxanna Hanford, a business owner with eight years experience as a Newton County Commissioner, said in an endorsement interview with the Times of Northwest Indiana: “On vouchers, I absolutely disagree with it. If you want a private school, you should pay for it.”

Amen.

The problem of funding addressed by Representative Niemeyer is central to this debate. Since the voucher program became law, lawmakers have not voted to fund public schools well, despite Rick Niemeyer’s words that they should. By keeping public school funding low, lawmakers have degraded services in the public schools and given private schools the edge in the competitive marketing to gain parental choice.

With her clear opposition to vouchers, support of better funding and opposition to the Governor’s formation of CECI, Roxanna Hanford deserves the support of public school advocates on November 4th.

Senate District 15 – Allen County

Senator Wyss, who held the seat since 1985, has retired and the open seat is a contest between Democrat Jack Morris and Republican Liz Brown.

Liz Brown (R), a former member of the Fort Wayne City Council, enthusiastically supported vouchers and voucher expansion when she was interviewed by the editorial committee of the Journal-Gazette. She states on her website: “Allowing parents more choices over their children’s education through charters and vouchers involves parents in their children’s future and raises standards across Indiana.”

Jack Morris (D), who has practiced law in Fort Wayne since 1980, who has run four marathons, and who is a former youth minister, said on an interview with WANE-TV that supporting public education is one of the two major reasons he is running: “With public tax money going to private schools with vouchers, that is really taxing the public school system, and we need to find a way to correct that.” In an interview on 21Alive-TV, he said: "Public education has been under attack in the last few years, money being pulled away under the guise of choice. Those are private choices that need to be funded with private money.”

The contrast in this race is stark. Jack Morris deserves the support of public school advocates.

Senate District 27 - Randolph, Wayne, Union & parts of Fayette, Franklin & Dearborn Counties.

Senator Paul, who held the seat since 1985, has retired and the open seat is a contest between Democrat Jake Hoog, Republican Jeff Raatz and Libertarian Rex Bell.

Jeff Raatz (R), a businessman and a former principal of a private Christian school, supports private school vouchers and has been endorsed by the voucher advocacy group called the Hoosiers for Quality Education. In a recent WCTV candidate interview, he said: “I am an advocate of the school voucher system.”

Jake Hoog (D), who has worked in quality control at Hill-Rom in Batesville for 36 years, has previous experience on the Dearborn County Plan Commission and as chair of the Dearborn County Democrats. On the Vote IN website, he states that “education would be an important focus for him”: “Hoog said he supports Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, and said he will fight the "obstructionist" work that Gov. Mike Pence and state Republicans have done to discredit her. “ On a candidate interview on WCTV, he expressed great concern that too much testing is crowding out programs schools have to produce well-rounded citizens.

Libertarian Rex Bell, who supported school choice including online schools and home schools in a recent candidate interview on WCTV, is not a strong supporter of public education, in line with the Libertarian philosophy.

Clearly, Jake Hoog deserves the support of public school advocates in Senate District 27.

Senate District 39 – Daviess, Greene, Martin & Sullivan and parts of Clay, Knox & Owen Counties.

Senator Waterman, who held the seat the since 1994, was ousted in a bruising primary election last May by Eric Bassler, 51% to 49%. That outcome made this an open seat contest between Republican Eric Bassler and Democrat Steve Lindsey.

Senator Waterman was one of ten Republican Senators who supported public education and voted against voucher expansion in 2013. For this vote in support of public schools on HB 1003, he was strongly attacked by Eric Bassler. Aggressive attack ads against Senator Waterman financed by Hoosiers for Economic Growth, funded by Fred Klipsch, and by the Indiana chapter of Americans for Properity, funded by the Koch brothers, hit the airwaves about a week before the May primary. Both groups strongly support private school vouchers and have plenty of money. It was a bitter fight due to the well-funded attack ads, and Senator Waterman, one of the champions of public education in the Senate, lost the fight by 359 votes.

In the fall campaign, Senator Waterman has been campaigning together with Steve Lindsey. On October 6, 2014, Republican Senator Waterman formally endorsed Steve Lindsey, the Democrat, for the November 4th election. In a website posting dated Oct. 6, John Waterman said: “I’ve spent 20 years fighting for working families here in Southwest Indiana. I know Steve is a good Christian conservative and will continue to do what’s best for folks in our community, not what politicians in Indianapolis tell him."

