We lost a champion for public education recently.
We lost a leader and a friend.
When I first met Phyllis Bush, it was actually through Facebook. I was new to the fight for public schools and the "reforms" going on in Indiana. Tony Bennett was our state superintendent then and the golden boy for ALEC and privatization. Mitch Daniels was his right-hand man in those efforts. I had recently become the chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County and she was one of the cofounders of a public education advocacy group in Fort Wayne: the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.
Phyllis and I shared information and ideas as we were quickly drawn into the efforts to boot out Supt. Tony Bennett and elect Glenda Ritz--hoping to change direction for public education. While we and other public ed advocates across the state (teachers, parents, community members) were successful in getting Glenda elected in 2012, change did not happen the way we hoped. We are in the fight for public education to this day.
Over the years, people from our groups--along with a host of others--testified at state board meetings, education committee hearings, and rallies at the statehouse. We wrote letters, held forums and bounced ideas off of one another. Through Phyllis' organizing of midwest meetings and, later, her work on the board of Diane Ravitch's Network for Public Education (a national group), I have met the most amazing, most inspiring, public education advocates and people.
From the beginning, Phyllis and I would vent about the struggles and the issue of some people who thought the fight for public education might actually be won online and not getting out there and doing something in real life! Phyllis had little patience for talking the talk without walking the walk. She was about action and made no bones about it.
We had to vent, had to share frustrations—ours is a fight of great importance, but against the odds. We face a state legislature that holds the purse strings and controls policy but is unmovable through gerrymandering. We are trying to mobilize a citizenry that, regardless of political party, doesn't seem to connect the dots between the importance of public education, what goes on in the classroom, and the actions at the statehouse. Our camaraderie was really a support group for many of us.
Of course, we didn't just complain on Facebook or on the phone with one another. We worked on action steps. Phyllis was all about action. It's hard for me to imagine that she's not going to reach out to me ever again with, "I have another semi-brilliant idea." She inspired me, whenever I felt defeated, to get back up again and go forward.
What fuels me and what I believe fueled Phyllis, is outrage. I can't count how many times I've heard her refer to it as being in a state of "pissment."
I have a t-shirt Phyllis bought for me that says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." That's what this fight is all about: waking people up to the issues, helping them pay close attention and then, most importantly, empowering them to act.
Empowerment is what I got from Phyllis. It wasn't simply that she was a leader. She made me and so many other people believe in our own leadership abilities. She helped us be leaders in our own right.
I am heartsick to not have Phyllis by my side in this continued fight for public education and our democracy. I will miss her encouragement and support terribly. But I know that we must not throw in the towel. When you think about Phyllis, when you think about the people who have gone before us, who have worked for integration, worked for a vibrant system of education and for the fulfillment of the promise of public education until their last breath, you know that we must continue. Join the Network for Public Education, join your local public education advocacy group, start one of your own, but get out there and fight--with love and "pissment" propelling you forward.
The Senate Appropriations K-12 Funding Subcommittee will meet Thursday starting some time between 10 a.m. and afternoon. They will consider HB-1001, the State Budget bill. Here's what it could do to public schools:
Here's what ICPE board member and former school superintendent Dr. Tony Lux has to say about reducing the complexity index:
Reducing the Complexity Index by 14% is outrageous! The Complexity Index was reduced back in 2014 and redistributed primarily to wealthy suburban school systems. Now they want to reduce it again at a time when 54% of school systems have declining enrollments (and therefore reduced funding) and where the Complexity Index is the one element of the funding formula that provides some stability. The Complexity Index is a means to actually assist declining enrollment urban and rural school systems so they could provide teacher salary increases!
Even though legislators may argue that all school systems will see reduction in Complexity Index funding, the declining enrollment school systems - primarily urban and rural - will get a double hit as they lose enrollment funds and then lose even more funds for the neediest students they still serve!!! In the meantime, growing suburban schools systems actually get a bonus: on top of their additional student count, they get the money originally intended for the neediest kids thrown into foundation funding!!
It is robbing the poor to help the wealthy!
Rich vs. Poor - Don't Fall for the Trick
This is what anti-public school forces like to do. They want to divide us. Policies that put suburban schools against urban and rural schools are destructive all around. The budget should be fair to ALL public schools. Stand together!
