Monday, August 10, 2020

In Case You Missed It – August 10, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


INDIANA'S VIRTUAL SCHOOL SCANDAL

Indiana seeks $2.2 million from Daleville district after alleged virtual charter school fraud

Can the state recoup the money lost by the Daleville virtual charter school scam? What responsibility does Daleville Community Schools have in this debacle?

From Chalkbeat*
Daleville Community Schools is being asked to repay $2.2 million that the state says stems from fraudulent enrollment inflation by two virtual charter schools overseen by the rural district.

In a special report released Friday, state auditors echoed the findings of a Chalkbeat investigation that Daleville failed to hold Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy to their charter contracts, review the schools’ finances, or press for improvements.

“Daleville’s lack of meaningful oversight and monitoring may have contributed to ineligible students being included [in enrollment reports],” resulting in virtual school officials allegedly defrauding the state of $68 million and sending millions more to their own or related companies, the report said.

Report: Indiana trusts schools too much to catch funding fraud

The State Board of Accounts wants more control over school funding.

From Chalkbeat*
A new report in the wake of Indiana’s virtual charter school enrollment scandal reveals how most of the state’s $7.5 billion school funding system is largely based on trust — and lacking controls that could flag potential fraud.

The state relies on schools to record how many students they enroll in order to calculate funding and doesn’t compare those numbers to other data sets that could help identify problems, noted the special report from state auditors released Friday.

That’s why state education officials didn’t catch signs in data reports that Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy had for years been claiming millions in state funding for students who weren’t actually attending the online schools.

FUNDING DURING THE PANDEMIC

‘We will all suffer’: Indianapolis districts respond to threat of funding cuts if they don’t reopen

Legislators want to override local decision-making and force schools to open their doors during the pandemic or lose 15% of their funding.

From Chalkbeat*
Indianapolis districts pushed back Friday on a leading lawmaker’s statement that schools will face reduced state funding if they don’t reopen classrooms for in-person instruction.

The threat forces schools to make “an impossible choice” between taking deep cuts they can’t afford or putting students, families, and teachers at risk of contracting COVID-19, wrote Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson in an op-ed.

“Our district would face $28 million in cuts as retribution for protecting our children’s health, and anyone who walked a day in our shoes over the past five months would not dare to suggest that schools could operate under the current context with less funding,” Johnson wrote.

Virtual-only schools face funding cuts

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
But a letter from Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray Thursday sent shockwaves to schools.

'State leaders have said we favor fully funding students whose families choose virtual instruction this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I believe there is a strong appetite for making that change,” he said. “However, there is no guarantee such an exception will be made for schools that don't give families the option of in-person instruction in a school building. Therefore, schools that don't offer in-person instruction should plan on operating under the current funding policy'.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said she was extremely disappointed in Bray's letter – which came days after many schools have started.

Dr. McCormick's response...



SCHOOL ISSUES DURING THE PANDEMIC

The continuing discussion of how and when to open schools while cases of COVID-19 continue to increase.

As Schools Reopen, Beware These Five Problematic Management Styles

From Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) in Forbes
Not all schools are blessed with excellent management teams (a million teachers just rolled their eyes and said, “No kidding.”) But while schools can succeed in spite of bad management in the good times, in times of crisis, bad management can really derail the whole train. Trying to launch a school year during a pandemic with little to no help from state and federal governments will test every school district’s leadership team. Here are the management styles most likely to lead to disaster.

HS fall sports limit spectators at 4 Allen County districts

Just like professional sports teams, local school sports will limit spectators.

From Fort Wayne's NBC
Four of the school districts in Allen County will limit the number of fans allowed in the stands for fall sports to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Fort Wayne Community Schools, Southwest Allen County, Northwest Allen County, and Bishops Dwenger and Luers drafted a fan plan for fall dual events like football, soccer, cheerleading, cross country, tennis, united flag, and volleyball.


Reopening Schools Unsafely Will Not Solve Anything

We shouldn't open schools until we can guarantee student safety.

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
Opening schools unsafely will not solve any of our problems.

In every case, it will make them worse.

Students don’t learn a lot when their teachers are in quarantine.

Children generally receive less socialization when their parents are hospitalized.

Kids with special needs will receive few accommodations on a respirator.

Childcare is the least of your worries when planning a funeral for a family member.

No matter what need schools usually meet, Coronavirus makes the situation worse.

Every. Time.

Dilemmas Facing Policymakers in Re-opening Schools

Mentioned in Diane RavitchLarry Cuban: The Best Post on Dilemmas of Reopening

From Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
As part of his program of COVID-19 denial, Donald Trump has demanded that schools reopen in the fall, at risk of having their federal funding cut. His notion, ostensibly, is that if students go back to school, then parents can go back to full-time work. And if parents can go back to full-time work, then the economy will come zooming back to life, and he will ride that momentum to a reelection victory. Talk about your magical thinking.

