Indiana: Vouchers and warnings to parents about ineffective teachers

In an update to a story that we have discussed on the blog, Indiana passed the nation’s broadest voucher bill this week. It also passed a teacher merit pay bill that seems designed to create discontent among teachers and parents.

Part of  Gov. Mitch Daniels’ education reform package, the voucher bill gives tax dollars to parents who want to send their children to private schools. The bill is not limited to low-income families or those whose children attend low-performing schools.

In a media statement thanking state legislators, Gov. Daniels said, “Their political courage and their commitment to a great education for every single child deserve the thanks not just of parents but of every citizen; Indiana has a far brighter future because of them.”

Critics maintain that the changes will  drain funds from already struggling public schools in Indiana, which, like most states, has been cutting funding over the last few years. (This year, Indiana restored some funding, which will be used to offer full-day kindergarten.)

Billed as a broadening of the choice menu in the Hoosier state, Daniels’ education reform package also gives a tax deduction to parents who home school or send their children to private schools and expands charter and virtual schools. The tax deduction covers education expenditures, including textbooks.

As part of the governor’s reforms, Indiana also passed a controversial merit pay plan for teachers that requires annual evaluations based in part on  student performance on tests. There would be four categories of teacher ratings — highly effective, effective, improvement necessary and ineffective — with merit pay limited to the top two.

A district couldn’t place a student with teachers who were rated ineffective for more than one year. If the district had no other choice because of its school staffing conditions, it would have to notify parents that their child was going to have “an ineffective teacher” for a second year.  But once told this information, parents don’t appear to have any recourse.

Here is the exact language of the bill: (I think there must be a secret class on how to write legislation so it is nearly incomprehensible.)

(b) A student may not be instructed for two (2) consecutive years by two (2) consecutive teachers, each of whom was rated as ineffective under this chapter in the school year immediately before the school year in which the student is placed in the respective teacher’s class.
(c) If a teacher did not instruct students in the school year immediately before the school year in which students are placed in the teacher’s class, the teacher’s rating under this chapter for the most recent year in which the teacher instructed students, instead of for the school year immediately before the school year in which students are placed in the teacher’s class, shall be used in determining whether subsection (b) applies to the teacher.
(d) If it is not possible for a school corporation to comply with this section, the school corporation must notify the parents of each applicable student indicating the student will be placed in a
classroom of a teacher who has been rated ineffective under this chapter. The parent must be notified before the start of the second consecutive school year.

I wonder how it helps to inform parents, “Your child is going to spend the year with a teacher that the state of Indiana has deemed ineffective. We thought you’d like to know even though there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Back to vouchers. Here are the details from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

A family of four making less than $61,000 is eligible for a grant worth 50 percent of their local districts’ per-student funding. A similar family making $41,000 or lower would be eligible for a 90 percent voucher.

About 60 percent of Hoosier school kids qualify under the income guidelines.

The amount of the grant is limited to $4,500 for grades 1 through 8, with no cap for high school.

The bill requires students to attend public school for one year before being eligible for vouchers, meaning current private school students could not receive a voucher.

Kindergarten doesn’t count as the one year in public school.

The number of vouchers available statewide would be capped at 7,500 next school year and 15,000 the following year. After that, there is no limit.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

67 comments Add your comment

T. Krugman

April 28th, 2011
2:01 pm

I wonder if the Indiana private schools which will be receiving state money will also be bound by state requiements about curricula, textbooks, class size and testing, not to mention instructional accommodations for special needs kids.
Private schools have at times performed better
than their public counterparts since they have not had to deal with the challenges of educating certain segments of the population. I have taught in both private and public institutions. One of the public schools I taught at ‘underperformed’ on tests and other criteria, yet most of the teachers who worked there were tireless and heroic in their efforts to help their students. I have no doubt that their abilities were at least the equal to the skills of those teaching in insulated, isolated, well-funded exclusive private schools, whose scores and results are routinely lauded by those advocating vouchers.

