Monday, May 27, 2019

In Case You Missed It – May 27, 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.

(In Case You Missed It will take a one month hiatus. We'll be back in July. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.)


The Writer Who Couldn't Answer Standardized Test Questions About Her Own Work (Again)!

Advice from an author- “Teachers, don't waste time on test prep: you can't teach nonsense. Administrators, take the money you are spending on test prep and spend it on classroom libraries instead. There are no quick fixes. Kids need to read and write voluminously.”

From Curmudgucation
We are in standardized test season, and all across the country, students are taking the Big Standardized Test by which they, their schools, and their teachers will be judged. How absurd are these tests? Meet Sara Holbrook, the writer who couldn't answer test questions about her own work.

Back in 2017, Holbrook wrote an essay for Huffington Post entitled, "I Can't Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems." The writer had discovered that two of her poems were part of the Texas STAAR state assessment tests, and she was a bit startled to discover that she was unable to answer some of the questions.


French teacher is Southwest Allen Teacher of the Year

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Under the pretense of an emergency staff meeting, Homestead High School French teacher Marius Sagnon gathered with his colleagues this morning only to learn they were there for a celebration.

Superintendent Phil Downs announced Sagnon was the Southwest Allen County Schools’ Teacher of the Year. The award honors, promotes and celebrates excellence in the teaching profession.


DeVos Actually Visited A Public School in Poway, California

From Diane Ravitch
Education Week reported that Betsy DeVos visited a public school in Poway, California, and the school was asked to keep the visit a secret so that the Secretary would not encounter hostile crowds of protesters, which might endanger the lives of students or staff or DeVos herself. Of course, DeVos was well guarded. She came with her special retinue of U.S. Marshals to protect her. NBC has estimated that her security team will have cost $20 million by September of 2019.


Homestead adopts cum laude system in place of valedictorian, salutatorian

A Fort Wayne high school will not name a valedictorian or salutatorian at its commencement ceremonies this year.

Instead, Homestead High School will move to a cum laude system similar to most colleges that honors students based on grade-point average levels. Homestead students can now earn a cum laude, sum cum laude or magna cum laude award.

Homestead Principal Park Ginder told WANE 15 that Southwest Allen County Schools first brought up the idea in 2014 as a way to encourage students to take a deeper, more rigorous or academically intense load of classes.

This will allow the school to honor more deserving students, instead of just two.

Signing day lauds future jobs

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Nearly 50 students were hailed to be the foundation of the future Fort Wayne community as they signed letters of intent on Wednesday.

The event signified the completion of their select program at Fort Wayne Community Schools' Anthis Career Center and their commitment to a job.

The signing, modeled after events held for high school students marking their athletic commitment to a college, was for students who chose to go into career technical education after high school.


Public school teachers rally over funding: Aim to raise awareness of challenges

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The “right of every public school student to have a quality public education,” as Lisa Hamblin said, was not the only thing the group was fighting for. The fact that the event was on what Rehrer called “easily the busiest intersection of downtown” was no coincidence.

“We want this community to understand the impact of what's going on,” Keim said. “We're trying to educate the community and tell them it's about their children and grandchildren, not just us (teachers).”

Though the event lasted from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., for [Cheryl] Keim and the event attendees, the fight has only just begun. “We're just getting started,” she said.
See also: Dozens join 'Teacher Work-In' to raise support for public schools


Hammond superintendent recommends shuttering 3 schools, cutting more than 130 positions by next year; school board to vote Tuesday

Staring down a projected $10.2 million deficit, the superintendent of the School City of Hammond made recommendations this week to close three elementary buildings and cut more than 130 positions districtwide by the start of next school year.


Northwest Indiana educators protest funding changes, new rules

The educators were upset about state funding changes that give more money to charter schools and vouchers to attend private schools, less for poverty-stricken schools and no raises for teachers; a new rule that teachers must get 15 externship hours to renew their licenses, to give them experience in the business world; and a state law that makes the superintendent an appointed rather than elected position.