Steve Lindsey responded: “I’m grateful for the support of Senator Waterman. John likes to call me a Reagan Democrat and it’s true. In Indianapolis, I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans to get things done for southwest Indiana and remind those politicians that our state doesn’t end south of I-70. That starts with fighting for a living wage and protecting our local schools.”

“It’s a shame Indianapolis CEOs and corporations are trying to buy our community’s senate seat,” said Lindsey. “Just like John Waterman, I’ll work for the folks right here in Southwest Indiana to create good-paying jobs and protect our public schools.”

Steve Lindsey, a small business owner and former County Commissioner in Greene County, has built a big part of his campaign on protecting public education.

This story should motivate public school advocates in District 39 to actively support Steve Lindsey in the next two weeks. Contact those you know in the cities of Washington, Bloomfield, Linton, Spencer, Sullivan, Loogootee and other areas of District 39.

Can the Koch brothers and big money groups reach into District 39 and change the Senatorial support of public education? The intensity of work by public school advocates talking to their friends and neighbors in the next two weeks in support of Steve Lindsey will answer that question.

Senate District 43 - Jennings, Ohio & parts of Bartholomew, Dearborn, Decatur, Jackson and Ripley Counties.

Senator Nugent, who held the seat since 1978, has retired and the open seat is a contest between Democrat Rudy Howard and Republican Chip Perfect.

Senator Nugent voted against vouchers in 2011, but then switched his vote to support voucher expansion in 2013. If he and the two others who switched in this manner (Senators Boots and Zakas) had maintained their opposition to vouchers, the voucher expansion of 2013 would not have passed.

Chip Perfect (R), a businessman who owns Perfect North Slopes ski resort, supports private school vouchers and has been endorsed by the voucher advocacy group called Hoosiers for Quality Education.

Rudy Howard (D) from Aurora supports public education. His website includes these statements:
  • “As your Senator, I will work with Glenda Ritz to address the challenges and opportunities that face Hoosier students, teachers, and schools. We owe it to our children to leave them with class A schools and a strong Middle Class. I call on you to add your voice to the call for change.”
  • “Public education is a civic obligation not a "consumer choice." Public schools belong to the public. They are the foundation of a strong economy and a free society.”
  • “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Amen!
Clearly, Rudy Howard deserves the support of public school advocates.

Senate District 48 – Western half of Dubois County &parts of Spencer, Warrick, Gibson, Knox & Pike Counties.

Senator Hume (D), who held the seat for 31 years, has retired and the open seat is a contest between Democrat Larry Vollmer and Republican Mark Messmer.

Mark Messmer (R), a member of the Indiana House of Representatives since 2008, has a clear record in the House that shows he has not supported public education. He voted for voucher expansion in 2013. He voted for vouchers in the historic 2011 legislative battle. He supported the paltry 2013 budget for public schools.

Larry Vollmer (D), a farmer and a Vietnam veteran, is a 13-year member of the Dubois County Commissioners, serving 6 years as President. He issued a statement on October 3, 2014 after receiving the endorsement of local teachers:

“I look forward to working hard for our community and going to Indianapolis to ensure teachers, parents and administrators all have a seat at the table. Unfortunately, lawmakers seem more focused on sending our tax dollars to for-profit schools in Indianapolis than fighting for our local schools. I intend to change that.”

With Mark Messmer’s poor record of support for public education, there is a stark contrast in this race. Larry Vollmer deserves the strong support of public school advocates in Senate District 48.


That Makes 15 Senate Races Where You Can Make a Difference for Public Education!

Thousands of Hoosier parents, educators and community members have wondered why public education has been given such a low priority in the General Assembly. The answer is clear. Legislators have been elected who give public education a low priority.

That can change in this election, and it must change if public education students are going to get the resources they need instead of the stingy budget given to them in the 2013 legislature. Public education advocates are on the ballot in 15 Senate races. They need your support!

Hundreds have been working for months to restore the fortunes of public school students in the legislative process. We need thousands more for the final two weeks of the campaign!

Pick out one or two races and do your part to help public education. As Rudy Howard (Senate District 43) wrote on his campaign website: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

Thanks for working to support public education!


Best wishes,


Vic Smith vic790@aol.com


There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com 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.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #21– October 17, 2014

Dear Friends,

Your work in the next two weeks in 51 races for seats in the Indiana House of Representatives will determine the future of public education in Indiana.