Elizabeth

April 28th, 2011
2:10 pm

I have said it before and I will say it again: If you want to rate me effective or inefective, you may do it based on MY PERFORMANCE in all areas of the teaching process, not just test scores.

That being said… We have privacy laws which means that my evaluation is PRIVATE– between the evaluator and me– not anyone who has an opnion. If I am ineffective, the school can get rid of me. But they may not publish my personal information, which includes performance review, in any form, unless they want a major lawsuit. They may not inform the public, including parents, of my performance status. They may not hang a public albatross around my neck for the rest of my career. They can dismiss me, but they cannot publically discuss my performance with anyone other than me and my attorney, my evaluator, my principal, and the superintendent’s or school board’s representative. This is the law, an unless the state wants mass lawsuits, they had better pay attention because TEACHERS HAVE RIGHTS TO PRIVACY JUST LIKE DOCTORS, LAWYERS, AND EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORKPLACE. IF YOU CAN PUBLISH A LIST OF “INEFECTIVE” TEACHERS, THEN I CAN AND WILL PUBLISH A LIST OF INEFFECTIVE PARENTS AND STUDENTS. And I will. And I will win even if I lose my certification in the process.

HS Public Teacher

April 28th, 2011
2:12 pm

Hey GEORGIA – Here is an idea…. Rather than us racing to follow the lead of Indiana, why not wait a couple of years to see how things go for them?

Florida tried vouchers and it failed miserably. Now Indiana is trying it.

Come on, Georgia, don’t go down a path that is certain to FAIL!

Amazing

April 28th, 2011
2:30 pm

These efforts lack one crucial ingredient. They don’t address the responisbility of the parents. Despite the best of efforts of any teacher, it is difficult to change the child’s behavior without parental support and engagement.

Maureen, any information on how much the tax credit will be for people who home school or use private schools? Are the tax credits pegged to income levels?

HS Public Teacher

April 28th, 2011
2:37 pm

This is a perfect example of wealth distribution….. stealing from the poor and giving to the wealthy.

funny

April 28th, 2011
2:41 pm

the voucher approach is a HUGE fail…. private schools will limit who can attend their schools; and talk about segregation “white” schools will be popping up all over the place. what im gonna laugh at is when that first Islamic school starts and Indiana isnt going to be able to do anything to limit funds going to the school.

other states have already tried this and total epic fail;

POLITICANS are baiting America into class and race warfare;

MS teacher

April 28th, 2011
2:52 pm

HS Public Teacher, how is this stealing from the poor? It’s just giving people their own tax $ back. If anything, the rich, who pay more taxes, will probably get the same amount back as the poor, who pay less or no taxes.

Shar

April 28th, 2011
3:01 pm

HS Public Teacher, I don’t understand your statement that the Indiana voucher program is “stealing from the poor and giving to the wealthy.” For one thing, “the wealthy” pay the property and income taxes that fund state and local school budgets, while “the poor” do not if they are in subsidized housing and/or below the income levels at which taxes are collected. For another, those choosing to take their children out of public schools will receive half of the per-child expenditures of their local district’s per-child spending in exchange for taking one whole child out of the system, leaving the system with a 50% funding for a child who is not using any resources. That is the rate for a “wealthy” family — the “poor” family gets 90%.

Meanwhile, the people without children who provide the majority of tax money to pay for schools will receive no refund at all, so if one group is “stealing” from another it’s those with children in the system taking from those who merely live within the system. This latter is regarded and accepted as a universal obligation, as is the responsibility of parents to choose the best option for their own children.

“Wealthy” and “poor” parents will still have to pay extra for the choice of sending their children to whatever school they deem best, and “wealthy” taxpayers will still be supporting the schools they choose not to use.

“Stealing” is an inflammatory word and does not apply to this situation.

HS Public Teacher

April 28th, 2011
3:02 pm

MS teacher – It is stealing from the poor because it is well-known that the lower socioecnomic students do not do as well in school. As a result, fewer of them will be admitted into private schools who can become more and more selective.

