Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #211 – March 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Are current Indiana Scholarship Granting Organizations following the law?

Indiana legislators should investigate and assure citizens and taxpayers that the law is being followed before investing another $10 million dollars of public tax money in SGO's in the new 2-year budget. Governor Pence and the House budget want to hike the SGO budget from $7.5 million to $12.5 million each year for the next two years, with an escalator clause to go even higher.

Here are the reasons for the questions about whether they are operating within the law and the intentions of the General Assembly:
  • SGO's are required by law to limit "administrative costs" to 10% (IC 20-51-3-3). Before a 2013 amendment, the legal requirement was to spend 90% of the donations on scholarships. The intent is clear that all but 10% of the donations should be used for scholarships.
  • In 2013-14, the four SGO's combined received contributions of $16.1 million, according to a summary report on the IDOE website prepared August 25, 2014. "Administrative costs" of 10% would be expected at most to be $1.61 million. That would leave $14.5 million to be given out as scholarships.
  • The actual amount the four SGO's reported giving out as scholarships was $11.8 million, which is short of the $14.5 million expectation by $2.7 million.
How do the Scholarship Granting Organizations account for the $2.7 not expended in scholarships?

Here are additional questions that must be answered by the General Assembly before entrusting SGO's with an enormous 67% increase, from $7.5 million to $12.5 million per year:
  • Are the SGO's keeping the $2.7 in the bank to give out next year or did they overspend the "administrative costs"?
  • If they claim they are keeping that much money in reserve for the future, does the General Assembly approve of their delaying $2.7 million in unused scholarships? Haven't SGO's used $1.35 in public money for tax credits to raise that money? Shouldn't they turn the money around faster and get it to students as intended?
  • Before any additional money goes for this purpose, shouldn't timelines and guidelines be tightened to guarantee taxpayers that their tax money has been handled appropriately?
  • Since having a previous SGO scholarship became in 2014-15 the biggest path for voucher eligibility, who is monitoring the SGO program that is now the biggest reason vouchers are expanding among students who have always been in private schools?

Keeping $2.7 million is a lot to have in reserve, if that is where the money is now sitting. From the very brief August 1st reports that are required from SGO's, it is hard to know if they have gone over the 10% figure or not. It is certainly clear the original legislative intent of $14.5 for scholarships did not happen. It is also clear that the $2.7 million that may be sitting in the SGO bank accounts cost the taxpayers 50% in tax credits, or $1.35 million.

That's a high taxpayer cost to pay for money that is sitting idle, and sitting idle is the nicest interpretation of what is happening. If it has been spent on "administrative costs" beyond the 10%, they are breaking the law.

We should all ask legislators to clear up these questions before any additional money is handed over to SGO's for tax credit scholarships.

As you discuss this concern with Senators for the budget debate, don't forget to contact Senators on the Education Committee to oppose HB 1638 as they vote this Wednesday, March 25th. HB 1638 would give appointed members of the State Board of Education new and unprecedented power to take over an entire school district from its elected school board. That move is over the top and must be stopped in the Senate.

Indiana School Scholarship Tax Credit Program Report

The full one-page IDOE report on the last three years of the SGO program, dated August 25, 2014, is attached.

The numbers in the section above are totals for the most recent year, 2013-14, for the four SGO's that reported data.

Another way to review the data is to look at each SGO separately.

Totals for the three years reported (2011-12, 2012-13 & 2013-14) for each SGO are as follows:

The Institute for Quality Education received $14.0 million in contributions in three years and awarded $9.2 million in scholarships, which is 66% of contributions. Taking out $1.4 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $3.4 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

The Lutheran SGO of Indiana received $1.75 million in contributions in two years and awarded $1.30 million in scholarships, which is 74% of contributions. Taking out $.175 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $.275 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

The Sagamore Institute received $8.6 million in contributions in three years and awarded $6.6 million in scholarships, which is 77% of contributions. Taking out $.86 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $1.1 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

The SGO of Northeast Indiana received $2.5 million in contributions in three years and awarded $1.7 million in scholarships, which is 68% of contributions. Taking out $.25 million (10%) for "administrative costs", they apparently are carrying $.55 million in reserve which might have gone to scholarships.