I am betting that many are so eager to restore public education to a high priority in the General Assembly that they will read to end of this message, share it with like-minded friends, and take action to help one or more of the candidates in the 51 races.

Public schools were hammered by the Indiana General Assembly elected in the last election. The assault on public education has to stop, but it will not stop until voters on November 4th stop it by electing candidates who support public education. Grass root advocates for public education need to go to work in a big way. You can make a huge difference in the next two weeks.

Pundits have already announced that there is no interest in this election and that turnout will be extremely low. My belief is that interest will pick up remarkably in the two weeks prior to the election and that public school advocates who work hard among their neighbors, friends and family can make a huge difference for the future of public education in the 51 House Districts which have not already been decided.

The Indiana Senate analysis will come in a later email.

[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.]

Voucher Expansion: The Ultimate Offense to Public Education

The ultimate offense to public education in the 2013 session of this current General Assembly was voucher expansion, House Enrolled Act 1003. It turned an already harmful 2011 voucher program into a subsidy for private school tuition for students who had already been going to private schools for all of their school careers. It was no longer about helping parents make a choice. The parents had already made the choice. HEA 1003 was about taxpayers paying for the bill for private and parochial tuition, a step toward the leadership’s goal of getting taxpayers to pay the bill for the religious education of all private school students.

We testified repeatedly that the bill would bring a huge new fiscal cost to the taxpayers, ending the overall savings to the state provided by the 2011 voucher program. The majority passed the bill anyway, and fourteen months later when the figures were in, IDOE announced that voucher expansion cost the state $15.7 million. That was subsidy money going to private school parents and to private schools.

To the legislators who voted for voucher expansion, that was a bigger priority than preschool, which got $10 million, than gifted and talented programs, which got $12 million, than English as a Second Language programs, which got $5 million, and certainly more than teacher professional development programs, which got $0 in the new budget.

The 2013 budget gave historically low increases to public education: 2% in 2013-14 and 1% in 2014-15. Indiana had never treated public school so poorly in good economic times. They had a huge surplus available. The majority of the current Indiana General Assembly simply turned against public education, both in funding and in expanding vouchers.

Voucher expansion had bipartisan opposition thanks to the intense lobbying by public school advocates. In the final House vote, 13 Republicans and all 31 Democrats voted against it. They should all be thanked for this crucial final day vote.

Voucher expansion passed by the vote of 55 Republicans. Voters who support public education now have their only chance to speak, and that chance is in the November 4th election.

If legislators who passed voucher expansion can waltz to easy victories, the decline of public education in Indiana will be confirmed. Public school advocates need to take action before November 4th to restore a priority for public education in the Indiana General Assembly.

Here is the analysis of House District races where public school supporters can make a difference:

Group 1: In 26 races, incumbents who failed public schools by voting for voucher expansion are running against opponents who support public education.

Group 2: In 17 races, incumbents who stood up for public schools by voting against voucher expansion are running against opponents who either support vouchers or have not made support of public education part of their campaign.

Group 3: In 2 races, incumbents who stood up for public schools by voting against voucher expansion are running against opponents who support public education. This is a positive but rare situation.

Group 4: In 2 races, incumbents have left the arena and the open seat is a contest between candidates who support public education and candidates who do not.

Group 5: In 4 races, the incumbent was not present to vote on the voucher expansion bill in special circumstances that will be described.

That totals 51 House races where public school advocates can have an impact.

In the other 49 races, the result for public education is already clear, as follows:

Group 6: In 22 races, incumbents who stood up for public education have no opponent in the November 4th election. They should be welcomed backed and thanked for their support of public schools. They include Republican Representatives Baird, Dermody, Koch, Leonard, Mahan, Truitt and Wolkins and Democrat Representatives Bauer, Bartlett, Charlie Brown, Delaney, Dvorak, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Kersey, Lawson, Moed, Pelath, Pierce, Pryor, Vernon Smith and Summers.

Group 7: In 17 races, incumbents who failed public schools by voting for voucher expansion have no opponent. One can only hope they will have an opponent in 2016. They include Republican Representatives Bosma, Steve Braun, Tim Brown, Burton, Devon, Eberhart, Friend, Frye, Huston, Lehman, Lucas, Negele, Speedy, Steuerwald, VanNatter,Washburne, and Zent

Group 8: In 1 race, incumbent Representative Cox was appointed after the voucher expansion vote and now has no opponent.

