February 19, 2014

 

HB 1321 was heard in the Senate Education Committee today.  No vote was taken at this time.  Committee Chairman Kruse indicated that the bill would be eligible for a committee vote next Wednesday.

 

Testimony from proponents centered on how this bill will transform IPS by claiming it will improve student achievement by giving school administrators a new “tool” in the tool chest.

 

Among those testifying as to the transformative powers of HB 1321 were:

  • Jason Klothe, Deputy Mayor to Mayor Ballard
  • Frank Bush, Indiana School Boards Association
  • Derek Redelman, Indiana Chamber of Commerce
  • Mary Ann Sullivan, former state representative
  • Todd Bess, Indiana Principals Association

Both Frank Bush and Todd Bess mentioned that what's in HB 1321 might be a model for other school districts in Indiana.

 

Former Indianapolis Education Association (IEA) President and current UniServ Director, Ann Wilkens, testified as to the myriad of student-centered programs that currently exist in IPS that have been achieved with the teachers association involvement.  The clear message is that IEA and ISTA have not been roadblocks to reform in IPS.

 

Retired teacher and taxpayer Estella Haynes Swann (who has continued to be actively involved in supervising teacher candidates through the Summer Learning Institute at Marian University) offered up a series of excellent policy questions relating to accountability and exit strategy for the takeover schools.

 

Even though AFT Indiana does not represent teachers in IPS, Sally Sloan (executive director of AFT), expressed amazement at the disconnect between what was expected from this bill by the proponents and what the bill actually says and opposed the bill.

 

John Barnes, representing the Indiana Department of Education, raised a series of questions with the implementation of the bill, such as:


The bill gives the IPS school board the authority to enter into an agreement that addresses the distribution of Federal funds.  Barnes noted that the DOE is charged with both the monitoring and distribution of Federal funds to ensure compliance with federal laws.

 

There is a question in the bill as to the accountability of these “innovative network” schools—are they under charter accountability or public school accountability and does the “clock” start anew on school grades?

 

ISTA reminded the committee that many of 'reforms" that have been enacted in the last few years have been adult centered and not student centered program improvements. HB 1321 is another "reform" added to this list of adult centered changes.

 

ISTA contended that what HB 1321 provided for was an open-ended framework through which the IPS school board could enter into agreements (the details of which are not stipulated in the bill) with outside not-for-profit entities (the details of which are not stipulated in the bill) to run certain IPS schools while all-the-while maintaining the students in those schools in the IPS student count.  

 

In the process, the company becomes the employer (and no longer IPS) for the employees. At this point, ISTA raised a question about whether in this arrangement staff could legally participate in the state’s pension plans (TRF and PERF). This is because it is very possible that IRS regulations would prevent the staff’s participation in the pension plans since the management company is a private corporation.

 

ISTA provided to the committee members a 35-page listing of positive student-centered programs currently operating within IPS that have been achieved with the teachers union.  So the question remains, what is in HB 1321 that can’t already be done…other than outsourcing its employees?

 

ISTA thanks its members all across the state for continuing to contact your legislators (Senators) on this bill.  Due to the outpouring of contacts, an initial meeting was brokered between ISTA and the Superintendent to see if there is some avenue for positive amendments to address the teacher concerns in this bill.  

 

Stay tuned.