Thus, all four SGO's have been carrying contributions in reserves for years, without promptly distributing those funds as scholarships. Is this really what the General Assembly intended?

Why do SGO's need more tax money when they aren't currently distributing all the donations that they are currently getting?

Summary

It is very easy to get lost in all the numbers, but here is the bottom line:

In the most recent year reported (2013-14), the four SGO's:
  • either held $2.7 million in reserve which were intended for scholarships
  • or else they overspent the legal limit on administrative costs.
In all three years reported (2011-14), the four SGO's taken together:
  • either held $5.3 million in reserve which were intended for scholarships
  • or else they overspent the 10% legal limit on administrative costs.
Either option raises serious questions that the General Assembly should investigate before raising the SGO budget by $5 million each year in the new budget, totaling $10 million in the two-year budget.

The General Assembly should hold SGO's accountable for the money they have been previously given. To date, accountability for SGO's has not reached the high level of accountability given to public schools. There should be no questions about the use of SGO money. Entities that are authorizing the use of millions of dollars in tax credits deserve more scrutiny and oversight than they now receive.

Contact Senators

This issue is not in a separate bill, but rather is in the budget. To register your strong opposition to expanding vouchers by expanding funding for Scholarship Granting Organizations, you need to contact the Senators working on the budget, starting with the Senators on the Subcommittee on School Funding and the Appropriations Committee.

Once again, an easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on the name of the committee. The pictures of committee members appear on the left. As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to register your concerns with each member.

[Click HERE to go to the Senate Education page]

Help stop the expansion of vouchers through SGO's. Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #210 – March 19, 2015

Dear Friends,

This one needs your close attention:

The State Board of Education wants more power, including a power they have never had before: the power to take over an entire school district.

They also want school takeovers to come quicker, in four years rather than the current six years, a proposal that the General Assembly has rejected three times (2009, 2012 and 2013). This bill has gone further than the previous efforts.

These are key provisions of Representative Behning’s House Bill 1638, which was given a public hearing yesterday (March 18th) in the Senate Education Committee. In a meeting that started at 1:30pm, the hearing on HB 1638 started at 4:15 and lasted until 7:15.

I was unable to attend the hearing on HB 1638 when it was in the House, and it was not until yesterday’s hearing that I realized that language in the bill would allow State Board takeovers of a complete school corporation. This deserves the attention of every local school district in Indiana and every advocate for local control of our schools.

You have until the Senate Education Committee votes on HB 1638 on Wednesday, March 25th, to let the Senators on the committee know that the State Board in its current condition should not be entrusted with new powers, let alone the unprecedented step to empower them to take over an entire school corporation.

The Power to Take Over School Corporations

The 1999 accountability law, Public Law 221, was based on a school-level reform movement. School improvement plans in the original draft bill went from the school directly to approval by the local school board. Superintendents had to scramble in the 1999 legislative process to insert any voice into the school’s plan.

When Dr. Bennett convinced the State Board to change category labels to A-F letter grades, he included letter grades for school districts, but the State Board had power to intervene only at the school level. In his 2012 campaign for reelection, Dr. Bennett made State Board power to take over school corporations one of his major policy positions.

I always thought that was one of the reasons he lost decisively. The prospect of a state takeover of local school districts was an extremely unpopular thought in 2012, and I believe it still is.

House Bill 1638: What Does It Say?

Tucked among sections redesigning the timeline for school takeovers from six years to four years is a new section giving new powers to the State Board over school corporations which remain in the F category for four years: (p. 6, line 6 of the latest draft)

“Notwithstanding any other law, if the state board determines that taking at least one (1) of the actions listed in subsection (b) will improve the school corporation, the state board may take the action listed under subsection (b) that the state board determines is appropriate.”

The list of actions is on page 5, line 34:

“(1) Assigning a special management team to operate all or part of the school corporation. (2) Assigning a special management team to develop a transformation zone plan and assist the school corporation with implementing the plan. (3) Implementing the department’s recommendation for improving the school corporation. (4) Filing a petition with the distressed unit appeal board established under IC 6-1.1-20.3 seeking to have the school corporation designated as a distressed political subdivision. The distressed unit appeal board may designate the school corporation as a distressed political subdivision under IC 6-1.1-20.3-6.5 solely on the basis of the petition of the state board notwithstanding IC 6-1.1-20.3-6.”