Group 9: In 6 races, incumbents who failed public schools by voting for voucher expansion have an opponent who has not made support of public education part of the campaign. These incumbents include Republican Representatives Cherry, Culver, Harman, Lehe, Price and Ziemke.

Group 10: In 3 races, there is no incumbent and the only candidate supports vouchers: Districts 48, 63 & 83.

I strongly urge you to review the 51 House races outlined below. If you live in one, go to work there for the candidate who supports public education. If you don’t live in one, pick out one or two others to support by:
  • Contacting friends or family who do live in those districts
  • Joining the many volunteers who are already working hard on behalf of the candidates who are supporting public education.
  • Sending a contribution
These election efforts in the next two weeks are the front lines of the battle to save public education in Indiana. Let’s go to work!

Group 1: Incumbents Who Have Failed Public Education

A total of 26 incumbent members of the House badly damaged public education by voting to expand the private school voucher program and now have an opponent who supports public education.

The incumbents deserve an F for voting to expand vouchers in the historic 2103 voucher expansion vote on House Bill 1003.

Their opponents deserve the support of all public school advocates. If public education is going to reverse its losses in the General Assembly, a new group needs to be elected. I urge you to pick one or two of these races and get involved. Here are the 26 races to chose from:

House District 15 – Lake County

Incumbent Hal Slager (R) voted to expand vouchers. Jim Wieser (D), a former president of the Lake County Council, who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Rich James wrote in the Times of Northwest Indiana (1-19-14): “Wieser has chastised Gov. Mike Pence and fellow Republicans for their attacks on Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and public education.”

House District 16 – Newton, Jasper & Pulaski Counties

Incumbent Douglas Gutwein (R) voted to expand vouchers. Rich Ludington (D) , who has served on the Rensselaer School Board and who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. His website says: “Rich will work to reverse the destructive policies of the past two years that threaten our education system.”

House District 21 – Elkhart & St. Joseph Counties

Incumbent Tim Wesco (R) voted to expand vouchers. Jodi Buoscio (D), a teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School with 18 years of teaching experience, who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. I grew up in Elkhart and I know there are many strong advocates of public education in the Elkhart area who want better support for public schools than they saw in the Indiana General Assembly since the last election.

House District 28 – Hendricks County

Incumbent Jeff Thompson (R) voted to expand vouchers. Sean Shanley (D), a music educator who supports public education is challenging him, giving public school advocates a choice opposing Representative Thompson on the November ballot for the first time in many years. Sean Shanley’s Facebook page says: “Lack of support financially and increased strains of standardized testing are slowly crushing public schools.”

House District 29 – Hamilton County

Incumbent Kathy Richardson (R) voted to expand vouchers. Joe Marcum (D), a highly respected 37-year teacher and coach in Noblesville is challenging her and deserves the support of public school advocates. On his Facebook page, he wrote on October 16th: “I thought it was interesting that in yesterday's paper, the Republican Party was advocating to increase funding for education, which is what the Democrats have been saying for quite some time. I think the House Minority Leader said it best....remember that this is the same party that "took a meat cleaver" to education funding in the past.”

House District 30 – Howard County

Incumbent Mike Karickoff (R) voted to expand vouchers. Chuck Sosbe (D) , who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. His Facebook page states: “While Mike Karickhoff supported private school families receiving tax breaks for school textbook purchases, he has remained silent on this issue while I will go on record stating I support Superintendent Ritz's $70 million budget request.”

House District 35 - Madison & Delaware County

Incumbent Jack Lutz (R) voted to expand vouchers. Melanie Wright (D), a 26-year public school music teacher in Daleville who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Melanie lost to Representative Lutz by only 400 votes in 2012. I have talked personally several times with Melanie about her strong opposition to private school vouchers.

House District 39 – Hamilton County

Incumbent Jerry Torr (R) voted to expand vouchers. David Russ (D) who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. His website states regarding public education: “ Private ventures continue to siphon off taxpayer dollars that might otherwise be used as improvement dollars – hindering educators’ resources and negatively impacting the educational experience of the the student.”

