Thursday, March 21, 2019

Public Education Has Lost a Champion

NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush passed away on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Phyllis's passion for public education and her sense of humor helped support NEIFPE members through difficult times with the pro-privatization forces in the Indiana legislature and State Board of Education. No matter how many damaging things they did (and continue to do) she would always come up with a “semi-brilliant idea” to energize her "minions." Her leadership, vision, and strength will be missed.

This page will be updated with tributes to Phyllis. Check back...

You can read some Facebook tributes HERE.


State Rep. and public school teacher Melanie Wright sent us this picture of House Minority Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta (FW) honoring Phyllis on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives.

And Rep. GiaQuinta posted his own picture...


Dan Greenberg is with Phyllis Bush and Lynn Keen Greenberg.

This afternoon, I got an email saying my friend, Phyllis Bush, passed away. She's been battling cancer, and I've known for a few weeks that I would be getting this news. However, I still wasn't prepared to hear that she actually died.

I met Phyllis six years ago, when I was a little lost; trying to figure out what meaningful work I could do for teachers and public schools. I came to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to a four-state conference Phyllis and the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education were hosting. Phyllis's energy, her sense of humor and leadership inspired me to work to create a grassroots group too. I talked to Phyllis often to get ideas about growing the group and actions we could take. I listened to her advice, and was able to create multiple "Friends of Public Education" groups across the state.

Since then, I have been proud to be one of Phyllis's "minions," especially when we gather at her and Donna's house and at Network for Public Education conferences.

Today, public education lost an amazing advocate, and I lost a good friend. But her legacy is far-reaching, and her work will continue to positively impact public education in Indiana, Ohio and across the country.

Phyllis, you will be missed.


Donny Manco is feeling heartbroken with Phyllis Bush.

Yesterday my teacher, my mentor, my friend lost her battle with cancer. She was an unstoppable force; I'm still kinda shocked it beat her. God rest dear Phyllis Bush. She was a tireless, relentless advocate for goodness in the world. No one will fill her shoes. We will guide ourselves now by the light of her spirit. Long live her name!

Before I ever laid eyes on Mrs. Bush, I knew who she was. Dominick is just a year older than me and the stories he told of her Honors English class were the stuff of legends. I peeked in her classroom to maybe see the legend herself and there visible from the door was a LIFE-SIZE pastel rendering of Mrs. Bush. She had a scepter in her hand, I believe, and a crown on her head - dressed like a queen with her signature spectacles in place. In fancy script it said "Queen of the Universe" -- I shit you not. Life-size. Please someone else remember this with me.

For me, Honors English class my senior year WAS my high school experience. It was for sure the home base for all the kids I ran around with. The home base, and the jumping off point into whatever comes after childhood. It was an important context for us, and Mrs. Bush was so very sensitive to that. We wrote journals, remember. And I poured out my heart too much sometimes about life -- but she was so kind, and patient, and gracious and good with the comments she would write in the margins. I'll never forget that.

Mrs. Bush was somehow a couple of dimensions deeper than most people I knew. You know this if you know her -- but she was extremely intelligent and well-read. I deferred to her thinking on most any decision we ever made collaboratively. But she didn't come across as some kind of snooty intellectual. Her vibrant, colorful energy and wry humor made for a rare charm. She loved her job. She embraced the struggle. She loved her students beyond what man can pay someone to do.

Connecting over the years got easier with Facebook. She found us all, and kept us close. Always encouraging us in our day to day lives. She and I met for coffee regularly over that last several years. We always joked that we were planning world domination. I remember giggling at Panera bread. We took a selfie.

She encouraged me, no matter what, and gave generously to our efforts to build stronger communities through the Framework. Phyllis encouraged me to run for public office. "YOU, Mrs. Bush, should run for public office" I told her on several occasions. She would brush it off. She was a great leader and was known to have politicians by the ear -- but she was reigning "Queen of the Universe" for several decades at that point, soo. I said I'll only do it if you'll be the architect. She said "I will do everything humanly possible to be with you every step of the way." And she did. I'll never forget that either.

She became a mentor to me, and was there all along. But Mrs. Bush is so much more than these things -- these few stories. These are just my interactions with this powerful spirit. There must be ten thousand more stories out there about her kindness, and her passion for education, her love for her family and her beloved pets. How can one person be so many things -- so large, with such a capacity to track with and love so many people?

Who is this we have lost?? Mourn with me world; our loss is great.

Donna Roof, we share in your grief - May God bring you comfort.
We loved her too. O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done.


Vic’s Statehouse Notes #334 – March 20, 2019
Dear Friends,

Word came yesterday of the passing of legendary public education advocate Phyllis Bush in Fort Wayne after a long battle with cancer.

We mourn her passing, but even as we mourn, we celebrate her amazing legacy as a remarkable leader in standing up for public education in the historic fight for its survival.

Those of us who were privileged to know her admired her dedication, her wisdom, her energy and her unflagging commitment to protecting and advancing public education. Those who didn’t know her benefited from her work with grassroots citizens, school board members, legislators and public officials in advancing the cause of public education... more


From Karen Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

March 21, 2019

A lifelong teacher: Phyllis Bush's lessons will be remembered long after her Tuesday passing
Teaching mattered to Phyllis Bush. The retired South Side High School teacher, who died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, taught English and so much more.

Close readers of our opinion pages recognize her name as an ardent supporter of public schools. Area lawmakers knew her as a formidable and persistent critic of vouchers and other education privatization efforts. Her students knew her as a dedicated, caring and creative teacher – the kind whose lessons resonate long after graduation.