The State Board would take charge. The high stakes consequences for student performance on the new standards and the brand new tests would now include the potential demise of the entire school corporation.

Should the State Board Get More Powers for Quicker Takeovers?

Representative Behning said yes. As sponsor of HB 1638, he introduced the bill by saying it was brought to him by the State Board of Education and by the Governor’s Office. As all would know by now, that is a powerful partnership.

State Board Member Dan Elsener said yes. Representative Behning called on him to present the bill.

Senator Rogers of Gary said no. In a long statement to Representative Behning and to Dan Elsener, she explained her opposition to this bill, saying that she believes Gary is “in the crosshairs to be the district that the State Board will come in and take over”. She described her complete opposition to the way the State Board decided to close Dunbar-Pulaski School last week at the State Board meeting, saying that Dunbar-Pulaski was closed with no plan to help the students so that students would go to Gary Roosevelt, the takeover school run by Edison, whose enrollment went from 1200 pre-takeover to 200 now, as well as the Charter School of the Dunes that is lacking enrollment. She said the students who transfer to those two schools would not be in the enrollment count for Gary schools, further depressing the funding for Gary. She said the State Board action was taken with no plan for where 700 students would go. She said that a State Board decision to close a school should require a unanimous vote. The contentious vote to close last week was 6-4.

Chad Timmerman, Governor Pence’s education policy director, said yes, along with representatives of the State Board, Hoosiers for Quality Education and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The director of Evansville’s transformation zone testified about their success in Evansville.

Representative Vernon Smith said no. He said that in 25 years in the General Assembly, he had never before testified against a bill after it left the House, but this bill was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and is revolutionary in its nature. He spoke passionately against the bill for twenty minutes, giving a line by line explanation of the problems, saying it is not really about transformation zones but rather about takeovers.

Nathan Williamson and Rachael Davidson, IDOE staff members, said no, bringing elaborate data to the committee about the Indiana Department’s success in turning schools around, beginning in the first year a school is labeled D or F. They said after one year, 61,300 students moved from D/F schools to A/B/C schools, after a net turnaround count of 103 schools. They said that takeovers don’t work, and “accelerating the timeline would be a duplication.”

Others were emphatic in saying no, including representatives of ISBA, IAPSS, AFT-Indiana, ISTA and myself.

My testimony is attached. I focused on two questions: 1) Given the record of defiance of the State Board to comply with the General Assembly’s law to produce a new A-F system by November, 2013, should the General Assembly entrust the State Board with more power? I urged the committee not to reward the State Board for dragging their feet on bringing an improved A-F system by giving them more power. 2) Should the General Assembly take away more local control from local school boards and give it to the State Board or should the General Assembly instead reign in the powers of a State Board whose efforts to take over schools have led to community upheavals, costly contracts, endless controversies and litigation? Do you trust the State Board to take over more and more schools quicker and quicker as this bill envisions?

It’s Your Turn

Do you want the General Assembly to give the State Board unprecedented powers to take over schools and school corporations? If not, you need to contact Senators with your concerns, starting with the Senate Education Committee who will vote on this bill next Wednesday, March 25th, at their 1:30 meeting.

One easy way to contact members of the committee is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees, then on Standing Committees, and then on Senate Education. The pictures of committee members appear on the left. As you click on each picture, an email form comes up that you can use to state your concerns to each member.

[Click HERE to go to the Senate Education page]

If you believe that we don’t need more State takeovers and that local control is important for strong public schools, it is time for action in opposition to House Bill 1638.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #209 – March 17, 2015

Dear Friends,

Governor Pence and the House leadership want to spend $10 million more in the next two-year budget for Scholarship Granting Organizations to expand private school vouchers.

In the same budget, they want to cut complexity funding for districts which serve low income students. The Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, would lose $13 million next year and another $19 million in the second year of the budget due to the complexity formula cuts.

This trade off should not stand. Using enhanced scholarships to attract low income families to private schools while cutting funds for the public schools that now serve them is outrageous.

