Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fighting Bad "Reform" in Indiana

For those interested in public education, two new groups have formed: Indiana Coalition for Public Education (see message below) and Indiana Democrats for Education Reform (http://www.indfer.com/
 contact: larrygrau@gmail.com)

Dear Friends,

Will parents, educators and community members who are advocates for public education show up at the Statehouse to fight the biggest privatization of public schools ever proposed in Indiana?

We’re about to find out.

House Bill 1003 has been introduced, and it could shift as much as $110 million from public schools to private schools. It would make Indiana the Voucher Capital of the US. The Star called the proposal “the most expansive publicly funded school voucher program in the nation.”

It will be given a hearing one of these Wednesdays at the regular 8:30am meeting of the House Education, perhaps even this Wednesday, Jan. 26th. We don’t know yet. Are you ready to come to the Statehouse to testify and to talk with your legislators?

Here, in brief, are some of the major provisions:

• The current tax credit program for private school tuition (established in 2009)

• would get as much as $12.5 million per year in tax money, up from the current $2.5 million

• would gradually rise to an 80% tax credit for donors, up from the current 50%

• would be available to a family of four earning $101,982, up from the current $81,586

• would be available to students who had been in a public school the previous two semesters

• The new voucher program (using average amounts cited by LSA; actual voucher amounts vary by districts)

• would give a family of four making less than $40,793 a voucher of $4.964 for private school tuition.

• would give a family of four making less than $81,586 a voucher of $2,758 for private school tuition.

• would give a family of four making less than $101,982 a voucher of $1,379 for private school tuition.

• would include private schools that do not give ISTEP but give norm-referenced tests.

• would have no limits except the limits on seats available in private schools, estimated to be 20,000.

The fiscal note from the Legislative Services Agency estimates that the reduction in tuition support for public schools will be $5.5 million per year for every 1000 students who transfer from public to private. Multiply that figure by the 20,000 potential transfers based on seats available, and the total amount that could potentially transfer from public schools to private schools is $110 million.

Is there any righteous indignation left out there in the public school community?

Indiana has many religious families, and if the state will pay for a religious education for their child, of course they are going to take up the offer, even if they are currently happy with their public school. Paying for religious school tuition, however, is not what our Constitution envisioned.

Will you tell your legislators to oppose this bill?

Perhaps years of demeaning the public schools with the flawed AYP measures of No Child Left Behind have left the public confused about public schools. If this voucher plan doesn’t put public school folks into gear, nothing will. If you would want to come to the hearing, whenever it is, to testify against this bill, you might want to review the attached page entitled “7 Reasons Why Public Dollars Should Stay with Public School Students.” Testimony should be short and to the point. Bring your passion.

I hope to see you in the Statehouse whenever the House Education Committee holds a hearing on HB 1003.

Best wishes,

Vic Smith: vic790@aol.com
Indiana Coalition for Public Education


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