Also, the tuition of private schools will surely not be 100% covered by these vouchers. Just like what has happened with the GA HOPE and college tuition, the private school tuition will simply increase to take advantage of the vouchers. This means that the ‘poor’ will STILL be unable to afford private schooling.

The fact that vouchers take from the poor to give to the rich has been well documented and supported by every researcher in education.

HS Public Teacher

April 28th, 2011
3:04 pm

Shar – The phrase “stealing from the _____ to give to the ______” is coined from Robin Hood and is used here not to “inflame” but rather to make a point.

Shar

April 28th, 2011
3:06 pm

Also, HS Public Teacher, it would be an example of wealth REdistribution, not “distribution” – a high school teacher should know the difference. Wealth redistribution is why the wealthy pay so much more in taxes than the rest of us, and their tax remittances pay the benefits and and costs of the lowest 50% who pay no income taxes at all and most likely no property taxes if their housing is subsidized. You could call that “stealing”, but the rest of us call it a progressive tax system.

another comment

April 28th, 2011
3:11 pm

I am a liberal and I would jump at the chance to have vouchers like these. I am so sick of having my kids bullied in the public school. I just got off the phone with the teacher explaining how my daughter was bullied. That is what happens when you have kids in
Honor’s English classes than can’t even read at the 6th grade level. They create Chaos for the kids who want to learn.

MS teacher

April 28th, 2011
3:38 pm

Robin Hood did not steal from the rich and give to the poor. He stole tax dollars back from the King and gave it back to the tax payers.

funny

April 28th, 2011
3:50 pm

it simply astounds me that people really believe the “rich” pay taxes;

the middle class pay taxes

when GE pays ZERO in taxes with BILLIONS in profit do you really think the heads of those companies can not hide their money.

come on; really are you that niave

HS Public Teacher

April 28th, 2011
3:51 pm

Shar – How dare you tell me what a HS teacher should or should not know. Are you a HS teacher? Are you in my content area? YOU are the problem with society – you all think that YOU know how to teach and what it is to be a teacher!

The wealthy certainly do NOT pay “more” in taxes. Are they supposed to? Yes. Do they? No. Educate thyself!

HS Public Teacher

April 28th, 2011
3:52 pm

funny – AMEN!

oldtimer

April 28th, 2011
4:01 pm

IRS…Top 20% of income earners pay 57% of all taxes.

Ira Roberts-Singer

April 28th, 2011
4:11 pm

Thank you, Funny. And people trot out this document saying that the rich pay more in taxes. Notice that you never hear the wealthy complaining about how much they pay in taxes. If they really paid so much, don’t you think that the tax code, etc. would have been changed by now? They can afford the lobbyist and have the clout to make things change. Not to mention that they have the best accountants that money can buy.

But keep drinking that kool-aid that the rich are paying taxes.

Ira Roberts-Singer

April 28th, 2011
4:12 pm

Heck, I’m not even rich and my accountant found loop-holes to keep me from having to pay.

www.honeyfern.org

April 28th, 2011
5:41 pm

How much does the average private school in Indiana cost? Because in the Atlanta metro area, $4,500 doesn’t go far, and I think that is what is inflammatory. Parents who can afford to supplement the $4,500 voucher will move to private school, and parents who cannot will have kids stuck in their public school.

Mikey D

April 28th, 2011
6:07 pm

@honeyfern:
Parents who cannot afford to supplement the voucher will have kids stuck in their public school, which will now be even more dramatically underfunded due to money being siphoned away to pay for these vouchers.
Some are whispering about the possibility of Mitch Daniels making a run for the White House. If this is his idea of leadership, we’d better hope not.