In any event, the plan—if you can even call it that—is falling apart. On Monday, school officials in (liberal) Los Angeles County and (conservative) San Diego County both announced that they would begin the year with virtual instruction, and that they might eventually go to face-to-face, but they might not. Miami-Dade, which was specifically held out by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as a model for other districts to follow as they reopen, is now tapping the breaks hard as Florida evolves into the nation’s #1 hotspot. Officials in Chicago, Houston, New York City, Washington, D.C., and other locales have also made clear that, at most, students will attend school in person a couple of days a week in fall.

There is no question that, under pandemic-free circumstances, students are best served by in-person instruction. But the barriers that school districts face under current circumstances are substantial. We’ve noted some of them already, but let’s put together a fuller list, all in one spot...

GETTING RID OF DEVOS

Biden Offers Hope for Turning Around Awful DeVos Education Policy

It's time to replace the current Education Secretary with one who supports public education. Register then VOTE in November!

From Jan Resseger
This summer some people have said it seems like deja vu all over again. In 2009, right after Barack Obama was elected President, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used over $4 billion of the public education dollars Congress had appropriated as part of a huge federal stimulus package and attached rules that made states adopt Duncan’s own pet programs in order to qualify for the money. Now Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have distributed CARES Act dollars in a way that favors DeVos’s favorite charter schools and private schools at the expense of what she calls “government” schools—the ones our society counts on to serve 50 million of our children.

The Secretary of Education—and in the case of Payroll Protection Program dollars, the Small Business Administration—can control the distribution of education stimulus dollars, because dispersing relief money is administered by the administration without direct Congressional oversight unless prohibitions for particular practices are written into the enabling legislation.


PUBLIC FUNDING OF PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS

Catholic Church Looks To Cash In On Espinoza

It's too bad that the Supreme Court has opened up the doors to sending tax dollars to private schools that are allowed to discriminate.

From Curmudgucation
Well, this is not exactly a surprise.

Now that SCOTUS has poked another huge hole in the wall between church and state, and now that the Catholic Church and the Trump administration have been forging closer ties over support for school choice (aka getting tax dollars to Catholic schools), and now that Betsy DeVos is insisting that financial aid intended for public schools should go to private schools-- now that all that is going on, it should come as no surprise that the Catholic Church is now arguing publicly to be given more taxpayer dollars.

PRIVATIZATION TAKES ADVANTAGE TO INCREASE PROFITS

Indiana charter, private schools get Paycheck Protection funds

From School Matters
Indiana charter schools were awarded between $15 million and $38 million in Paycheck Protection Program funding intended to help small businesses and nonprofits during the economic downturn, according to Small Business Administration data.

That is in addition to funding under a section of the CARES Act intended to help public schools; Indiana charter schools got $20.5 million in that funding.

The PPP figure is a conservative estimate. It doesn’t include schools that may have received less than $150,000, which were not identified by the SBA.

For awards over $150,000, the government did not provide specific amounts for the funding but rather listed a range of funds awarded to each school: for example, it might say a school received between $350,000 and 1 million.

At least 36 Indiana charter schools received funding via the program. Indiana private schools, nearly all of them religious schools, received even more.

DFER - DEMOCRATS FOR PRIVATIZATION

The DFER Democrats Who Support the Betsy DeVos Agenda of “School Choice”

From Diane Ravitch
DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization founded by Wall Street hedge fund managers to support charter schools. They believe in privatization; they actively undermine public schools that belong to the community. They believe in high-stakes testing, and they strongly support evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, although professional associations like the American Statistical Association does not. They love Teach for America, because they don’t like experienced professionals or teachers unions.

Their main function is to raise money for political candidates, which gives them immense leverage. Once a political candidate gets on the DFER recommended list, they can count on money flowing in from friends of DFER around the country. DFER does not have a large membership but it has a very rich following among hedge funders and venture capitalists.


*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, August 3, 2020

In Case You Missed It – August 3, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


DR. MCCORMICK BLOCKS DEVOS'S PRIVATIZATION MOVE

Indiana: A Profile in Courage

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, refuses to divert money intended for public education to private schools.

From Diane Ravitch
Steve Hinnefeld writes here about a rare act of courage in a red state. Indiana State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick defied Betsy DeVos and has refused to hand out money from the CARES Act to private schools, without regard to need.

Superintendent McCormick told DeVos to stuff it. For her courage and independence, she goes on the blog’s honor roll.

Mixed picture for CARES Act school funding

Here is the article that Diane Ravitch referred to in her article, above.

From School Matters
The good news: In Indiana, at least, public school districts won’t need to worry about Betsy DeVos diverting their anticipated funding to private schools.

DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, may still succeed in her scheme to use the act to boost funding for even the wealthiest private schools. But the Indiana Department of Education will make up any funds that are lost to public schools.

“The CARES Act was intended to assist those most in need …,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Education Jennifer McCormick told school officials. “COVID-19 has affected everyone, but not equally. It is my responsibility and IDOE’s obligation to ensure those most in need receive the appropriate support.”

GOV HOLCOMB ON MASKS

Governor modifies schools' mandatory mask rule

Indiana's governor has eased restrictions for wearing masks in class...dependent on social distancing.