Broadcast journalist Kathy Hostetter is among the latter group. She recalled a memorable creative-writing assignment in Bush's senior English class in 1987:

“I decided to write a first-person narrative in the 'voice' of my autistic brother, who was a year behind me,” wrote Hostetter in an email. “My effort threw some serious shade at fellow classmates for bullying him. It may not have been creative, but man it felt good!

“We all had to read our efforts aloud, and I may have – well, fired some shots across the bow with lines directed at some of the offenders, who were in class with me. At the end, there was stunned silence. Mrs. Bush asked who I had written about, and one of the students answered for me. Mrs. Bush remarked, I hope you all listened to that. School can be really hard for some, and here, some of your actions are personified in words. Knock. It. Off.”

Hostetter, now news director for the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, said the experience helped her find her voice in both written and spoken words.

“I wouldn't be where I am without Mrs. Bush's drive and encouragement to work hard, respect literary works, and always, always WRITE.”

After Phyllis retired from her 32-year teaching career – 24 years at South Side – she jumped into a second career as a public school advocate. A letter to the editor she wrote in 1999 is as relevant today:

“Take the millions of dollars being wasted on testing and inject them into ensuring smaller classes for all students, not just those that are academically at the top or at the bottom,” Phyllis wrote. “Require schools to clearly state what their focus is and then stick to it. Is it to create a better workforce? Is it to create higher standardized scores? Is it to help at-risk students or the non-mainstream students to feel more able to function in a world they increasingly view as dysfunctional? Is it to create an atmosphere in which thoughtful, caring human beings can learn and grow?”

Bush took on standardized testing, low teacher pay, block scheduling and more in her letters. But she did much more when lawmakers approved a school voucher program in 2011. Inspired by the first Save Our Schools march in Washington, D.C., she returned to join forces with a handful of long-time friends, other retired teachers and some public school parents to establish Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. They remain a small group of dedicated activists, but a powerful voice for Indiana public schools.

They were there when education historian Diane Ravitch delivered an Omnibus Lecture at IPFW in 2012, and Bush's passion caught the attention of the former assistant secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush administration. Ravitch and California educator Anthony Cody were in the process of starting the nationwide Network for Public Education at the time, and they invited Bush to become a founding board member... more


From the Indiana State Teachers Association

March 20, 2019

ISTA Statement Remembering Phyllis Bush
“Phyllis was a passionate, dedicated supporter of public schools,” said Meredith. “She was a champion of public schools in Indiana, regionally and nationally. The loss of her leadership will be felt, but her example will continue to inspire those who wish to provide all kids with access to great public schools.”


From the Network for Public Education

March 19, 2019

Phyllis Bush: Our hero of public education remembered
It is with profound sadness that the Network for Public Education announces the passing of one of our founding board members Phyllis Bush after a courageous battle with cancer.

NPE President, Diane Ravitch, remembers how impressed she was when she first met Phyllis. “I will never forget meeting Phyllis. I spoke at a university event in Indiana, and no sooner did I step off the stage, then I was surrounded by Phyllis and her team. She wanted me to know everything about what was happening in Indiana. I realized I was in the presence of a force of nature. When Anthony Cody and I began creating a national board for the new Network for Public Education, I immediately thought of Phyllis. She was loved and respected by everyone with whom she came into contact. We will miss her. I will miss her.”

Phyllis was a warrior for public education. A retired public school teacher, Phyllis taught English Language Arts to students in Illinois and Indiana for 32 years. Upon retirement, she devoted her energies to fighting high-stakes testing and school privatization. She founded the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and devoted her energies to lobbying for sound public education policies in her state and the nation.

“Whenever I spoke with Phyllis, she was preparing for, or coming back from traveling to Indianapolis where she would speak with legislators about the importance of supporting public schools. It did not matter whether they agreed with her or not—she was walking into their office and making her case. When she was not lobbying herself, she was organizing others to do the work. Grassroots groups in Indiana and Ohio looked to Phyllis for leadership. And she led them all with incredible smarts, dedication and a fabulous sense of humor.” said NPE Executive Director, Carol Burris... more


Monday, March 18, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Mar 18, 2019

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.


White House Lays Out Fiscal 2020 Priorities

From Diane Ravitch
...Trump’s priorities...A big boost to the military and border security. Deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, Labor, Interior, Agriculture, Justice, Housing, Energy, Education, Transportation, and everything else that has to do with social/human/non-military needs.


Education Writers Association Invites Betsy Devos to Speak at Its National Seminar

From Diane Ravitch
The Education Writers Association has invited Betsy DeVos to speak every year since she became Secretary of Education, and this year she accepted its invitation. I wonder what they will learn from Betsy DeVos. Probably that public schools are dreadful and that the public should pay to send children to religious schools where the teacher is neither a college graduate or certified. That’s the way they do it in Florida, which Betsy holds up as a model. Her model, by the way, is not tops in the nation on NAEP. It is mediocre.


Great News! Two Civil Rights Legal Teams Join to Fight Theft of Public Schools!

From Diane Ravitch
The Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center have joined to fight privatization.


Study: Indiana lags on school funding

From School Matters
How did Indiana go from being a state that funded schools well to one that funds them poorly?

Two things happened. Schools took a hit in the Great Recession, especially when Gov. Mitch Daniels cut K-12 funding by $300 million to balance the budget; and they’ve never recovered. Also, Indiana shifted in 2009 to having school operations funded by the state, not local property taxes. That left schools at the mercy of the General Assembly, which hasn’t been especially generous.

