Originally published on 4/25/18.
The voucher program affects all public schools in Indiana.
If voucher program money was in public schools' tuition support, this is how much more funding local public school districts would receive in Brown, Greene, Lawrence, Monroe, Morgan, and Owen counties.
You can read more here at the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents blog entry by Dr. Phil Downs, Superintendent of Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools.
High-res file can be accessed here.
The breakdown of losses, as calculated by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, is here in PDF and Excel formats—district by district.
The bigger picture can be accessed here. Be sure to watch the video walkthrough first.
District by district charts can be found here.
This is the first “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” for 2018. Notes under this title contain commentaries on election candidates and my personal candidate endorsements.
There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. __________________________________________________________________________________
Which candidate for U.S. Senate from Indiana should be favored by public education advocates?
If you are a voter who puts a high priority on public education, Joe Donnelly is the best candidate in the U.S. Senate race. As an advocate for public education, I have reviewed the record, and Joe Donnelly has my full endorsement over Mike Braun.
Here are my reasons.
Mike Braun Has a Poor Record on Public Education
Mike Braun served in the Indiana House of Representatives representing District 63 for three sessions: the long budget session of 2015 (after winning the 2014 general election unopposed), the short session of 2016 and the long budget session of 2017 (after defeating Democrat Andrea Hulsman in the 2016 general election). Then he resigned to run for U.S. Senate in November, 2017.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
It intrigued me that Mike Braun’s U.S. Senate primary campaign ads ignored his three years in the General Assembly and made it sound like he was a businessman with no experience in government.
During those three sessions, he had a poor record on issues related to public education:
Joe Donnelly Has a Strong Record on Public Education
It’s a clear difference. If supporting K-12 public education is a concern as you vote, I urge you to support Joe Donnelly in this tight election race and to ask friends and family to do the same.
Good luck in your work! If public education is going to survive in Indiana, voters will make all the difference.
Thanks for advocating in support of public education!
Vic Smith email@example.com
In one ad, a young child gazes listlessly out the window of a bus (127 shares, 106K views). In another, a bus, seen from behind, flashes its lights as it spews exhaust, caught in wintry traffic (1.8K shares, 372,000 views).
"You know you really don't have to spend Seven and a Half days of your life on the bus," says the ad.
Another video, this one with sound, makes its point more bluntly. "School shouldn't get in the way of your life."
These Facebook ads suggest that school can be boring, that you can feel trapped there—that school is inconvenient, when it comes right down to it. Others address adults, aiming for the gut and showing a child being bullied on a school bus. "Don't let this be your child's daily routine." In this textbook example of fear-based advertising, the girl is white. The harassing arms are dark.
Of course, in the world of the ad, there is a quick way for your child to avoid bullies.
These ads represent the challenges of being in public school with peers, and traveling to school with peers, as scary and insurmountable—and they are paid for through the state of Indiana's K-12 budget. They are ads for Indiana Virtual School (IVS), an online charter school, whose budget is provided through Indiana's per-student tuition support.
It's a school-eat-school world
In an ironic wrinkle, the authorizer of the Indiana Virtual School is a small public school district, Daleville Community Schools, whose brick-and-mortar schools, with their academic programs, serve fewer than 1000 students and will benefit from any extra money they can get. Schools throughout Indiana have been hard hit by funding that is not keeping up with inflation; they need teachers, counselors, nurses, and social workers. As a charter authorizer, Daleville receives 3% of the online charter's tuition support, and thereby adds an extra $1 million to its own budget. That's because the online charter and its spinoff (also authorized by Daleville) will be receiving about $35 million from the state this year. That is $35 million leaking from other districts across Indiana when students in their residential areas opt for an online school.
A new virtual charter, Indiana Agriculture & Technology School, which is set to open this coming school year, has spent almost $150,000 advertising its school.
This is the marketing budget line for Indiana Agriculture and Technology school. The left number is what they spent between July 2017 and June 2018. The right line is what was budgeted. What is your school's marketing budget? How many times do you have to eat at a dine-and-donate fundraising event to reach this amount? Wouldn't it be better spent on a couple school counselors or therapists?
Its marketing team seems to have decided that the easiest way to recruit students is to poach them from other virtual schools. One such ad says, "Is your choice in a virtual school working for your student? You just want him to succeed. We see that he does." Never mind that the school has not started to operate yet; it is slated to open in August.
Advertising can be deceptive
How much does your school district spend on advertising? What message does your district send to the community? Who is the target audience? How does the advertising message compare to schools' test scores and graduation rates? Does the advertising convey your school's academic programs, extracurriculars, and athletics? How does the message compare to the way your school takes care of your children?
