Category Archives: IN Gen.Assembly

More Money, More Privatization

INDIANA’s NEW BUDGET BILL — MORE PRIVATIZATION

The Indiana General Assembly has passed the 2021 budget bill, and once more, the Republican super-majority has done its best to line the pockets of religious schools with a large increase for unaccountable school vouchers.

This year, they have added money to the privatization piggy bank in the form of Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), a plan fraught with fraud possibilities (and actualities) that have already been tried in various states across the country. ESAs allow parents to purchase unaccountable “educational services” from essentially anyone who says, “Here, buy my educational service” with no accountability for how the money is spent. Meanwhile, public schools must account for every penny of the public dollars they spend.

In order to pacify the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) with the increase in vouchers, the legislature included a substantial pay increase for teachers. In their report, ISTA mentions the increase in vouchers without editorial comment but focuses on the pay issue. They also share the “positive” news that the ESAs, which are only for students with special needs, are funded separately from the rest of the education pot.

I’ll make a prediction right now that within five years the ESAs will be available to anyone, and will drain money from the state’s education budget just like any other voucher. This is just a “foot-in-the-door” plan like the original voucher plan was in 2011. For those who don’t remember, to qualify for a voucher in 2011 a student had to have spent at least a year in a public school (no longer required), be low-income (about $45,000, as opposed to the new $145,000 for a family of four), and attend a “failing school.”

[NOTE: “Failing school” equals a state-neglected school filled with low-income, mostly students of color, who score low on standardized tests.]

ISTA is happy over the teacher pay increases which are well-deserved. Indiana has had the slowest growth of teacher salaries in the country since 2002. The actual funding increase, however, merely brings the state budget for education up to the same level it was in 2012!

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld writes…

A budget glass half empty

While Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders are praising the budget as “transformational” and suggesting it solves Indiana’s K-12 funding woes, the truth isn’t that rosy. A preliminary analysis by Ball State economist Michael Hicks finds the budget gets Indiana’s inflation-adjusted school spending more than halfway back to where it was a decade ago, but not nearly all the way.

And the vouchers…

My main beef with the budget is that it radically expands Indiana’s already radical private school voucher program and creates a new, voucher-like K-12 education savings account program.

The positive revenue report means the voucher expansion will start this July rather than being phased in over two years. Families that make up to 300% of the limit for reduced-price school meals – about $145,000 for a family of four – will qualify for tuition vouchers worth about $5,500 per child or more.

Nearly all voucher schools are religious schools, and they are largely unregulated. They can turn away students on grounds of religion, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity. They can, and do, use tax dollars to teach religious dogma. They can teach that humans shared the earth with dinosaurs, enslaved people were happy, and the New Deal was a “half-way house to Communism.”

WHAT’S THE POINT?

The point is that…

  • It doesn’t matter that the earlier promise to “save poor kids from ‘failing schools'” has morphed into providing entitlements to families that can already afford private schools.
  • It doesn’t matter that private schools don’t provide a better education than public schools and voucher kids don’t get a better education (see here, here, and here).

The goal of privatization isn’t better schools for kids and communities, it’s privatization. Period.

Charles Siler, a former lobbyist for the pro-voucher Goldwater Institute, talked to Diane Ravitch and Jennifer Berkshire. He, like Ravitch, used to believe in school choice until he saw that equitable schools and improved education weren’t what the choice proponents were really after. Here he explains the goal of the Republican majorities in the various states (at around 23:40 in the video)…

Diane Ravitch in Conversation with Jennifer Berkshire and Charles Siler

The purpose isn’t to improve education by expanding school choice and giving people more opportunities, it’s to dismantle public schools.

What they’re trying to do is to implement a model of competition…telling the public schools that they need to race against charter schools and race against these private schools…then what you do is you weigh down the public schools with all these regulations and other burdens.

…then you complain about the administrative costs of all the things that you’ve burdened the public schools [with]…and talk about how inefficient they are…it’s intended to cripple the public schools so that they can’t compete.

…the most important thing to remember is that they are trying to destroy public schools and that is done by crippling them and making them ineffective as much as possible.

Privatization will continue to chip away at our public schools, year after year like it has since 2011. The privatization lobbyists have the money.

All we have are the voters.