Parents and educators plead with Indiana lawmakers not to cut aid for ‘those who need it most’

Teachers, Superintendents, and parents all try to tell the Hoosier GOP that their budget will hurt schools. Will they listen or do we need to vote them out?

From Chalkbeat
Dozens of educators and parents from across Indiana descended on the Statehouse on Thursday to urge lawmakers not to slash dollars sent to school districts for students from low-income families.

Most of the more than 50 people who testified before the state Senate’s school funding subcommittee criticized a House Republican proposal to cut $105 million for high-needs students in the state’s next budget. The proposal would leave some school districts — particularly those in urban and rural areas — with only slightly more funding than last year.

Indiana House Republicans suggest slashing $105 million from aid for low-income students

From Chalkbeat
Indiana House Republicans want to cut more than $105 million from state funds earmarked for students from low-income families. While the updated budget proposal would free up money to boost the per-student dollars the state provides to all districts, many of the state’s wealthier districts stand to benefit more than their higher-need urban counterparts...

Wayne Township would lose more than $3 million dollars under the budget proposal, or about 19 percent of its current complexity funding. That could mean cutting teaching staff and increasing class sizes, Butts said. Meanwhile, the district’s per-student funding would rise by just 1 percent overall. Indianapolis Public Schools would also see its per-student dollars inch up by 1 percent, an increase offset by the $7 million loss.

Yet just to the north, Carmel schools would bring in 5.5 percent more per-student, less $144,196 because of the $105 million cut. In Zionsville, a suburb to the west, the district would actually get more money for its needier students. Both districts are projected to see higher student enrollment compared to some other districts in Marion County, and they have lower percentages of students from low-income families.

Trump’s Proposed 2020 Budget Favors the Rich, Increases Inequality, and Shorts Public Education

From Jan Resseger
Title I funding for disadvantaged students, the single-largest federal funding program for public schools, remains flat at $15.9 billion in Trump’s budget pitch. Special education grants to states would also be level-funded at $13.2 billion. Also flat-funded are the English Language Acquisition formula grants at $737.4 million… (T)he office for civil rights would get $125 million, the same as current funding.” Head Start, which is part of the Health and Human Services budget, would also be funded at the 2019 level.

Several important programs are eliminated in the President’s 2020 budget proposal: Title II for teacher staff development, Title IV for students’ academic support and enrichment, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school program. DeVos proposed last year that these same programs be eliminated, but Congress preserved the funding.

The proposed education budget would increase the federal Charter Schools Program to $500 million—up by $60 million from last year


Kentucky: Vouchers are Dead This Year, Killed by Pastors and Teachers

From Diane Ravitch
The Kentucky Legislature will not enact a voucher bill this session!

Here is one reason why: Pastors for Kentucky Children stood strongly against the bill and in favor of public schools. Reverend Sharon Felton led the way in Kentucky. Please read her wonderful letter in support of public schools and the principle of separation of church and state.


Accountability issues: Charters weaken state's commitment to students

From Jenny Robinson, chair of ICPE-Monroe County, in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The charter school statute – developed under his watch – exempts these schools from much of the state law that governs public school districts. Charter schools' lesser mission, minimal oversight, lack of transparency and reduced requirements for teacher certification represent an erosion of protections for children and taxpayers.

The most basic difference from the public school system is frequently skipped over. Charter schools do not have a responsibility to serve all children in a community.

Admission is through application and lottery, with spots for a limited number of students.

In contrast, our public school districts must serve all students in our communities.


Texas: Mayor Bans STAAR Test from His Town

From Diane Ravitch
The mayor of Devers, Texas, happens to be a fifth-grade teacher. Steve Horelica knows how phony the state test (STAAR) is. He has proclaimed that it won’t be allowed in his town. Very likely, the Texas Education Agency won’t let him get away with it. But what can they do? Send in the Texas Rangers and force kids to take the Tests?


To close racial gaps, Indiana sets a lower bar for black students. Advocates say that’s wrong.

From Chalkbeat
This debate, they say, underscores the need to tackle these gaps — and what’s needed to effectively close them, such as more funding, more wraparound services, and more lessons that reflect and include people of color and diverse cultures.


Poverty adjustment a negative for FWCS

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The analysis shows Fort Wayne Community Schools losing $5.5 million in complexity funding in 2020 compared to 2019. Overall the district will see only 0.3 percent funding growth in the first year of the House budget and 1.6 percent in the second year.

FWCS enrollment is expected to remain flat.

Kathy Friend, the local district's chief financial officer, said the district isn't seeing the large decrease in complexity that the data show. But even if there were a drop in state aid to students of the district, she noted the base rate for complexity hasn't been increased along with inflation.

“Complexity is more than poverty,” she said, noting the large special-education and English learners' population the district has. Although there are separate pots of money for that, she said they aren't enough to cover the programs' costs.


The Vouchers Scam

From Sheila Kennedy
Vouchers have now been around long enough to allow for a fair amount of academic research, and–as Doug points out–that research has pretty thoroughly rebutted the assumption that sending children to private religious schools would lead to improvement in classroom performance. At best, students post academic results that are the same as those of their peers who attend public schools, and in several studies, academic outcomes were actually worse.

What vouchers have done successfully is re-segregate student bodies, and there is some emerging evidence that avoiding racial integration was the real motive for a number of proponents. For others–notably, former Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos–the voucher program was a way to prop up the declining finances of Christian religious schools.

If they could also destroy the teachers’ unions, well, that was just icing on the cake.