When it comes to school marketing in Indiana, there are no requirements for truth in advertising. We all know that advertising can be deceptive. While ads for the Indiana Virtual School offer hope, a way to escape, the school's actual performance is suspect. IVS had a graduation rate of 6.5% (lowest in the state) and student turnover of 46.4% in 2016-17.
In addition, there were 25 teachers and 3,376 students at IVS in 2017–2018 per IDOE Compass. That gives the school a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:135. And there is no indication if these teachers are full or part time. (For comparison, at Bloomington High School North, in Monroe County, there are about 1600 students and 117 teachers, meaning a teacher-to-student ratio of approximately 1:14.)
A low teacher-to-student ratio certainly leaves the school more money for marketing. Or for paying a company owned by the school's founder for space and management services, as detailed by Shaina Cavazos's award-winning Chalkbeat exposé. In 2015–2016, according to Cavazos' reporting, IVS only spent about 10% of the money it received from the state on actually teaching the students.
Indiana grades schools according to an A-F system, and according to the state grades, IVS is a failing school. In fact, all virtual charter schools in Indiana received F grades from the state in both 2016 and 2017, according to the State Board of Education's recent report (p. 20). They could be closed by their authorizers, only to replaced by yet another virtual school. As Cavazos' recent explorations of the peculiar origins of the new Indiana Agriculture and Technology School show, Indiana is the "Wild West" of education. There are very few rules for virtual schools to follow, but lots of money to be made.
Indiana's committee on virtual charter schools meets next week
This past session, our legislators killed three bills regarding accountability in charter schools (though not specifically about virtual schools) even though Governor Holcomb and State Superintendent McCormick called for improved accountability in virtual charter schools.
Finally, the State Board of Education has formed a committee to review virtual schools, five months after Holcomb's request for more accountability measures.
The State Board's committee on virtual charter schools will meet on June 12, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. in the Government Center South, Conference Room C, 302 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204. State Board of Education member, Gordon Hendry, is the head of this committee. You can reach him via email here, on Twitter @GordonHendry, and by phone here: (317) 232-6610.
If any of this concerns you, feel free to contact him.
And if you are considering virtual school as an option for your child, caveat emptor.
--Keri Miksza and Jenny Robinson
Was Monday’s special session the death knell of accountability in Indiana?
How can the General Assembly vote that Muncie public schools don’t need to follow the accountability and school letter grades law without questioning the need for any school to have letter grades. Their action Monday leaves a huge question mark over the accountability mandates that have dominated Indiana education policy since 1999.
The Indiana General Assembly opened a new can of worms called “beyond accountability” when they passed House Bill 1315ss by votes of 63-30 in the House and 34-14 in the Senate. The roll call showing individual votes is below.
As planned, no amendments were allowed in the contentious bill.
If the supermajority party had a plan to dampen controversial election issues before the November elections, that plan got tossed out on the way to passing an extremely controversial bill which will resonate through November.
Three Firsts in Indiana History
When the history of public education in Indiana is written, the special session approving House Bill 1315ss will serve as a landmark moment when threepreviously unassailable pillars of public education were knocked off. As a result of this bill, which went through finance committees but not education committees, public education has changed in three ways:
Pillar 4: Every public school district should be run by a school board of district residents.
In my Notes #321, I described the deconstruction of public education in Indiana, pillar by pillar. I cited three pillars that have already fallen and more pillars that would fall if HB 1315 is passed.
They have now fallen, starting with an attack on school boards and the basic belief held for the past 180 years that every public school district should be run by a school board of district residents.
The passage of HB 1315 has dissolved the elected school board in Gary and turned it into an advisory board, a move that Gary leaders including Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson vigorously and futilely denounced. The new law includes no pathway to return to having a school board.
In Muncie, as many as three of the seven school board members appointed by Ball State can be non-resident outsiders. Allowing outsiders to serve on a geographically based public school district is a first for Indiana history and forces everyone to rethink the meaning of democratic self-rule.
How can this be considered democratic representation when school board members are not from Muncie?
Representative Tim Brown, the bill’s author, said in defending this stark departure from previous school board law that the Ball State appointed board might need to have a member who is an expert from Indianapolis, maybe from the Mind Trust. Here is his exact quote as he presented the bill on the floor of the House:
“Maybe we could have a specialist from education that came out of – maybe could come out of Indianapolis, somebody who has dealt with a turnaround school and innovation going forward. Maybe somebody from the Mind Trust could be on the school board, something like that.”
I wonder how that comment is going over among the electorate and property tax payers of Muncie who have now lost their right to elect their school board members with no legal provision to return to local elections.
The Senate version of HB 1315 inserted a plan to elect two board members starting in 2022. Senator Mishler, however, lost the argument to Representative Brown in the Conference Committee, and Representative Brown’s vision of an entirely appointed board pushed Senator Mishler’s election plan aside.