From NWI.com
...the governor revised state guidance to say that students may remove their masks in the classroom when they are able to keep a distance of 3 to 6 feet from each other. Holcomb said the decision was the result of a consultation from the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Holcomb’s executive order also extends the moratorium on evictions from rental properties and the prohibition on foreclosure filings through Aug. 14.

In light of the current restriction, Holcomb said local governments may impose further guidelines.

“This virus will take what we give it, so it is incumbent upon us to be on our best behavior, practicing physical distancing, good hygiene, and masking up,” Holcomb said in the release.

CAN VIRTUAL SCHOOLS SUCCEED?

Under COVID-19, Indiana districts launch virtual schools. Can they succeed where some for-profit operators failed?

Public schools don’t try to profit off their virtual schooling.

From Chalkbeat Indiana*
Richard Brown was one of the thousands of Indiana parents faced with a difficult decision this month — weighing the psychological, educational, and social benefits of sending his two children back to school against the risk to the entire family’s health.

“We’ve got one shot to get this right,” Brown said, “If we make the wrong decision and one or both of our sons contracts this disease, scientifically, it’s not settled what the long-term effects on their health could be.”

As districts plowed forward with reopening plans, administrators across the state saw a surge in interest in virtual education, fueled in large part by parents like Brown, who feel it’s unsafe to send their children back into classrooms.

GOP: IN-SCHOOL INSTRUCTION OR ELSE

Schools that don’t physically reopen would lose out on most funding under Republican stimulus bill

The GOP wants to punish schools for trying to keep students safe.

From Chalkbeat*
For several weeks, President Trump has said that schools that didn’t reopen their buildings this fall could risk losing funding. Now, Senate Republicans have introduced a mechanism to make that a reality.

Their bill, which kicks off a final round of negotiations over an additional coronavirus stimulus package, includes $70 billion for K-12 public and private schools. But two-thirds of that money would only be accessible to schools if they offer some in-person instruction — something that schools in many parts of the country have decided is unsafe to do for now.

The reopening provision is a testament to the economic and political importance Republican lawmakers attach to reopening school buildings, and sets up school schedules to continue to serve as a flashpoint in the weeks ahead. It also may prove unpopular: national surveys of parents show that most remain wary of their children returning to schools while the country fails to control the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention itself warned last week that schools in “hot spots” may not be able to reopen.

FWCS DELAYS START BY THREE DAYS

FWCS delays start of 2020-2021 school year

From Fort Wayne NBC
Fort Wayne's NBC News has learned that officials with the largest school system in the state have decided to push back the 2020-2021 school year.

Instead of beginning August 10, the start date is now August 13 so teachers can have additional training time to prepare for conducting classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here for additional information about the FWCS back to school plan.

SC GOVERNOR DIVERTS PUBLIC FUNDS FOR VOUCHERS

South Carolina: Governor Uses $48 Million in CARES Funds to Pay $32 million for Vouchers

This governor tried to divert 2/3 of the money from the CARES Act to private schools. Luckily, a circuit court judge in Orangeburg signed a temporary restraining order blocking disbursement of the funds.

From Diane Ravitch
Congress appropriated $13.2 billion for public schools to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing cuts and layoffs.

South Carolina received $48 million in CARES funds.

Governor Henry McMaster has allotted $32 million of that total to underwrite vouchers for private schools.


*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

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Monday, July 27, 2020

In Case You Missed It – July 27, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


THE STARTING SCHOOL DEBATE

No State Has Met CDC Guidelines for Steadily-Decreasing COVID Cases, So Let’s Open Schools.

This article was written before the Trump administration coerced the CDC to change its recommendations and rewrite the guidelines for school reopening. The link to the CDC guidelines in this post is to the original guidelines, published early in the pandemic without any political influence.

From Mercedes Schneider's Blog: Deutsch29
As of this writing, no state has met the May 2020 Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for moving into Phase 1 (“Downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases over a 14-day period) muct less the additional criteria for entering Phase 2 (“Downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases for at least 14 days after entering Phase 1).

That’s 28 days of supposed “downward trajectory” prior to entering Phase 2, and that assumes increased testing.

Also in phase 2, COVID-19 test results are supposed to be available in three days or less. That is not happening.

Indiana mandates masks at school for most students and teachers

Where will the money come from to provide protective equipment for students and staff?

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana will require all students in third grade and above, teachers, and school staff to wear masks when they return to school buildings this fall, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday.

The mandate is a significant move from Holcomb, who has steadfastly deferred decisions about reopening to school leaders — one that signals the slowing momentum of a state once barreling forward with ambitious plans to reopen all schools in person. But it’s unlikely to ease all the fears educators have raised as school start dates loom.

The requirement, which previous political rhetoric made seem improbable, is part of a larger statewide mandate brought on by a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Last week, more than 7% of people in Indiana were testing positive for the coronavirus, according to state data, up from a low of 4% last month. Starting Monday, the state will require people ages 8 and older to wear masks while in public indoor spaces.

Pence says schools reopening 'best thing for our kids'

Not a word about the danger to adults who work in schools. Children do not attend school in a vacuum. They have parents at home, possibly grandparents, as well as a myriad of adults who work in school buildings. Any of those adults might be threatened by exposure to COVID-19. Schools should open only when it is safe.

