Monday, March 1, 2021

In Case You Missed It – March 1, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. 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.
TEACHERS ARE STILL WAITING

Frustrated teachers lose access to vaccine waitlists as Indiana cracks down

The CDC recommended that teachers be vaccinated at the same time that citizens over 75 were vaccinated (phase 1b, see the link in the quote, below). That didn't happen in Indiana. As of this posting, Indiana has offered vaccinations to everyone over age 60 (phase 1c) yet teachers and education staff are still waiting...and are even being refused wait-list vaccinations.

Every one of our neighboring states has offered vaccinations to teachers except Indiana. One can't help but wonder if there is a political basis for this situation. It's no secret that the political party in (supermajority) power doesn't seem to care about Indiana's public schools or public school teachers.

From Chalkbeat Indiana
...in a Jan. 30 letter, Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver reiterated eligibility guidelines and told clinics that vaccine standby lists “should reflect only people who are considered at high risk for hospitalization and death from a COVID-19 infection.”

...Indiana teachers expected to get priority access to vaccines, she said. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccinating teachers before some of the groups who are currently eligible in Indiana.
PUBLIC DOLLARS SHOULD GO TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

David Berliner: Why Religious Schools Should Never Receive a Dollar of Public Funding

As you read this remember that the Indiana legislature is considering increasing public dollars to private schools in Indiana through the state voucher program. The vast majority (95%+) of schools that accept vouchers are religious.

From Diane Ravitch
I believe in separation of church and state. I think it has done the United States a lot of good to honor Jefferson’s metaphoric and aspirational “wall” between the two. I also believe that money corrupts too many people and too many institutions. Holding those two beliefs simultaneously means 1.) I never want to see any local, state, or federal money used to aide any religious group, and 2.) I don’t want to see any religious group, or affiliated religious organizations, donating to the campaigns of public officials. The latter may be impossible to stop in an era of “dark money.” But the former—government support of religious institutions– is almost always done in public view and is worth stopping now, immediately, as it could easily damage our fragile republic.

Overstated? Hardly! Read on!
Eve Ewing Is Wrong About Charter Schools

From Diane Ravitch
Basically, [Eve] says we should be happy whenever any school–whether public or charter–provides a good education. That is what I believed when I was an advocate for charter schools from the late 1980s until about 2007. It was then that I realized that charter schools were not producing better outcomes than public schools and were diverting money and the students they wanted from public schools. The more I learned about charter operators, their billionaire benefactors, their drive for money and power, and the corruption associated with their lack of accountability, the more I realized that this nation needs a strongly resourced, equitable, and excellent public school system. After thirty years of directing funding to charter schools, we have seen no systemic change of the kind that both Eve and I want.


NEW PRESIDENT -- SAME OLD TESTING

Joe Biden Made One Campaign Promise That Really Mattered To Teachers. He Just Broke It.

During the presidential campaign, before the pandemic started (remember way back when?), then candidate Biden promised to end standardized testing. Apparently, the corporate donations from testing companies has changed his mind. The administration announced that 2021 testing will still be required. Even Betsy DeVos knew enough to cancel tests during a pandemic...

From Peter Greene in Forbes
The value of the Big Standardized Tests has been long debated. But their shortcomings loom particularly large now. The tests, which address only math and reading, are very limited in scope; Rosenblum’s letter suggests states may choose to shorten the test, which will makes its scope even more limited. Rosenblum’s letter also acknowledges that where students cannot yet safely attend school, it’s reasonable that they not travel to school to take the test. That means some students either taking the test remotely at home, or not at all. Earlier this year in Ohio, in-person reading tests were administered to third graders; one in five students did not take the test. The level of flexibility allowed by the department means that there will be little chance that the results will provide a standardized basis for apples-to-apples comparison.

That comes on top of the many different sorts of pandemic impact seen in different districts. There will be so many variables affecting this year’s results that they will be essentially meaningless.
Biden Administration’s Broken Promise: Schools Must Give Standardized Tests This Spring

From Diane Ravitch
Joe Biden said unequivocally at a Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh when he was campaigning that he would end the federal mandate for standardized testing. Denisha Jones, lawyer, teacher educator, board member of Defending the Early Years, and the Network for Public Education, asked candidate Biden if he would end standardized testing. Watch his answer here. This is hugely disappointing, first, because it is a broken promise; second, because it imposes standardized testing in the midst of a pandemic when access to education has been grossly uneven and unequal; third, because it diverts the attention of teachers and students to a meaningless exercise.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS WEEK 2021

Last week was Public Schools Week 2021. Nine out of every 10 students attend a public school. Public schools welcome every child—regardless of ability, race, religion, wealth, language, country of origin or needs. #PublicSchoolProud
*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, February 22, 2021

In Case You Missed It – February 22, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. 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.