Lawmakers leave teachers disrespected – again

In Letters to the Editor, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
In the last General Assembly session, House Enrolled Act 1002 was passed. It states that 15 hours of professional growth experience will be required for renewal of a license to be a teacher. This can come one of three ways, but can be shortened to two methods – an externship at a business or professional development partnered with a business to highlight the needs of the community.

Most teachers, including me, love our job. However, like most teachers, I have other jobs in the summer to supplement my income to make ends meet. It is the complete lack of comprehension, trust and value of us as people, let alone our jobs, for this measure to be passed. When are we supposed to do this? In the summer when we are working on next year's material? Or do we take winter or spring break to do that as well and tell our families, “Sorry, mom/dad has to go do stuff for work instead of being a family member.”

I would like to hear from a legislator to give me an example of another profession that makes its employees seek other professions/professionals to shadow for their own job – to supposedly make them better at it. I will even go one step further and invite each and every state legislator to come and have an externship with a teacher for a week, but keep in mind it has to be on your own time, not when you're supposed to be working. By your own ideas, that should make you better at your job, right?

...Greg Bierbaum

Fort Wayne


Pearson’s Plans for 2025: Make Sure You Are Seated When You Read This

From Diane Ravitch
Pearson has plans for the future. Its plans involve students, education, and profits. Pearson, of course, is the British mega-publishing corporation that has an all-encompassing vision of monetizing every aspect of education.

Two researchers, Sam Sellar and Anna Hogan, have reviewed Pearson’s plans. It is a frightening portrait of corporate privatization of teaching and of student data, all in service of private profit.


Monday, May 20, 2019

In Case You Missed It – May 20, 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.


Indiana teachers required to complete externship to renew teaching license

No educators were interviewed by the legislature before they passed into law a requirement that teachers spend 15 hours learning how business works in "a company." Senator Kruse thinks that this will help students be ready for employment when they finish school. The assumption is, of course, that teachers don't have any idea how things work in the world outside of school.

If you read the article you'll see that the requirement is for any teacher wishing to renew their Indiana teaching license. It's questionable how this requirement is going to help students in kindergarten or first grade, for example, get a job 18 - 25 years later because their teacher had to spend 15 hours learning how "a company" works.

Just like standardized tests, one size does not fit all.

President of the Fort Wayne Education Association Julie Hyndman said Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers were blindsided by this law.

"It's another opportunity to demoralize public school teachers that the Indiana legislatures have continued to do, this year and most years prior," she said. "This is a complete insult."

Hyndman, an FWCS elementary school teacher of 24 years, said lawmakers don't understand educators and the hardships and business of their career.

She explained that teachers already participate in conferences, workshops and continuing education through their districts. She doesn't see any value in going to an outside source for professional development.

"At this point I don't see it," she said. "What I really wish is that legislators that make these kind of laws would make an externship in a public school themselves for an extended period of time."

Our FWCS students and teachers are already connected with the business community.

A middle school principal in Fort Wayne explains why legislators need to talk to actual teachers before they start making unneeded and inappropriate education laws.

From Principal Matt Schiebel on Facebook (Facebook account needed to read the entire post)
Our FWCS students and teachers are already connected with the business community. Each year, local businesses graciously send employees trained by Junior Achievement to spend an entire day in our classrooms teaching every student various aspects of business, economics, and entrepreneurship. During the first semester of this year, my son was enrolled in AP microeconomics at Snider High School, a course which rivaled the one I took in college.

Teachers and administrators do not need additional professional development to obtain a license; in fact, they don’t need obstacles of any kind, particularly in a state where we cannot find enough licensed teachers in the first place. Students are receiving instruction in business within the classroom, both from teachers and volunteers from the business community.