Senate Appropriations K-12 Funding Subcommittee
Email or call these committee members - and your own Senator before Thursday.
Senator Eric Bassler
Sen. Liz Brown
Sen. Ed Charbonneau
Sen. Jeff Raatz
Sen. Karen Tallian
Sen. Greg Taylor
If you like, copy and paste these addresses into the "to" field of your email.
It's winter, nearing spring. In Indiana, that means wild swings in temperature, sun and wind one day and hail the next. We get out the bikes, but don't put the snow shovel away. For people who care about K-12 education, it may be winter, but it's another kind of season, too, that brings its own kind of dread: the legislative session. In the policy realm, it is a season of surprises. There are always lots of plans in the works for Indiana schools. This year, by one count, 135 education bills were filed.
And what an array of bills they have been! Bills of questionable constitutionality, like a requirement to post patriotic elements in all classrooms, to give students credit for religion courses, to make parents bear the legal costs of the school district if the parents challenge an IEP and the judge turns them down—and that last bill, by the way, proposed making schools’ online communications not subject to public records law. A bill making it harder to pass a school levy. A bill that requires public schools to sell unused buildings to private schools if they express interest, and that would have required the funds raised by referenda to be shared with nearby charter schools. A bill with the weird, ominous provision that one public school district can claim a school in another district if the township trustee in that other district agrees. A bill that provides grant funding for schools to train teachers to use guns, and that makes it illegal to share which teachers/staff have received that training.
These bills would have real effects, and we’ve chased after them. We’ve gotten indignant, we’ve called legislators, and in some cases the bills have been modified by amendments to become less damaging.
But we have to keep our eye on the ball. This is a budget year, and the budget for education sets the baseline parameters for our schools. Budget proposals tend to be hard to wrap our minds around. The numbers are so large and they get distributed in opaque and complicated ways. There’s no narrative, no emotional arc.
Here are some facts related to the budget for K-12 education in Indiana:
Our kids and our communities deserve better. Underfunded schools have crumbling infrastructure, large class sizes, fewer bus routes, aging buses, high teacher turnover, and less science, social studies, art, music, and library, not to mention fewer curriculars and stressed teachers working second jobs at Starbucks. Underfunded schools hire fewer social workers, counselors, nurses, speech therapists, and school psychologists—professionals whose work supports the physical and emotional health of our children.
So here’s the ask. Call Senator Ryan Mishler, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, at 317-232-9814 and tell him that we need a 3% budget increase each year, for both 2020 and 2021—6% over two years—for our community public schools. Governor Holcomb and the House both proposed about a 2% increase, but that is not enough. The House budget includes $18 million in additional money for the voucher program and an additional $77 million for charter schools. The proposed increase in foundation funding was only 1.5% and 1.7% per year, per student, for public school students, but 5.2% and 1.7% for students in the voucher program. This is unacceptable. It’s the Senate’s turn to issue a budget proposal, and we need to see a 3% per year increase in foundation funding per student for the kids in our public schools—actual public schools which have a mandate to serve all children in our communities, schools in which our communities have a voice, schools which cannot counsel out or reject kids based on their special needs or religion or behavior.
After you’ve called Senator Mishler, call your own state senator at 317-232-9400 to say the same thing. And then ask your family and friends to do the same.
Will the Indiana General Assembly find enough money to allow K-12 public schools to pay teachers more and to provide stable programs?
That is the overriding question as the new two-year budget takes shape. The outcome is not clear.
The K-12 budget increases listed below for the past twelve years have not provided enough to pay teachers properly. Thus, there is urgency in finding more K-12 money in this budget cycle.
The proposed budget from the House Ways and Means Committee will be unveiled tomorrow, Feb. 19th.
The budget proposed by the Senate is expected around the beginning of April.
The compromise budget putting the Senate and House versions together is expected near the end of April.
I hope you will be involved at each step in asking legislators for a 3% increase in K-12 funding.
How Big Will the K-12 Increase Be?
On Wednesday February 6th, the public hearing was held on requests for the new budget in the House Ways and Means Committee. Joel Hand, representing the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, testified about the importance of increasing K-12 tuition support by 3% in the budget. State Superintendent McCormick had asked for a 3% increase back in October.
