Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Scratch Voting



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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Right to Vote



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Friday, April 11, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #14– April 11, 2014

Dear Friends,

Representative Behning is the dominant legislative leader advocating that all private school students should have their private school tuition paid for by public taxpayers, which he calls the “universal voucher.”

His opponent in the May 6th primary, Michael Scott, opposes vouchers and opposes the move to expand vouchers to a universal voucher.

This crucial issue is now in the hands of the Republican primary voters in District 91. Will they support Representative Behning’s push for a universal voucher, or will they support public education and Michael Scott?

The 2013 Debate: The Voters Now Have their Turn

During the 2013 session, Representative Behning sponsored a major expansion of vouchers, HB 1003. When the bill reached the Senate Education Committee, Senator Kenley raised a set of significant questions in a lengthy exchange as Representative Behning introduced the bill to the Senate Committee meeting in the Senate Chamber.

Senator Kenley, the fiscal watchdog of the Senate, asked specifically if the proposed expansion wouldn’t lead to the expansion of vouchers to all private school students. He said since there are about 100,000 private school students and each voucher costs the state about $5000, the total new fiscal cost for vouchers eventually could be $500 million dollars. Senator Kenley asked if this is where Representative Behning wants to go with this program.

Representative Behning did not back away from the program or the vast fiscal cost. He restated his belief that all private school students should get a voucher. He said that he has long advocated for a “universal voucher” that would be available to every student in a private school, regardless of income or circumstances.

This is a vision for school funding that deserves review by the voters. Do they agree that the General Assembly should expand vouchers so that taxpayers would pay for the tuition of every private school student, including the provision of free religious education at public expense?

I don’t agree, and Michael Scott does not agree. The voters of District 91 can send a message of support for public education and opposition to any plans for a “universal voucher” by electing Michael Scott in the May 6th primary election.

$31 Million Spent in the First Year for Students Who Have Always Attended Private Schools

After HB 1003 passed in 2013, vouchers were paid to 7779 students who had never been enrolled earlier in a public school and 12030 students who had transferred from a public school to a private school, for a total of 19, 809 vouchers, according to a state report issued in January. Since on average each voucher costs the taxpayer $4092, the cost for the nearly 7800 students who have always been in private school and are now being paid with public tax dollars is $31.8 million.

That is a huge new cost to the public. Comparing it to other school costs, the state pays $18 million for all of summer school, $12 million for gifted and talented programs, and only $5 million for the entire Non-English Speaking program. Our priorities have become skewed.

The 12,030 students who transferred to private schools from a public school took $50 million in public tuition money with them. This amount should be analyzed differently from the $31 million described above. When students transfer from public schools to private schools, there is a small savings to the state since the voucher is always set at slightly less than the public school support payments. This “money saving” feature helped Representative Behning sell the program in the first place. The $50 million has been diverted from the public schools and thus hurts the revenue available to public school students, but overall the state saved a small amount of money. A year ago the savings was about $4 million.

Now that savings is gone. When $31 million is being spent on students who have always been in private schools, there is no more savings. The public is simply paying directly for private and religious education in a big way.

I think that is wrong. Michael Scott thinks that is wrong. The election on May 6th can turn around our priorities to focus on supporting public schools and stopping the march to privatize them.

What You Can Do

Michael Scott is walking District 91 to campaign and has invited all who want to help to join in the walks. In a general letter of invitation, he writes:
This has become a very important primary race and I need your help. We will be walking this Saturday April 12th in the Decatur Township area. I have a total of 2,852 homes in Decatur Township that need to be visited so please come bring a friend and pass this message on to someone else. With your help we can win this very important race.

We will meet at the Menards parking lot just behind the Starbucks at 8310 Windfall Ln. Camby, In. 46113. Morning sign in will start at 8:30 with the first morning group going out at 9:00. Afternoon sign in will start at 12:30 with the first afternoon group going out at 1:00. My (Michael Scott) cell number is 317-517-0947.

