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.
This guest post is from Janet Stake, a board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County. Note: HB 1253 was amended in committee. It would provide grant money to schools to train teachers and other school employees to use guns. It passed its second reading in the House today, February 14. It will receive its third reading early next week.
As a retired teacher and school counselor, with years of experience in high school, including a high poverty one, I can not emphasize enough how House Bill 1253 will inevitably have unintended consequences:
1) The verified teacher shortage in Indiana will actually increase. The profile of a typical teacher is not the same as the profile of law enforcement personnel. Both have roles to play in serving society but now you are asking for teachers to enter a domain that they never had even a tiny bit of interest in pursuing.
2) The "good guy with a gun" myth does not tend to pan out to stop an active shooter. It is not easy to hit a target when the shooter is moving and is actively shooting others. Have you even asked law enforcement what they think of this proposed bill? Law enforcement generally does not support arming teachers because they do understand the myth that is being promulgated by the NRA.
3) Businesses will not come to Indiana, and many businesses will leave. It will be too risky to set up shop here because businesses do care about the quality of our schools and whether or not the schools are safe. Arming teachers adds a whole new dimension of unknowns in the safety of schools.
4) Replacing school resource officers with teachers will cause a shortage of well-trained people on school grounds. With all of the tasks assigned to teachers today, do you really think that they will gladly take on this role, as well? If so, then I believe you have not even bothered to ask teachers this critical question.
5) More guns in schools will mean more school shootings. The evidence all around the world and in our own country is clear on this issue. You should know this.
6) When you allocate money for arms training, you are inevitably taking money away from other critical school safety programs.
7) More innocent students and teachers will be shot and killed, by other teachers. Even if teachers successfully go through training, it does not make them experts or sharpshooters who will not make huge errors. The consequences of their actions are too big to bear physically and emotionally.
8) Schools will become more like police states. More guns means more weapons that need to be secured, and more scrutiny of children on school grounds.
Indiana's legislators must stop listening to the NRA. The NRA's concern is to promote gun sales, not to promote the well being of the American people, our schools, or our children. If the NRA had their way we would all be walking around carrying firearms at all times. This is insanity and it is not civilization. Lawmakers should listen to actual experts who have done the research on guns and gun violence.
Tell your legislator to vote no on HB 1253.
Not sure who your legislator is? Click here to find out.
Is this what you want teachers in your school district learning?
Proposed Indiana laws will force parents of special needs children to pay for equal education
With permission, we are sharing the following from the Cleary/Fowler Law Office in Gary, Indiana. House Bill 1629 and Senate Bill 507 will be heard in committee Wednesday, February 13.
Does your child have an Individualized Education Program, or IEP? Two bills pending in the Indiana legislature will make you pay for the right to challenge that IEP in court.
The federal law that created special education as we know it today--the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act--envisioned the IEP process as a collaborative effort between school staff and parents, with the shared goal of creating a program of special education that enables children with disabilities to one day live as independently as possible.
But too often, the IEP process fails to live up to these expectations. To address these rare circumstances, Congress created a procedure in the IDEA that enables parents to request a hearing to remedy their child's IEP. These "due process" hearings are decided by administrative judges and are parents’ last hope for securing an appropriate education for their children.
Unfortunately, two proposed Indiana laws are designed to frustrate the purpose of the IDEA and prevent parents from asserting their childrens' rights in due process hearings.
HB 1629 and SB 507 do this by wielding a powerful weapon against parents: money. Specifically, these bills will force parents to pay the school's attorney fees and litigation expenses if the parents don’t receive relief better than what the school offered. Put another way, even parents who win their cases may be forced to pay thousands of dollars to the school district after the case is decided. These bills will also force parents to pay for one half of the judge's fee in all hearings, win or lose, an amount which could easily rise into the thousands of dollars.
The purpose is clear--by giving school district attorneys the ability to threaten parents with tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses, parents will be discouraged from asserting their children’s educational civil rights guaranteed by federal law.
These bills contain a number of other provisions that will take Indiana backwards in education policy. One provision will exclude email and other electronic communications from Indiana's public records law, making our public schools less transparent and accountable. Another will require parents to obtain permission from the judge in their case before retaining an attorney of their own choosing! This requirement would infringe on a citizen’s right to hire his or her own attorney and would mark a dangerous breach of democratic norms.
Worse yet, the language in these bills is so sweeping that it would apply to any lawsuit initiated against a school—including claims for gender or race discrimination, disability discrimination, personal injury, and even employment claims brought by teachers or administrators against their school district.
Besides being likely unconstitutional, these bills do nothing to help education in Indiana. They are deliberately designed to make justice so expensive that it's unobtainable.
Most concerning is the fact that they reflect an ongoing trend in Indiana. During last year's legislative session, a law was enacted that required parents to provide notice 15 days in advance of requesting a due process hearing. This law--which duplicated a law already on the books since 1998--has since been used as another bureaucratic obstacle to prevent parents from asserting their child’s civil rights.
HB 1629 and SB 507 would mark a huge step backward in education policy. They would erect additional roadblocks for parents simply seeking to improve their child’s education, and they would disproportionately harm low-income parents, who already lack the special education options found in neighboring states. These bills should be rejected.
Instead of finding creative new ways to discourage parents from helping their disabled children, Indiana's legislators should ask parents: How can we help? The answers might surprise them.
Senate Education Committee members:
Republicans: Senators Raatz (chair), Buchanan, Crane, Freeman (bill sponsor), Kruse, Leising, Rogers, and Spart; Democrats: Senators Melton, Mrvan, Stoops
S27@iga.in.gov, S7@iga.in.gov, S24@iga.in.gov, S32@iga.in.gov, S14@iga.in.gov, S42@iga.in.gov, S11@iga.in.gov, S20@iga.in.gov, S3@iga.in.gov, S1@iga.in.gov, S40@iga.in.gov
House Education Committee members:
Chair: Rep. Robert Behning - email@example.com
Vice Chair: Rep. Anthony Cook - firstname.lastname@example.org Rep. Woody Burton - email@example.com Rep. Edward Clere - firstname.lastname@example.org Rep. Dale DeVon - email@example.com Rep. Chuck Goodrich - firstname.lastname@example.org Rep. Jack Jordan - email@example.com Rep. Jim Lucas - firstname.lastname@example.org Rep. Jeffrey Thompson - email@example.com Rep. Vernon Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org Rep. Edward DeLaney - email@example.com Rep. Sheila Klinker - firstname.lastname@example.org Rep. Tonya Pfaff - email@example.com