Indiana teachers call on lawmakers to ‘do what’s right’ and raise pay during statewide rally

From Chalkbeat
“Senators, representatives, listen to teachers: Give us the resources we need, give us the professional salary we deserve, and respect our profession,” said Connor McNeeley, a member of the union in Perry Township who spoke to the crowd. “What’s best for teachers is what’s best for students.”

The rally, hosted by the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, comes as teacher salaries have dominated this year’s legislative debates. Indiana teachers have largely not organized more aggressive protests, such as the walkouts or strikes that their peers have recently held in other states. But Saturday’s protest was one of the first showings of widespread, unified action by Hoosier educators.


Monday, March 11, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Mar 11, 2019

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.


Rochester, New York: Students, Parents, and Educators Fight State Takeover of Public Schools

From Diane Ravitch
State takeovers have not worked anywhere. The Michigan Education Achievement Authority was a disaster and has closed down. The schools in the Achievement School District in Tennessee made zero gains as compared to similar schools not in the state district. Contrary to public relations, the New Orleans takeover district performs below the state average in one of the nation’s lowest performing states, and its “gains” relied on a mass exodus of poor kids who never returned and a mass influx of additional money from the federal government and foundations.

From Rochester: Please open the link and sign the petition to stop a state takeover.


D.C.: Teachers Unfairly Terminated by Michelle Rhee Win $5 Million Settlement: VICTORY!

From Diane Ravitch
“This settlement doesn’t take away the hurt and shame Michelle Rhee inflicted on so many great D.C. teachers—but after a long fight, it is a small step toward vindication for those who suffered from her top-down, test-and-punish policies that have failed both the arbitrator’s test and the test of time.

“Instead of helping teachers get what students need, Rhee embarked on a blame-and-shame campaign that was as ineffective as it was indefensible. There is a straight line between the Rhee agenda—which tried to strip educators of any voice and dignity and reduced students to test scores and teachers to algorithms—to the current walkouts in which educators are fighting for an appropriate investment in public schools. Teachers fight for what students need. That is as true now as it was when Michelle Rhee denigrated their voice.

“What happened a decade ago still stings, but the teachers in Washington, D.C., who were wrongly fired will take some measure of comfort from this settlement; and their unions will continue to fight to make sure the wrong-headed mentality that pitted students against their teachers never arises again.”


Thinking Strike

From Live Long and Prosper
The strikes are in response to years of neglect. Teachers are tired of being disrespected. They're tired of seeing their students left behind by shrinking budgets. Teachers are tired of seeing funds meant for their schools and their students being used for private, religious, and privately run charter schools. Scores of teachers are leaving their profession in frustration. Those who have stayed are standing up and fighting back.


2 EACS schools among kindest

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
When Marilyn Hissong, superintendent of East Allen County Schools, invited students and staffers to participate in the Middle School Kindness Challenge, she didn't expect it to end with a celebration complete with glittering gold and silver confetti.

She sought to add more kindness to the world, not accolades.

Yet recognition is what two EACS buildings received Tuesday. New Haven Middle School and Southwick Elementary School were among 10 national finalists in the most recent challenge cycle, during which nearly 600 schools participated.


Georgia: State Senate Says NO to Vouchers!

Learning from Indiana's mistakes?

From Diane Ravitch
The Georgia State Senate, controlled by Republicans, voted not to create a private school voucher program.

Critics said the program would eventually cost the state half a billion a year, defunding public schools.


Indiana is set to spend more than $160 million on vouchers this year, though growth has slowed

From Chalkbeat
In budget drafts currently up for debate, House Republicans are proposing Indiana set aside $4 million per year more to expand the state’s private school voucher program to increase funding for certain families above the poverty line. Under the plan, a family of four making between $46,000 and $58,000 annually could receive a voucher for 70 percent of what public schools would have received in state funding for the student. Currently, those families receive a 50 percent voucher.

Voucher program serves the top 20 percent

The budget approved last month by the Indiana House would create a new category of voucher. It would cover 75 percent of cost of attendance for families making up to 125 percent of the cutoff.

From School Matters
Over 1,300 households that participate in Indiana’s school voucher program have incomes over $100,000, according to the 2018-19 voucher report from the Indiana Department of Education.

That puts them in the top 20 percent of Hoosier households by income. So much for the argument that the voucher program, created in 2011, exists to help poor children “trapped” in low-performing schools.

Like previous state reports on the voucher program, the current report paints a picture of a program that primarily promotes religious education and serves tens of thousands of families that could afford private school tuition without help from the taxpayers.


Indiana Pays Millions to Virtual Charters that Educate No One

From Diane Ravitch
“This should be a massive alarm bell that outright fraud has been committed against Hoosier taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars,” said Gordon Hendry, a state board of education member who led a committee last year to review virtual schools. “If this isn’t a scandal, I don’t know what is.”


Libertarians: Cory Booker is the Champion of Charters and Vouchers

From Diane Ravitch
In this article, a writer for the libertarian Reason magazine–which supports free-market solutions to all government problems–praises Cory Booker for his advocacy on behalf of charters and vouchers, and even dares to mention that he worked closely with Betsy DeVos, his ideological ally on education issues.

Booker is proud of his record as an advocate of privatization and a supporter of non-union schools.


Former senator: Teachers should think strike

From the Tribune Star
A retired Vigo County teacher and former Democratic state senator has turned to social media to gauge educator interest in a teacher strike.

Former senator: Teachers should think strike
Tim Skinner was known for being outspoken during his days in the Statehouse, and now he's speaking out about an issue near to his heart — the teaching profession in Indiana.

He believes that public education has been the target of the Republican Party for the past 15 years and refers to "senseless budget cuts, expansion of vouchers and crippling regulations."