It advances a policy of defunding the services for low income students in public schools all over Indiana, both urban and rural, so that class sizes go up and parents will feel compelled to consider private schools for their children, where class sizes are lower because private schools can control how many students they enroll. Simultaneously, the budget lifts funding for vouchers and for SGO school scholarships which give a student eligibility for a voucher in the following school year.

The policy pushes families out of public schools to escape drastic budget cuts and pulls families in to the private schools with beefed up voucher deals.

This is how Governor Pence and his private school allies plan to slowly drain public school enrollment and transfer nearly all students to private schools funded by public taxpayers.

The $10 million funding hike for SGO tax credit scholarships must be stopped in the Senate budget. The $10 million must be redirected to mitigate the budget losses to districts serving low income students.

Let the Senators on the Appropriations Committee, and indeed all Senators, know where you stand: Don’t expand vouchers by giving $10 million more to Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships. Then use the $10 million to restore funding for districts serving low income students.

The same message could be said about the other better known proposal to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers for grades 1-8, a proposal LSA says would cost taxpayers $3.8 million each year.

Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) School Scholarships: How do they work?

Scholarship Granting Organizations are systematically turning nearly every private school student into a tuition obligation for taxpayers. Over half of all private school vouchers now go to private school students who have never enrolled in an Indiana public school. Yet public money is paying their tuition.

The SGO program has changed the purpose of vouchers. No longer are vouchers about giving low-income parents a choice to transfer to a private school. Now they are about having taxpayers pay tuition for students whose parents decided long ago to have their child get a religious school or a private school education.

There are five SGO’s in Indiana: 1) Elkhart County Community Foundation; 2) Institute for Quality Education, (Indianapolis); 3) School Scholarship Granting Organization of Northeast Indiana (Fort Wayne); 4) Sagamore Institute Scholarships for Education Choice (Indianapolis); and 5) Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization of Indiana (Fort Wayne). Complete information about each SGO as listed on the website of the Indiana Department of Education is attached.

The Sweetest Deal in the Indiana Tax Code

The SGO program is the sweetest deal in the Indiana tax code. Those who want to support private schools and simultaneously reduce their payment for Indiana taxes simply have to give a donation to an Indiana Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO). Exactly 50% of the donation becomes a credit to pay the Indiana tax payment. If $100 is owed for state income taxes, donating $200 to an SGO will pay the state tax obligation while helping SGO’s pay tuition scholarships for religious and private schools.

Here is the surprising part of the deal: There is no individual limit on how big a donation can be given. Whatever large or small donation is made, 50% of that amount can be written off the Indiana tax bill. The only limit is the total statewide cap, but that cap has never been reached, and Governor Pence wants to raise the cap again this year and build in an escalator clause so that the cap is never reached.

The sky will be the limit for the 50% tax credit.

Many high income individuals who support private schools have found this tax credit and have taken advantage of it. At the March 5th public hearing on the Senate budget, LSA data was cited that 62% of the donations to Scholarship Granting Organizations have come from taxpayers earning more than $500,000.

There is no similar tax credit to help K-12 public schools. There is a well known tax credit to help universities in Indiana but it has an individual limit of $200 producing a maximum tax credit of $100, numbers which are doubled for couples filing jointly. Similar limits for SGO tax credits should be considered by our legislators.

The picture is clear: High income taxpayers who want to promote vouchers and private schools can give large donations to the Scholarship Granting Organizations and have 50% of their donation pay for their tax obligation to the state of Indiana.

A Second Sweet Surprise: Scholarship Granting Organizations Can Keep 10%

The Scholarship Granting Organizations under the law passed in 2009 have been required to give 90% of their donations as scholarships to students who are attending private schools. These are called “School Scholarships” and should not be confused with “Choice Scholarships”, which is the name give to vouchers paid directly from the state treasury to the private school family and their private school.

Under the law, 10% of all donations can be kept by the SGO “for administrative costs”. (IC 20-51-3-3) This turns out to be a substantial amount of money now that the Governor wants to move the budgeted amount to $12.5 million, the amount of public money budgeted to pay for the tax credit. Since the tax credit is for 50% of the donation, donations must reach $25 million before the public money would be fully expended.

