Vic’s Statehouse Notes #385 – Wrecking ball

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Accountability, Get Involved, Indiana Legislature, Privatization, School Funding, State Budget, Statehouse Notes, Vouchers

Dear Friends,

The dust has settled on the 2024 short session and the Indiana primary election. The question that should be asked of all legislative candidates in the November election is now clear:

“Do you favor or oppose state tax dollars going for the first time to unsupervised, unaccountable, unaccredited homeschools or independent schools?”  

This change could send our community public schools into decline as enrollment withers away.

The Republican budget leader in the General Assembly has proposed a bill (Senate Bill 255) that would take this radical step.

Milton Friedman’s Wrecking Ball

The proposal to give state tax money for the first time to any or all homeschools is clear:  All students would be eligible for just over $6,000 in state school funding for homeschools or independent schools. All parents would have the option to apply online to the Indiana Treasurer, according to Senate Bill 255 introduced on January 18, 2024 by Senator Mishler, the chief budget writer for the Senate. He said the bill would not advance in the short session but would be the basis for discussion for next year’s 2025 budget, ushering in for the first time a universal ESA (Education Scholarship Account) system which includes state payments for unsupervised homeschools.

By applying to the Indiana Treasurer, all parents simply would take control of the state money for their child’s education.  The control of education money would be diverted from schools to parents. Since schools would get less and less money as students migrate to independent or homeschools, public schools would fade to oblivion over several years.

This proposal means that public education is threatened by Milton Friedman’s wrecking ball in 2025.  Economist Milton Friedman (1922-2006) wanted to end public education and government links to education by giving education money directly to parents rather than to schools.  SB 255 would do just that, funding homeschools with no accountability or standards.  Parents would be given incentives to leave public schools, which over many years would deeply damage public school programs.

Let the Voters Decide

Let’s discuss this with General Assembly candidates for the November election.  Tell them if they don’t publicly oppose the universal voucher ESA plan, you will not vote for them.

In the race for Governor, Jennifer McCormick, a strong supporter of public education, has long opposed the expansion of ESA’s.

Now she has chosen another strong advocate for public education to be Lieutenant Governor, Terry Goodin.  Having served as a superintendent for 24 years, he is an excellent choice for public school issues.  I have watched him vote against every private school voucher bill that came up for a vote in his 20 years in the Indiana House, starting with Governor Daniels’ first failed voucher attack in 2005.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education Board of Directors has endorsed Jennifer McCormick in the race for Governor.  As the former State Superintendent of Public Education, she knows how to protect and advance public education. She has been a board member of ICPE since 2021.

Jennifer McCormick will speak at the annual ICPE All-Member meeting on August 24, 2024.  Save the date!

The last minute expansion of ESAs (Education Savings Accounts) in the final two weeks of the General Assembly sent a blunt message to supporters of public education in Indiana:

Get more candidates elected that support public education, either Republican or Democrat, or else watch public education enter a death spiral in the 2025 session using the Milton Friedman plan.

What is the Milton Friedman plan?

  • As clearly stated in Senate Bill 255, parents would get control of the state money to educate their child, not the schools.
  • Economist Milton Friedman (1922-2006) advocated for this plan to end public education and get government out of education policy.
  • Parents of all students would be eligible to apply for an online account, called an Education Scholarship Account (ESA), worth approximately $6,000.
  • When a parent gets an online account, the money (approximately $6,000) is subtracted from the budget for the school, reducing resources available for the remaining public school students.
  • For the first time, this plan would give state money to run unsupervised homeschools, at an estimated additional cost of $46 million, according to the fiscal analysis of the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.
  • Homeschools run by parents in this program are unaccredited, unsupervised, and unaccountable.
  • No criminal background checks are required for parents seeking the state funding.
  • No criminal background checks are required for providers of education services approved for payment by the Indiana Treasurer.
  • All education standards would be set by parents running their state-funded homeschools, not by the General Assembly or the state board of education. The movement to raise standards in Indiana would be dead.
  • Education standards, set solely by parents, would have no input from taxpayers.  Taxpayers would still pay but would have no say.
  • Current mandates to teach about democracy, elections, our Constitution and our nation’s history would be unenforceable and would not apply to students using ESAs.
  • Extremist parents could easily teach hate and discrimination with state dollars. No one would know.

The election is coming in November.  This is the crucial time for all who support public education to ask the candidates for the General Assembly if they support or oppose the plan to give state money to unsupervised homeschools. ICPE is helping by offering our Candidate Pledge Program, which will let voters know where candidates stand in support of our public schools. Head over to our website to learn more:

Your work in the grassroots on this issue could determine whether public education declines and fades away in Indiana as Milton Friedman wanted. 

A Tribute to an Outstanding Professor

This edition of Vic’s Statehouse Notes is dedicated to the memory of one of my great professors Dr. John Patrick, who died April 3, 2024 in Bloomington after an amazing career at Indiana University.  John was a tremendous writer and advocate for citizenship education.  He had a state, national and international reputation for his unbelievably prolific writing and his thoughtful presentations on teaching about the United States Constitution and related topics.  I was truly fortunate that John was a member of my doctoral committee at IU in the 1970’s.  He was a guide and role model for generations of students and public school teachers.  In this era when democracy is threatened, his legacy of work on citizenship education and his high standard of professionalism will always be remembered.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

About Vic’s Statehouse Notes and ICPE…

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!

Vic Smith is one of the founders of ICPE and is a lifelong Hoosier who began teaching in 1969, serving as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor.

Vic received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, he was named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education and received the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We rely on memberships to help support ICPE lobbying efforts and outreach across the state. Our lobbyist Joel Hand represented ICPE extremely well in the 2024 short session. We need all ICPE members to renew their membership if they have not done so. We also welcome new members and general donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Visit ICPE’s website at membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

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