State legislators: If you would like to add 15 more hours to our plate every five years, please wisely budget your packed schedule so you can find 4 minutes a day to actually meet with and LISTEN to a teacher explain how lawmakers can tangibly support us as we work to educate our students to high standards...


Stay educated: Public schools need our ongoing, vocal support

Teachers, have you said, "I'm not political" or "I don't have time to get involved in politics"? Parents, do you know how the policies put in place by legislators in Indiana are affecting your child's school, classroom, and teacher?

Public education is political. We need to start supporting our public schools in the ballot box as well as the bake sale.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
In 1880, President James Garfield said: "Next in importance to freedom and justice is public education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained."


Lawmakers leave schools ill-prepared on mental ills

One more to thing to keep in mind when you think about who to vote for.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Less than a year after a student shot a classmate and teacher at Noblesville Middle School, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a school safety bill incorporating recommendations from a task force formed after the shooting.

“Every student, teacher and staff member deserves a safe school,” Holcomb said in a news release. “This new law is key to ensuring our schools are better prepared.”

Better prepared, perhaps. But not best prepared. Bowing to pressure from powerful conservative groups, legislative leaders stripped language from the bill that would have allowed school safety grant dollars for mental health services. Advance America, a special-interest group, claimed in a post-session message to followers that the legislation “would have forced students to answer very personal and inappropriate questions from a federal government survey about their sexual activity – without prior written parental consent!”


Teen finds her voice after brother's death: Junior wins state speech title

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Captivating the Wayne High School student body isn't an easy task, but one morning this spring, junior Aliyah Armstrong hushed about 1,000 of her peers with a performance that earned her a state championship.

The 17-year-old combined poetry about street violence, incorporating the writings of others, with personal tragedy. Her brother Darius Marcel Boone, 14, died from a gunshot to his head just days before her birthday last spring.


Monday, May 13, 2019

In Case You Missed It – May 13, 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.


Education policy deserves debate

Hoosiers, the next governor will appoint nine of eleven members of the Indiana State Board of Education. The voters no longer have any say in education policy making for the state, except through their vote for the governor.

From Jennifer McCormick in the Jeffersonville News and Tribune
Now more than ever, Hoosiers must hold all of Indiana’s elected leaders accountable. From the rhetoric of the campaign trail to the actions in governing, officials must be honest and transparent regarding their position surrounding K-12 policy. Stakeholders must be bold, direct, and persistent in our questioning and expectations for accountability. The 2020 gubernatorial race bears more weight in this new governance structure. Important decisions lie ahead for our state, and most importantly, our students. Education impacts all of us. Our children, families, educators, communities, and businesses deserve a strong, representative voice.


Op-ed: 'Is it any wonder that Indiana teachers are leaving?'

Rocky Killian, superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corp., understands why Indiana's teaching force is dwindling.

From Lafayette Journal & Courier
If we want to keep our best teachers from leaving Indiana, and if we want to lure the best candidates into the teaching profession, parents and community supporters are going to have step up to support their teachers and public school systems. Also, if legislators are smart, they should be deeply concerned about the grass-roots support of teachers that is happening across the county. I have hope that this is going to happen in Indiana.


Glenda Ritz: Teacher pay hasn’t been priority for state since 2011

From Indianapolis Business Journal
Some 60 of the 289 public school districts will actually get less money in the 2019 budget funding formula due to stable or declining student enrollments. These districts will be hard-pressed to maintain their current programming for students. How are they going to raise teacher pay? Once again, many of the rural districts are hurt the most by this lack of action on the part of our Legislature.


Charter Schools Have a Big Problem, and Rebranding Won’t Help

From Peter Greene in the Progressive
Charters promised all sorts of miraculous educational achievements at low, low prices. But those achievements haven’t appeared. More people are understanding that what we’re really talking about is the privatization of our public school system.


Legislature Adds Additional Hurdle for Teacher Professional Growth Plans

The Indiana General Assembly sneaks in a requirement that teachers serve as local business interns for "the experience."