Pillar 5: Every public school district should follow the education laws of Indiana.
For the first time in Indiana history, a public school district will be not have to follow hundreds of Indiana education laws, including the bullying prevention law and the law requiring instruction in child abuse and child sexual abuse. This makes the Muncie public school district, which must follow only 29 laws listed in HB 1315, essentially equivalent to a charter school, which must follow only 21 laws listed in the charter school law.
This change clearly undermines the Indiana Constitution in Article 8 which says the General Assembly has a duty “to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition will be without charge and equally open to all.”
It is no longer a “general and uniform system” if all public school districts must follow hundreds of education laws except for Muncie which must only follow 29.
Pillar 6: The accountability law applies to every public and private school.
For the first time since its 1999 passage, the General Assembly has given a school district a pass on following the accountability law, a dominating law established with bipartisan action that has been given the highest priority for two decades.
No group of schools has ever been excluded from the accountability law:
Now, Muncie schools will not have to follow the accountability law.
When Minority Leader Terry Goodin objected to this fact in Monday’s debate, Representative Brown said that Ball State would have to report back to the General Assembly and to the Distressed Unit Appeals Board in 9 months, implying that this report would provide accountability.
Apparently, giving a report to the General Assembly is now equal to school letter grades which under IC 20-31 can threaten the future existence of a school. The General Assembly’s hard-nose stance on accountability has been changed for the first time. Have we now entered the “beyond accountability” era of report and reassure?
I’m quite sure many school districts would trade the punitive letter grade law for a report to the General Assembly about their progress.
Representative Goodin asked Representative Brown if following the accountability law could be amended back into the bill as a third reading amendment or in the next session. Representative Brown said “we will consider all things” but “I don’t again want to commit to the future.”
With that comment, the accountability law in Indiana has entered a new controversial era of selective enforcement.
Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition in the House
Three Republicans in the House joined all 27 Democrats voting to oppose HB 1315ss. They should be thanked.
Republicans voting against HB 1315ss: Representatives Nisly, Saunders and Siegrist
Democrats voting against HB 1315ss: Representatives Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, C. Brown, Candelaria Reardon, DeLaney, Dvorak, Errington, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hamilton, Harris, Hatfield, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Pelath, Pierce, Porter, Pryor, Shackleford, V. Smith, Summers, J. Taylor and Wright.
All 63 voting to pass HB 1315ss were Republicans: Representatives Abbott, Aylesworth, Bacon, Baird, Bartels, Beumer, Borders, Bosma, T. Brown, Burton, Carbaugh, Cherry, Clere, Cook, Davisson, DeVon, Eberhart, Ellington, Engleman, Friend, Frizzell, Frye, Gutwein, Hamm, Heaton, Heine, Huston, Jordan, Judy, Karickhoff, Kirchhofer, Lehe, Lehman, Leonard, Lindauer, Lucas, Lyness, Mahan, May, Mayfield, Miller, Morrison, Morris, Negele, Olthoff, Pressel, Richardson, Schaibley, Slager, Smaltz, M. Smith, Soliday, Steuerwald, Sullivan, Thompson, Torr, VanNatter, Washburne, Wesco, Wolkins, J. Young, Zent and Ziemke.
Five were excused from voting: Representatives Behning, Culver, Kersey, McNamara and Speedy
Two did not vote: Representatives Forestal and Stemler
Partisan Support and Bipartisan Opposition in the Senate
Six Republicans in the Senate joined all 8 Democrats voting to oppose HB 1315ss. They should be thanked as well.
Republicans voting against HB 1315ss: Senators Alting, Becker, Bohacek, Ford, Ruckleshaus and Tomes.
Democrats voting against HB 1315ss: Senators Lanane, Melton, Mrvan, Niezgodski, Randolph, Stoops, Tallian and Taylor.
All 34 voting to pass 1315ss were Republicans: Senators Bassler, Boots, Bray, Brown, Buchanan, Buck, Crane, Crider, Delph, Doriot, Eckerty, Freeman, Glick, Grooms, Head, Holdman, Houchin, Koch, Kruse, Leising, Long, Merritt, Messmer, Mishler, Niemeyer, Perfect, Raatz, Sandlin, Smith, Spartz, Walker, Young, Zakas and Zay.
Two were excused from voting: Senators Breaux and Charbonneau
Three more pillars have now fallen
The controversies of House Bill 1315 go deep into the fabric of public education:
These surprising outcomes of a short session now become the fodder for the fall election debates if the candidates or the voters take actions to make them issues in the campaign.
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!
Join ICPE-MC. We need your help.
Our lobbyist Joel Hand represented ICPE extremely well throughout the 2018 short session and during the special session in May. 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, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.