Vic’s Statehouse Notes #358

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Statehouse Notes

Dear Friends,

All who support public education In Indiana should know that Republican leaders in the General Assembly have advanced a plan to make school boards partisan instead of non-partisan.

Let legislators know of your strong opposition to this stunning change as they gather for Organization Day on Tuesday, November 16.

Making school boards partisan is a really bad idea. It would further divide our state into partisan camps and create partisan controversies and ill-will in the boards running public schools that serve all children.

This proposal comes from the same Republican party that in 2017 and again in 2019 introduced and passed bills to appoint rather than elect the State Superintendent, an elective office for 166 years, saying at the time that politics should be taken out of K-12 education.

How quickly they forget.

What bad consequences would this change bring?

Political bosses who are not on the school board could control school board actions when school board members know that they owe their board seat to the politicians.

Party slates would soon become part of every election, allowing state and local political bosses to control who gets to run for school board.

The partisan majority on the school board would soon establish a partisan test for selecting a superintendent.

A partisan superintendent may set up partisan tests for hiring administrative staff members or even teachers in the district.

Since the legislature voted eight years ago to remove the requirement that superintendents must earn a superintendent’s license, a politically partisan school board could hire any politically connected individual to be the superintendent, whether or not they were qualified based on their knowledge of schools.

Since they passed the school voucher bill in 2011, it is clear that the Republican party in Indiana has favored private schools with better and better taxpayer funding, resulting in diminished enrollment in traditional public schools. The ultimate goal of Republican leaders following the path envisioned by Milton Friedman is universal vouchers: to end public schools and educate all students in a marketplace of private schools.

For these misguided critics who ignore the non-partisan civic purposes of public education in our democracy, partisan school boards would advance the death spiral of public education. A regular dose of partisan arguments in local school board meetings will soon sour local communities on the very concept of public education.

This move by the Republican caucus apparently stems from their anger over the widespread opposition by many local school boards to a Republican bill in 2021 for huge expansions of private school vouchers and a first-ever program to fund unsupervised home schools, called Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s). After a turbulent reception, the voucher expansion and ESA bill had to be inserted into the budget bill to get it passed.

A change to partisan school boards would allow the party in power to control school board reactions to state legislation.

Would public education survive this transformative partisan makeover?

Contact your State Senator and State Representative to let them know that the current law on non-partisan school boards is the best policy and should be maintained. More partisanship is the wrong way to go for our K-12 students.
Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,
Vic Smith

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 represented ICPE extremely well during the 2021 session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work in 2022. 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!

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