From the Indiana State Teachers Association
License holders starting a PGP for renewal in their Licensing Verification and Information System (LVIS) accounts after July 1, 2019 are required to complete 15 of the 90 PGP points required for renewal in one or more of these areas:

• An externship with a company;

• Professional development provided by the state, a local business, or a community partner that provides opportunities for school and employers to partner in promoting career navigation;

• Professional development provided by the state, a local business, or a community partner that outlines:

°current and future economic needs of the community, state, nation, and globe; and

°ways in which current and future economic needs described in (A) can be disseminated to students.


Teachers to DeVos: Please Resign

Actual teachers respond to DeVos's comments.

From Diane Ravitch
Betsy DeVos tweeted a thank you to teachers whose public schools she reviles.


Ten Thoughts on Teacher Appreciation

From Live Long and Prosper


The Problem With Tax Credit Scholarships

We, here in Indiana, need to understand that our GOP legislators are twisting the truth or lying. Curmudgucation explains it all with lunch.

From Curmudgucation
So when somebody (like, say, the Secretary of Education) tries to argue that this type of voucher doesn't take anything away from public education, understand that they are, at best, twisting the truth or, at worst, lying.


Maine Dumps Test-Centered Teacher Evaluation

It would certainly be nice if Hoosier legislators would also realize that coming after teachers with chainsaws has always been a bad idea. Good for Maine!

From Curmudgucation
Maine has broken with the status quo of test-centered accountability for teachers.
Beginning with No Child Left Behind, public schools have committed to test-centered accountability, using student results on a single standardized math and reading test to drive assessment of districts, schools and ultimately teachers. For years, the prevailing definition of a good teacher in this country has been one whose students score well on that standardized test.


Setback for Federal Charter Schools Program! DeVos Request for $500 Million Trimmed to $400 Million!

From Diane Ravitch
This is good news!

The House Appropriations Committee issued its budget report. Betsy DeVos requested an increase for the federal Charter Schools Program, from $440 million a year to $500 million. But the education appropriations subcommittee cut the appropriation to $400 million. This is a program that is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, as the Department of Education’s own Inspector General pointed out in the past, and as the Network for Public Education pointed out in its recent report called “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride.”


Betsy DeVos: ‘There is no such thing as public money’ and 5 other revealing things she just said -- or wouldn’t say

From the Answer Sheet
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos schooled education reporters Monday during a rare appearance at their convention in Baltimore, telling them that too many articles do not accurately portray her newest school choice program proposal. She also said that “public education” needs to be redefined and that “there is no such thing as public money.”


She lived a life of love and learning

Another tribute to NEIFPE's Phyllis Bush!

From the Fort Dodge (IA) Messenger
In the obituary, Bush wrote, “I am fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends whose love and support made me realize that there is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for. When you come to celebrate my life, you will meet people who have influenced my life and/or have been a major part of it. It is then that you will know who I am, and who I’ve been.”


Online folly deprives regional campuses

Mitch Daniels continues to mess with public dollars going to education...

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
In 2017, Purdue University, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, purchased the failing for-profit, on-line entity, Kaplan University. Purdue promised that Kaplan, renamed “Purdue Global,” would deliver a “world-class” education to a broader range of students.

Two years later, Purdue Global has lost millions of dollars, the Purdue system is bleeding its regional campuses dry, and the quality of education Purdue Global provides has seriously shortchanged the citizens of Indiana who were told they would be the first to benefit.


Monday, May 6, 2019

In Case You Missed It – May 6, 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.


BASIS Private Schools Sold to Chinese Investors, Parents Object

Public schools, run by a locally elected school board, provide stability, accountability, and transparency. Privately owned charter schools, which benefit from taxpayer funds, ought to have the same transparency and accountability. Charter schools are often opened where an additional school isn't needed, draining resources from the public schools. When they close, or like in this case, when they change owners, students and parents are left in limbo...without a voice.