Hypocrite Hunter

April 28th, 2011
6:20 pm

Clearly a bunch of public school educations on this thread. First, the district gets closer to $10k per kid and only rebates 50-90% to the parent…who was paying the taxes anyway. That is a BREAK for the poor beleaguered little misfits left in public school. Spend more money on ‘em, that’ll improve things. Second, it isn’t a wealth transfer by stealing “less” anymore than a robbery becomes a Samba by the thief saying “thank you”. Third, the rich DO pay a vastly larger share of the taxes…top 20% pay 80%, but you’d actually have to have taken a class (probably at a private school) to figure that one out. We could go further and discuss worthless teachers and why Florida failed, but until you guys get through the basics…taking the advanced courses is a waste of pixels.

Mikey D

April 28th, 2011
6:30 pm

@Hypocrite
So you’re saying that Indiana is going to be able to refund thousands of dollars to parents for vouchers, and that the public schools will have MORE resources to help the “poor beleaguered little misfits”? I’ll have whatever you’re drinking!
Additionally, your snide, arrogant comments are indicative of the problems with school reform efforts. Everyone thinks he’s an expert, but few truly are.

Hypocrite Hunter

April 28th, 2011
6:54 pm

GED Mikey? If your per student stipend is “X” and every student who leaves to go to private school only gets a percentage of “X”…do the students remaining have MORE (private school kids will probably pick this one) or LESS (let’s hear it from the rocket scientists).

Hypocrite Hunter

April 28th, 2011
7:01 pm

The issue in the school debate is that people are making decisions based on job security and not performance. If private schools are educating, they go away. If public schools don’t do the job…hire more teachers. “Atlas Shrugged” would be a good read and do the decision makers a lot more good than “Catcher in the Rye”.

Hypocrite Hunter

April 28th, 2011
7:02 pm

Pardon, “if private schools are [not] educating”

catlady

April 28th, 2011
7:14 pm

HH: How much do YOU pay in school property taxes? I pay about $400 a year with homestead exception (but no others). I live on 2+acres with a 2200 sq ft home (not fancy at all). I live in a rural county with few “amenities.” (There is plenty of property for sale around here, BTW.)

I say let dissatisfied folks have the amount they pay in and take their kids wherever they want to, less an infrastructure charge of $300-500. Not too sure what to do about apartment renters—I would think the owner would get the money if they wished, rather than the renters who pay the tab? If you change schools, you have to get “your” money back to take it with you. Good luck on that.

www.honeyfern.org

April 28th, 2011
7:21 pm

Actually, HH, schools only receive money for kids sitting in the chair on FTE count day (happens twice a year) and funding formulas change depending on the services a kid uses (e.g., gifted, SpEd, etc). No kid? No money. Schools don’t get a fraction of the money back if the kid isn’t there because they are using a voucher, are homeschooled, or whatever.

Just curious: where did you get your information?

Mikey D

April 28th, 2011
7:22 pm

Well said, catlady.
“GED Mikey?” As I said, arrogant and snide.

RBN

April 28th, 2011
7:27 pm

Let the cherry picking begin, gradually leaving public schools poorer and probably more heavily minority. The US has stopped being a melting pot and has become a 7-layer salad with the gap between top and bottom getting higher. That being said, many eho try private schools will come back quickly when they find out that their children were better off in public schools.

RBN

April 28th, 2011
7:28 pm

I think the only voucher that might work is to give each teacher 3 to use each year, and when a student disrupts a class, hand it to them and say, “Find what you want somewhere else.”

school choice rules

April 28th, 2011
8:09 pm

All of you who are happy with public schools can continue with them. Bur for people who do not have the money, this provides more options. Who am I to tell a parent how they should educate their children?