For those who may have never walked before we have walk packets put together. We walk in teams for safety. We just ask registered voters for their support. We have a great time meeting people. Please come and join us as "we the people" get involved in changing the way politics have been done in the last several years. We will be walking Guilford Township, Perry Township and Wayne Township at later Saturday dates. Please set some time aside during one of these next few Saturdays and help to make a difference for "future generations" Blessings!!! Michael Scott
His website for more information or to support his campaign with a donation is:

http://michaelscottforindiana.nationbuilder.com

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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, April 9, 2014

Vote for Public Education



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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Safeguard of Democracy



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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #13– March 31, 2014

Dear Friends,

The architect of Indiana’s private school voucher law is being challenged in the May 6th primary by a Republican who opposes vouchers. The voters in the Republican primary in Indiana House District 91 will shape the future of public education in Indiana.

Representative Behning is being challenged by Michael Scott. Representative Behning has been the champion of private schools and the sponsor of the K-12 voucher laws. Public school advocates have in Michael Scott a candidate who supports public education.

Will the Republican voters of District 91 choose to continue the demise of public education through the policies of Representative Behning or will they choose to support public education?

[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.]

A Clear Choice on Education Policy

I have closely observed Representative Behning’s work in the General Assembly since he became the chair of the Education Committee in the 2005 session. After serving as ranking minority member in 2007 when Democrats controlled the House, he returned as chair in 2011. Since then he has been the dominant force in making Indiana an experimental marketplace of school choice in which all schools, public and private, compete for the hearts and minds of parents.

Public money now flows for tuition to private and religious schools, breaking the vision of separation between private schools and public money that lasted for 160 years since our 1851 Constitution. Private and religious schools received $81 million in public tax money in 2013-14, according to a state report issued in January.

I strongly opposed passage of the voucher program and the major expansion of that program in 2013. Besides the $81 million shifted away from the one million students in public schools, vouchers entangle state tax money with religious education in religious schools and also give public money to subsidize private schools including their partisan political activities. Private schools taking vouchers have retained the right under Representative Behning’s bills to be as politically partisan as they want to be.

I continue to believe that when the damage to our democracy comes into clearer focus, the rush to expand vouchers will be reversed. For that to happen, voters will need to elect candidates who will support public education rather than private schools. Michael Scott will support public education.

Representative Behning has favored private education and has hurt public education to an extent not easy to summarize in a brief message. Here are three points for starters, all based on his actions since the last election in 2012:
  • He was the leader in vastly expanding public dollars to pay for private and religious education in 2013.
He sponsored House Bill 1003 in the 2013 session which vastly expanded K-12 vouchers. Ten Republican Senators and thirteen Republican members of the House voted against HB 1003, but it still passed.

This expanded experimental marketplace of schools has already had two harmful effects:

First, the dominant concern for all schools is no longer instruction or curriculum. The central concern now must be: marketing. If each school doesn’t get its message and accomplishments out to the parents who are making choices, the school will wither and die. Marketing programs and marketing budgets have ballooned.

Second, the balanced curriculum of my era is now gone. The competition among schools for parent loyalty is driven by math and English tests. All other subjects are receiving benign neglect as more and more attention goes to math and language arts. Music, art, social studies, foreign languages and even science are slowly fading as financial resources dry up and must be concentrated on what really counts: higher test scores in math and language arts. The intense competition for survival demands it.

Here is where the loss of money makes a big difference in the competition. Representative Behning’s voucher program siphoned $50 million from public schools to private schools in 2013-14 based on 12,000 students who transferred from public to private schools. In addition, HB 1003 created new pathways and a new expense to the state of $31 million for the tuition of 7800 private school students who have always been in private schools and have never attended a public school.

Representative Behning and the leadership can control the competition by controlling how much money public schools get. After this last budget that Representative Behning supported, public school budgets are hurting, and that puts public schools at a great disadvantage in the marketplace of schools brought to life by Representative Behning’s voucher program. The 2013 budget was downright stingy in school funding.