From Diane Ravitch
More than 190 New York City families at the private Basis Independent Schools sent a letter to its leaders Monday to express concerns about its recent purchase by a company backed by a China-based investment firm.

The letter from parents at the Brooklyn site of Basis questioned whether the sale might prompt the school in Red Hook to change curriculum, lose teachers, boost tuition, increase class size and lose its reputation among top college admissions offices.


New York City: Betsy DeVos Praises Charters, Condemns Spending More on Public Schools

From Diane Ravitch
Betsy DeVos was honored by the rightwing Manhattan Institute. In her by now well-rehearsed speech, she ridiculed the idea of spending more money on public schools, and extolled school choice.


After years of debate, some stronger oversight of virtual schools signed into Indiana law

Clearly, cyber charters are a poor choice for students...even charter school advocacy groups question their value.

From Chalkbeat
The struggle to address Indiana’s troubled virtual schools illustrates the state’s dance between protecting school choice and cracking down on failing schools. On one hand, lawmakers defend online education as a critical option for some of the state’s most challenged students, particularly those who haven’t been successful in traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

But Indiana’s virtual charter schools post below-average graduation rates and test scores. They have largely received D and F grades from the state. And the credit data raises questions over how well online schools are educating students, if at all.


Indiana near bottom in teacher pay, school funding

From School Matters
The National Education Associated released its annual report on teacher salaries this week, and, once again, Indiana doesn’t look very good.

The average salary for an Indiana public school teacher in 2018-19 is $50,937, according to the report, compared with a national average of $61,730.


Local schools consider lower kindergarten start age

Indiana parents will now be able to send their children to kindergarten at an earlier age. However, it is up to a school district’s discretion.

Press Secretary for the Indiana Department of Education Adam Baker tells WANE 15 the date for schools to received funding for students is changing.

He says currently, if a child is not five by August 1st of a school year, the school could accept the child into kindergarten, but the school would not receive funding for the student.

Now, the date is changing. For the 2019-20 school year, if a child is five by September 1st, the school will receive funding. For the 2020-21 school year, if a child is five by October 1st, the school will receive funding.


3rd District Democrats honor public education advocate Bush

A well deserved honor for NEIFPE's co-founder.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Public education advocate and activist Phyllis Bush, who died March 19 at the age of 75, was named this year's recipient of the J. Edward Roush Service Award presented by the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party.

The party honored Bush posthumously at an April 27 dinner at the Eagle Glen Clubhouse in Columbia City. The annual award is for "contribution of time, talent and treasure" to 3rd District Democrats, said Misti Meehan, Allen County Democratic chairwoman.

Bush had taught English at South Side High School in Fort Wayne, founded Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and was a board member for the Network for Public Education.


Two award-winning teachers boycott White House ceremony to protest Trump policies

From the Answer Sheet
On Tuesday, Dueñas and Holstine explained why they decided to boycott the 2019 event, saying they felt they could not attend in good faith. (See video below.)

“My frustrations with the current administration are the messages and actions and policies and words that are shared about the population of students that I work with,” said Holstine, who teaches immigrant children.

“It impacts and it hurts them, and it hurts them both in their hearts and in the world because they then have to deal with the fallout of all of that discrimination,” she said. “I cannot implicitly support people who hate my kids and who talk about them in the ways they talk about them.”


This Indianapolis teacher works a second job until 2 a.m. But he doesn’t want to leave the classroom

If the Indiana General Assembly didn't give away tax dollars to charter schools and vouchers that aren’t accountable to us as taxpayers, public schools could afford to pay their teachers closer to what they are worth.

From Chalkbeat
"I wonder, why am I consistently putting in these 50-, 60-hour work weeks as a teacher, trying to make every single day meaningful for my students — just to have to go to my second job whenever life happens? Just to be able to afford to maybe make a trip somewhere, and not even somewhere exciting. I’m talking Michigan! … No shame, Michigan." -- Jack Hesser


Why It's Important To Say There Is No Teacher Shortage

From Curmudgucation
...There is no teacher shortage.

