Dr. J. T. Coopman
There are so many topics open for discussion regarding education in Indiana; it is difficult where to start!
Recommended Reading – The winter issue of the ISBA Journal Magazine – Legislated Education or Education Legislation – Education is no longer in the hands of local school boards and school leaders, but is now a political issue for legislators who now enact legislation that effects all school districts in Indiana whether they want it or not, but more importantly, is it good for our students?
In the same vane, the West Lafayette School Corporation and its superintendent Dr. Rocky Killion have decided it is time to take back our schools. They funded and produced an excellent documentary entitled “Rise Above the Mark”. It is about the demeaning and deprofessionalization of Indiana public schools with the use of misleading and incorrect data and funding mechanisms that have left schools without adequate dollars to provide basic services and adequately pay for quality education in Indiana. The film was previewed in Lafayette to an audience of over 1,000 public school supporters in December. The idea is to have other viewings throughout the state and possibly gain national exposure over the course of time. The film will be shown in central Indiana on February 28th at Clowes Hall on the Butler Campus. IAPSS has partnered with the Education department at Butler University to show the film in conjunction with a national education conference being held on the campus. A panel will follow the presentation and include Diane Ravitch as well as Indiana Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson who will field questions about the merits of the film. Please visit www.riseabovethemark.com to preview the film.
In the short session of the Indiana legislature, several bills are moving through that impact Indiana public schools. With the property tax caps and circuit breakers negatively affecting many Indiana school districts, attention is being paid to a short term fix for those most impacted. Last year, we had 48 Indiana school districts that lost 20% or more of their property tax revenue in transportation and capital projects funds. This year the number is 58 and stands to steadily rise if a solution is not found. Several districts have submitted waivers not to provide transportation in three years due to lack of adequate funding in their transportation budgets. A few bills are moving that will allow for a shift of debt service agreements that will free some dollars in the cap back to these funds, but only for three years. Therefore, we have a short term fix to a long term problem for at least 58 districts.
With the Governor’s proposal to reduce and ultimately eliminate business personal property taxes for all units of government including schools, we have another threat to school funding that will exacerbate funding issues for schools and all units of government. The revenue generated by this proposal will eliminate One billion dollars in revenue across the state. No replacement revenue sources are identified, except a shift back to homeowners with increased property tax bills or an increase in income taxes. Either way, it is a shift from business to individuals. A report prepared by the Indiana Legislative Services Department (LSA) demonstrates the issues for Indiana and can be found on the IAPSS web site.
Also of interest is REPA III which is a hearing on teacher licensing in Indiana. The proposal basically indicates Indiana teachers can be licensed if they have a BS and no special training as a teacher. This is another move to eliminate professional educators from Indiana classrooms and treat it as a community service project akin to serving two years in the Peace Corps. With no special training for principals or superintendents, who will be the professional educators in Indiana schools?
Interestingly, a bill was introduced to hold universities who currently have teacher preparation programs to higher standards than all other departments by having them prepare reports about teachers in their programs and how well their classes performed on ISTEP. If they have failing scores for three years in a row, they will be recommended to have their license revoked and the school of education will have sanctions imposed against them. No other departments in the universities will have their graduates undergo the same scrutiny. On one hand we have no licensing requirements for teachers and administrators, but on the other hand we have sanctions being imposed on schools of education.
The discussion on Common Core standards rages on. Will Indiana have Common Core or not? Apparently if it is not called common core and we don’t have any reporting standards to the federal government, then Indiana will have Career and College Ready standards that are unrivaled in the USA. A problem exists with developing assessments for this hybrid model. It is projected for Indiana to develop its own test will cost between 28 and 58 million dollars in addition to administration costs.
The Indiana voucher system cost Indiana public schools 81 million in taxpayer dollars in revenue diverted away from public schools to private and parochial schools this year. This is in addition to the 91 million dollars in loan forgiveness that was allocated to charter schools last year that could have served as additional revenue to Indiana public schools. Just imagine what Indiana public schools could have done with an additional 172 million dollars in revenue?
Indiana communities and school leaders must be diligent in pursuing quality education for its public schools and let legislators know they are watching and voice to them their vision for Indiana public schools before the can is kicked too far down the road and it is too late to revive Indiana public schools.