We have learned that the conference committee will probably consider HB 1315 early Monday morning. Please go ahead and contact your own state Senator and Representative now, and we hope to have the conference committee's names for you by this time tomorrow.
This one needs your immediate attention:
Every public school district should be run by a school board of district residents.
This has been a core principle for public education in Indiana that has not been challenged for 200 years until House Bill 1315 came along this session.
HB 1315 sets a damaging precedent by knocking down this pillar principle in two communities:
For the first time in Indiana history, non-resident outsiders would be allowed to be voting members of a community's public school board, with no sunset provisions to return control to local residents. (Muncie)
For the first time in Indiana history, a public school district would not have a school board. (Gary)
It's Not Too Late. Send Your Legislators a Message Today!
It is not too late to fix either of these problems in the bill. The Senate version, passed Tuesday by a vote of 35-14, is different from the House version, which passed 64-27, so a conference committee is expected, perhaps starting tomorrow (March 8). Corrections could be made in the conference committee. The session must adjourn by March 14.
Time is short. Take a few minutes right away to contact your Senator and your Representative, along with other legislators if you can. Tell them:
Outsiders should not be allowed to be on the Muncie public school board. Their votes to raise property taxes on residents would bring litigation.
Give the Gary public school district the dignity of having a school board like every other school district for the past 200 years, even while an emergency manager is given the powers of the school board to correct mismanagement.
In nearly every session since 2009, the Indiana General Assembly has eroded step by step the norms of public education in Indiana. This erosion must stop.
House Bill 1315, a complex 55 page bill, has become the most controversial education bill in the short session. Legislators need to hear from you on these points!
The Details: Improvements on Second Reading in the Senate
The Senate improved the bill significantly during second reading amendments. Several Senators should be credited and thanked for participating in the amendment process on Monday (March 5) including Senator Mishler (Senate sponsor), Senator Head, Senator Lanane, Senator Ruckelshaus, Senator Breaux and Senator Tallian.
Senator Mishler, who was praised by the Senators from Muncie and Gary for his openness and transparency in debating this controversial bill, supported several amendments which improved the bill. He was also responsible in the Senate bill for improving the fiscal indicator dashboard to keep the watch list confidential until all data is verified for accuracy.
A big thank you should go to Senator Head for offering an amendment to restore six citizenship laws to the list of laws that Muncie public schools must follow in their otherwise flexible curriculum under Ball State's control. The amendment, passed on a voice vote, restored the following curriculum requirements to Muncie:
20-30-5-0.5 - display of the flag; pledge of allegiance
20-30-5-1 - constitutions of Indiana and the U.S.
20-30-5-2 - constitution; interdisciplinary course
20-30-5-3 - writings, documents and records of American history
20-30-5-4 - system of government; American history
20-30-5-6 - good citizenship instruction
Chairman Mishler also supported an amendment by Senator Lanane, who represents Muncie, which says: "In making the appointments under this subdivision, the Ball State University board of trustees and the President of Ball State University shall strive to ensure that the members appointed to the governing body reflect the geographical and socioeconomic composition of the Muncie Community school corporation district."
This amendment is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't cancel the current language on page 40, line 20 allowing non-residents to be appointed to three seats: "Five (5) members will be appointed by the Ball State University board of trustees from individuals nominated by the President of Ball State University. At least two (2) of the individuals appointed under this clause must reside within the boundaries of the Muncie Community school corporation district."
Ask Legislators to Change Two to All Five!
This bill would for the first time break the link between public school board membership and residency in the district.
This is step Indiana must not take.
There are sound reasons why public school board members up to now have been required to be residents:
School board members vote on property tax issues. They would know from personal experience what the impact is on their taxes when they vote on property tax levies. Outsiders would be voting to tax people potentially in a different state from where they live and pay taxes.
School board members need to know the community. Appointing outsiders could prompt a split in the board on community issues.
Residents who believe that it is wrong for school board members who live in New York, California or Chicago to be voting to raise their local property taxes for any purpose might use this non-resident status as the basis for a lawsuit to challenge the action of the board, costing extra legal fees.
We just shouldn't go there.
When asked during debates in the House about this point, the sponsor of the bill Representative Tim Brown said Ball State should be able to appoint David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates to the school board.
Write Legislators Today or Tomorrow!
Public school advocates have the opportunity during the conference committee process to try to repair two historic flaws that should be corrected:
1. The Muncie public schools are allowed to have non-resident outsiders in three of the seven school board seats.
2. The Gary public schools will no longer have a school board. It will be replaced by an advisory board.
These two points take the PUBLIC out of public education in two communities. They set two precedents for the deconstruction of public education.
These would be firsts. They would unravel yet another pillar of public education.
They are not right.
These two points could be fixed in the conference committee before final passage. Send messages to legislators today!
Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org