Saturday, July 23, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #36– July 22, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, there are two key things that voters across America should know:
  • First, Mike Pence does not support public education. He instead supports taxpayer funded private school vouchers. He has significantly expanded taxpayer payments for religious and private education compared to the level of payments passed by his predecessor Governor Mitch Daniels. His priorities are wrong. In 2015-16 his policies resulted in Indiana spending $53 million for student tuition at religious and private schools while spending only $10 million for much needed preschool programs. The table below tells the tale.
  • Second, Mike Pence diminished our democracy and the power of voters by undermining the results of the 2012 election. He refused to accept the will of the voters when they elected a Democrat as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Her election was a direct rejection of the policy changes enacted under State Superintendent Tony Bennett. Governor Pence pushed legislation to remove the new State Superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education effective in the middle of the first term in which the voters elected her knowing that the State Superintendent in Indiana has chaired the State Board since 1913. His bill demoting State Superintendent Ritz passed, but at the last minute cooler heads in the legislature deferred the demotion until after the next election. His partisanship was blatant.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

Mike Pence Pushes Private School Vouchers at Every Opportunity

It seems clear that providing a voucher for every private school student, expensive as that would be, is a goal for Mike Pence, allowing every parent rich and poor to have the taxpayers pay for religious and private education. His policies have gone far beyond the original policies of Governor Mitch Daniel, as seen in this chart:

Under policies of Governor Daniels, a savings of $4 million per year was realized because Governor Daniels’ said students should try public school first, and voucher eligibility began after students had tried public schools for two semesters. The state saves money when students transfer from public to private schools with a voucher.

Governor Pence threw out the Daniels’ policies and expanded several pathways to voucher eligibility, opening the door to giving thousands of vouchers (now 52% of all vouchers) to students who had always been in private schools. Paying for these students constituted a new fiscal cost to the taxpayers, ending the voucher program as a money saver and producing the net fiscal costs listed in the right hand column: $15 million in 2013-14; $40 million in 2014-15; and $53 million in the most recent year 2015-16.

Contrast these costs to other important education programs in the Indiana annual budget:
  • $10 million for preschool
  • $18 million for summer school
  • $3 million for technology
  • $7 million for English Language Learners
  • $12 for Gifted and Talented programs
All of these vital programs added together did not get the budget support that Mike Pence gave to private and religious school tuition.

The real losers of the Mike Pence policies are the 92% of Hoosier students who have chosen public schools from which, as the chart shows, diversions to private schools totaled $131 million in 2015-16.

Mike Pence Never Respected the Will of the 2012 Voters

Even though voters elected Democrat Glenda Ritz to be State Superintendent in 2012 knowing that the State Superintendent chairs the State Board of Education, Governor Pence and his supermajority in the legislature ignored the will of voters and passed a bill in 2015 to undermine her authority. The blatantly partisan bill started out to immediately remove her as chair in the middle of her first term, changing the rules without regard to the wishes of the 1.3 million voters who elected her. In doing this, Governor Pence ignored the fact that more voters cast ballots for her in the 2012 election for State Superintendent than voted for Mike Pence in the election for Governor.

This plan was just plain wrong. Changes in duties should never be implemented until after a subsequent election. Finally members of Mike Pence’s party in the legislature recognized this and delayed the change until after the 2016 election.

The bill passed gave the power to choose the chair to appointees on the State Board. Eight of the ten members are appointed by the Governor. Thus, the Governor’s bill directly reduced the power of the ballot box and gave the power to him. With this move, he diminished our democracy and the power of voters.

The November Election

I support non-sectarian, non-partisan public schools as the cornerstone of our democracy. I oppose the privatization of our public schools pushed by Mike Pence which cost Indiana taxpayers $53 million last year.

I support public participation in choosing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and leaving the power to choose the chair of the State Board of Education in the hands of the voters. I oppose dismantling voter control over the leadership of the State Board and giving the power to Governor Mike Pence.

Mike Pence has led the march toward privatization of Indiana’s public schools.

For the sake of supporting public education in Indiana’s bicentennial year, I strongly stand with the “Never Trump/Never Pence” camp in the fall election.

I urge all public school advocates to join me in protecting and prioritizing public education as it is attacked over and over again during this unprecedented political season.

Thanks for advocating in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Seductive Rhetoric Belies Cruel Truth of Voucher Schools

NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush wrote this op-ed about vouchers.

July 19, 2016

Seductive rhetoric belies cruel truth of voucher schools

What is so distressing about school-choice rhetoric is that the language is so innocuous and comforting that it is hard to cut through all the words to understand what is really being said. When I first heard about vouchers and charters, I also was convinced that these ideas sounded like great alternatives to some of the issues facing education. At that time I was unaware of the unintended consequences, and unfortunately, our policymakers are either unaware or unconcerned. These formerly good ideas have morphed into some not-so-great realities. Indiana is home to the largest voucher program in the United States.

However, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is completely aware of the consequences. They created a report entitled “Why Parents Choose” to further expand their choice agenda. As with all surveys, the reliability of the results rests in the validity of the questions asked and the sampling to which the survey was distributed. Their survey found that a vast majority of parents using Indiana’s voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs are overwhelmingly satisfied with their new schools, and parents were easily able to find a participating private school.

Well, duh! Why wouldn’t parents be pleased if they can go school shopping on the taxpayers’ dime?

Parents have always had choice, but politicians and salespeople like those from the Friedman Foundation seem to think that this is a concept they have invented to help poor, struggling ghetto kids since the choice advocates are the only ones smart enough or caring enough to know what is best for the children.

Before the “choice” juggernaut began, parents always had the choice to send their children to private or parochial schools. When families did not have the money, most parishes had funds set aside to help those children. Some families chose parochial schools because they wanted their children to have religious education. Others wanted to be away from the riffraff of public schools, and parochial school choice sounds so much more acceptable than “white flight.”

Interestingly enough, Fort Wayne Community Schools opened Richard Milburn School as its own charter experiment about 15 years ago with the intention of helping kids who seemed to be square pegs in a round-hole school system. For whatever reason, that school closed in 2006. I’m not sure why, but my guess is that it was probably too expensive for FWCS to maintain along with its traditional schools. In fact, the Smith Academy seems to have been created for the same reasons. So there are good charters.

My objections to school choice are quite simple. For those who say that charter or voucher school funds are only a small portion of the huge education budget, that is true. However, that seemingly small portion of the budget siphons a huge amount of money from the already cash-strapped and fiscally overwhelmed traditional public schools. While this whole scheme looks quite good in talking points, the reality is that most of these schools have little to no oversight or transparency, and they get to play by a whole different set of rules.

If the education money were under local control, local districts could make their own decisions and could levy their own taxes and could call for referendums. However, the way that Indiana has structured education funding, in the guise of fixing schools (because educators and local school district leaders apparently are not as smart as florists, auctioneers and lawyers), they have managed to tilt the playing field to the point that public schools have become the orphans of school funding.

Sadly, our legislators and the choice privateers have sold the public a bill of goods about failing schools, and with their talking points they have managed to convince the public that all of these destructive laws must be passed to save us all because they obviously know more than educators or the public.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Pence: A Negative Impact

A guest post from an anonymous Indiana public school teacher.

I’m a Hoosier with conservative values. I’m pro-life and my faith in Jesus Christ guides my decisions. But I’m not a supporter of Pence.

I’m an educator, and most Indiana educators will tell you that they, too, do not support Mike Pence. It’s one of the reasons his re-election as governor was shaky before he became the choice for Trump’s VP.

Most Americans and non-teaching Hoosiers haven’t had an opinion about Pence until he signed a bill which got the attention of the LGBT community. Because it brought bad publicity during an election year, Pence rescinded on the bill.

What the general public doesn’t know about Pence is that he and Indiana Republicans have been bedfellows with the American Legislative Exchange Council and Pearson. Together, behind closed doors, these lawmakers and corporation giants have decided which education laws will be passed each term. They’ve found a way for school funds to benefit them through vouchers, testing, teacher qualifications, and the privatization of public schools.

Pence supports corporate greed over the good of children and local communities. I’m not sure how this will make American great again.

In Indiana, Pence’s education policies have negatively impacted every aspect of education. While Mitch Daniel’s administration made sweeping changes by introducing vouchers, state-mandated teacher evaluations, salary caps, and high stakes testing, Mike Pence continued the excessive executive power, disregard of law, and hostile aggression towards educators.

Mr. Pence devalued the teaching profession by lowering requirements for qualified teachers and establishing Pearson created competency testing. He legislated how teachers are evaluated and paid, resulting in high-stakes evaluations and minuscule performance pay.

Teachers in Indiana are leaving the classroom in masses. The stress is too high and they are underpaid. Because there’s now a teacher shortage, Pence and Republican lawmakers spent time and money to study the reasons why.

In the 2012 election, the residents of Indiana voted for Democrat Glenda Ritz to be Superintendent of Public Education. It was the outcry against the Daniels/Tony Bennett administration. In response, Pence used executive power to develop his own education committee that would be at odds with the Department of Education. He also removed the Superintendent of Public Education as the chairman of the State Board of Education.

During his four years, Pence planned to create a public news media that would report the news from his administration he wanted the public to hear. Bold power and control efforts from a man labeled by outsiders as meek and mild.

As an educator, I’ve been demoralized at the lack of respect he’s shown me, my colleagues, and the children we serve. Last year, I spoke to an appointee of Pence’s to advocate for discouraged teachers and kids who are negatively affected by standardized testing. In turn, I learned that money is what speaks, and if you speak against those in power, you get black-listed and libeled by the media.

People outside of education don’t think this isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal, because when leaders let money determine what’s best for kids, then integrity always has a price.