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No Pause in Indiana’s Push for Privatization

Should we give a cheer that the Indiana Senate eased up on the offensive expansion of vouchers that the Indiana House passed in its 2021 Budget bill?

THE HOUSE VERSION

The House version gave nearly 40% of all new education money to the less than 5% of the state’s students in the form of increased voucher spending, including money for unaccountable ESAs (educational savings accounts).

It also provided an increase in voucher availability to a family of four making nearly $150,000 a year. This House plan was not the “save poor children” voucher plan that Mitch Daniels proposed ten years ago. It very definitely expanded voucher money for wealthier students.

It’s probably good that Indiana Republicans are no longer trying to pretend that their voucher program is so that “poor kids can escape from terrible schools.” Instead they’re all but admitting that public schools don’t interest them. Privatization is the goal no matter what that pesky state constitution says. At least now they’re being honest about it.


THE SENATE VERSION

The Senate still included an increase in vouchers so they’re not backing off entirely. Families of four with six figure incomes would be able to get a 90% voucher allowing their kids can enroll in mostly segregated private schools that teach creation science and that slavery was a good investment. This assumes of course, that the school will have their child since private schools can reject students for nearly any reason.

The Senate version, while not as extreme as the House, still contains a significant increase in voucher support, including a foot-in-the-door new ESA plan that lets parents use tax dollars to buy “educational” services without public oversight or accountability. Hmmm…I wonder if they might try to increase money for that in years to come?


HOUSE WILL BE “AGGRESSIVE”

The bill now goes to a conference committee where House members will try to put back what the Senate took out. Speaker of the House Todd Huston, whose campaign contributions include $35,000 from Betsy DeVos’s Hoosiers for Quality Education (see also here), said that the house will “be negotiating very aggressively” to get back what was taken out so they can satisfy their lust for privatization.

One might even think that the plan all along was for the House to propose an extreme expansion of vouchers, then have the Senate back off a bit to pacify public school advocates (and more than 170 school boards around the state), and settle on a more “modest” increase in voucher money and an ESA plan.

It’s still an increase in Indiana’s ever increasing move towards total privatization.

For Further Reading

New Indiana budget proposal scales back private school voucher expansion

After a chorus of opposition from public school districts and advocates, Indiana Senate Republicans significantly scaled back an expansion of the state’s private school voucher program under their budget proposal Thursday.

The Senate plan would not extend private school vouchers to as many middle-class families as suggested in the House budget proposal and other legislation discussed this session. It also would dramatically curtail a proposal for education savings accounts, which would give stipends to parents of children with special needs who do not attend public schools.

Senate budget would dial back voucher expansion

…the Senate budget would partially roll back the ambitious expansion of Indiana’s private school voucher program that was included in the House budget.

Like the House budget, it would create a new K-12 education savings account program, but it would limit participation and costs. Also important: It would remove a House-approved cap on the complexity index, the funding formula feature that favors districts and schools with more disadvantaged students.

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In Which I Think of Ways to Respond to My Legislators

Indiana is ready to add more public money to the state voucher program for private — mostly religious — schools.

House Bills 1001 and 1005 would give nearly a third of the state’s increase in education funding to the 5% (10% if you count charters) of the students who go to private schools. I had written to my local state rep, Dave Heine, but received no reply. He voted to approve the increase along with all of his Republican friends in the state House of Representatives. The bills are now before the state Senate, so I wrote my state senator, Dennis Kruse (IN-S14), and asked him to vote against increasing the vouchers.

I received responses from Senator Kruse this week. I’ll send a reply to his emails, though I doubt it will change anything. Here is what he wrote (different paragraphs are from his response on House Bill 1001 or House Bill 1005) followed by some of what I might say.

Kruse: Thank you for reaching out about House Bill 1005. I value the opinions of my constituents and I value your individual opinion.

Me: Do all politicians start their letters this way? I’ve talked to this man in person and I know full well that, while he might “value” the opinion of some of his constituents, he doesn’t really value mine. Every election cycle, Senator Kruse gets donations from a group called Hoosiers for Quality Education a group funded by former Secretary of Education, and billionaire privatizer, Betsy DeVos. The goal, it seems, is to privatize Indiana’s education system.