House District 42 – Vermillion County & portions of Vigo County

Incumbent Alan Morrison (R) voted to expand vouchers. Mark Spelbring (D) who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Mark’s website states regarding public education: “Public schools should be supported and improved, not disrespected and destroyed. I believe some state leaders badmouthed public school teachers to create a climate where radical changes could be made. Public schools should not have funding pulled away to private and religious schools.” Mark lost to Representative Morrison in 2012 by less than 100 votes.

House District 46 – Owen, Vigo & Monroe Counties

Incumbent Bob Heaton (R) voted to expand vouchers. Jim Mann (D), a 27-year teacher and coach at Terre Haute South who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Jim’s stellar record includes the Terre Haute South Teacher of the Year award, membership in the National Council for the Social Studies and attendance at several ICPE events in support of public education.

House District 52 – DeKalb County

Incumbent Ben Smaltz (R) voted to expand vouchers. Charlie Odier (D), who strongly supports public education and State Superintendent Glenda Ritz is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education asked on a survey: Do you believe tax dollars should support private and parochial education? Charlie Odier responded: “I believe in separation of church and state. I don't think we should pay to teach one kind or another of religion."

House District 56 – Wayne County

Incumbent Richard Hamm (R) voted to expand vouchers. Phil Pflum (D), who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Phil served in the Indiana General Assembly from 2002 through 2010 and was instrumental in helping to stop Gov. Daniels’ all-out effort to pass private school vouchers in 2005. Phil is a proven friend of public education.

House District 59 – Bartholomew County

Incumbent Milo Smith (R) voted to expand vouchers. Zach Ellison (D), who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Zach, a Vietnam Marine Corps now retired from Cummins Engine and serving as President of Data Cave, a data storage facility, wrote in a September 7th article: "During my opponent’s time as State Representative our state has slashed funding for local schools, and he supported a voucher scheme which has already cost taxpayers $16 million this year, without significantly improving educational opportunities. We simply can't afford to continue in that direction."

House District 60 – Morgan County

Incumbent Peggy Mayfield (R) voted to expand vouchers. Daymon Brodhacker (D), who supports public education is challenging her and deserves the support of public school advocates. Daymon, a Navy veteran and retired teacher and principal in the schools of the Indiana Department of Corrections, wrote in a strong statement on education on his campaign website: “We need to stop underfunding our schools and teachers. We need to stop the effort designed for teachers and schools to fail. We will NOT privatize education. We can do better."

House District 62 – Greene & Monroe Counties

Incumbent Matt Ubelhor (R) voted to expand vouchers. Jeff Sparks (D), current principal of Linton-Stockton Middle School, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. On Jeff’s website is the following comment on education: “The Statehouse voted to cut public education while extending tax breaks to huge corporations. We need strong schools and as an educator and a legislator, Jeff will fight until we get them. Our kids deserve better.”

Libertarian candidate Ashley Keith-Qualkenbush is also running in District 62.

House District 68 – Union and portions of Franklin and Dearborn Counties

Incumbent Jud McMillan (R) voted to expand vouchers. Rick Gill (D), who supports public education is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Rick, an Army veteran, retired as Master Trooper in the Indiana State Police in 2011 and currently serves on the Franklin County School Board. He says on his website: “I will work diligently with Glenda Ritz, Department of Education Superintendent.”

House District 70 – Clark County

Incumbent Rhonda Rhoads (R) voted to expand vouchers. Heidi Sellers (D), who supports public education is challenging her and deserves the support of public school advocates. Heidi, who retired from teaching Kindergarten in the West Clark Community Schools after 34 years in the classroom, has a strong endorsement from Glenda Ritz on her Facebook page.

House District 72 – Floyd County

Incumbent Ed Clere (R) voted to expand vouchers. Dr. Kevin Sue Bailey (D), a professor of English Education at IU Southeast with 40 years experience in literacy education, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. On her video campaign statement, she says: “Public schools are really the heart of the community. . . . It would be very wrong and I am very concerned lately about the Governor’s drive to privatize education.”

House District 73 – Washington County

Incumbent Steve Davisson (R) voted to expand vouchers. Doug Leatherbury (D), an attorney who has now worked on 6000 cases, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. In a September 29th speech recorded on YouTube, Doug elaborated on his campaign to protect public education: “We know that our education system is under assault. Public education in Indiana and throughout the United States is the foundation for our great progress that we’ve had.”

