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School Board Updated on Current Legislation

March 2, 2011
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03/03/11 Plymouth Schools Superintendent Daniel Tyree set the tone for a workshop held on Tuesday night by the school board on current proposed state legislation. Tyree said, “Some of the legislation that is about to be passed is pretty devastating to schools.”

Each board and audience member was given a nine page outline of legislation that is either in the Indiana House of Representatives or the Senate that , if passed, could bring significant changes to education in Indiana.

Tyree started his comments by issuing a disclaimer. He said, “Half of this year’s legislative session is over and below are the education-related bills that were debated. Some of the House bills were never passed on to the Senate, but eventually something will have to happen.” He added, “Since the state’s legislative web site has not been updated, what you have in front of you is the best of our ability to present what each bill contains, what amendments have been made, and how it will affect Plymouth and other Marshall County schools.” Tyree concluded his opening saying, “Please understand that these are probably not 100 percent accurate.”

Audience members included Triton Schools Superintendent Carl Hilling and several members of the Triton School Board and Superintendent Dick Reese of John Glenn Schools. Tyree explained that invitations were sent to other boards in Marshall County since proposed legislation could impact every school in the county.

House bills and the topics discussed included HB 1001 (budget bill); HB 1002 (charter schools); HB 1003 (school voucher bill); HB 1238 (advocacy with public funds); HB 1260 (school corporation health insurance); HB 1305 (farm to school plan); and HB 1328 (state student assistance commission). Also on the lists were HB 1341 (special education grants); HB 1359 (merit pay); HB 1369 (pay to performance program for administrators); HB 1399 (home school in athletics); HB 1417 (flexibility in use of school funds); HB 1429 (textbooks and other curricular material), HB 1479 (school performance and turnaround academies). HB 1484(Department of Local Government Finance); HB 1500 (school readiness reimbursement grant); HB 1566 (school absenteeism and dropouts); and HB 1584 (vehicle bill).

The entire wording of the bills and actins taken so far can be found on the State of Indiana’s website. The board concentrated on those that would have the greatest impact on Plymouth and/or Marshall County schools.

Tyree said of HB 1001, “The proposed budget straight lines the distribution amount for tuition support for 2012-2013 based on the 2010 distribution ($6.24 billion).This figure includes the $297 million reduction made the Governor for 2010.” He added, “A straight lined budget for four consecutive years is in effect a cut since expenses with insurance, utilities, inflation increased every year.”

He then outlined 13 reductions including: Early Intervention and Ready Diagnostic Assessment (15 percent reduction); Adult Education (10 percent reduction); National School Lunch Programs (28 percent reduction); Gifted and Talented (2.4 percent reduction); Adult Vocational Education (15 percent reduction); Alternative Education

(3 percent reduction); and  Senator David C. Ford Education Technology Program (10 percent reduction). According to Tyree, the Deghoster Factor and Prime Time Grant are nearly eliminated and small school and restoration grants would be eliminated.

Tyree said, “The impact on Plymouth looks like a one percent increase. A straight line budget is actually a 2-4 percent reduction, so PCSC will be down 1-2 percent in state funding for 2012 and 2013.” Board member Todd Samuelson explained that the state has indicated there was a $600 million over distribution last year and that repayment could be large loss for all schools in Marshall County.

The proposed expansion of charter schools in the state is a growing concern among public school corporations. A part of HB 1002 , if passed, would allow charter schools to lease or purchase unused or underutilized schools owned by the school corporation for $1 per year for 20 years. It further would allow the use of part of the school corporation’s transportation budget.

Tyree said, “Transportation dollars should not be used by charter schools. This budget is generated by local property taxes and should stay with the local school district.”

Tyree said, “Of the 30 lowest performing schools in the State of Indiana, 23 of them are charter schools.” “There is no accountability or transparency for private school sponsored charter schools.” he said.

Menominee Elementary Principal Michael Dunn pointed out that only 50 percent of the teachers in charter schools have to be certified. Dunn said, “Would we go to a hospital where only 50 percent of the doctors were certified?”

Tyree believes that HB 1003 could be stopped. The bill would provide for tax credits for private school tuition . Tyree said, “This would result in a reduction in tuition support for public schools of $5.5 million per year for every 1000 students who transfer from public schools to private schools.” He added, “Presently, 20 percent of all private school students are in schools in Marion County. Passage of this legislation would send 20 cents from every dollar to Indianapolis. We need to keep our tax dollars in the north.”

The handouts also outlined several Senate bills including : SB 294 (probationary teacher contracts); SB 333 (public works); SB 384 (local referendum and petition); SB 495 (lawsuits by school corporations); SB 497 (higher education scholarships); SB 538 (bullying prevention); SB 549 (Indiana pubic retirement systems); SB (teacher collective bargaining ); SB 482 (adult education); and   SB 495 (parental initiatives for school reorganization).

Due to time restraints for the board workshop, the Senate bills were not all discussed in-depth, but Tyree had noted the impact of each on the Plymouth Schools in the handout.

The board did not and could not take any actins on any items.

 The handouts acknowledged that the administrators are in support of many of the bills.

At the end of the meeting, Tyree offered copies of a petition with room for community resident’s signatures. The petition states: “Throughout the last year, Governor Mitch Daniels promised the constituents of the State of Indiana that he would not cut tuition support for K-12 public school. Many of the bills in both the House and Senate will result in substantial cuts in schools by transferring money to private schools, charter schools, and colleges and universities.

We believe that we have been mislead about these funding promises.”

Additionally, the petition states: “Therefore, the undersigned residents of Marshall County ask Senator Ed Charbonneau and Representative Nancy Dembowski to act on the Governor’s promise not to cut funding in K-12 public education.”

Copies of both the outline of proposed legislation with impact statements and the petition are available at the Administration Office building on Berkley Street.

Carol Anders Correspondent

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