East Cobb Parent

April 28th, 2011
8:24 pm

I have to think that if either the money follows the child or vouchers for all, then public schools would follow fewer fads and stick with what works. Parents get frustrated when a one size fits all mentality is forced on their child. A great example is the integrated math for all and the college prep degree. The performance of teachers is a separate issue. My daughter had some wonderful teachers that would not be ideal for my son. We should look at the strength of teachers and place students accordingly.

funny

April 28th, 2011
8:58 pm

OMG; I cannot believe some ppl fall for things hook, line, and sinker…..

let me explain it a different way. what is the best way to rob a bank… OWN it

TARP monies was given out to billionaires and what did they do with it???? 35 Billion went to the Bank of Libya.. yea thats right the ppl we are not in a war with oh, wait maybe we are… ahh hell who knows…

these politicans simply want to turn back the clock to before civil rights

Just A Teacher

April 28th, 2011
9:01 pm

I became aware of the public vs. private school when I took my first teaching position in a small town in southern Georgia. I went to work in the public school system and found a student body that was 98% African American. There was a private school in the same town that opened its doors the same year the federal government mandated integration of public schools and had no black students. My children went to public school but any idiot could see the purpose of the private school in town. The socio-economic disparity between the student populations was huge, and consequently, so were the test scores. Indiana is sounding the death knell of public education with this law, and it will become the worst place in the country in which to teach. The law will also be used to promote segregation since private schools can accept or reject any student without even giving a reason. I’ve seen it first hand.

Catherine

April 28th, 2011
9:27 pm

I just emailed this blog to my sister-in-law who teaches in a high performing school in West Lafayette, IN (home of Purdue University). I think she’ll find this discussion interesting. Perhaps she will add some local insight from that end.

Single Tax Payer

April 28th, 2011
11:06 pm

If parents get a ‘voucher’ for their kids, I want my money back! This is paramount to stealing. The State takes money directly out of my pocket and will put it directly into the pockets of parents? Huh????

I do not “contribute” to education to give to parents to make decisions. Sorry, won’t happen. I will file a law suit against the state faster than you can say “voucher.”

Single working mom

April 29th, 2011
12:08 am

I have a proposal of my own: before a parent is provided vouchers, the parent must prove they have (a) provided the child assistance with homework (b) provided necessary health care (c) had the child to school on time at least 90% of the time

Given the opportunity to choose private over public education, most of these working class parents you are all so worried about will still choose public school. I myself will stick with public schools because I understand that the higher test scores in private schools have a lot more to do with the ability of their students, NOT their teachers. And as a note: people need to think logically. Let the private schools take in the “lower income” students and watch as their median ISTEP scores drop. Not because the students are incapable but because so many parents do not assist in homework, get the child to school on time, feed them breakfast, put them to bed, or provide the love and support a child needs.

All things considered, be thankful we live in a country where ALL of our children are provided an education. And let’s be realistic…teachers are NOT in it for the money, so if merit raises are all you have Mitch Daniels, you are in for a serious wake up call !!! And Tony Bennett…shame on you.

Tontoto: Hi- ho buy Silver!!

April 29th, 2011
12:19 am

Could you pass the Harvard entrance exam of 1869? Imagine having learned such knowledge in high school…..
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/education/harvardexam.pdf

Is going to college a worthwhile investment? You be the judge…
http://www.zerohedge.com/article/student-loan-debt-hell-21-statistics-will-make-you-think-twice-about-going-college

fultonschoolsparent

April 29th, 2011
12:24 am

@Single Tax Payer – a good point! It might be interesting to see what would happen if all folks without kids or kids in school were allowed to vote how they wanted THEIR money directed – public or private school scholarship. I’d send mine to help create a strong public school!

goodforkids

April 29th, 2011
1:06 am

@Elizabeth- I agree wholeheartedly. I hope it doesn’t come to pass, but I will help you with your legal fees if it ends up there (not a teacher so I can’t join you). So very crazy. I am afraid we are headed there though. No one in charge seems to understand child development, teaching and learning, and that the purpose of school is not bubbling answers on a test of limited function. Over and over and over.

Larry Major

April 29th, 2011
2:04 am

Those of you who advocate giving all parents vouchers to use as they see fit –

What are you planning to do with all the kids private schools refuse to accept?

