Indiana Coalition for
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What's happening at the Statehouse

Click to read and/or print Vic's Statehouse Notes #337 - May 1, 2019

Here's Joel Hand's testimony on HB 1400. Saving democracy through education!

Click to read Vic's Statehouse Notes #333

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #332 – February 12, 2019

Dear Friends,

Update on House Bill 1641

Your opposition to egregious parts of HB 1641 has helped immensely.  Amendment 18 adopted yesterday, Feb. 11, by the House Education Committee drops all language requiring public school boards to share general referendum funding with charter schools in the district.  Your objections were heard!

In addition, language to sell a vacant building for 50% market value has been removed. The amendment now says that if a charter school or a neighboring school corporation does not want the building, “the school corporation must sell a vacant school building to a nonpublic school, a postsecondary educational institution, or a nonprofit organization that sends a letter of intent to the school corporation to purchase the vacant or unused school building for an amount not more than the fair market value.”

Thanks for contacting legislators on these two issues!

Stop Voucher Expansion:  Oppose Senate Bill 55 Creating Partial Vouchers

We need your help today and tomorrow!  Public education advocates should contact Senators in opposition to Senate Bill 55, which expands the voucher program by creating a second-semester partial voucher.  We do not need a voucher expansion!

SB 55 will be amended and then voted on in the Senate Education Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon Feb. 13th starting at 1:30pm.  Please contact the Senators on the committee listed below to urge them to abandon this proposal.

SB 55 would resurrect House Bill 1005 passed in a partisan vote in a controversial battle in the short session of 2016.  The provisions of the law were rescinded when the second count date for all schools was dropped.  The Indiana Coalition for Public Education strongly opposed the concept of partial vouchers in 2016, and the reasons for opposing this major voucher expansion have not changed:

The bill establishes a second window of applications, September 2 to January 15.  IDOE requested in testimony that this window be amended to say November 1 to January 15.  Thus the bill creates for the first time a partial-year voucher, but this partial voucher is not defined in the bill.  Is the amount exactly half? Does the spring semester student wait until spring semester to enroll?  Or can the student transfer to a voucher school at any time, even before spring semester?  Is the voucher prorated by day?  The bill does not define the partial-year voucher to answer these basic questions. 

This bill has a significant fiscal cost at a time when budget makers are searching for ways to provide more money for teacher pay.  LSA has said that “in FY 2018, 1378 students exited the choice scholarship program within the school year.” Under current law, the remainder of the choice scholarship reverts to the state coffers, and in FY 2018 according to LSA, this reversion was “just under $500,000 from choice schools due to students leaving before the end of the school year.”  SB 55 would spend that money to let the student transfer to another voucher school, something the original 2011 voucher bill specifically prevented, sending the message at the time that students could not jump around to different schools on the taxpayer dime. Removing this provision is moving backward on accountability to the taxpayer.  If families make a bad choice, the result would be extra costs falling on the taxpayers.

In addition to the $.5 million fiscal costs for students to transfer, this bill sets up a second semester voucher for students who have not had a voucher before.  That will mean increased fiscal costs.  The fiscal costs projected by LSA for the 2016 bill were $2.1 million for a second semester voucher program.

Is SB 55 the first program that gives taxpayer money for expelled students during the school year for which they are expelled?  Expulsions are for serious problems, including bringing guns or drugs to school or threatening the school.  A state law says that expelled students as part of their penalty cannot be enrolled in another public school for the balance of the school year in which they were expelled. SB 55 bill does not rule out helping expelled students go to a private school with a tax payer voucher.  Is this undermining the meaning of expulsion?  Will students expelled for the most serious offenses including gun violations or serious threats to the school be allowed to simply transfer to a private school with a voucher in the second semester?  Are there major expulsion offenses for which taxpayer money should not be used when students are expelled for the most serious reasons?

The current window for private school voucher applications is March 1 to September 1. SB 55 would establish a new enrollment window from extending to January 15.  This extension would mean that the marketing and recruitment competition between private schools and public schools would go on for 10.5 months instead of the current 6 months.

Private schools have always had to have a marketing program to gain enrollment, but marketing and recruiting is new to public schools since Indiana was transformed into a school choice marketplace in 2011.  Now just like private schools, if public schools don’t recruit students, they won’t survive.    A superb public school with superb teachers must still be marketed well to parents or it may falter in the competition for enrollment.  SB 55 proposes to extend the intense competition by four and a half months.  Meanwhile, House Bill 1003 passed yesterday in the House sets up incentives to keep public schools from spending money on marketing, a move by the General Assembly that makes no sense given that they set up the competitive school marketplace in 2011.