Kruse: I am committed funding education for Hoosier students. The Indiana 2019-2020 state budget increased $750,000,000 more to K-12 Education than the previous fiscal cycle. That is the largest single increase in state education funding in our 200-year history as a state. This legislative session has just begun. I am excited for the opportunity to review Indiana’s current practices and potential amendments.

Me: He says, look at how much money we’re spending on education in this state. Am I supposed to be impressed by this? We have given around a billion dollars of public funds to private/religious schools since the voucher plan was put into place in 2011. How was that money spent? No one knows. Who kept track of that money? Maybe the money was spent on new steeples, football fields, or church expansions. There’s no way to know because that money is unaccountable.

Kruse: While I believe that Indiana public schools should receive an increase in funding, I also believe that parents have the right to choose where their child should be educated. House Bill 1005 creates a grant for students with disabilities or for students with parents who have disabilities. Accordingly, this bill allows parents of children with disabilities to make a choice about where their child attends school. Some public schools are not equipped with the proper resources or staff to address the individual needs of students with disabilities. Therefore, I want to ensure that parents can receive a meaningful education for their child by supporting House Bill 1005.

Me: Do parents choose to send their children to a private school? Some do because some private schools will accept some of the students. But all private schools restrict some students. Students of a different religion, gay students, transgender students, students who struggle with learning, students with behavioral issues, are all targeted for rejection by some private schools. Whose choice is it to attend a private school? A parent can apply to send their child to a private school, but it’s up to the school to accept them.

Should taxpayers fund schools that discriminate against certain students?

What about students with disabilities? Some private schools don’t accept any students with disabilities. Others only accept certain disabilities (such as students needing speech therapy). Private schools often reject students by telling the parent that “we aren’t equipped to deal with their particular needs.” Finally, public schools are required by law to provide services to children with disabilities. Private schools are under no such obligation. Do these bills require schools to take students with disabilities? Do these bills preserve the rights of students with disabilities?

Kruse notes that “some public schools are not equipped with the proper resources or staff to address the individual needs of students with disabilities.” So instead of dealing with this problem directly by increasing funds to ensure that all public schools are properly supported, we’re going to just forget about that and send the money to private schools instead? Why are we sending tax money to private and religious schools if we aren’t even able to fully fund our constitutionally mandated public schools?

Kruse: The decision about what school to send your children to is a challenging one for every parent. Choosing not to attend a public school, for most parents, is an opportunity to select the best fit for curriculum for their children.

Me: I’m glad he mentioned the curriculum. Why should taxpayers provide funds for schools that teach religion instead of science or history? Should taxpayers fund students’ field trips to the Creation Museum? What about schools whose curriculum materials “whitewash slavery” saying things like, “The majority of slaveholders treated their slaves well”?

Should tax dollars go to schools that teach religion? The Indiana Constitution (Article 1, Section 6) says “NO.”

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

In 2013, despite the Constitutional restriction, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state voucher program. They were wrong.

Kruse: While I support school vouchers, I also strongly support public education. Indiana’s total state budget designates 61% of funding toward education. 50% of the budget is directly utilized in k12 education, for an annual budget of $9 Billion of the total annual state budget of $18 Billion…

Me: Again, the money he’s talking about includes money for private schools and charter schools which he votes to increase every year. Indiana Republicans always, always say that “more than 50% of the budget goes to education.” That’s true, but hidden in that more than 50% is the money, taken off the top, for private schools. That money should be going to public schools, because the state constitution mandates a system of public schools. It says nothing about supporting a system of private, religious, or privately run schools. Indiana, indeed, no state in the country, can afford to fund three separate school systems (public, charter, and voucher).

Kruse: Accordingly, this legislative session we are currently working to draft the budget proposing an increase to school funding by $438 million. This proposal would result in an approximate $800 raise for teachers over the next two years. I will support this increase and any opportunity to raise public school teacher salaries.

Me: I’m all for increasing Indiana’s teachers’ salaries. Indiana teachers’ salaries have dropped by around 15% (when adjusted for inflation) since 2000. The amount that Senator Kruse notes, though, isn’t enough. With another $800 a year, the average salary for Indiana teachers would still be less than all the surrounding states. Now, if he means to increase the salary by $800 a month (for the 10 month school year), that would put the teachers just slightly below where the Governor’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission, said we needed to be. Finally, and once again, that $438 million increase to school funding includes voucher increases!