House District 74 – Crawford & Perry Counties and portions of Dubois, Orange and Spencer Counties

Incumbent Lloyd Arnold (R) voted to expand vouchers. Chris Coyle (D), a paramedic and a graduate of Indiana University, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Chris stated in the Dubois County Free Press on May 29th: “In 2012, my opponent spent hundreds of thousands of dollars telling our community he was one of us. Less than six months after being elected, he voted to cut funding to every public school in his district and send hundreds of millions of dollars to private, for profit schools in Indianapolis. No matter what party you are from, that is wrong.”

I had the opportunity to talk directly with Rep. Arnold about all the reasons why he should say no to the 2013 voucher expansion bill prior to the vote. It was a friendly exchange. He listened respectfully, and I had reason to think he might join the no votes. It didn’t happen.

House District 81 – Allen County

Incumbent Martin Carbaugh (R) voted to expand vouchers. Thad Gerardot (D), a graduate of IPFW who works for Lincoln Financial Group, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. In a survey by the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, when asked “Do you believe tax dollars should support private and parochial education?” Thad responded “No” while Martin Carbaugh didn’t respond to the survey.

House District 82 – Noble County

Incumbent David Ober (R) voted to expand vouchers. Mike Wilber (D), a Sheet Metal Worker and volunteer fire fighter in LaOtto, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. In the survey by the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education answering the question “Do you believe tax dollars should support private and parochial education?” Mike’s wrote "Absolutely not. Tax dollars should support public schools.”

House District 84 – Allen County

Incumbent Bob Morris (R) voted to expand vouchers. Fred Haigh, a DePauw graduate with a doctorate from Ball State and 30 years teaching experience in the Fort Wayne Community Schools, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Fred’s response to the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education on the privatization question “Do you believe tax dollars should support private and parochial education?” was emphatic: "Absolutely not! I believe the first ten words added to the constitution (the first sentence of the first amendment) outline a wall of separation between church and state. Tax proceeds should not be used to support the parochial, ideological, or dogmatic views of a minority or, for that matter, a majority of the public."

House District 89 – Marion County

Incumbent Cindy Kirchhofer (R) voted to expand vouchers. Debra Jenkins (D), who has worked in local government for 30 years and currently serves as Marion County Surveyor, is challenging her and deserves the support of public school advocates. On her Facebook page, Debra states: “I believe in protecting our public schools and making sure teachers have the resources they need so our students are prepared for a 21st century job market.”

I had the opportunity during the 2013 session to have an extended conversation with Representative Kirchhofer during a lunch meeting about the reasons why voucher expansion would hurt public schools. She was non-committal and later voted against the interests of public schools to pass HB 1003.

House District 91 – Hendricks and Marion Counties

Incumbent Robert Behning (R) sponsored HB 1003 to expand vouchers. No member of the House has done more than Representative Behning to undermine public education with his bills to give state funding to private schools. He has called for all private school tuition to be paid by taxpayers in what he calls a “universal voucher.” Patrick Lockhart (D), currently studying at Indiana University is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. On his website, Patrick tells of efforts to contact Representative Behning: “But unfortunately, he couldn’t reply to me, let me know that he heard my concerns as a constituent, and basically at that point I decided that, you know, enough is enough.”

Patrick initiated and led a rally for Public Education on the steps of the Circle in Downtown Indianapolis on October 11th. He has shown great enthusiasm for bringing public education back from the degraded priority that Representative Behning has given it.

House District 93 – Marion and Johnson Counties

Incumbent Dave Frizzell (R) voted to expand vouchers. Ryan Guillory (D), an attorney, a graduate of IU-Bloomington Law School, is challenging him and deserves the support of public school advocates. Goals stated on his Facebook page include: “To return control of our schools to local governments.
To support our teachers and our Superintendent of Public Instruction, and to eliminate the waste of the redundant CECI.”

Those are the 26 incumbents who have failed public education and have a challenger who supports public education.

Group 2: Incumbents Who Have Supported Public Education

Seventeen incumbent members of the House who voted against the 2013 expansion of the voucher program now have an opponent who either supports vouchers or has not made public education part of the campaign.

These incumbents deserve an A for voting to oppose voucher expansion in the historic 2103 vote on House Bill 1003. Two are Republicans and fifteen are Democrats.