There's a slow-motion walkout, a one-by-one exodus, a piecemeal rejection of the terms of employment for educators in 2019.

Why is it important to keep saying this? Why keep harping on this point?

Because if you don't correctly identify the problem, you will not correctly identify a solution...


These Indianapolis schools are overhauling their libraries to encourage reading

This is great, but wouldn’t it be better if the general assembly made sure all of our public school libraries were well stocked and well-staffed by real librarians?

From Chalkbeat
When it comes to encouraging children to read, it sometimes helps to judge a book by its cover.

Staff at three Indianapolis Public School campuses are “weeding” through their libraries to remove out-of-date books and those that have attracted little interest from students — and to make space for new additions that reflect students’ communities and catch their attention.

The weeding and restocking of the libraries is one piece of the Love of Reading project, which was funded with a grant up to about $1.3 million from Herbert Simon Family Foundation and aims to inspire students and their families to read. In addition to adding to library collections, the grant will pay for three dedicated staff members, library renovations, and programing for families. Books that are removed are available for families to take home.


‘We’re not there yet,’ Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb says on raising teacher pay

News from Indiana Governor Holcomb...making excuses.

From Chalkbeat
For some schools, funding will drop in the coming years. Others will see more significant increases. And some schools say they’re still pinched, sometimes forced to ask voters to approve referendums to drum up the funds they need to operate.

Education groups voiced appreciation for the funding increases, but some said schools still need more.

The Indiana State Teachers Association promised to “continue to fight for increased teacher pay and funding for every student,” the group said in a statement last week. “Our members are just getting started and will continue advocacy efforts into the future.”


How racial bias helped turn Indianapolis into one city with 11 school districts

From Chalkbeat
The racial segregation and declining enrollment that plagues Indianapolis Public Schools today can be traced back to the decision made 46 years ago to merge Indianapolis with its surrounding suburbs.

The celebrated unified government, or “Unigov,” law brought together about a dozen communities in Marion County into a single large city in 1970. The idea was to put a bigger, more powerful Indianapolis onto the national map, simplify city services and grow the city’s tax base.

Indianapolis was not the only city in the country to merge with its surrounding county at that time — but it was the only one to explicitly leave schools out of the deal.


The Writer Who Couldn't Answer Standardized Test Questions About Her Own Work (Again)!

The blogger Curmudgucation passes on some advice about tests.

From Peter Greene in Forbes
[Sara] Holbrook, as a poet and an educator, has several thoughts about remedies to these sorts of tests. "Parents, demand to see the test prep materials. Teachers, don't waste time on test prep: you can't teach nonsense. Administrators, take the money you are spending on test prep and spend it on classroom libraries instead. There are no quick fixes. Kids need to read and write voluminously." She advocates for transparency. "If a bike helmet fails top protect a child from injury, consumers can sue the manufacturer. These tests are injurious, but shrouded in secrecy and thereby beyond the reach of most teachers and all parents."


The people's priorities shorted

The Governor and legislators brag about all the additional "money for education," but neglect to mention the large increases for privatization.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
...School officials look at per-pupil funding for a more accurate measure of dollars available. For Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS), that's 2.2% next year and 1.1% the following year – much less than the 2.3% and 2% statewide average per pupil.

The total increase in education funding also conceals allocations favoring charter and voucher schools over traditional public schools. Indiana taxpayers are likely to spend an additional $25 million over the next two years by giving larger vouchers to families just above the income limit for free or reduced price lunch. An additional $2.5 million in tax credits also was made available to donors supporting private and parochial school scholarships.

Overall, voucher schools are expected to see a 9.3% increase in 2020 and a 5.6% increase in 2021.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Cassel said the General Assembly's decision to support voucher and charter schools has had an impact there and across the state. He acknowledged raises are unlikely for his 26 teachers, whose only recent pay increase was a one-time stipend.