Do the voters of District 91 really support Representative Behning’s goal, stated in the Senate Chamber in a 2013 committee discussion, to expand vouchers until all private school students can get a tax funded voucher, be they rich or be they poor, which he called a “universal voucher”? I am not so sure. This election will tell us.
  • He supported the lowest school funding increases in years while engineering increases in private school voucher payments that were twice the size of the funding increases for public schools.
In the 2013 budget, public schools were hoping to recover some of the funding that had been cut during the Great Recession. Instead, the General Assembly with the vote of Representative Behning, raised school funding by only 2% in 2014 and by only 1% in 2015, the lowest increases in the past 20 years except for the four-year span of the Great Recession when revenue dried up. Revenue was no longer a problem in 2013.

Despite these low increases for public schools, Representative Behning won voucher increases of 4% in 2014 and 2% in 2015, rising from $4500 up to $4700 in 2014 and on up to $4800 in 2015. These amounts for private school vouchers are now higher than the per-pupil funding for several public school districts.

Low funding has hurt the ability of public schools to compete in the grand marketplace of schools that parents can now choose from. Many parents look for low class sizes, but when budgets are kept artificially tight in public schools, class sizes go up, and private schools can keep an edge in the competition that Representative Behning’s work has created.

Do the voters of District 91 really support Representative Behning’s low funding of public schools while voucher payments grow generously? I am not so sure. This election will tell us.
  • He sponsored and passed a partisan bill to rewrite Indiana’s 1999 accountability law, Public Law 221.
Landmark legislation in 1999 started Indiana’s accountability program with bipartisan support. All stakeholders involved in education were at the table and supported the final product for 14 years until Representative Behning rewrote it in 2013 without bipartisan support and without all parties at the table.

He attempted to rewrite it in House Bill 1337, but his own Republican caucus handed HB 1337 an unexpected defeat, 33-61. A total of 31 Republicans and 30 Democrats joined in saying no to Representative Behning’s bill. At the end of the session, Representative Behning worked his changes into HB 1427 which passed on a partisan vote, including a controversial addition to inscribe into state law the labels for school performance, naming them as A through F. The 1999 law had left the labels up to the State Board of Education, but Representative Behning acted to take it out of their hands and write it into law.

Do the voters of District 91 really support Representative Behning’s partisan bill locking into law the labeling of our schools as A, B, C, D or F? I am not so sure. This election will tell us.

A different voice has stepped forward

In the great tradition of our democracy, Michael Scott has told me he is running because he believes most of Representative Behning’s positions on education are wrong. He wants the attacks on public education to stop. He opposes vouchers. He wants to see practicing educators have a greater voice in public education policies, rather than non-educators.

Representative Behning’s changes have had a detrimental impact on public education across our entire state. Michael Scott deserves the support of public school advocates across our entire state.

Representative Behning’s ideas on education are controversial within the Republican Party. There are many strong Republicans like Michael Scott who support public education. Will they show up at the polls on May 6th?

What can you do?

First, public school advocates who live in District 91 and wish to vote in the Republican primary should register to vote. A map showing District 91 near Plainfield in Hendricks County and Decatur Township of Marion County is attached. Voter registration ends on Monday, April 7th, one week from today.

Here is a link that can help with voter registration: indianavoters.in.gov/PublicSite/PublicMain.aspx

Public school advocates who live and vote elsewhere but want to support Michael Scott can do two things. First, talk with friends and relatives who live in Plainfield and District 91 to seek their support for Michael Scott. Second, go to his website to support his campaign with a donation: michaelscottforindiana.nationbuilder.com

Representative Behning has made a national name for himself among those who support private school vouchers. He will have plenty of campaign money to spend. Michael Scott could use your help.

Thanks for working to support public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Register to Vote - Spring Break 2014



Click Here to register to vote or to confirm your registration.

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