Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Guide to Writing Your Letters : Please Share!

For the most part, the overarching concern of those senators (all Republican) who are possibly waffling on this HB1003, is financial.  Be sure to use Vic's Statehouse Notes'  financial information in your emails and phone calls to persuade them to vote "no".  One argument that some senators (like Kenley) have pushed for is that we study the effects of the voucher bill already in place for a few years before we extend it.  It's a reasonable argument for some.

There are a few senators that we really should focus on in our writings.  If you know anyone in these areas, please call them and tell them about this bill and encourage them to contact their senator.  There are two concerns that these folks have: re-election and financial.  Be sure to individualize these emails!

Here are some to focus on:

Senator Mishler (R) of District 9 (Marshall County and Kosciusko County .. see this map...) said that , although he agrees with "choice" he has some major reservations.  He is in the area near Warsaw and in his area there are almost no schools that one can use vouchers for!   If you know anyone in that area, please let them know that they need to contact him and let him know that they, too, have deep concerns.  For most of these waffling Republicans, my understanding is that they are worried about the cost.   During the Tax and Fiscal Policy committee, Mishler said he "reserves the right to vote against it on the floor. " Let's all encourage him to vote NO and let him know that this bleeding of funds will hurt the public schools in his district.  His email is:

Senator Zakas is in the South Bend and Goshen (?) area (District 11) and he may be a key vote.  He is a Catholic and is  probably getting a lot of pressure from Catholic school parents and schools.  If you are Catholic or you know some Catholic school parents who don't believe in de-funding public schools, please try to contact him.  Or if you know anyone in that area, of course.  His email is :

Senator Landske is in District 6 in the Lake County, Newton County, and Benton County area.  Do you know anyone who lives near Crown Point? Let them know that they need to call her and write her!  She has fiscal concerns about this new bill.  Please take that tack with her. Her email is

Senator Charbonneau ( District 5)  (Valpo and Rensselear area) has shown that he has serious reservations about the A-F grading system of our schools.  Now the HB1003 includes an amendment that would allow anyone in an "F" school district to take a voucher.  A Kindergartener within an "A" elementary school district but that also has an "F" high school, could go straight to a private one.  Let's encourage him to see the misuse of this grading system in this bill and, of course, the financial ramifications of these millions of dollars leaving our public school budget. His email is :

Senator Kenley  (District 20, Hamilton County) had been wonderful at arguing against expanding these vouchers.  His concerns are financial, but he also pointed out that they are doing a bait and switch type of thing by allowing wealthier families to receive these vouchers as well as not requiring so many kids to try the public schools first.  He needs to be thanked for this and encouraged to vote against the bill.  He has suggested that we have a study first to see how the vouchers are working for kids.  Please encourage him to push for that before we expand the program.  He also seems to be very concerned with the way special education will be hurt by this bill (see Vic's notes).  His email is

Senator Steele (District 44, Bedford, Columbus, Nashville area: Brown Co., Lawrence Co, Jackson Co. and some Monroe Co.) was concerned during the first voucher bill with accountability of the private schools.  He added an amendment that was about something like civics and morals being taught in those voucher schools requiring some accountability.  That provision for accountability was promptly tossed aside by Tony Bennett and crew.  They only have to observe 5% (13 total) schools and have a very vague review of what goes on.  Accountability as well as financial cost might be a good argument for him.  Please let your friends know.  Here's his email:

Remember that Senator Skinner of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee has said that they don't know and can't tell us just how much this bill will actually cost the public schools' budgets.  How can they be fiscally responsible and support this?

These senators should also hear from you with the financial concerns:

Senator Alting, District 22. See map   His email is

Senator Becker, District 50 (Evansville area).  Her email is

Senator Boots , District 23 ( Crawfordsville and Lebanon area, I think). His email

Senator Head, District 18 ( Logansport? Peru? )  His email

Senator Waltz, District 36 (Marion County) His email is

Senator Bray, District 37 (Morgan County and some Putnam.  Martinsville) email:

Senator Crider, is new like Bray (so they didn't vote for vouchers in 2011) He is  District 28. That's the Greenfield area. Email

Senator Paul, District 27 (Richmond area)  His email is

Senator Leising, District 42  (Rushville, Connersville, maybe Shelbyville?)