Furthermore, he doesn't believe the Indiana State Teachers Association is taking a strong enough stand in response.

In an interview with the Tribune-Star on Feb. 22, ISTA president Teresa Meredith noted that many teachers across the state are calling for a walkout to raise awareness about the need to improve public school funding and teacher pay.


WFYI documentary peers inside Indiana’s radical attempt to take over failing schools

From Chalkbeat
A new radio documentary that aired this week dove into Indiana’s radical experiment to take over and turn around failing schools, weighing whether the extreme intervention into four Indianapolis Public Schools was worth it.

“It is not a simple answer,” WFYI reporter Eric Weddle said in his report. “It’s complex, and it’s messy.”

The hour-long documentary looks back on the eight years of state takeover. Next week, the state is expected to make a decision about the future of three of those schools.


Monday, March 4, 2019

In Case You Missed It – March 4, 2019

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.


Guess which state spends the most public funds on private and religious school education. Hint: Betsy DeVos has a house there.

SPOILER ALERT: The answer to the question in the title of this story isn't Indiana. On the other hand, Indiana is #6 in the nation on money spent on private and religious school education at $174.5 million. (NOTE, states are ranked by the percentage of K-12 expenditures which is why the actual dollar amount in #4, Vermont, for example, is lower than #6 Indiana.)

1. Florida: ESA, Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarships, 3.69%, $969.6 million

2. Arizona: ESA, Tax-Credit Scholarships, 2.83%, $211.8 million

3. Wisconsin: Vouchers, 2.66%, $271.9 million

4. Vermont: Voucher, 2.60%, $44.1 million

5. Maine: Voucher, 2.03%, $51.7 million

6. Indiana: Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship, 1.72%, $174.5 million

From The Answer Sheet
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos just announced she is backing Senate legislation that would create the first federally funded school tax credit, so it seems like a good time to see which states spend public money to send kids to private and religious schools — and how much.

To be clear, the legislation has virtually no chance of passing Congress; Democrats control the House, and most of them wouldn’t support it. A similar idea couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm a few years ago when Republicans controlled the House and the Senate.

It is worth noting that DeVos opposes federal involvement in education — she once said “government sucks” — and she believes that choice programs, like all education, are best at the state and local level. She couldn’t, of course, oppose a federal choice program. But she isn’t likely to appreciate federal restrictions that would necessarily be attached to the money.


Almost 10,000 students went to this online school last year. 851 stayed the whole time

Why has our legislature allowed charters to play fast and loose with your tax dollars and not insisted on accountability?

From Chalkbeat
Nearly 10,000 students attended Indiana Virtual School at some point last school year, but about 91 percent didn’t stay for an entire year, new data released by Daleville public schools show.

Of the 851 students who made it a full year, almost 60 percent didn’t earn a single credit — and the district claims some students weren’t signed up for classes at all.

This churn of students and lack of credits were among the red flags that prompted Daleville’s school board to vote earlier this week to begin the process of revoking the charters for Indiana Virtual School and its sister school, Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy.

‘It takes your breath away.’ Advocates shocked by special education problems at embattled virtual schools

“It takes your breath away.” It also took your tax dollars. Imagine the outcry if this sort of fiscal dishonesty had been perpetrated by a real public school!

From Chalkbeat
Between the two schools, three teachers and two counselors were assigned to 616 students with disabilities, the state said — a ratio that one expert said spreads educators far too thin. The state also detailed requests from the schools to use public special education funds to reimburse employees’ travel expenses and foot the bill for a trip to Hawaii.

“That’s just extremely suspicious,” said Kim Dodson, executive director of The Arc of Indiana, an organization that supports people with disabilities.

Troubled Indiana virtual schools poised to lose charters amid claims thousands of students weren’t put in classes

Maybe we ought to rethink charters overall.

From Chalkbeat
Two of the state’s largest, most troubled virtual schools were put on notice Monday night that their charters could be revoked after their authorizer alleged that thousands of enrolled students went semesters or sometimes years without earning any credits or even signing up for classes.

Indiana Virtual School and its sister school, Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, also failed to properly accommodate students with disabilities or file required audits in recent years, said Daleville Public Schools Superintendent Paul Garrison, who recommended that his district’s board vote to begin the process to pull the schools’ charters. One school also allegedly failed to follow protocols for administering state standardized tests.


McCormick unbound

From School Matters
I don’t think Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick has ever been shy about saying what she thinks, but she seems to have become even more outspoken since announcing in October that she won’t seek re-election when her term expires in January 2021.

She called out legislators on several issues Wednesday in a Bloomington discussion sponsored by the Indiana Coalition of Public Education-Monroe County and the Monroe County Community School Corp.

School funding: McCormick said the school funding increase in the budget that the Indiana House has approved – just over 2 percent each of the next two years – isn’t enough. Low pay and working conditions are creating a severe teacher shortage, she said, and more money is needed. Thirty-five percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years.


Betsy DeVos and her allies are trying to redefine ‘public education.' Critics call it ‘absurd.'

From The Answer Sheet
In September 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant traveled to Des Moines, where he gave a speech that said in part:

"Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar of money appropriated to their support no matter how raised, shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that either the state or Nation, or both combined shall support institutions of learning sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical tenets. Leave the matter of religion to the family circle, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.”


2019 Medley #4: Disrespecting Teachers

From Live Long and Prosper
"As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade." -- Paul Murphy (Teacher Habits blog)


Charter Schools Are Not Public Schools

Charter schools are NOT PUBLIC schools. Do not let your legislator tell you or believe otherwise!