With a potential of $25 million in donations, the SGO’s must give out 90% in school scholarships, or a total of $22.5 million. At the same time, they can keep $2.5 million for their own salaries and expenses. Not a bad deal when you consider that taxpayers are providing the incentive for this whole enterprise by funding the 50% tax credit!

This is the second way that SGO’s are the sweetest deal in the Indiana tax code. Taking 10% off the top will fund well-paid jobs for those who are working for SGO’s to promote private school scholarships.

Cuts in Complexity Funding

Complexity funding, once known as “at-risk” funding, has provided extra funding for many years to districts based on their count of free and reduced lunch students, an indicator of low income. Nearly $300 million in the House budget was shifted from complexity funding, which goes to districts with low income students, to foundation funding, which goes to districts for all students equally. The net result reduced funding for districts serving large numbers of free lunch students. The districts serving poor families will get poorer in the House plan.

A $10 million expansion of SGO scholarships is totally wrong when districts serving low income students are being handed budget cuts. Do they think low income students need less money to succeed?

The Senators can fix this problem in their budget, but they will have to hear from a large number of public school advocates for this to happen. SGO’s are not well known, and this $10 million expansion could easily slip through unless constituents shine a light on it for members of the Senate.

It is time to contact your Senator, Senators on the Appropriation Committee or all Senators about SGO’s and voucher expansion.

Say yes to better funding for public schools and no to more money for private school vouchers.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fact vs. Fiction in School Funding

Don't be misled about school funding!

When your legislators talk about the huge percentage of the state budget that is being spent on education, shouldn't they be showing the comparison between the current budget and the 2008 budget before $300 MILLION was slashed?

Even those of us who are math challenged know that taking the same percentage out of an already bare bones budget will hurt public schools. Here are some examples from one school district, FWCS (click images for larger version):




To read more about the budget process and what it really means, click on these links:
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Friday, March 13, 2015

SBOE Should be Accountable, too

During yesterday's (March 12, 2015) State Board of Education meeting, the SBOE members spoke at length about data, accountability, metrics, pedagogy, work force, and college and career readiness. They used those and other "reform" buzz words freely. However, there was no reference to student learning or how that happens. Interestingly enough, we heard no mention of how any of the Board policies impact children.

The SBOE decision to close two schools in Gary Dunbar Pulaski was astounding. Where is their accountability to the students, teachers, and families whose lives will be disrupted?

Yet in the same meeting they voted to allow two failing charter schools from different areas of the state another chance.

Why are charters allowed to fail with impunity and allowed more chances where public schools are not?

How has their perception of data and accountability replaced the love of learning and what is instructionally appropriate?

IF YOU ARE NOT OUTRAGED....


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #208 – March 12, 2015

Dear Friends,

I just received details of the rally for public education in Terre Haute this Saturday, March 14th. Many readers of “Vic’s Statehouse Notes” may be close enough to want to join the rally Saturday morning. Others may want to use Terre Haute’s plan to organize a similar rally in support of public education in your own community. Here are the details sent to me:
_______________________________________________________________________________________

TERRE HAUTE PRO-PUBLIC SCHOOL RALLY!!!! THIS SATURDAY!!!

Unity Rally at the Crackerbarrel

WHERE: LEGISLATIVE CRACKERBARREL AT THE VIGO COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY LOCATED AT SOUTH SEVENTH AND POPLAR STREETS

When: Saturday, March 14

Please be at Library by 9:00

We will Rally Outside on Poplar Street Side

Please Join Us in Packing the Library and Making Your Views Known to Those Elected to Represent the Citizens and Not Ideology and Politics