Governor Holcomb, in his budget plan released on January 10th, called for a 2% increase in K-12 tuition support, totaling $143 million in the first year and an additional $146 million in the second year. In addition, he recommended that money from the surplus be used to pay 2% of school district pension payments, out of 7.5% owed by school districts, which he said would free up $70 million in each year of the budget for districts to use to give raises to teachers.
This was a far better proposal than Speaker Bosma was talking about in November when he said at most there would be only a 0.7% increase in K-12 for next year.
Study the table below to see the history of funding increases in the past six budgets and the prospects for next year’s funding:
Indiana School Funding Increase for the Past Six Budgets
Source: The summary cover page from the General Assembly’s School Formulas for each budget
Prepared by Dr. Vic Smith, 12/2/18
When the school funding formulas are passed every two years by the General Assembly, legislators see the bottom line percentage increases on a summary page. Figures that have appeared on this summary are listed below for the last six budgets that I have personally observed as they were approved by the legislature.
Tuition support and dollar increases have been rounded to the nearest 10 million dollars.
Budget Year Total Tuition Support Percent Increase Dollar Increase
from Previous Year from Previous Year
FY 2008 $6.27 Billion +4.1% +$250 Million
FY 2009 $6.48 Billion +3.6% +$210 Million
FY 2010 $6.55 Billion +1.1% +$70 Million
FY 2011 $6.57 Billion +0.3% +$20 Million
FY 2012 $6.28 Billion -4.5% -$290 Million
FY 2013 $6.34 Billion +1.0% +60 Million
FY 2014 $6.62 Billion +2.0% +$280 Million
FY 2015 $6.69 Billion +1.0% +$70 Million
FY 2016 $6.82 Billion +2.3% +$130 Million
FY 2017 $6.98 Billion +2.3% +$160 Million
FY 2018 $7.04 Billion +1.6% +$60 Million
FY 2019 $7.16 Billion +1.7% +$120 Million
Total funding and percentage increases were taken directly from the School Funding Formula summary page. Sometimes in the first year of two budget years, the previous budget amount was not fully spent and the adjusted lowered base was used by the General Assembly to calculate the percentage increase.
Three Projections for K-12 Tuition Support as the Next Line in the Table
1. Governor Holcomb’s Projection
2019 BUDGET per Governor Holcomb: The Governor’s budget was released on 1/10/19:
FY 2020 $7.30 Billion +2.0% +$143 Million
FY 2021 $7.45 Billion +2.0% +$146 Million
In addition, in the State of the State address Gov. Holcomb announced a plan to take money from the surplus to pay pension payments owed by school districts, freeing up $70 million each of the next two years. He said this money should be used for teacher pay increases. Since it is one-time money and no plan to build it into future budgets was announced, it could be used for one-time bonuses for teachers. The amounts available to school districts vary differentially according to how many teachers are in the post-1996 pension plan currently paid by school districts. This means the $70 million available would not be available uniformly around the state but districts would vary in the amount they would get for this purpose depending on the pension plan of each teacher. An analysis reported by the Indianapolis Star (1-18-19) revealed that school districts could potentially save between $600 per teacher and $1000 per teacher under the Governor’s pension payment plan and could redirect the savings as bonus pay through local bargaining procedures.
2. Federal Inflation Projection
Bureau of Labor Statistics latest inflation figures announced 2/13/19 for the 12 months ending January 2019: 1.6%
2019 BUDGET per 1.6% inflation:
FY 2020 $7.27 Billion +1.6% +$114 Million
FY 2021 $7.39 Billion +1.6% +$116 Million
3. State Superintendent McCormick’s recommended 3% increase (Indianapolis Star, 10/2/18)
2019 BUDGET per State Superintendent McCormick:
FY 2020 $7.37 Billion +3.0% +$210 Million
FY 2021 $7.60 Billion +3.0% +$230 Million
Contact Legislators This Week to Ask for a 3% Increase for K-12
A consensus has formed in the Statehouse that Indiana teachers are underpaid and need pay raises. The best approach to that goal is to raise K-12 funding by 3%. Two other methods suggested will not raise the base pay that teachers need to solidify their future earnings:
With this background, you are ready to ask House members this week and Senators later to put at least a 3% increase in the budget for K-12 funding.
Good luck in your efforts! Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
“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 ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.
Our lobbyist Joel Hand will continue to represent ICPE in the 2019 budget session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!
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. In April of 2018, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.