From Curmudgucation
Modern charter schools prefer to attach the word "public" to their descriptions. Many of the charter advocacy groups include "public charter" in their title. And truthfully, there are no regulations attached to the term--any school can attach the word "public" to its title without having to worry about any sort of penalty.

So technically, any charter school can call itself a public school. Heck, any private or parochial school can call itself a public school if it's so inclined. But while modern charter schools are financed by public tax dollars, they are not truly public schools for the following reasons.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Feb 25, 2019

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.


'Unbelievable.' South Bend's Navarre school could close because leaders still have no plan

Is it appropriate that the entire burden of low student achievement be placed on the school, teachers, and staff? Is the cause of low student achievement the school's alone?

From the South Bend Tribune
Without a plan to act on in March, the state education board could consider other steps for Navarre: closing the school, taking it over and assigning a group to operate it, or merging the school with a higher-performing one.


As pay debate plods on, Indiana teachers unions want more. Will they walk out?

Will Hoosier teachers ever stand up for their profession? Or will they continue to validate state legislators’ opinions that teaching is for losers and that their students and public education don’t matter?

From Chalkbeat
In a fiery Facebook post, Kokomo teachers union president Nicki Fain Mundy tallied the toll: It took her 14 years and a master’s degree to crack a $50,000 salary.

The numbers tell her that she’s making far less than college-educated professionals in other fields. She fights for small raises but watches her pay disappear when insurance costs rise and when the rising cost of living bites deeper and deeper into her paycheck.

Indiana’s legislative leaders are pledging to find money to increase teacher pay, which, at an average salary of around $50,000, ranks the lowest among neighboring states. But so far, their proposals have included studying the problem, asking districts to save money to fund the raises, and funneling small increases to schools in the hopes that teachers could get pay bumps.

These lukewarm proposals, plus an overall concern that Indiana lawmakers don’t value teaching, could create conditions that lead to a teacher walkout. State teachers union leaders aren’t encouraging action just yet, but other local leaders say they want lawmakers to know that teachers are fed up and fired up.

We asked Indiana teachers why they’re leaving the classroom: ‘Death by a thousand cuts’

An indictment of our legislators on the subject of public education and teaching in Indiana.

From Chalkbeat
"I felt overwhelmed by what the legislators were inflicting on us, the lack of true support from administrators, and just the stress that is teaching even in the best of times. Most of all — I was exhausted, I guess. Death by a thousand cuts, more or less."

What will it take for Hoosier teachers to stand up?

More money for charters. More money for vouchers. Teacher salaries will have to wait.

From Live Long and Prosper
What will it take for Indiana's teachers to stand up for themselves and their students? (Teachers, who did you vote for in the last election?)

What will it take for Indiana to get fully funded public schools...with qualified teachers in every classroom...with reasonable class sizes...with competitive salaries...

The legislature isn't going to help.


This time, it wasn’t about pay: West Virginia teachers go on strike over the privatization of public education (and they won’t be the last)

From The Answer Sheet
This time, it wasn’t about pay.

West Virginia teachers walked off the job across the state Tuesday to protest the privatization of public education and to fight for resources for their own struggling schools.

It was the second time in a year that West Virginia teachers left their classrooms in protest. In 2018, they went on strike for nine days to demand a pay increase, help with high health-care costs and more school funding — and they won a 5 percent pay hike. On Tuesday, union leaders said that, if necessary, they would give up the pay hike as part of their protest. They are fighting legislation that would take public money from resource-starved traditional districts and use it for charter schools and for private and religious school tuition.


School voucher surprise

Indiana legislators add more money to the nation's largest voucher program. The ed reform in Indiana through vouchers and charter schools has yet to be "evaluated" by the legislature which funnels tax money into private pockets.

From School Matters
Indiana Republican legislators dropped a surprise Monday. They are proposing to increase state funding for some students who receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools.

They want to add a new category of voucher, bridging the gap between low-income families that qualify for “full vouchers” and middle-income families that get “half vouchers.”

Currently, students who qualify by family income for free or reduced-price school lunches qualify for a voucher worth 90 percent of state per-pupil funding received by their local public school district.

Students whose families make up to 150 percent the free-and-reduced-price lunch cutoff can get a voucher worth 50 percent of state per-pupil funding for their local public school district.

Under the proposal, students from families that make up between 100 percent and 125 percent of the cutoff would qualify for an “intermediate voucher” worth 70 percent of state per-pupil funding for the local public schools.


Legislators OK with discrimination

From School Matters
Indiana House Republicans lined up four-square in favor of discrimination last week. They rejected a proposal to prohibit private schools that receive state funding from discriminating against students and staff because of disability, sexual orientation or gender identification.


Why one Harvard professor calls American schools’ focus on testing a ‘charade’

The reform policies adopted and supported by Hoosier legislators termed “an unmitigated disaster.” It's time to start voting for people who respect public education, teachers, and children.

From Chalkbeat
Harvard professor Daniel Koretz is on a mission: to convince policymakers that standardized tests have been widely misused.

In his new book, “The Testing Charade,” Koretz argues that federal education policy over the last couple of decades — starting with No Child Left Behind, and continuing with the Obama administration’s push to evaluate teachers in part by test scores — has been a barely mitigated disaster.

The focus on testing in particular has hurt schools and students, Koretz argues. Meanwhile, Koretz says the tests are of little help for accurately identifying which schools are struggling because excessive test prep inflates students’ scores.


Indiana: Just How Corrupt Are Our Elected Officials?