VOUCHER PUSH IN LEGISLATURES

Legislatures around the country have been pushing voucher programs. The Indiana General Assembly has several bills expanding the state's already expansive voucher program. It's not too late to write to your state senators and tell them to vote NO on the expansion of vouchers. Read about the bills below, and about states where the voucher plans were blocked by public school advocates.

Bill lavishes more money on favored private schools

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Hoosiers should demand to know the justification for handing millions in tax dollars to high-income households and private and parochial schools. How many more ways can GOP lawmakers find to take money from the schools serving 90% of Indiana's students, including the neediest?

Vouchers cost taxpayers $172 million last year alone. Overlooked are the costly programs created to lay the groundwork. It began with charter schools ($85 million in misspent public funds by Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, according to state auditors).

Two programs were then created to win voucher support from wary non-public school families. The first established Scholarship Granting Organizations ($59.6 million in tax credits since 2010, according to the Indiana Department of Revenue). It served the dual purposes of creating a voucher eligibility pathway and funneling millions of dollars to private and parochial schools. The tax credit was capped at $2.5?million a year when it began, growing quietly and steadily to $16.5 million this year.

In the 2019 tax year, 3,372 taxpayers were awarded just over $9 million in tax credits, at an average credit of $2,670. In some cases, donations are carried over because they exceed the taxpayer's tax liability, or the cap on allowable credits has already been met.

But that's not all...

House passes voucher expansion

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
House Bill 1005 would increase the amount of money families can make to be eligible for vouchers and also increase the awards themselves.

And the measure creates new Education Scholarship Accounts in which state money would be deposited for families to choose how they want to educate their children. It is open only to special education students and children of active military.

The cost of the bill is more than $65 million over the biennium.

Rep. Renee Pack, D-Indianapolis, said "expanding voucher eligibility is just not appropriate and "encourages families to withdraw from our schools."

She added that the legislature needs to stand up for the more than 90% of students in public schools.

What Is at Stake when ALEC, the State Policy Network, The Buckeye Institute and EdChoice Lobby for Vouchers?

From Jan Resseger
As we begin 2021, there has been troubling coverage about new voucher programs popping up in state legislatures. This is despite that Betsy DeVos is gone and that President Joseph Biden is a strong supporter of the institution of public schools. And in states like Indiana, and Ohio, where privatized school vouchers have been in place for decades, we can also watch pressure for their expansion.

Earlier this week, Bill Phillis, Ohio’s longest and best informed proponent of public schools and the executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, sent around a troubling article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette describing a bill being considered by the Indiana House Education Committee for the radical expansion of an already enormous publicly funded private school tuition voucher program in Indiana, Ohio’s neighbor...

Good News from New Hampshire: Legislature Postpones Voucher Bill to Next Year

Hoosiers have never directly approved a voucher program yet our legislators keep increasing the amount of money diverted from your tax dollars to private schools. It won't stop until we either 1) overwhelm our legislators with demands to quit taking tax dollars away from public schools, or 2) elect different legislators!

Either way, we need "strong opposition" here in Indiana.

From Diane Ravitch
As a result of strong opposition, Republicans who control the New Hampshire legislature decided to postpone consideration of their “number one priority,” school vouchers. Under consideration was the most sweeping voucher bill in the nation. Thousands of people signed up to testify against the legislation.
Arizona: CEOs Criticize Voucher Expansion

Arizona, it seems, wants to duplicate the mistakes made in Indiana. Some CEOs are objecting...

From Diane Ravitch
Jim Swanson and John Graham, both CEOs in Arizona, wrote a stern warning against the legislature’s proposed voucher expansion, which would make almost all students in the state eligible for public funding to spend in a private or religious school. One of the authors is on the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. Arizona is a state that likes low taxes; it does not fund its public schools adequately or equitably. Under the leadership of Governor Doug Ducey (who promised the Koch brothers a few years ago that he would drive taxes down as low as he could), the state is offering choice instead of adequate funding to its schools. Arizona has consistently underfunded its public schools and pretends to “reform” them by offering charters and vouchers.

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY TARGETS STUDENTS IN POVERTY

How Indiana has cut funding for students in poverty, hurting urban schools

Hoosier schools and children in poverty are hurt by Hoosier legislation.

