Letter: Representative’s term full of missed opportunities

From: Robin Ramp


State Rep. Jim Lucas isn’t sharing all the facts. In response to recent ISTEP backlash, he has written, “the ISTEP was the only test that met the federal requirements.” He implies that legislators had few choices due to federal constraints of No Child Left Behind. This simply isn’t true. Indiana legislators repeatedly forced children to endure more hours of testing than required. NCLB has never required that social studies be tested, yet legislators refused to remove social studies from ISTEP.

Even worse, the same incumbents bilked taxpayers out of more than $100 million for unnecessary tests. Lawmakers required millions of dollars worth of testing revisions with their disastrous decision to adopt Common Core Standards. Once those failed, lawmakers dipped back into taxpayer pockets for new standards and testing.

Despite Lucas’ protests, there have always been other options. Hoosiers spent $24 million for just one year of ISTEP testing. Lawmakers could have stayed in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium and spent just $12 million for the most recent test.

The waste of time and money is just part of the pattern of incumbent lawmakers. Lucas has pointed out that just over half of tax dollars marked for education are spent inside the classroom. In some communities only one-third of tax dollars ever make it to the classroom. This is not a new problem, yet despite Lucas’ service on the education committee and two terms as a legislator, he hasn’t authored a single bill that addresses this issue.

What kind of bills did Lucas support? Among the 14 bills touted by Lucas is Senate Bill 9, now Public Law 119. This law allows charter schools to report less data to the Indiana Department of Education. Certainly most taxpayers would agree that any school that receives Hoosier dollars should be required to report all pertinent data.

Lucas supports the expansion of charter schools in Indiana despite the fact that 53 percent of charter schools received a D or an F. Sadly, charter schools supported by Lucas have a 34 percent graduation rate, with some schools reporting only a 15 percent graduation rate. Ironically these failing charters received $665 more per student than traditional schools.

While Lucas is quick to tout increases in education funding, these numbers are better understood in context. Schools continue to recover from cuts imposed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.The value of additional funding is offset by changing population and new expenditures. Total funding has increased approximately 1.7 percent since 2010. Enrollment has increased about 1.2 percent. Though Hoosier teachers are thankful for every dollar invested, the reality is that it isn’t so much a story of increased funding as it is keeping pace with expanding enrollment.

Extra testing, millions of wasted tax dollars and support for failing initiatives are the facts that Lucas is hesitant to share. While he might optimistically point to new opportunities for “moving forward” with schools, many educators know his reign could better be labeled as “missed opportunities.”