(also see Pence, DeVos push to reopen schools during Indiana visit)

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Pence discussed the importance of in-person learning for at-risk students, citing resources for counseling and special needs and children who rely upon school lunches.

“The risk of the coronavirus to healthy children is very low,” Pence said. “It’s also important to remember that there are real costs, far beyond academics, to our kids if they’re not in school.”

The science of how COVID-19 affects children is unclear, as several studies suggest, but don’t prove, that children are less likely to become infected than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms.


STARTING SCHOOL - FORT WAYNE LOCAL AREA

SACS won't start school year early: Will begin Aug. 12 to allow teachers to prep

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Southwest Allen County Schools' plans for an early start to the 2020-21 academic year were scrapped Wednesday so teachers and staffers can better prepare for a new learning option for middle and high school students.

Registration was another driver for delaying classes until Aug. 12, Superintendent Phil Downs said.

“Speaking for the team at SACS, we want to thank you for your patience and help as we work to provide a safe, high quality education for your children,” Downs said in an email to families.

Health official likes EACS plan: Praises use of face masks in district's reentry strategy

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The 10,000-student district will use strategies similar to those previously announced by other Allen County districts. Families may choose an e-learning option, meal choices will be limited, hand washing will be stressed, assigned seating will be common, regular cleaning and disinfecting habits will be practiced, and facial coverings will be required, although not in every instance.

At least one parent has asked whether families can sign a waiver to avoid the mask requirement for their children, Superintendent Marilyn Hissong said.

She invited [Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew] Sutter to explain the purpose behind facial coverings.

“It's to protect everybody their child comes in contact with,” Sutter said.

He praised local schools for incorporating mask requirements in their plans as a way to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“Masks are probably the most important thing, along with social distancing, in stopping the spread of this,” Sutter said. “I was really impressed by the way the public school systems got together with this.”


Teachers favor delay to start of FWCS year

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
In a survey posted Monday, more than 90% favored delaying the school year, Vohs said, noting there were more than 1,700 responses by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

Vohs noted the percentage reflected the overall results, which included some input from non-teachers. The majority of respondents identified themselves as FWCS teachers, she said.

The survey also asked teachers whether they are considering not returning to their position because of health concerns; their comfort level with the FWCS reopening plan; and whether they would support a virtual start for all students, among other questions.

Teachers could also select why they support a delayed start. Options included to allow adequate time for scheduling adjustments based on parent preferences; to avoid the extreme heat of August when requiring people to wear masks; to consider additional and updated data regarding COVID-19, such as community infection rates; and to provide “rehearsal” time for new daily cleaning and sanitation practices.

TESTING AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

New Study: There Is NO Relationship Between International Test Scores and Economic Growth

Now would be the perfect time to end high stakes testing and school grades!

From Diane Ravitch
...A decade ago, when I wrote The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I quoted a study by Keith Baker, a statistician who worked for many years in the U.S. Department of Education. Baker pointed out that the U.S. had placed last in the first international assessment in 1964, yet over the next half-century had outperformed the eleven nations with higher scores. He concluded then that test scores do not predict economic growth or anything else. Every time the results of a new international assessment are released, whoever is in charge says that the performance of the U.S. students is horrible, shameful, alarming, and proclaims “a new Sputnik moment.” And every time I point out that the U.S. has never been number one on international assessments and that these scores are meaningless. But the press reports the lamentations without contradiction anyway.


*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, July 20, 2020

In Case You Missed It – July 20, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SCHOOL PLANS DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Indiana schools plan to reopen. What do you think?

Would you like to express how you feel about schools opening with little to no state support during the pandemic? Here’s your chance.

From Chalkbeat*
Chalkbeat wants to hear from parents, students, and school staff. Tell us your feedback, concerns, and lingering questions...

ALLEN COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEMS


Fort Wayne Community Schools

Masks required for all FWCS students; families can choose remote learning

From WPTA21.com
Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Mark Daniel announced Wednesday that students in pre-K through 5th grade will attend school on a daily basis, but parents will have the option of choosing remote learning for their child.

Face coverings will be required for all students. FWCS will be supplying new masks for students each day to minimize infection.

As for secondary students, in grades 6-12, parents will have a choice of blended learning.

Daniel said students will be divided up into groups, and certain groups will attend in-person classes on a Monday-Thursday format, while Group B will attend the other days.

Teachers will be delivering instruction remotely as well.

High school students will have also the opportunity to attend classes entirely remotely.


Southwest Allen County Schools

SACS outlines return-to-school plan

A free article from Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Phil Downs wants Southwest Allen County Schools' parents, students and staff to think of themselves as belonging to one big team as classrooms reopen next month to families choosing that option.

“We want kids back in the building, but for that to happen, we all have to play safely together,” Downs, the superintendent, said during a board meeting Tuesday. “Understand that while I may feel a certain way about some of the restrictions, if we're going to be good teammates, sometimes you sit on the bench and sometimes you're in the game, but you always have to support the team.”