OTOH

April 29th, 2011
2:23 am

Tontoto: I could have passed that exam the year after I graduated from HS. By then I had 4 years of HS Latin plus 1 in college and 2 years of Greek. Ancient and Medieval History major with college calculus while in HS. The first question that I did not recognize was the pound, shilling basic percentage question. The math is easy but the values were not something I knew then. Since the Brits moved to a metric version it would be grade school math, 12 shilling to the pound, I think in 1869. OTOH I would not pass current Chemistry or Physics tests . The difference is not that school is easier now ( although it is) but that Latin, Greek, and Ancient History are not considered important now.

OTOH

April 29th, 2011
2:42 am

Re: school funding under vouchers. True, the schools will only get X dollars per student. If the state gives private school students money, the public school does not get that kid’s allotment. If the state does not give private school students that money, the public school still does not get that kid’s allotment. In both cases the state still pays the same per student in the public schools, so the schools do not lose any money per capita of students. In this voucher system, the state saves money for every public school student that changes into a private school student which could allow the state to spend more per pupil on the remaining public school students. Could, but do not bet on it. State legislators have too many incentives to spend that extra money on other vote buying schemes.

The serious worries about vouchers for the public schools are that by reducing the number of public school families, especially in the middle class, the support for funding public schools will decrease and that by taking money from the state the private schools will lose their independence.

Former Middle School Teacher

April 29th, 2011
6:47 am

The question that has been posed here but never answered is who will these private schools take and will they have to follow all the state rules and regulations? The answer of course is they will not take poor performers or discipline problems nor will they follow state rules and regulations.

Jordan Kohanim

April 29th, 2011
7:16 am

This debate brings up the question of whether or not private schools will subject their kids to the same tests as public schools. Did you guys see this article:

http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2011/04/28/why-voucher-advocates-are-allergic-to-standardized-tests/

Bookman brings up an important point: “Now why would school-choice advocates reject a proposal to have voucher recipients take the same test as their public-school peers? That seems peculiar. If a private school accepts money from the state, it ought to at least be willing to demonstrate that taxpayers are getting value out of that investment, right? If you want to be good stewards of public money, you need some means of measuring performance.”

GeeMac

April 29th, 2011
8:09 am

Jordan, I was hanging out over at Bookman yesterday, and the discussion got quite heated at times. OTOH demonstrates a firm understanding of the financial impact, and is absolutely right to suspect that any savings will NOT find it’s way to local systems.

HS Public Teacher

April 29th, 2011
9:27 am

The people in favor of vouchers are likely not the knowledgable folks representing private schools. They are likely the individual parents ALREADY sending their kids to private schools and are simply looking for ‘free money’ from the government.

Yes, I said ‘free money’ because we all pay taxes and them ‘getting their money back’ is bunk. I have no children and yet pay these taxes – can I ‘get my money back?’

Hypocrite Hunter

April 29th, 2011
9:50 am

HS Public teacher, spoken like someone firmly entrenched on the public dole. Anyone who disagrees with you is “likely not knowledgeable”? Public education is a tragic failure by nearly any metric (nationally or internationally) other than those used by educrats to justify their existence. I was a product of public and private schools and have kids who attended both. I’ve served on blue ribbon panels and education think tanks and been intimately involved in the process for twenty years…the bottom line is that it failed miserably and can’t be fixed. It is true that vouchers may not solve all the problems immediately, but unless you are prepared for drastic changes, don’t expect drastic improvements.

GeeMac, this isn’t meant to be antagonistic, but why should any savings find their way to the local systems? Study after study shows that money isn’t the answer.

HS Public Teacher

April 29th, 2011
10:00 am

@Hypocrite Hunter -

So then…. this must be why China has been importing education experts from the US to help them modify their approach to education? This has been happening exponentially over the last 10 years.

BTW – I would love to know of these education “think tanks” and “blue ribbon panels” that you served on. Please share!

BTW – You insulting me only puts you in a bad light. It is hard to believe that anyone like that would be on any sort of real “blue ribbon committee” or any type of “think tank.” Also, you sitting with your spouse aroudn the dinner table does not qualify as a “think tank.”