We Look Forward to Being with You on Saturday, March 14th

Organized and Supported by the Following Listed on Back of Flyer
  • VIGO COUNTY TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
  • VIGO COUNTY ADMINISTRATORS ADMINISTRATION
  • VIGO COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES
  • VIGO COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDANT AND ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT
  • VIGO COUNTY RETIRED TEACHERS
  • VIGO COUNTY CUSTODIAL AND MAINTENANCE
  • VIGO COUNTY SECRETARIES ASSOCIATION
  • VIGO COUNTY ADMINISTRATIVE AND CLERICAL
  • COVERED BRIDGE SPECIAL EDUCATION DISTRICT
  • BRICKLAYERS LOCAL #4
  • CARPENTERS LOCAL #133
  • INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS LOCAL #725
  • LABORERS LOCAL UNION #120
  • SHEETMETAL WORKERS LOCAL #20
  • LABORERS LOCAL UNION #204
  • PLUMBERS AND STEAMFITTERS LOCAL 157
  • IRONWORKERS LOCAL 22
  • BOILERMAKERS LOCAL 374
  • OPERATING ENGINEERS LOCAL 841
  • IUPAT DC 91
  • WABASH VALLEY BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES
  • WABASH VALLEY CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL
  • MAYOR DUKE BENNETT
  • PARENT ORGANIZATIONS
  • CITIZENS OF THE WABASH VALLEY
_______________________________________________________________________________________

Join in if you can!

Say Yes to Better Funding for Public Schools and No to More Money for Private School Vouchers.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #207 – March 11, 2015

Dear Friends,

Yesterday (March 10th) a long public hearing was held by Senator Mishler’s Sub-Committee on School Funding. The budget bill passed by the House is now under review in the Senate. Many came to ask for a reversal in a major cut in complexity funding which would hurt low income students. I and others addressed voucher expansion.

The House budget would expand private school vouchers yet again in two ways:
1) The budget would expand Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit scholarships from $7.5 million to $12.5 million, with an escalator clause for automatic increases into the future. The obvious cost to taxpayers would be $5 million more each year for two years, but the hidden costs described below cost nearly $20 million last year. This little known program is the biggest factor in funding vouchers for private school students who have always been in private schools, which creates a huge new expense for taxpayers.

2) The $4800 cap on K-8 vouchers would be removed so that the state would pay whatever the full tuition costs for the private or parochial school. The LSA estimate said this would cost $3.8 million more per year.
Public school advocates should bring their opposition to both of these voucher expansion measures to the attention of the Senators on the Appropriations Committee and indeed to all Senators.

These efforts to expand taxpayer funded private and religious education for students who have always gone to private schools must be vigorously opposed in the Senate. Let the Senators know you oppose both of these expensive measures to expand vouchers when teacher professional development is still not being funded at all.

Expanding SGO Scholarships

The 2013 voucher expansion sparked a huge legislative battle, but when all was said and done, the biggest expansion giving vouchers to the most students who were already going to private schools came via provisions already in the 2011 voucher law. The annual financial report on Choice Scholarships issued on February 23, 2015 by the IDOE Office of School Finance gave the details:
  • New vouchers given out in 2014-15 totaled 10,524, bringing the grand total now to 29,148.
  • Nearly 80% (79.6%) of the 10,524 new vouchers went to students with no previous record of attending an Indiana public school, totaling 8379.
  • Only 20.4% of the new vouchers (2,145) went to students who transferred from public schools to private schools, the original purpose of the voucher program as it was sold to the General Assembly.
  • Of the 10,524 new vouchers, having a previous SGO scholarship was the pathway to get a new voucher for 5667 students, or 54%.
  • The three other pathways for voucher eligibility (siblings, F school, and special ed) only accounted for 46% of the new vouchers. Thus, getting an SGO scholarship is the biggest pathway to voucher eligibility.
  • Of the 8379 new voucher students who have always been in private schools, 4757 or 57% became eligible only because they received an SGO scholarship the previous year.
  • Multiplying the average voucher amount used by LSA ($4092) times the 4757 students with no record of attendance at an Indiana public school, the cost of private school students getting vouchers for the first time by this technique cost Indiana taxpayers $19.4 million in new tuition payments for private and parochial school attendance.
The picture is clear: Getting a scholarship from a Scholarship Granting Organization has become the biggest method to gaining eligibility for a Choice Scholarship. The law says eligibility for a choice scholarship (a voucher) is available to all students who had an SGO scholarship in the previous year. This has become an expensive provision in state law, allowing several thousand students who did not qualify for vouchers to get a voucher by getting an SGO scholarship and waiting a year.

Currently, over half (50.4%) of all voucher students have never attended an Indiana public school. Mitch Daniels policy was “Try public school first.” His policy has been jettisoned, and now through SGO scholarships, voucher proponents are trying to get every current private school student to be eligible for a voucher.