Education with political strings attached affects every community.

In Indiana, small, rural schools are shutting down because funding has been cut, families are moving out of district, and whole communities are losing jobs where school corporations are the largest employers.

Inner-city schools, like Indianapolis Public Schools, are urban nightmares as charter schools take away public school funding, yet only meet the needs of a fraction of the population.

Cities like Indy, Detroit, and Chicago are the poster-children for big government in education. The corporate rich and politicians get the money, and the urban poor, of which have a racial bias, receive a sub-standard education.

This is what Pence brings to the Republican Party ticket if he follows the path he’s paved in Indiana. If you don’t think education effects all parts of society, then education has benefitted you. If you know what the school-to prison pipeline is, then I don’t need to explain anymore.

The only presidential candidate that will make American great again is the one who invests in and supports public education for all children. He or she is the one that honors the teaching profession, who doesn’t deal with corporate interest in education, and returns the control of schools to local communities.

Pence hasn’t done this for Indiana. The candidate who values these things is one who cares about kids, community, and isn’t bought by corporate America.

An Anonymous Teacher, 2016


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Response to Friedman Foundation

by Kathy Candioto

On May 19, I attended the School Choice meeting sponsored by the Friedman Foundation. The event was held in downtown Ft. Wayne. Representatives of the Foundation presented the same ideas offered in the July 14 op-ed piece, The Choice is Clear. Numerous glossy booklets filled with the goals of the School Choice Foundation were available to the attendees of the meeting.

Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was a well-known supporter of free-market economics. Early on, Friedman called for market solutions to just about everything including education. This was the beginning of his idea for school choice. Friedman said,” Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice and private initiatives – the building blocks of success throughout our society.”

As a public school supporter, I cannot agree with Friedman or the Foundation for School Choice. I cannot support tax dollars going to school vouchers and private schools. At the May 19 meeting, I reminded presenters that, in Indiana, and very specifically FWCS, money used for vouchers is money robbed from public schools. Since the inception of the Indiana voucher program in 2011, the number of vouchers used for private schools has grown by 30,000 and will only INCREASE since there is no CAP on their availability. FWCS alone has suffered a loss of $19 million since 2011. We have just one “education pot” in our state. From that pot, legislators take BOTH public school and voucher funds.

The folks at the Friedman Foundation have the money and the time to spread the word on School Choice. Indiana legislators must call for a year’s moratorium on vouchers and take a hard look at what harm School Choice is doing and will continue to do to our public schools. Perhaps they will find that a cap should be restored to voucher availability at the very least. Legislators want to do research on the effectiveness of proposed statewide pre-K policy. Why not do some research on the effect of school choice which has already diverted $115 million from public school funds. Strong PUBLIC schools reflect an education-minded community.


Friday, July 15, 2016

We Are All in This Together

by Phyllis Bush

As I have been listening to the cascading reports of violence, of cruelty, of racism, of thoughts and prayers, I have been feeling sad, helpless, and sick at heart. If past is prelude, there will be more vigils and more demonstrations and more finger pointing about who is to blame... but to what end? So much has been said, but still nothing has been done.

While I do not pretend to have the answers, one of the areas that I believe needs to be addressed is the scarcity of community resources. Police forces are operating on bare bones budgets. Rather than having community policing where the police actually know their neighborhoods and the people on their beat, cops answer calls and move from one emergency to the next. Schools, especially urban schools where there is the most need, are generally the first ones to feel the budgetary axe. Classes are big and resources are scarce; social services are overloaded and overwhelmed, and medical care is often reduced to how many patients can be moved through the system as quickly as possible. These budget cuts are most commonly found and most acutely felt in low income and minority communities.

Rather than going to our corners and arguing about gun control or mental health or police brutality or systemic racism, perhaps we need to restore funding to health and human services, especially to areas where there is the most need. We need to give the helping professions the funding that they need to continue and to improve their services.

During recent years, legislators have fallen in love with the business model of making decisions by crunching numbers and proclaiming that the answers to all of our societal ills lie in data analysis. Sadly, these policies have given us divisiveness and have pitted us against one another.
  • Who deserves better schools?
  • Who deserves better community policing?
  • Who deserves better health care?
Instead of telling the people who are delivering these services how to operate more efficiently, maybe we need to ask them how we can help them do their work more effectively and more efficiently.

Contrary to the current narrative of labeling people in need as wanting free stuff, most people who are in need are looking to survive and to support their families in whatever way they can.
  • Why don’t we talk to the people whose lives are being affected by these slash and burn budget cuts to find out how we can best help them?
  • Why don’t we try to recognize that their lives, their hopes, and their dreams aren’t so very different from ours and that we are all a part of the same human family.
If we really are serious about solving the issues that lie before us, maybe what is needed is kindness, compassion, and inclusiveness shown through humane fiscal policies.

If we are really serious about being in this together, we need to have uncomfortable conversations with people who are not like us. We need to quit talking past each other and to start talking to each other.