Legislators should say no to ever-increasing voucher expansion.  The teacher shortage and the teacher pay crisis deserve the full attention of our General Assembly and our school personnel, and not another battle over voucher expansion.

We don’t need a sweeping expansion of spring semester vouchers that will extend the advertising wars all year long that are currently confined to the summer recruiting period.

Send Messages Today (Feb. 12) or Early Tomorrow (Feb 13)  Before the Committee Vote!

Just let Senators know that you oppose SB 55 and that you oppose any expansion of private school vouchers.  The length of your message is not as important as the number of messages to Senators.

Please send your messages to Senators on the Senate Education Committee right away:

Republicans:  Senators Raatz (chair), Buchanan, Crane, Freeman (bill sponsor), Kruse, Leising, Rogers, and Spartz

Democrats:  Senators Melton, Mrvan, Stoops

You can cut and paste this list of Senate Education Committee members into the "to" field of your email:;;;;;;;;;;

Good luck in your efforts!  Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!


Vic’s Statehouse Notes #331 – February 7, 2019

Dear Friends,

Public school advocates need to contact members of the House Education Committee along with your own House member to oppose damaging provisions of House Bill 1641.  This bill, to be voted on in a rare 8:30 am Monday morning meeting on February 11th, would:

for the first time, force a public school district that closes a school to sell it at 50% market value to any private or religious school that wants to buy it.

for the first time, take portions of the property tax money raised when a public school district passes a local referendum and give that money to charter schools sitting within the boundaries of the school district.

give that money to charter schools for a general revenue referendum.

give that money to charter schools when the public school board has done all the work to pass the referendum.

 give that money to charter schools even though charter school boards are unelected and unaccountable to taxpayers who may have opposed the referendum and would like to vote someone out of office in the next election.

 give a huge incentive to public school boards to avoid seeking needed funds through a referendum when they know that a major chunk of the property tax money raised will pass right on to charter schools that have not done any of the difficult work required to pass the referendum.

Forcing Taxpayers to Subsidize Private and Religious School Buildings 

HB 1641 is the first effort to get taxpayers to subsidize facilities for private and religious schools.

This is another step beyond having taxpayers subsidize tuition for private and religious schools, a still-controversial step taken in 2011 pushed by groups working to erode support for public schools and working to fund unaccountable and sometimes discriminatory private schools with tax money.

This line should not be crossed.  HB 1641 should not force public school districts to sell buildings to private or religious schools at a 50% discount which dissipates the investment that taxpayers have made in that building.

Forcing Public School Districts to Share Referendum Revenue with Charter Schools

Here’s how much public school districts would lose to charter schools from referendum revenues based on the provisions of HB 1641:

Gary Community Schools:  53.4%

Indianapolis Public Schools:  25%

Muncie Community Schools:  18.5%

This bill is a bad idea.  It has been held over for two meetings of the House Education Committee.  It will be voted on at the 8:30 meeting of the House Education Committee on Monday, February 11, 2019.

Let your voice be heard by then!

Press reports have hinted that sharing referendum revenue with charter schools may be taken out of the bill by Representative Behning, the sponsor, but no action on that has yet been taken, so let your concerns be heard!

Let legislators know that you strongly oppose House Bill 1641:

This bill would funnel public tax benefits to private and religious schools.

This bill would deeply cut the property tax revenues that local districts could gain from local referendums.

This bill would erode local funding for public schools.

If local districts lose property tax money needed for transportation or building repairs, they must shore up their budget in these areas with general fund money that could be used to raise teacher salaries.  This poorly timed bill would thus have the effect of reducing the money available for lifting teacher pay, a priority goal of this session in the agendas of the Governor and of both parties.

Contact the members of the House Education Committee who will vote on an amended bill next Monday, February 11, 2019 at 8:30 am:

Republicans:  Representatives Behning (bill sponsor), Cook, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Goodrich, Jordan, Lucas, and Thompson

Democrats:  Representatives Smith, DeLaney, Klinker, Pfaff

Then share your concerns with your own House Representative.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith


 Click below to read:

Vic's Statehouse Notes 329