Income eligibility is higher for an SGO school scholarship than for a voucher. An SGO school scholarship can go to families at 200% of the income for reduced lunch, or about $85,000 for a family of four.

Now in this House budget, the SGO scholarship fund has been expanded from $7.5 million to $12.5 million, with an escalator clause to further expand automatically in the future if the cap is reached.

This must not happen. This is simply giving vouchers not to those low-income families who wanted to make a choice but to families who had already made the choice and now just want the taxpayers to pay for their child’s private or religious education.

Contact your legislators about the expansion of SGO scholarships. Tell them to hold the line and to resist expanding SGO funding any further, and certainly not with automatic increases into the future. Tell them this is the biggest path to vouchers for students who have always been in private schools.

Why is that a priority when many public school districts are being cut by a reduction in complexity funding?

If this voucher movement had started with a bill that said taxpayers would now pay $19.4 million in relief of private school parents paying for their child’s private school tuition, the bill would have had great resistance. The $19.4 figure after all is nearly twice the preschool funding that many are now advocating for. It is more than Indiana budgets each year for summer school ($18.36 million) and for gifted and talented programs ($12.5 million).

But now $19.4 million is only a part of the tab for vouchers, the part made possible by allowing students who have always gone to private schools to get an SGO scholarship one year and then get a voucher the next year. This is only going to get worse for the taxpayer until nearly all current private school students become the responsibility of taxpayers.

Write your legislators that taxpayers should not have to keep picking up the tab for students who have always gone to private schools!

Taking the Cap Off the Voucher Payments for Grades 1-8

The second voucher expansion in the House budget is to remove the $4800 cap on vouchers and have taxpayers pay the entire tuition for the private school. The Legislative Service Agency has reported in the fiscal note that 6,378 vouchers have been limited by the $4800 cap. If the cap is removed, LSA said that the cost is estimated to be $3.8 million next year.

If you divide the $3.8 million cost estimate by the 6,378 vouchers impacted, the result shows that each voucher would be worth an additional $595. This is money that presumably has previously been paid by the parent, and now it would be paid by the taxpayers.

It is a really nice thing for Governor Pence to want to give private school parents an extra $595, but public school parents have also asked for help for many years to pay for textbook rental. Many parents pay $200 per student for annual textbook rental, and for parents with several children, the totals add up fast.

Why should private school parents get a financial break when public school parents don’t?

This $3.8 million is a financial break for private school parents. Private schools won’t get additional funds via this money unless they raise their tuition.

What is to stop private schools from raising tuition to get more funding when they know that Indiana taxpayers are going to pay whatever they charge?

Nothing is in place to stop tuition increases.

Should this plan to remove the cap on voucher payments be accompanied by a plan to monitor and control tuition increases at private schools?

Yes, definitely.

Write your legislators that taxpayers should not have to pay for a blank check for private school tuition increases!

Contact Senators to Oppose Both Paths to Voucher Expansion

Senator Mishler chairs the Subcommittee on School Funding in the Senate. Republican members of his committee are Senator Charbonneau and Senator Eckerty. Democratic members are Senator Rogers and Senator Tallian. They were the one who listened to nearly four hours of testimony yesterday about school budget concerns.

My testimony yesterday opposing voucher expansion and on the need to expand total funding is attached.

Senators need to hear from you about your opposition to voucher expansion. Messages to the five Senators on the School Funding Subcommittee would be the best way to start.

Other Senators on the Appropriations Committee in addition to those on the subcommittee would be the next to contact: Senator Kenley, chair; Republican Senators Boots, Hershman, Miller, Waltz and Yoder and Democratic Senators Stoops and Taylor. Finally, contact your Senator or any other Senator about voucher opposition.

There is no bill to expand vouchers this session. Governor Pence’s push to expand vouchers is all being done in the budget bill, HB 1001. The budget has an enormous number of provisions in it, and the voucher provisions can sweep in unless the public makes it a major issue. That is where you come in.

Let them know you are watching and that you oppose vouchers. The two voucher proposals over two years would cost about $18 million, $5 million each year for SGO expansion and $3.8 million each year to remove the $4800 voucher cap. Ask the Senators to redirect that $18 million to help restore the cuts to low income complexity students.

Your messages opposing voucher expansion are vital. Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.

We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!


Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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