The 7,700-student district plans to begin the 2020-21 academic year Aug. 5 with students learning at school and at home. Downs described the online options – which require a semester-long commitment – as e-learning for elementary students and a new virtual school for secondary students; the latter will become a permanent district offering.


Northwest Allen County School

Northwest Allen County Schools’ plans for fall: Parents can send kids to school or choose remote learning

From Fort Wayne's NBC.com
School leaders with Northwest Allen County Schools said parents will have the option to send their kids to school or choose remote learning for the upcoming school year...

[Superintendent Chris] Himsel said parents have the option to allow their kids to return to school or choose remote learning. Depending on the results, the school district may have to hire more staff, Himsel said.

"To do things right is going to cost a little extra to make sure that we are being safe for all of our kids," Himsel said. "We do have some students who have underlying health issues where remote learning may be best for them."


East Allen County Schools

While there was no article about EACS plan for reopening schools this week from NEIFPE's social media, the EACS plan was reported in an earlier blog post. You can find the entire East Allen reopening plan at the links below.

East Allen County Schools Reopening Safety Plan (Subject to change)

More information can be found on the EACS web site.

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, INDIANAPOLIS

Washington Township schools go 100% virtual for start of 2020-21 school year

From RTV-6 Indianapolis
Washington Township schools in Indianapolis will not return to in-person classes on July 30.

The Metropolitan School District of Washington Township School Board announced Monday that the 11,000 students in the district will begin virtual learning instead of returning to classes.

Read the full statement from the MSD Washington Township School Board below:

MSD Washington Township School Board policy provides that in making any decision board members must always think of our students first. While we do so today, we have also considered what in our judgment is in the best interest of our students’ families and of our dedicated faculty, staff, and administration and their families.

Washington Township Schools won’t offer in-person instruction in a reversal

Cheers to this school district that found the wisdom and the courage to stand up to bullying and keep the health and safety of staff and students as their main concern! May other districts find similar courage!

From Chalkbeat*
While schools across Indiana are releasing in-person reopening plans, many districts in other states are opting not to fully reopen school buildings. In New York City, for example, students are expected to have staggered schedules and come to school in person part time.

Whether to reopen schools full time has become a political lightning rod in recent days, as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump have called for schools to fully reopen and threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t.

That debate is coming at a moment when Indianapolis schools are on the cusp of reopening. Most schools in Marion County begin in late July or early August — several weeks before schools typically return in Northeastern states.


INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Back to school: Indiana education chief favors acceleration over remediation

Here are suggestions for school from Indiana’s Chief Academic Officer. Do you agree?

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana’s chief academic officer advised educators to use grade-level material this year rather than review previous curriculum to address widely anticipated student learning loss.

Robin LeClaire said teaching to accelerate will prevent students from falling into a catch-up cycle. This method could especially benefit Indiana’s most vulnerable children, who have also been the most heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

“If we focus on remediation, we will be playing catch-up with our students until they graduate,” she said.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION NEEDS A DOSE OF REALITY

Trump and DeVos Want Schools Open Full Time, Five Days A Week: The Realities Are Far More Difficult

From Jan Resseger
Now, in mid-July, America is suddenly waking up to the need to think about how COVID-19 will affect the institutions that serve children come August and September. The press is finally reporting that opening public schools for over 50 million young people is going to be complex, difficult and expensive, and that nobody is quite sure how to do it. Now that we are paying attention, we can see that the fall is going to be difficult in all sorts of ways—for children, for parents, for educators, and for the economy. But for President Donald Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos, it’s very simple: Schools should open on time, five days a week. The Trump administration has even threatened to punish schools that don’t reopen on time by withholding federal funds.

On Friday, NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg described what she has learned in interviews with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “Two weeks ago, I asked Randi Weingarten… what a functioning Department of Education would be doing to prepare the country to reopen schools in the fall. ‘A functioning Department of Education would have been getting groups of superintendents and principals and unions and others together from the middle of March,’ she told me… By mid-April it would have convened experts to figure out how to reopen schools safely, and offered grants to schools trying different models… ‘None of that has happened… Zero.’ When I spoke to Weingarten again on Thursday, she wasn’t worried that Trump and DeVos would be able to follow through on their threats; they can’t redirect the funds without Congress. But with their crude attempts at coercion, they’ve politicized school reopening just as Trump politicized mask-wearing and hydroxychloroquine. ‘The threats are empty, but the distrust they have caused is not,’ Weingarten said.”

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, July 13, 2020

In Case You Missed It – July 13, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


CHARTERS DOUBLE DIP FOR BOTTOM LINE

Charter schools reap more than $220 million in federal coronavirus aid. Elite private schools got some, too. Here’s a database with details.

From the Answer Sheet
The Post database shows loans of more than $1 million. There are 152 separate entries of charter schools that come up in a search of the database for “charter schools.” Many of them received loans of between $1 million to $2 million, and some between $5 million and $10 million. If each school got the lowest amount of money in their loans, it would amount to more than $200 million.