From Chalkbeat Indiana*
Even though the state boasts an increased education budget each year, Indianapolis Public Schools receives $15 less per student today in basic state funding than it did seven years ago.

That’s because IPS’ gains in funding for each student have been eaten up by a sharper decline in state support for students in poverty, district officials say.

In recent years, Indiana lawmakers have prioritized across-the-board increases for schools over support for disadvantaged students, favoring budget strategies that buoy more affluent districts while higher-poverty schools say they’re left without enough resources to serve disadvantaged students.

POLITICIANS DISRESPECT TEACHERS

Educational Mansplaining

From Live Long and Prosper
By now it should be no secret why teachers are "mansplained" about education -- aka treated with less respect than other professionals. Teaching is still seen as "women's work" and those who hold control of the funding in education are mostly men.
In a field so dominated by women, it's not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.

Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators tend to lower the status of teaching when compared to other professions.

In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.
Now, the next time you hear a politician talk to a teacher or a group of teachers (or the general public) about "...what's wrong with education in this country" you'll know what's really going on.

WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE WHEN ALL THE TEACHERS ARE GONE?

You’re Going to Miss Us When We’re Gone – What School May Look Like Once All the Teachers Quit

Steven Singer penned this dystopian tale about school privatization gone wild...Read it all!

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
DeShaun just sat there looking at his cracked phone.

Was this really all he had to look forward to, he thought.

He missed school.

He missed teachers.

He missed everything that used to be.
*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, February 15, 2021

In Case You Missed It – February 15, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. 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 LEGISLATORS WANT TO EXPAND VOUCHERS

Indiana legislators are working overtime to privatize the state's public schools. The House votes Monday, Feb. 15, on a budget that will increase money for vouchers and charters while ignoring the increase in child poverty and its impact on public education. Public schools will get an increase of less than 3% each year for the next two years, while vouchers will increase by 20% and 23%. Despite promises over the last two years, there is no increase in teacher pay in the budget.

Once again, the Indiana General Assembly shows its preference for privatization.

House budget expands vouchers: Republican plan differs from governor's on key points

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
House Republicans unveiled a budget Thursday that would give less money to traditional public schools than Gov. Eric Holcomb's proposal, while also funding several one-time grant programs to energize the economy.

The governor proposed $377 million in tuition support – which is then distributed to school districts using a complex formula. The total equates to 2% growth in the first year and 1% in the second year of the biennial budget.

The House Republican budget has $378 million in new tuition support – 1.25% in the first year and 2.5% in the second year.

But their total includes an expansion of the voucher program that will send an additional $65 million to private schools over the biennium. That program would increase by 23% the first year and 20% in the second year.

Holcomb did not include a voucher expansion and, in his State of the State address, expressed concern about expanding choice at the expense of public schools.

Indiana House budget would expand vouchers, limit poverty aid for schools

From Chalkbeat*
At a time when many Hoosier families are in financial distress because of the pandemic, the Indiana House Republicans’ draft budget would cap the state aid for educating children in poverty and at the same time fund a significant expansion in private school vouchers for middle-class families.

The budget proposal, which was presented to and passed by the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday, would increase state funding for K-12 education by $378 million over the next two years — a 3.8% boost from this school year. The state would spread that increase across all Indiana public schools and a host of contentious education priorities while limiting funding to districts where poverty surges because of the pandemic.

The draft is an early step in the state’s budget development process. The Senate will produce its own budget proposal before the two chambers negotiate a final agreement.

Thursday’s proposal omits any substantial increase for teacher raises that a state panel recommended last year.

FWCS resolute against vouchers: Board, teachers oppose legislators' expansion bill

Kudos to FWCS Board of School Trustees and the Fort Wayne Educators Association for publicly coming out against the increase of vouchers. Public money should go to public schools.

Disclosure: FWCS school board President Anne Duff is a member of NEIFPE.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders formalized Monday their opposition to proposed legislation that would expand Indiana's voucher program.

“The public schools educate 90% of the students, and why we are catering to the small 10% is beyond me,” school board President Anne Duff said.

Lawmakers are considering expanding the current Choice Scholarship program, in which the state pays vouchers for private education. They also are considering creating new Education Scholarship Accounts, giving parents control of schooling dollars. The latter is limited for special education students, foster children and children of active-duty military members.

FWCS and the Fort Wayne Education Association make clear their opposition to House Bill 1005 and Senate Bills 412 and 413 in a joint resolution to be shared with legislators.