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, has strong words against her party colleagues in the legislature.

From Diane Ravitch
McCormick, a Republican, blasts Indiana Republican lawmakers by saying they aren’t about helping kids or schools, they’re about making deals with edu-businesses at the expense of our children.

A Republican in the driver’s seat of education is bearing witness to the corruption in Indiana’s education system. Hopefully voters will listen.

The Republican party in Indiana is no longer about “small government” or “family values,” they are about backroom deals and crony capitalism.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #333 – February 18, 2019

Dear Friends,

Will the Indiana General Assembly find enough money to allow K-12 public schools to pay teachers more and to provide stable programs?

That is the overriding question as the new two-year budget takes shape. The outcome is not clear.

The K-12 budget increases listed below for the past twelve years have not provided enough to pay teachers properly. Thus, there is urgency in finding more K-12 money in this budget cycle.

The proposed budget from the House Ways and Means Committee will be unveiled tomorrow, Feb. 19th.

The budget proposed by the Senate is expected around the beginning of April.

The compromise budget putting the Senate and House versions together is expected near the end of April.

I hope you will be involved at each step in asking legislators for a 3% increase in K-12 funding.

How Big Will the K-12 Increase Be?

On Wednesday February 6th, the public hearing was held on requests for the new budget in the House Ways and Means Committee. Joel Hand, representing the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, testified about the importance of increasing K-12 tuition support by 3% in the budget. State Superintendent McCormick had asked for a 3% increase back in October.

Governor Holcomb, in his budget plan released on January 10th, called for a 2% increase in K-12 tuition support, totaling $143 million in the first year and an additional $146 million in the second year. In addition, he recommended that money from the surplus be used to pay 2% of school district pension payments, out of 7.5% owed by school districts, which he said would free up $70 million in each year of the budget for districts to use to give raises to teachers.

This was a far better proposal than Speaker Bosma was talking about in November when he said at most there would be only a 0.7% increase in K-12 for next year.

Study the table below to see the history of funding increases in the past six budgets and the prospects for next year’s funding:


Source: The summary cover page from the General Assembly’s School Formulas for each budget

Prepared by Dr. Vic Smith, 12-2-18

When the school funding formulas are passed every two years by the General Assembly, legislators see the bottom line percentage increases on a summary page. Figures that have appeared on this summary are listed below for the last six budgets that I have personally observed as they were approved by the legislature.

Tuition support and dollar increases have been rounded to the nearest 10 million dollars.

Total funding and percentage increases were taken directly from the School Funding Formula summary page. Sometimes in the first year of two budget years, the previous budget amount was not fully spent and the adjusted lowered base was used by the General Assembly to calculate the percentage increase.

Three Projections for K-12 tuition support as the next line in the table:


Contact Legislators This Week to Ask for a 3% Increase for K-12

A consensus has formed in the Statehouse that Indiana teachers are underpaid and need pay raises. The best approach to that goal is to raise K-12 funding by 3%. Two other methods suggested will not raise the base pay that teachers need to solidify their future earnings:
1) The Governor’s plan to free up pension money will provide potential bonuses for teachers on top of their base pay. Since it is one-time money, $70 million each year, there is no guarantee it can be continued in the next biennium because it is not in the ongoing budget or the line item for K-12 tuition support.

2) House Bill 1003 proposes to flag superintendents and school boards that spend too much on “operations” and too little on classroom spending that can be used for teacher pay. The penalties involve being called before the State Board of Education for public shaming. The problem is that “operations” is defined to include spending on school safety, bus safety and public information for parents in our competitive school marketplace established by the General Assembly when the school choice voucher law passed in 2011. No superintendent or school board should be given incentives to cut back on school safety, bus safety or parent information. It’s a bad idea that has passed the House but is absolutely tone deaf to the intense calls for improving school safety, bus safety and parent information. HB 1003 should be killed in the Senate with your help.
With this background, you are ready to ask House members this week and Senators later to put at least a 3% increase in the budget for K-12 funding.

Good luck in your efforts! Thank you for your active support of 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 the 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 represented ICPE extremely well during the 2018 session. 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. In April, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Feb 18, 2019

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.


Why Donald Trump Jr.’s ‘loser teachers’ comment was ‘a chilling moment’ for educators around the world

This article is behind a paywall. You can find it reprinted HERE.

From The Answer Sheet
You may recall that President Trump held a border wall rally in El Paso on Monday and that his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., made a speech that roused the crowd.

The president’s son drew cheers when he urged young conservatives to “bring it to your schools” (though he didn’t say exactly what “it” was) because “you don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.”

The comment drew response on social media from teachers and others who don’t see educators in the same way as he does, with the hashtag #loserteachers...

In this post, three teachers explain why Trump Jr.'s comment was more than simply mean.

Jelmer Evers of the Netherlands, Michael Soskil of the United States and Armand Doucet of Canada were featured authors in the 2018 book “Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Standing at the Precipice.”


Are Hoosier teachers underpaid?

From School Matters
A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests they are underpaid. After adjusting for cost of living, Indiana teacher salaries rank 32nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, it says.

The average “real” salary for a Hoosier teacher in 2017 was $56,347 after adjusting for the state’s low cost of living. Adjusted average salaries ranged from $75,000 in Alaska to $46,230 in Oklahoma.

Significantly, Indiana’s adjusted average salary was well below that for teachers in surrounding states.


As pay debate plods on, Indiana teachers unions want more. Will they walk out?

Would you support teachers in Indiana standing up for themselves and for their profession?