A search for the word “school” brings up 2,606 results, including many colleges and universities. Traditional public school districts could not apply for PPP loans.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION INSISTS THAT SCHOOLS OPEN

Trump and DeVos: Schools Must Reopen, Without Needed Resources

From Diane Ravitch
Trump doesn’t care about the lives of students and staff. He cares only about his poll numbers. DeVos is arrogant and doesn’t care what might happen to students and teachers and other staff in public schools. She never has.

Opening schools without elaborate and carefully planned protocols for testing, daily screenings, masks, small classes, and social distancing is insane.

Opening schools in the middle of a raging and uncontrolled pandemic is irresponsible. Whose loves will be sacrificed?


Want Schools Open In The Fall? Then Pay For It

From Peter Greene in Forbes
But there are also some basic non-negotiable costs that can’t be papered over with some simple edict and a wave of the hand. None of it will be cheap, but any elected official who mandates the re-opening of schools without offering a real plan for financing the mandate is simply pushing for catastrophic failure.

A Grand Bargain: Reopen the Schools (Where Feasible) But Only If the Feds Pay for It

From Diane Ravitch
The Council of Chief State School Officers has estimated that it will require up to $244 billion in additional federal aid to reopen schools safely. It might be even more. If that is the cost of reopening schools and reopening the economy, it is a price worth paying.

Since the federal government has failed to take the lead in controlling the pandemic, the number of cases of coronavirus continues to rise, unlike the EU or Canada or many other nations. Where the virus is still rising, as in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states, schools cannot open safely.

But where the virus has been contained, schools can act on reopening plans only if they are adequately funded.

The only way to reopen schools safely, whether in the fall or months later, is by a dramatic increase in the budget so that there will be enough staff to protect the health and safety of the children, the teachers, and other staff.


PRESIDENT ATTACKS TEACHERS...PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Trump Comes After Public School Teachers

Let’s hope there is an army of teachers on Election Day seeing to it that these attacks on teachers do not stand!

From Curmudgucation
It seems like an odd choice, given that large number of teachers voted for Trump. Why risk turning them off? Probably because there is no risk--at this point it's clear that the Trump base voter can't be turned off by anything. Literally anything. I expect that teacher Trumpers will look at any criticism of teachers and say, "Yeah, he's right. These jerks I work with are awful. He's not talking about me, though." It's a version of the old question of why asshats have friends--because the asshats friends say, "Well, sure he's an asshat, but I feel certain he'll never be an asshat to me." This is one of the great tricks narcissists can pull off-- to make you feel so charmed that you can see every one of their terrible faults, but feel certain that you are exempt from their effect.

An attack on teachers is also part of the attack on all sources of authority outside of Beloved Leader, as in the point last night where he blamed all the rioting on "the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism, and other cultural institutions." In other words, there are no institutions you can trust, no source for evidence that can be believed, because They have corrupted them all. Only Beloved Leader remains pure.

JOURNAL GAZETTE HONORS TEACHER

Teacher Honor Roll

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
“My son always comes home beaming with pride on all the new information he is learning across multiple subjects. She keeps him so thoroughly happy and totally engaged in his learning. He loves listening to her read to them and loves all the fun voices she uses to tell the stories.


**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, July 6, 2020

In Case You Missed It – July 6, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


SCHOOL STARTS IN THE FALL...OR DOES IT

Everybody Has Lost Their Damn Mind Around the Reopening of Schools

How will school openings impact our teachers?

From The Educator's Room
As a teacher, I am expected...to leave my children at home and risk my life to teach high school math to a group of 150+ smiling (and sometimes snarky) 15 year-olds. I’m expected to accommodate students throughout the day in small groups, all while continually assessing their areas of weakness, areas of growth. Not to mention, I have to be innovative in how I make math accessible for all my students. I’m expected to do all of this in a small 900 square foot classroom, jam-packed with thirty desks with no windows and ventilation that reminds you of a prison cell.

It does not matter that in Atlanta the cases are continually climbing and younger people (age 17-25) are being considered as superspreaders, that ICU beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients, or that teachers and parents are scared of being exposed, our Governor Brian Kemp has decided that profits are more important than people.

Last week, several metro-area school districts announced their re-opening plans with a mixture of hybrid, face to face, or all virtual options. Districts have laid out elaborate plans on how they’ll proceed with opening schools from start time, date, and lunch schedules, but not much has been said about protecting teachers, bus drivers, kitchen staff, and students. It seems as if superintendents, school boards, and the general public have lost their damn minds when they discuss reopening of school.

There’s no talk of PPE gear (short of a mask), cleaning supplies, or CDC cleaning protocols. There’s no real talk of what happens when a child comes to school sick, except send them to the nurse’s office (which by the way is not housed by an actual nurse).

12 inconvenient truths about schools and kids that should be considered before reopening — from a teacher

"...this should be enough to at least give everyone pause. Operating schools during a pandemic will not be easy. I'm not at the point yet where I'm saying we shouldn't try, but we have got to think carefully and challenge assumptions before we open the schoolhouse doors this fall."