“There is no urgency to pass this measure during a pandemic that is already imposing severe financial constraints on public schools, as parents in Indiana already have an array of state-funded options,” the resolution states.

Options for Hoosier families include traditional public schools, charter schools, virtual schools, Choice Scholarships and tax credits and deductions for private and home-school education, the resolution adds.

“What the General Assembly is considering is fiscally irresponsible,” board member Steve Corona said. “They have not demonstrated the oversight ability to follow the dollars that have been given previously.”

Corona had an example to support his claim – the alleged $68 million in fraudulent spending by virtual charter schools.

NO MORE SCHOOL GRADES?

Indiana lawmakers could overhaul accountability, end school takeovers

Now that private schools and charter schools have learned that high poverty is the major cause of low student test scores, the pro-privatization legislature is considering ending school takeovers and school grades. When the punishment was only for public schools, it wasn't a concern.

Note also that the Chair of the House Education Committee (and school privatization consultant), Bob Behning, no longer thinks "accountability" is necessary.

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana lawmakers are considering a plan that would put the final nail in the coffin of the state’s aggressive efforts to take over schools with chronically low test results.

A proposal winning early support in the House would eliminate many of the consequences for poor test performance that typically loom over Indiana public schools. District schools with failing grades would no longer face the threat of state seizure or the steps that precede it, such as a requirement that districts attempt to improve schools by replacing personnel, giving them new resources, or working with outside experts.

Under the proposed law, charter schools with low grades would be able to seek renewals without special permission from the state. And even if they receive low marks from the state, private schools would be able to receive vouchers for new students.
SMART ALEC

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education

This is an old article (2012) but a reminder that ALEC is knee-deep in voucher expansion

From Education Week
A legislative contagion seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011. First, Wisconsin legislators wanted to strip public employees of the right to bargain. Then, Indiana legislators got into the act. Then, it was Ohio. In each case, Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions.

What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?

The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its self-described legislative approach to education reads:

Across the country for the past two decades, education reform efforts have popped up in legislatures at different times in different places. As a result, teachers’ unions have been playing something akin to “whack-a-mole”—you know the game—striking down as many education reform efforts as possible. Many times, the unions successfully “whack” the “mole,” i.e., the reform legislation. Sometimes, however, they miss. If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person with the mallet can get them all. Introduce comprehensive reform packages. (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 108)

PUBLIC SCHOOLS LOSES LEADER

Legendary former Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has died. ‘She was a fighter and a treasure for this city.’

Public schools lost a strong leader with the death of former Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen Lewis.

From the Chicago Tribune
Karen Lewis, the firebrand former Chicago Teachers Union president who led a seven-day strike and nearly ran for mayor, has died at 67.

Details of her death were not immediately available, but Lewis was diagnosed with cancer in October 2014. The news came a day after the union, whose current administrators have said “will always and forever be the house that Karen built,” announced a tentative reopening deal with Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Lori Lightfoot that, if approved through a union vote, would avert a strike.

Lewis’ tenure as CTU president was marked by an unprecedented number of school closings, teacher layoffs, charter school expansion, crumbling school finances and rancorous contract talks with the city’s Board of Education.

In September 2012, she led the city’s first teachers strike in a quarter-century and stood at the helm of demonstrations that underscored smoldering national debates over public education reform. That gave her the political muscle to consider a run for mayor against then-incumbent Rahm Emanuel, a man she once described as the “murder mayor.” Lewis said in a later interview that once doctors told her of a malignant brain tumor detected near the surface of her frontal lobe, she knew her plans to take over City Hall were finished.

TESTING DURING THE PANDEMIC: STILL A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY

A Teacher in California: The Madness of Test Obsession

From Diane Ravitch
A teacher in California, who must remain anonymous to protect her job, wrote this post. CAASP testing is the Common Core test produced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

“We are 100% virtual, and teachers just had to sign an affidavit regarding CAASPP testing. I cannot believe they are STILL going forward with this. They expect that kids will 1) be in a quiet place with no distractions, 2) have their cameras on at all times, 3) not be using any other materials except pencil/paper, 4) that kids will have earbuds/headphones so they can hear the audio portion, 5) that kids won’t talk about the test content with ANYBODY.

And then, teachers are 1) supposed to simultaneously monitor 20+ students’ cameras and computer screens, 2) write down every time a student looks away or commits some other infraction, 3) keep every kid from unmuting their microphones (impossible).

*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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