Vic’s Statehouse Notes #368
ALL HANDS ON DECK!
The Senate is throwing the big one at public education in the first education committee meeting.
Today it was announced that Senate Bill 305, which carries the seeds to completely unravel and privatize public education in Indiana, will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at their 1:30 meeting in the Senate Chamber.
Senate Bill 305 is the universal ESA bill, that is, making all students eligible for Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s) through the office of the Treasurer. Currently, only special education students are eligible for ESA’s due to language passed in the 2021 budget. About 100 special education students applied for ESA’s so parents, with no accountability, could get taxpayer money and make all decisions about providers.
Now, Senate Bill 305 would allow all parents, without accountability, to get taxpayer money for a home school or an independent school. Taxpayers who are paying the bill would have no say in what is taught.
By Wednesday morning, Senate Education Committee members need to hear from hundreds of public school advocates that Senate Bill 305 is wrong! Giving education money directly to unaccountable parents instead of to public schools run by public school boards is wrong!
It would undermine all that has been done to build up our public schools over the last 170 years as the cornerstone of our democracy.
What are ESA’s?
For those who would privatize our public schools, the goal is in sight.
Followers of Milton Friedman in Indiana have long had a plan to undercut our public schools and give tax dollars for K-12 education directly to parents rather than to our public schools. The mechanism is called Education Scholarship Accounts.
The 2021 General Assembly, despite vigorous opposition, already approved ESA’s for special education students by attaching the proposal to a popular budget. Now, SB305 proposes to expand ESA’s to all students, known as universal Education Scholarship Accounts, the holy grail of school privatizers.
What is wrong with ESA’s?
Simply put, ESA’s would bring the demise of public schools in Indiana. The flaws are compelling:
NO PUBLIC OVERSIGHT. Public taxpayers would be paying for home schools or independent schools but would have no way to influence or oversee what is taught or how they are run. Instead of giving education money to a publicly chosen board to run schools for the entire community under the transparent rules of democracy, ESA’s would give money with no public input to parents who would pick all providers, including those without strong credentials, to teach their children or in their independent school.
NO STUDENT STANDARDS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY. The law sets no standards at all for ESA parent grants. Under the current radical ESA plan, all a parent needs to do to get the money (approx. $7000) that normally goes to schools is to fill out a simple online application saying they will spend “part of the money” so that their student will study “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies or science.” No art, no music, no foreign language will be required. The high standards Indiana has adopted will be gone. Businesses thinking about moving to Indiana will not be impressed that we are allowing state standards to be ignored.
NO PROTECTION FROM EXTREMISM. In an era when extremist ideology is a major concern, there is no protection in this ESA plan from funding home schools run by extremist parents using your tax dollars. The opening to discrimination and to teaching prejudice is clear. This is a real threat to our democracy.
NO CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS. While teachers and even school volunteers must pass criminal background checks to work with students, parents of eligible students can get approximately $7000 of taxpayer money for their home school with no criminal background checks regarding previous child abuse, neglect or fraud charges. The potential for fraud is an obvious problem.
NO FUNDING RELIEF FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Every time a student signs up for an ESA, the $7000 or so the local public school used to get will disappear from the school budget. Poorly funded programs will start a death spiral for the community public schools. Schools serving both low income and high income areas will feel the funding pinch.
Write Committee Members Before Wednesday Morning!
Let your Senator and the following Education Committee members know about your strong opposition to SB305:
You can copy these e-mail addresses and paste them into the “TO” field of your email:
Our public schools that have served as the backbone of our democracy for 170 years deserve our protection from this radical scheme.
Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
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. We need all ICPE members to renew their membership if you have not done so.
Our lobbyist, Joel Hand, represents ICPE extremely well. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work in 2023. 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!
Visit ICPE’s website at www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!