From the Answer Sheet
...even if schools get all of the money they need, and staff show remarkable ingenuity and creativity, there are some basic, inconvenient truths we need to face about how schools work before we claim we can reopen safely this fall. So, in no particular order:

• Children, especially young children, cannot be expected to stay six feet away from everyone else during an entire school day. Sorry, even if a school has the room, it’s just not going to happen. One adult can’t keep eyes on a couple/few dozen children every second of every hour of every day to ensure they don’t drift into each others’ spaces. You certainly can’t do that and teach. And you can’t expect children to self-police. Young children are simply not developmentally able to remind themselves over seven hours not to get near each other.

• Children cannot be expected to wear masks of any kind for the duration of a school day. At some point, the mask has to come off; even adult medical professionals take breaks. And anyone who’s worked with young children knows they will play with their masks and not even realize they’re doing it. It’s simply unrealistic to expect otherwise...

To Everyone Who Was Never A Classroom Teacher, Re Pandemic School Openings

The coronavirus pandemic is just another excuse for people who have no experience with public education to pontificate and make rules without the input of those who attend or work in public schools. Just because you were a student doesn't mean you know how to teach. Looking at you, Ms. Secretary of Education (who never attended, worked in, or sent her children to public schools).

From Curmudgucation
The last thirty-seven-ish years of education have been marked by one major feature-- a whole lot of people who just don't know, throwing their weight around and trying to set the conditions under which the people who actually do the work will have to try to actually do the work. Policy wonks, privateers, Teach for America pass-throughs, guys who wanted to run for President, folks walking by on the street who happen to be filthy rich, amateurs who believe their ignorance is a qualification-- everyone has stuck their oar in to try to reshape US education. And in ordinary times, as much as I argue against these folks, I would not wave my magic wand to silence them, because 1) educators are just as susceptible as anyone to becoming too insular and entrenched and convinced of their own eternal rightness and 2) it is a teacher's job to serve all those amateurs, so it behooves the education world to listen, even if what they hear is 98% bosh.

But that's in ordinary times, and these are not ordinary times.

Indianapolis students in 6th grade and above must wear face masks at school, new guidance says

Indianapolis is going to try to get students in sixth grade and above to wear masks while at school. Are eleven and twelve year olds mature enough to resist taking them off or playing with them,

From Chalkbeat*
Indianapolis teachers, school staff, and students in sixth grade and above will be required to wear face masks when they return to classrooms this year, according to guidance from the Marion County Public Health Department released Thursday.

Children in fifth grade and below are not required to wear masks or coverings under the recommendations. Other exceptions include students and staff with health conditions that make wearing a mask a risk and students who cannot remove a mask on their own. The guidance says that a face shield may be an appropriate alternative for teachers in pre-K through fifth grade if a mask is “determined to impede a student’s learning.”

Staff and students may remove masks when necessary, such as to eat or drink.

Although face masks are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, they are not required in Indiana.


FWCS SUPERINTENDENT RETIRES

Robinson gets retirement send-off: Ex-FWCS students, staff say thanks

Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent, Wendy Robinson, described the tributes she received during a drive-through retirement event as "overwhelming."

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Two of the attendees were Dan Bickel and his wife, Barb, of Fort Wayne. Dan, a former elementary schools administrator, called Robinson “a very special person in my life.”

He praised her collaborative leadership style and the way she kept the focus on students.

Robinson “accepted me in the Fort Wayne Community Schools years ago and was one of the first people to teach me the ropes. She helped me as a colleague and a mentor and became a real and trusted friend,” said Bickel, who retired in 2012.

“I told her retirement was the biggest adjustment in my life, but if she needs any help just to call, because I got good at it.”

School board member Steve Corona greeted Robinson with a hug.

“It's, you know, a bittersweet day,” he said. “I'm so happy for her.”

But at the same time, he said, he knows what the 30,000-student district will miss without her at the head.

Corona said Robinson emerged as a champion for not only large urban school systems like Fort Wayne but for public education as a whole – “at a time when it was under attack.”

He added he was sure she wouldn't stop rooting for the district.

“But it's good to know after so many years she won't have to make those decisions all day long, every day,” Corona said.

PUBLIC DOLLARS SHOULD GO TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS -- REPLACE BETSY DEVOS!

Final CARES Act Disribution Rule Still Favors Private Schools Over Public Schools

It's almost like the U.S. Education Department is purposely trying to bypass public schools when distributing funds for education.

From Jan Resseger
Public education dollars buy services for 50 million children and adolescents across the United States. State superintendents and local school district officials are not selfishly trying to hoard CARES Act dollars. These educators want to protect federal CARES Act dollars urgently needed in the nation’s 98,000 public schools for the purpose of serving students during the pandemic and making up for deep recessionary cuts in state funding. They are trying to protect federal emergency assistance desperately needed in our public institutions.


*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, June 29, 2020

In Case You Missed It – June 29, 2020

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


INDIANA SCHOOLS NEED NURSES

Some Indiana schools will reopen without a full-time nurse, raising concerns

Will you feel safe to send your child to a school without a full-time nurse?