If public education is going to reverse its losses in the General Assembly, these friends of public education need your strong support to return to the General Assembly. I urge you to pick one or two of these races and get involved. Here are the 17 races where you can help incumbents loyal to public education:

House District 2 – Lake County

Incumbent Earl Harris (D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Jayson Reeves (R).

House District 7 – St. Joseph County

Incumbent David Niedgodski(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Libertarian Mark Vogel.

House District 10 – Porter County

Incumbent Chuck Moseley(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is John Johnston (R).

House District 12 – Lake County

Incumbent Mara Candelaria Reardon(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Republican William Fine.

House District 19 – Porter County

Incumbent Shelli VanDenburgh(D), a strong voice for public education in the House Education Committee, voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Republican Julie Olthoff.

House District 27 – Tippecanoe County

Incumbent Sheila Klinker(D), a strong voice for public education on the House Ways and Means Committee, voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Chuck Hockema.

House District 34 – Delaware County

Incumbent Sue Errington(D), also a strong voice for public education on the House Education Committee, voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Republican Stuart Keenan.

House District 36 – Madison County

Incumbent Terri Austin(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Republican James Shelton.

House District 54 – Henry County

Incumbent Tom Saunders(R) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Libertarian Brad Owens.

House District 66 – Scott & Jefferson Counties

Incumbent Terry Goodin(D), also a strong voice for public education on the House Ways and Means Committee, voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Republican Lisa Shadday.

House District 71 – Clark County

Incumbent Steven Stemler(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Libertarian Russell Brooksbank.

House District 75 – Warrick, Spencer and Pike Counties

Incumbent Ron Bacon(R) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Steve Spinks (D) who has not clarified his support for public education in his campaign.

House District 77 – Vanderburgh County

Incumbent Gail Riecken(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Republican Jeremy Heath.

House District 87 – Marion County

Incumbent Christina Hale(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Republican Mike Friedman.

House District 92 – Marion County

Incumbent Karlee Macer(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponents are Republican Bradford Moulton and Independent John Couch.

House District 96 – Marion County

Incumbent Greg Porter(D), who speaks up strongly for public education in his position as Ranking Minority Member on the House Ways and Means Committee, voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Republican Margaret Jones.

House District 98 – Marion County

Incumbent Robin Shackleford(D) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. Her opponent is Libertarian Bill Levin

All of these pro-public education incumbents in Group 2 need your support. Primary vote totals indicate the incumbents in this list with the tightest races where your help is vital include:
  • Representative Shelli VanDenburgh (HD 19)
  • Representative Sheila Klinker (HD 27)
  • Representative Terri Austin (HD 36)
  • Representative Gail Riecken (HD 77)
  • Representative Christina Hale (HD 87) and
  • Representative Karlee Macer (HD 92).

Group 3: Incumbents Who Stood Up for Public Education by Voting Against Vouchers Who Now Have Opponents Who Also Support Public Education.

There are two districts in this rare but positive situation:

House District 4

Incumbent Ed Soliday(R) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. His opponent is Deb Porter, a public school teacher and teacher leader, who in her website video says: “We’ve got to do something here in Indiana to change the direction of public education. … We need legislators who will step back and allow Glenda Ritz to do the job that she’s been overwhelmingly elected to do.”

House District 76

Incumbent Wendy McNamara(R) voted to support public education by voting against voucher expansion. She should also be thanked for being one of four Republicans to vote against vouchers in 2011. Her opponent is Tony Goben (D), a case manager in the trustee’s office, who has written on his Facebook page: “I believe in an Indiana that expands our public education system, and does not keep seeking reasons to undermine it. … Our legislature has been side tracked by businesses that want to create “for profit” institutes of learning and want to privatize our public education system. Our children’s education should never be for sale to the highest bidder. When profit comes in to the mix of education, profit will always win. We can not afford that price for our children’s future.”


Group 4: Open Seats Where a Candidate Who Supports Public Education Faces an Opponent Who Supports Vouchers

There are two districts in this situation:

House District 11 – Lake & Porter Counties

James Metro (D) has said in the Times of Northwest Indiana (10-7-14): “They always seem to cut education. We need to find other places to cut. Education should be one of the priorities.”

His opponent Michael Aylesworth has shown no similar interest in making education a priority. In the same article reported on 10-7-14, “he hopes to find money to restore education cuts, but he added he won’t know if it’s possible unless he wins the election.” In an interview by the editors of the Times of Northwest Indiana on 4-21-14, he said “I’m very positive about the use of vouchers in private schools.”

