Today, Governor Pence unveiled his 2014 Roadmap at the 2014 session of the Bingham Greenebaum Legislative Conference held at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Our Government Relations staff was there to report back to members.
Of particular significance to educators are the following "stops along the way" on his roadmap:
(1) Eliminating the business personal property tax. Currently, this tax amounts to over $1 billion, the revenues of which go to both local government and public schools districts. The governor mentioned a willingness to phase-in this next tax break to businesses but was not as clear as to how or if he would replace this revenue.
(2) Create an "Indiana Teacher Innovation Fund to support teachers who improve student outcomes through innovative work in the classroom." No further details were provided.
(3) "Teacher Choice"--provide financial support to teachers who want to teach in charter schools but who don't because charter schools don't pay their teachers the same amount as community public schools (even though the school funding formula provides the same calculation for funding ongoing charter schools as is available for community-based public schools--using target revenue and enrollment as key factors). The Governor couched this program as being one in which teachers could choose to work in a "low-performing public school or a charter school." Note that the charter school does not have to be low-performing. He stated that "for a period of time" the teacher's salary "would be protected" by going to a charter school. The bent to create new ways to favor charter school operations over community-based ones continues.
(4) Establish a pre-K voucher program for "low income" families. Rep. Behning indicated later in the day that "low income" may be deemed to be 185% of the free and reduced price lunch standard, which in Indiana amounts to over $80,000 for a family of 4.
(5) Shorten the timeframe for "failing" schools to "become" takeover schools. No conversation about assisting community-based public schools.
(6) Enable single organizers to create "networks" of multiple charter schools with single boards (many of whom are out-of-staters). Billed as giving these corporate organizers "the same flexibility as school districts"--where a single board manages multiple schools. Once again, the Governor is laying the groundwork to give a small core of individuals control over multiple schools and increased public dollars.
(7) Making it easier to repurpose unused educational facilities. Even though the general assembly has twice dealt with this issue in the last two years, evidently, the governor believes that more charter schools run by non-elected local people are in need of more public school facilities that were paid for by local community members.
As you can see, the Governor's agenda is noticeably heavy on charter school enhancements and expansion and pretty vague about how he intends to replace over a $1billion in lost business tax revenue that goes to local government and schools. ISTA will be providing detailed updates in the coming days and weeks to facilitate your communications with him.