The Special Session of the Indiana General Assembly on May 14th has turned deeply controversial. Two pillars of public education are now at stake.
The Governor had recommended a non-controversial loan to the Muncie Public Schools in the Special Session, with the rest of the controversial House Bill 1315 to wait until the next session.
The leaders of the General Assembly announced on April 20th that they will ignore the Governor and resurrect the entire controversial House Bill 1315, and they will pass it with no amendments and no public testimony in a one day session on May 14th.
HB 1315 was the most controversial education bill of the short session
These provisions are wrong. The bill fails the test of common sense. It must be amended.
The thought that it almost passed in this condition is disturbing. The thought that Ball State supports the bill in this condition is hard to understand. Ball State should ask for changes to follow all Indiana education laws in order to protect students or they should walk away from the plan.
Unfortunately, this controversy will no doubt be ignored in a busy election season unless public school advocates go into action by objecting to the bill forcefully to their legislators in the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate. The General Assembly leaders have the votes to ignore the Governor’s advice and do what they want, but will they regret stirring up such controversy in an election year?
That is up to you voters and advocates.
Why Does House Bill 1315 Deserve Your Attention and Time?
Now that a month has passed since time ran out on House Bill 1315, the full extent of its experimental departure from two pillars of public education in Indiana has come into focus.
First it violates for the first time in the 180 years of Indiana public school history the requirement that every public school district should be run by a school board of district residents.
Second it violates for the first time the requirement that every public school district should follow the education laws of Indiana.
The Deconstruction of Public Education in Indiana: The Pillars Keep Falling
This bill is not just about Muncie and Gary. It represents two more steps in the drumbeat of steps to deconstruct the system of public education in Indiana.
House Bill 1315, debated in a short session without ever going through an education committee in either the House or the Senate, takes out not one buttwo long-standing pillars of public education in Indiana.
That is why it deserves the attention of all Hoosiers, not just those in Muncie and Gary.
Strong forces in the Indiana General Assembly favoring the privatization of our public schools have previously acted to demolish three pillars.
Pillar 1: Public money should not pay for private school scholarships. This pillar fell in 2009. For the first time public money was budgeted for private school scholarships through tax credits for donors to Scholarship Granting Organizations. Taxpayers will pay $12.5 million for this purpose in 2017-18.
Pillar 2: Public money should not go directly to private schools. This pillar fell in 2011. For the first time, the passage of the voucher law gave public money directly to private schools. Taxpayers will pay $153 million to private schools in 2017-18, according to the Indiana Department of Education.
Pillar 3: Voters should elect the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This pillar fell in 2017, in the long session of the current General Assembly. A bill passed taking the power to select the State Superintendent of Public Instruction away from voters and giving the Governor the power to appoint a secretary of education after the 2020 election. The new law does not even directly require the appointee to have K-12 experience.
Now Pillars 4 and 5 are targeted on May 14th under the plan of Speaker Bosma and President Pro Tem Long
Pillar 4: Every public school district should be run by a school board of district residents.
The bill would allow three school board members appointed by the Ball State board of trustees to be non-residents of the school district. It would also legally end the Gary school board in favor of a board of advisors with no pathway in law to return to having a school board.
No real rationale has been offered for having non-resident outsiders on the Muncie school board except a statement by Representative Tim Brown, the bill’s author, that Ball State should be able to appoint David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates to the school board.
Pillar 5: Every public school district should follow the education laws of Indiana.
Quoting from House Bill 1315: “the Muncie Community school corporation is subject only to the following IC 20 provisions:”, an unprecedented watershed statement followed by a list of 29 laws.
Such language has never been used for public school districts in Indiana. The bill calls it “flexibility”. It was likened in discussion of the bill to charter schools.
The list of 29 laws does not begin to capture the body of law that the General Assembly has passed in previous decades to protect students and help them achieve. Despite claims that this bill has been vetted, it deletes vital protections for Muncie students including (1) 20-30-5-5.5 bullying prevention and (2) 20-30-5-5.7 instruction on child abuse and child sexual abuse.
Students in the Muncie school district will lose the protections of the bullying prevention law and the child abuse instruction law.
With these glaring problems, passage of HB 1315 in one day with no amendments would just be wrong.
Tell legislators about this problem. They apparently haven’t heard from Speaker Bosma and President Pro Tem Long that the final language of HB 1315 that nearly passed will remove these laws protecting Muncie students and many other important laws.
Questions flow again:
This is an astounding claim to say that Muncie schools need only 29 of the hundreds of Indiana education laws to function under the control of Ball State.
While the General Assembly leaders have said this bill was vetted in the House and the Senate, the many questions about operating Muncie schools without regard to Indiana law were never reviewed by the education committees of either the House or the Senate, only the finance committees. That is not a proper review in a short session for a bill that brings into question the need for the entire list of education laws in Indiana.
What Can You Do?
This controversy will get little attention from the press during an important election season. Public school advocates need to speak up anyway.
Public education will remain in jeopardy until candidates and voters in election campaigns make it clear that the deconstruction of our system of public education in Indiana and in the nation is unacceptable and is damaging to students and to our democracy.
Thank you for your active support of public education in these challenging times.
Keep doing what democracy needs!
“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!
Our lobbyist Joel Hand represented ICPE extremely well throughout the 2018 short session and will represent us 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!
Join ICPE–Monroe County!