Clearly, James Metro deserves the support of public school advocates.

House District 22 – Kosciusko County

David Kolbe, an attorney, has made support of public education a priority, as quoted in an article by Tim Ashley in Kosciusko County’s Free Digital Newspaper: “We need to ensure schools are sufficiently funded such that we have all available resources to educate our children. I will support legislation that properly funds schools and I am opposed to the voucher program which takes monies from schools.”

Neither Republican Curt Nisly nor Libertarian Michael Stinfer has taken this position in support of public education and in opposition to vouchers. Clearly, David Kolbe deserves the support of public school advocates.


Group 5: Incumbents Who Did Not Vote on Voucher Expansion in 2013 – Four Special Cases

House District 32 - Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Howard, Madison & Grant County

Incumbent Eric Turner (R) was the only member of the House who did not vote on the 2013 voucher expansion bill, House Bill 1003. In the final vote of 55-44, he was the absentee. Nevertheless, his support of vouchers has been clear for a long time. He voted for vouchers in the historic 2011 voucher battle that first set up the voucher program. Now, in a strange turn of events, he has announced before the election that he will resign his seat just as soon as he is re-elected.

His opponent, Democrat Bob Ashley, has set as one of his priorities: “Saving and restoring our public school system for the sake of today’s students and all those to come.” He wrote in his campaign blog on September 12th: “I will vote to increase education spending, not only to cover textbooks but to meet the needs of schools throughout the state. … Indiana, in recent years, has diverted far too much of the education budget away from public schools and toward vouchers that allow parents to send their children to private and charter schools, depriving local public schools of the money they need to operate effectively to educate our children. We need to strengthen public schools, not undermine them.”

Clearly, Bob Ashley deserves the support of public school advocates over what has turned out to be the absentee candidacy of Eric Turner.

House District 33 - Jay & Randolph County

Incumbent Republican Greg Beumer did not vote on voucher expansion since he was not appointed to his seat until November 2013 when Representative Bill Davis took a job in the Pence administration. In a telling endorsement, Representative Beumer has now been endorsed for election by the pro-voucher group called Hoosiers for Quality Education.

Shon Byrum, a social studies teacher in Winchester, has earned the endorsement of State Superintendent Glenda Ritz. He supports public education.

Libertarian Zeb Sutton is also running in District 33.

The contrast is stark. Clearly, Shon Byrum deserves the support of public school advocates.

House District 45 – Sullivan County and portions of Knox, Daviess, Green & Vigo Counties

Incumbent Bionca Gambill supports public education. She was appointed when one of the legislative heroes of public education Representative Kreg Battles stepped down from his House seat in May. She is running against a long-time supporter of vouchers Bruce Borders, who voted for vouchers in 2011 when he was a member of the House, before he lost to Rep. Battles in the 2012 election. In the election between two sitting members of the House put in the same district by the new reapportionment, support of public education played a big role in the 2012 victory by Representative Battles over Bruce Borders.

With the long record of voucher support by Bruce Borders, the clear choice for public school advocates is Bionca Gambill.

House District 78 – Vanderburgh County

Incumbent Holly Sullivan (R) was not appointed to the House until after the 2013 voucher expansion vote. She filled the seat held by Suzanne Crouch who became the State Auditor appointed after the previous Auditor resigned. On her website, she has shown no interest in deviating from Rep. Crouch’s votes in favor of vouchers in both 2011 and 2013: “I will work to improve K-12 education through choice and opportunity, making higher education affordable, and protecting the freedom of Hoosier families.”

Stephen Melcher (D), a veteran and a two-term Vanderburgh County Commissioner, is challenging her and deserves the support of public school advocates. He recognizes the need for better education funding. In an interview with the Southwest Indiana Chamber, he states: “I don’t know if I would be bragging about a $2 billion surplus when we can’t fund education.”


That Makes 51 Races Where You Can Make a Difference for Public Education!

Thousands of Hoosier parents, educators and community members support public education and have been frustrated at the lack of support for public education in the General Assembly. Intense activity in the next two weeks in the 51 House districts where public education advocates are on the ballot is vital for the future of public education in Indiana.

This is the big test. Hundreds are already working intensively to restore public education. We need thousands more for two weeks! We need your active participation! Please read this list and do what you can.

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com


There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com 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.