Kruse: I am committed to finding ways to support the education of Hoosier students at both private schools and public schools. I believe that school vouchers do not contradict public education. Instead, I believe that parents should have the ability to send their children to the school of their choice.

Me: I know he is committed to finding ways to support private schools. I can’t think of one voucher bill that he’s voted against since 2011.

The truth is that school vouchers DO harm public schools. Public dollars should go to public schools.

Period.

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Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football

After a decade of bashing public schools and public school teachers, Indiana “reformers” ought to be pleased with the results. The state’s teacher shortage is likely to continue because of low salaries, constant disrespect of professionals and their organizations, and the punishment of public schools unable to solve the social and economic problems of the state.

Just 1 in 6 Indiana college students who study education become teachers, report finds

Indiana schools have struggled to fill vacancies in recent years as a strong economy created jobs in other industries. Teacher pay in Indiana lags behind that of neighboring states and behind salaries of other professional careers — a problem that has attracted attention from politicians and advocates on both sides of the aisle.

Promised a raise by Governor Holcomb (see here, here, and here), teachers are still waiting while the Governor continues to mark time. The lack of salary increases is contributing to the problem.

A little over a year ago Holcomb approved pay raises for state employees of 2%-6%. He excluded teachers, of course, instead deferring to the Teacher Compensation Commission whose recommendations for an increase to an average of $60,000 he then proceeded to ignore.

Yes, the pandemic has caused economic problems for the state, but the Governor is still promising, yes, promising to raise teachers salaries. Eventually, he said, Indiana “will be one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay.” So teachers will get their hopes up and continue to wait. Think: Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football…

Meanwhile, the supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly (IGA) is doing what they have done annually since 2011…diverting public tax money from the state’s constitutionally mandated public schools to increase the church and state merger in the form of private and parochial school vouchers.

Responding to the continued disrespect of teachers, and the consistent move towards privatization, Avon Community Schools Superintendent, Scott Wyndham tweeted,

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Could more money help attract young people to a career in education? Perhaps, but it won’t happen if the supermajority in the legislature has anything to say about it. If passed by the IGA, one-third of this year’s increase for education will go to the 5% of students who don’t attend public schools. Until we stop moving public money to religious institutions, we’re not going to be able to attract new teachers (or fully fund public schools).

Governor Holcomb has joined with the Republicans in the state legislature to shrink the pool of Indiana’s qualified teachers. Without an incentive to seek a career in education where will our future teachers come from?

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2021 Medley #4 – Indiana Still Hates Public Ed

School “reform” in Indiana
In April of 2019, I wrote,

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

Sadly, nothing has changed and my fellow Hoosiers, including many of my former public school colleagues, continue to send the same anti-public education folks to Indy. In this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly the Republican supermajority, like Republican legislators across the country (see here, and here, for example) are doing everything they can to damage the public schools of the state.

They are attempting to divert more money for the state’s already expansive voucher program…despite the studies that have shown that vouchers don’t improve education. They will likely succeed. The state, of course, hasn’t looked into the success or failure of the voucher program because it is no longer about “saving poor children from ‘failing schools’, the reason the program was begun in 2011. Now, it’s just about “choice.” This means that private schools get to choose which students they want, and once the new bill passes the Indiana Senate (which it likely will), those students will be more likely than not, white, and not-poor.

The objections from public education supporters have been loud and strong, but the supermajority doesn’t care or need to listen.

Do the voters in Indiana (again, including many public school teachers) even know what the General Assembly is doing to our system of public education? Is Indiana so fiercely partisan that its citizens are willing to give up its public schools because their “tribe” wants it to? Ninety percent of the state’s children attend public schools (94% if you include so-called “public charter schools”). Why do we keep electing the same anti-public school state legislators?

2021 INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON EDUCATION

Indiana voucher plan could take 1/3 of school funding boost

The Speaker of the Indiana House said that the state should “fund students, not school systems.” Unfortunately, he is ignorant of the Indiana Consitution which requires the legislature to fund a “uniform system of Common Schools.”

From the Associated Press

More than one-third of the proposed state funding hike for Indiana schools could go toward the state’s private school voucher program under a Republican-backed plan that could boost the program’s cost by nearly 50% over the next two years.

