Monday, January 22, 2018

School choice reality much less appealing

This op-ed by NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the January 22 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
School choice reality much less appealing
Monday, January 22, 2018
Every January, the education reform takeover artists orchestrate countless “school choice” events, presenting us with quasi-infomercials about their miraculous successes.

The school choice rhetoric is so hypnotic that unless a person digs into the details, it is nigh on impossible to cut through all of the jargon to understand what is really meant by “school choice.” In fact, some ideas that look good on the surface often morph into not-so-great realities.

What, you might ask, are those not-so-pleasant realities?

Perhaps an acquaintance with some review of the true cost of charters and vouchers (aka opportunity scholarships/Education Savings Accounts) might be helpful.

Here are some of the unadvertised side effects of vouchers and charters:
  • Vouchers drain state tax dollars from the entire education funding pot. This often causes district budgeting deficits and/or the need for tax increases, referenda and the like.
That loss of revenue to public schools increases class sizes and diminishes student resources such as counselors, support personnel, supplemental materials and buses.
  • From the vantage point of a traditional public school supporter, vouchers are a gift of taxpayer funds given to private schools without any accountability.
  • The expansion of choice is creating two separate school systems. In this parallel system, one pathway will be for those who can afford quality choices. The other pathway will be an underfunded, separate-but-unequal road, marked by poverty and by ZIP codes. As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students, while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don't speak English.
The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with the most difficulties will be housed in the least well-financed schools. Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.”

While the reformers and the takeover artists and the hedge fund managers talk and talk and talk about the miraculous results of school choice, research shows that these results are uneven at best. As thoughtful citizens and taxpayers, wouldn't it be prudent if we asked ourselves what is best for our traditional public schools, our communities and our kids?

Perhaps the fundamental question is: What does society stand to lose in the name of “school choice?” Whose choice is it, anyway?
Phyllis Bush, a retired Fort Wayne teacher, is a founder and board member of the Network for Public Education.

Choice, Phyllis Bush,

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #309 – January 17, 2018

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the messages you sent to legislators opposing “Education Savings Accounts.”!

Your messages of opposition have apparently stalled this radical proposal before it got off the ground in the short session.

The deadlines for filing bills in the House and Senate have come and gone, and Senator Raatz never filed his “Education Savings Accounts” bill for special education students that he filed in 2016 and 2017.

Representative Lucas never filed his “Education Savings Accounts” bill for all students as he did in the budget session in 2017.

Representative Tim Brown, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed an ESA bill for all students in 2016, but not in 2018.

It’s good news for now, but remember the concept of “Education Savings Accounts” because they could show up as an amendment to another bill or as a new bill next year in the budget session to try to privatize our public schools.

A Radical Proposal

“Education Savings Accounts” is truly a radical proposal. With the support of wealthy backers who donate heavily to legislators, it has been passed in six states: Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi and North Carolina. It would:
  • give approximately $6000 per student directly to parents on a debit card, or up to $15000 for special education students, allowing parents to spend the education money on their child unsupervised and unaudited.
  • subtract that money away from the funds that normally go to the local school district, a “foot in the door” to the real intent espoused by Milton Friedman of undermining public education itself. ESAs subvert the very concept of schooling.
  • require parents to provide a bare minimum education in “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science” (no art, no music, no health, no physical education, no vocational courses) with no standards and no obligation for annual testing or public accountability.
  • fund home schools for the first time and remove all income limits in order to give public money to high income parents of special education and Section 504 students, leading to an estimated cost of up to $206 million according to a Legislative Services Agency fiscal note for the 2017 version of the bill.
  • not provide any fraud detection department nor would it define penalties for parents who commit fraud nor would it exclude parents with past records of crime or neglect or abuse or welfare fraud or addiction.
This plan to bring “Education Savings Accounts” to Indiana must not stand.

During the past fall, this plan appeared to be moving. The concept got “baked in” to the constituent surveys that Republican legislators send out before the session, surveys that are printed far in advance of the session. Then no bill was filed.

Thank you for your vigilance. Stay alert to amendments to bills this session and to bills next year that would undermine our public schools with “Education Savings Accounts.” For now, no bill on this topic has been filed as was done in the previous two sessions.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

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.