From Chalkbeat*
Before the pandemic closed buildings, not every school in Indiana had a dedicated, full-time nurse, according to officials. The state only requires that each district have at least one, even if it includes multiple buildings. And advocates say many districts don’t meet the nationally recommended ratio of one nurse for every 750 students.

Now, the importance of having a medical profession is heightened as districts work through how to reopen safely during the ongoing pandemic.

“I think it’s critical to have a school nurse on site,” Bishop said. “The need is even more amplified right now because of COVID-19. As an educator, I’m not a healthcare professional. Having someone who is is more important now than I think it’s ever been.”

CHARTERS CLOSE SUDDENLY -- STUDENTS LEFT STRANDED

Memphis: Two KIPP Charters Close Suddenly, Stranding Students

Charter schools are businesses. When they stop making money they close, often with no warning.

From Diane Ravitch
In reality, KIPP gave up. They gave up on their students, families, faculty and staff after only a few years of operation. Make no mistake, this was a financial decision that is inequitable to the historic Alcy Ball community in South Memphis.

KIPP cited a “failure to fulfill academic promise” which resulted in the closures, and the only excuse provided for the late notice was that they did not want to mislead the schools’ key stakeholders regarding their future.

This was a cheap and inaccurate shot at the integrity of the teachers and faculty, who spent money out of their own pockets to make sure that their students were adequately clothed, fed and supplied.


DEVOS IGNORED LOAN FORGIVENESS

Trump Back DeVos On Soaking Scammed Students

Betsy DeVos is quick to deny any loan forgiveness for students. In 2013 the State of Indiana forgave more than $90 million in Charter School Loans. We wonder what DeVos would think about that...

From Curmudgucation
DeVos has been plenty clear in her feelings about debt relief, siding whole-heartedly the corporate interests. She has thoroughly choked off the public service loan forgiveness program as a prelude to proposing to kill it entirely. Called in before the House Education Committee to explain why she was still dragging her feet on loan forgiveness for the scammed students, she offered a very DeVosian quote:

I understand that some of you here just want to have blanket forgiveness for anyone who raises their hand and files a claim, but that simply is not right.
The very idea of people borrowing money and then being excused from paying it back really, really rubs her the wrong way. She hates it. So she wrote new rules, under which hardly anyone would get loan forgiveness.

And Congress finally said, "Enough."

EACS PLANS FOR REOPENING

EACS details ‘reopening safety plan’; says full plan still in development

From Fort Wayne NBC
A reopening safety plan published by East Allen County Schools lays out guidelines and expectations for those on campus, though the district says its complete and "official" plan for the coming school year remains in development.

The reopening safety plan includes employee health screening, enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols, and social distancing measures.

A spokesperson for the district says the plan is a work-in-progress, and administrators are still ironing out more concrete protocols. She describes the document that was published as a district adherence to directives from the governor.

According to the plan, the number of students, employees and visitors allowed in the buildings will be limited and social distancing will be enforced "whenever possible".

Those who enter the school are encouraged to wear masks although they are not required.

Hand wipes and sanitizer will be available at all the main entrances, and common touch points like doorknobs and handles will be cleaned daily by custodians. Drinking fountains will not be in use.


FWCS SAYS GOOD-BYE TO SUPERINTENDENT

FWCS hands Robinson $20,000: Smith votes against severance check amid uncertainty

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
In her last meeting as superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools after 17 years, Wendy Robinson received a going-away gift – a $20,000 severance check.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of the payment. Tom Smith, 3rd District, voted against the measure, saying his vote didn't reflect his opinion of Robinson's performance in her job or as a community leader.

Smith said because of the way COVID-19 has affected parents and taxpayers, with many unemployed or working only part-time or more than one job, he said he could not justify the expense.

The schools also are facing uncertainty in funding from the state, he said.

“I can't imagine a worse time to give someone an extra $20,000 that wasn't contracted for,” Smith said.

“My vote is all about saving money at this time,” he added.

Robinson's final contract included a base annual salary of $210,164.

School board members praised Robinson for leading the schools through tumultuous times that included the rise of charter and voucher schools, shrinking state funds, three building referendums and a student population growing in diversity.

“Through it all, Dr. Robinson has kept the wolves at bay,” said Ann Duff.

INDIANA HEALTH COMMISSIONER OFFERS GUIDELINES FOR REOPENING

5 key recommendations for reopening schools from Indiana’s top health expert

Hoosier schools leaders have to puzzle it out. Let’s hope they do as Dr. McCormick suggests and confer with their local health departments.

From Chalkbeat*
School districts statewide are scrambling to come up with their own plans for reopening next school year, after buildings were closed for months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Reopening campuses is one of the last and trickiest steps in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to lift statewide restrictions. In Indiana, hundreds of new COVID-19 cases continue to be reported daily.

Here are five key takeaways from Box’s advice for schools:

1. School reopening plans don’t have to be approved by local health departments...

2. Masks will be key to preventing the spread of COVID-19...

3. Self- or home-screening is highly recommended...

4. Water fountains should be shut down...

5. Schools should be cautious about activities, including athletics and choir...


*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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