The estimated $144 million cost for the voucher expansion and a new program allowing parents to directly spend state money on their child’s education expenses is included in legislative budget projections — but is more than double what House Republicans discussed in releasing their state budget plan last week.

How Indiana has cut funding for students in poverty, hurting urban schools

Over the past few years, the state has cut into any extra funding for high poverty school systems because…economic segregation, racism, greed, political expediency…choose one or more.

From Chalkbeat, Indiana

Even though the state boasts an increased education budget each year, Indianapolis Public Schools receives $15 less per student today in basic state funding than it did seven years ago.

That’s because IPS’ gains in funding for each student have been eaten up by a sharper decline in state support for students in poverty, district officials say.

In recent years, Indiana lawmakers have prioritized across-the-board increases for schools over support for disadvantaged students, favoring budget strategies that buoy more affluent districts while higher-poverty schools say they’re left without enough resources to serve disadvantaged students.

Commentary: Money, mouths and education reform

My local Senator told me (and a small group of public education advocates) a few years ago that the Senate was tired of all the “reform.” He indicated that we needed to evaluate what we’ve done before we do more. That hasn’t happened and he has gone along with the continuous increases for “reform.”

From By John Krull in TheStatehouseFile.com

The self-proclaimed education reformers make it sound as if their efforts will have nothing less than a transformative effect on schools and students, improving scores and performance at an astounding rate.

The evidence suggests, though, that they just do not believe that.

If they did, they would be compiling evidence that students in voucher and charter schools were doing much, much better than their counterparts in traditional public schools. They would be testing the students receiving state funds to study in settings other than traditional public schools and the educators teaching them to build their case that choice works.

That the education reform movement works.

But they don’t do that.

At almost every stop, they take measures to make sure their plans and programs cannot be tested, cannot be assessed, cannot be held accountable.

And they do this while insisting traditional public educators and schools be held to rigid standards of accountability.

Former state superintendents united in their opposition to voucher expansion bills

For the last hundred and sixty-plus years, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has been elected by Indiana voters. The last two Superintendents (one Democrat and one Republican) have spoken out against education privatization. That was enough for the anti-public education legislature. They decided that they couldn’t take a chance any more on the voters choosing someone who might disagree with them, so they changed the law and the new “Secretary of Education” is, along with all but two members of the State Board of Education, appointed by the (also Republican) governor. The other two state board members of appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate (also Republican).

Neither the Indiana Secretary of Education nor any members of the State Board of Education are elected. Apparently, Indiana’s legislature doesn’t want to give the voters a say in education matters. The state’s voucher program, which currently costs the state more than $170 million each year, was instituted in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly without the benefit of voter approval.

The following letter from three retired State Superintendents speaks loudly, though the supermajority doesn’t really care about what they have to say.

From Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz, and Jennifer McCormick in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Education Scholarship Accounts will divert adequate and equitable funding from public school students and open the door to unacceptable practices. Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.

In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child. Passing HB 1005, SB 412 or SB 413 would divert significant money away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana’s teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency and well-being…

Vouchers undermine education for all kids

I disagree with this writer. I don’t think that the supermajority hopes “no one notices” what they’re doing to education. I think they don’t care since they can do whatever they want.

The concept of “common good” is all but gone.

From Robert Stwalley in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly is attempting to quietly gut public education and hope no one notices…

School choice advocates would have you believe that money should follow the child because this platitude is simple and seems to make sense on the surface. However, this is completely untrue and detrimental to the overall concept of a tuition-free public school system.

Taxes are collected from everyone to support government activities. Public schools are government entities designed to improve society by providing a practical education for the young citizens of tomorrow. Everyone is better off with an educated populace.

If you need more evidence that the Republican majority hates Indiana’s public education, here are some more. There’s still a chance that the State Senate will reject the increase in vouchers and the development of Education Savings Accounts, but I don’t think the odds are very good of that happening. I hope I’m wrong.

Our Opinion: Failing grades for Indiana voucher expansion bills

Viewpoint: Three bills would do harm to public schools, Indiana’s economy

Lawmakers need to choose schools over ‘school choice’

Teachers Singled Out in Indiana Union Membership Bill

An Opposition Letter from Public School Supporters to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Holcomb

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