From Chalkbeat
The idea of setting aside significant sums for teacher pay often gets met with “glazed-over reactions,” Sloan said, “or they smile and nod their heads. But I don’t hear anyone saying we’re going to make this happen.”

Some teachers accuse lawmakers of damaging the teaching profession through past laws that weakened unions’ bargaining powers, handed down testing mandates, and hinged teacher evaluations on student test scores. Lawmakers, they point out, also determine education spending levels, deciding to fund public schools mostly through the state, capping local property taxes, and sending public education dollars to charter schools and private school vouchers.


Extra arts education boosts students’ writing scores — and their compassion, big new study finds

What a shame that the legislators we’ve voted for have stolen the funds that would provide more arts in our public schools and given those dollars to private groups instead.

From Chalkbeat
When you’re the big fish, it’s not OK to pick on the little fish just because you can.

That’s an important lesson for everyone. But some Houston first-graders got a particularly vivid demonstration in the form of a musical puppet show, which featured fish puppets and an underlying message about why it’s wrong to bully others.

The show left an impression on the students at Codwell Elementary, according to their teacher Shelea Bennett. “You felt like you were in that story,” she said. “By the end of the story they were able to answer why [bullying] wasn’t good, and why you shouldn’t act this way.”

The puppeteer’s show was part of an effort to expand arts education in Houston elementary and middle schools. Now, a new study shows that the initiative helped students in a few ways: boosting students’ compassion for their classmates, lowering discipline rates, and improving students’ scores on writing tests.


State lawmakers nix proposal for private schools to follow bullying rules

From RTV6-Indianapolis
State lawmakers on Monday nixed a proposal that would have required private schools, or any school that accepts state funding, to have the same types of rules against bullying as public schools.

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, filed an amendment to House Bill 1640 that would require nonpublic schools to prohibit bullying and implement a protocol for investigating bullying including a method for anonymous reporting of bullying incidents, timetables for informing the parents and other parties like law enforcement, and support services for the bully and the victim.

The amendment would have allowed the Indiana Department of Education to review the bullying policies at any school that accepts state funding or financial assistance.


Gary Roosevelt students have stayed home for weeks due to the school's failing boiler system

Would this ever happen in a wealthy community?

From the Chicago Tribune
A failing boiler system that left the school without heat for more than two weeks will keep the Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy closed indefinitely while officials scramble to assess the cost of the repairs and who will pay for them. Students haven’t been in school since Jan. 25.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt students in grades 7-12 will begin classes Thursday at the Gary Area Career Center. In September, a school official said Roosevelt’s enrollment was 568.


Indiana lawmakers want to help teachers learn how to shoot guns

A state lawmaker has a controversial approach to keeping kids safe at school.

He wants teachers to learn how to use a gun.

The state representative from Seymour said his bill would not require teachers to take handgun training but would allow the school district to tap into state money to pay for that training.

A year ago this week, a gunman killed 17 students and staff members at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In May, a teenager shot a student and teacher inside Noblesville West Middle School.

"This gives the teachers, the staff, the school employee the ability to protect themselves in the horrible event of a school shooting," said Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas.

Bill to provide firearms training for Indiana teachers passes in committee

From CBS4-Indianapolis
Should Indiana teachers carry guns in the classroom?

It’s a question that comes with strong opinions on both sides. Now Indiana is one step closer to giving teachers that option.

“When evil comes calling at the classroom door it has to be met head on with people who are armed and trained,” said high school teacher Aron Bright.


Study: Inclusion benefits special-needs students

From School Matters
A new study from researchers at Indiana University provides strong evidence that students with special needs do better academically when they are placed in general-education classrooms, not separated in self-contained special education classes.


What’s wrong with charter schools? The picture in California*

From Teaching Malinche
– Guest post created by a longtime Northern California parent volunteer education advocate

• Charter schools take resources away from the public schools, harming public schools and their students. All charter schools do this – whether they’re opportunistic and for-profit or presenting themselves as public, progressive and enlightened.

• Charter schools are free to pick and choose and exclude or kick out any student they want. They’re not supposed to, but in real life there’s no enforcement. Many impose demanding application processes, or use mandatory “intake counseling,” or require work hours or financial donations from families – so that only the children of motivated, supportive, compliant families get in. Charter schools publicly deny this, but within many charter schools, the selectivity is well known and viewed as a benefit. Admittedly, families in those schools like that feature – with the more challenging students kept out of the charter – but it’s not fair or honest, and it harms public schools and their students.


Angie Sullivan: “Reform” in Nevada is Teacher-Hatred

From Diane Ravitch
I think the Nevada State School Board is moving in the wrong direction and causing a lot of issues in CCSD.

My priority would NOT be reform.

Reform is code for: HATE THE TEACHER.

It does not work and it makes us mad.

Reform is “teacher hate” bought by millionaire and billionaire eduphilantrophists. It is also known as union busting. We do not need another well-funded group that hates the people in the classroom. You have abused us for a couple of decades and nearly ruined your school system. Enough.


Eric Blanc: Cory Booker Hates Public Schools

From Diane Ravitch
For close to two decades, Cory Booker has been at the forefront of a nationwide push to dismantle public education.

According to Booker, the education system is the main cause of our society’s fundamental problems, rather than, say, inequality and unchecked corporate power. As he explained in a 2011 speech, “disparities in income in America are not because of some ‘greedy capitalist’ — no! It’s because of a failing education system.”

Public schools, Booker continued, are also responsible for mass incarceration and racial injustice. To combat such evils, Booker has openly praised Republican leader Betsy DeVos’s organization American Federation for Children for fighting to win the final battle of the civil rights’ movement.