Focus on financial concerns, slowing down and evaluating the program as it is.  Did it help poor children get an educational opportunity as they argued in the beginning or are we simply funding kids who were going to go to private schools anyway? Do we know what is happening to public schools when they lose this money?  Studying the choice program as it is and making decisions later is a more conservative way to go and fiscally sound to boot!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Are You Part of the Solution?

I am tired of writing letters to the Indiana state legislature.  I am tired of the robo-replies: "I am in receipt of your email." I am tired of thinking of what the right words might be to persuade a legislator or encourage a Facebook friend to write his or her own letters.  I'm pretty tired.

Since the legislative session has begun, I feel like it has been one bill after another that we have been fighting--definitely a whack-a-mole game to protect public education.  Public education advocates try to raise awareness around the general public about the effects this bills will have: more testing, larger class sizes, teachers losing power and control over the direction of their own jobs and of their ability to do what's best for our kids, etc.  I am certain that it's not only the state legislators that see my name and think: "Oh no.  Here she goes again!"  I think there may be some serious fatigue among my Facebook friends and real-life friends for my pleas and posts and cries of alarm that the proverbial sky is falling on our public schools.  I don't blame them.  I'm sick of me, too.

But the sky IS falling...

The Indiana senate is about to have the second reading of House Bill 1003 which, depending on the amendments accepted or rejected, stands to drain millions of dollars from our public education budget.  It will take those dollars and hand them directly over to private schools with no "accountability" at all.  We don't know what those children are learning.  Or IF they are learning.  They don't have to accept any child that they don't feel is the right "fit".  They also don't have to keep any child who is difficult to educate.  All but six of the private voucher schools in Indiana are religious.  Many of these schools teach extremist views from the Bob Jones or A Beka curriculum where they will learn that "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ" and "The majority of slaveholders treated their slaves well."

Perhaps even more troubling to me is that there is no oversight of what goes on in these schools. Only 5% (13) of the 260+ private schools are required to be reviewed/evaluated.  The guidelines for becoming a "voucher school" are very broad and accountability is virtually nonexistent.

Meanwhile, our public schools are a pressure-cooker of "accountability."  Show me the DATA!  Prove that you are not "failing" with numbers and tests and tests to number those tests.  Teachers are under a microscope to perform or lose their "effective" status, job, pay, etc.  Kids have to compete with one another, schools against each other in this great race to keep from failing.  As these politicians raise the stakes, push a sink-or-swim mentality for our public schools, they offer "choice" to parents to get out of this rat race.  Shiny new charter schools with great packaging.  Or take your "choice scholarship"to a small religious school with small class sizes and people who are just like you.  Get out of that cold stressful atmosphere of public school and look at our warm fuzzy private ones.  Maybe you will take a tax credit to keep your child at home with you where they will be protected from the grind.  So many choices.  These caring politicians are just helping the child. And their campaign contributors, the testing companies, the charter companies, they make their profits.

Enough of the hypocrisy already.

My friends, we have to write these senators today. We have to tell our neighbors and have them write.  We need to share this information with our relatives and friends all across the state.  They will vote next week.  And depending on all of the proceedings, we will all be feeling the pain.

When our school boards and administration announces that they have to cut band and art, is that when we will speak up? When, like Center Grove, they announce that librarians are going back into the classroom and libraries will no longer be staffed by professionals, is that when we parents will organize? When our children start slipping through the cracks because the class size is too great and their teacher can't possibly keep up with the data collection as well as noticing that our son or daughter isn't getting long-division, will we blame her? Will we be angry at our school corporations for not addressing our kid's needs? Or will we then recognize that we let these legislators dictate all of this from Indianapolis while we ran carpool?

So many people, parents, teachers, and ordinary citizens are afraid to be "political." Political doesn't mean partisan.  Political refers to your relationship to power.  Our children and their teachers are caught in the crossfire of an exceedingly political climate focused on public education.  WE are their power.

Speak up. It will take you only a few minutes to write an email to your friends and to write a note to the senate.

There are details on ICPE's website from Vic's latest statehouse notes.

Here's a link to the senators' emails (#6 is a link to ALL senators).

We only need 26 votes to kill this.

Remember the old adage: If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.