“I'm glad there was an increase in funding, but at some point the legislature is going to have to take a look at where the money is going,” Cassel said. “It's a continual attack on public education. When you look at the percentage going to charters and vouchers and – that's been the agenda.”


Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Semi Brilliant Idea

On Saturday we celebrated the life of NEIFPE's co-founder, Phyllis Bush with a service and a luncheon. Each luncheon place setting included a bookmark printed on red (#RedForEd) paper, with a saying or aphorism important to Phyllis. Click the image below to download a pdf file with all sixteen of the bookmarks.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #337 – May 1, 2019

Dear Friends,

The 2019 budget deal was announced on April 23rd and passed on April 24th to close the budget session.

Messages you sent to give K-12 schools better funding in the final version were successful! Thank you for your efforts!

The final funding for K-12 was higher than any previous proposal. This is true despite the latest revenue forecast that said Indiana would have $100 million less to spend. The grassroots pressure to raise K-12 funding was as high as I’ve seen it in the 23 sessions of the General Assembly that I have attended.

Despite the improvement in K-12 funding, the budget results present a mixed picture for public education in Indiana:
  • K-12 tuition support got a 2.5% increase each year, a bit higher than the 2015 increases but not as much as the 2007 budget increases. See the chart below to put these increases into historical context for the past seven budgets.
  • Giving more and more public money to private schools continued. Voucher expansion in the form of the new 70% voucher was included in the budget at a two-year new cost estimated by LSA to be $19 million. Tax credits for private school scholarships were expanded at a two-year new cost of $3.5 million. Charter school grants, given in addition to funding provided in the funding formula for charter schools, were raised by 50% at a two-year extra cost of $15 million. These three new benefits for private and charter schools total $37.5 million.
  • The funding formula estimates vouchers (Choice Scholarships) to cost $175 million in the first year of the new budget and $185 million in the second year. That money comes out of the K-12 tuition support fund cited above.
  • The funding formula estimates that in the first year voucher students will increase by 4.3% but voucher funding will increase by 9.3%. In the second year of the budget, voucher students will increase by 3.5% but voucher funding will increase by 5.6%.
  • The funding formula estimates that new charter schools will get $12 million in the first year of the new budget and $26 million in the second year of the budget. Budgets for all charter schools, except for the charter school grants mentioned above, come out of the line item for K-12 tuition support.
  • Some 60 of the 289 public school districts will get less money in the funding formula due to stable or declining student enrollments. These districts will be hard pressed to raise teacher pay or simply to maintain current programs.
  • On average, community public school districts saw funding gains in the range of 2% while voucher increases cited above are far higher.
  • Pension payments owed by school districts were reduced by 2% using the budget surplus, giving school districts an estimated savings of $70 million each year, equivalent to another 1% increase in K-12 tuition support. The problem is that this money is not distributed evenly and some small districts will get very little help from this program. The Indianapolis Star found that districts could receive a range from $1100 per teacher to $600 per teacher and that small districts might count only a few teachers in this pension plan providing minimal help to boost teacher pay.
  • The Teacher Appreciation Grant was raised from $30 million to $37.5 million each year.
  • Funding for English Language Learner programs rose from $17.5 million to $22.5 million each year.
  • Funding to pay for curriculum materials (textbooks) for low-income students remained stuck at $39 million each year, where it has been for over a decade. Low funding in this program means the state pays only a portion of the textbook costs, usually around 75%. Districts with high percentages of low-income students must pay for those textbooks out of scarce local funds.
The good news in this list is tempered by the ease that voucher-supporting groups were once again able to expand vouchers and tax credits for private school scholarships. The heavy lifting required to get more money for public school teacher pay compared to the ease by which voucher programs were expanded raises questions about the future of public education in Indiana.

Does the supermajority General Assembly leadership really want public school teachers to feel supported and respected in Indiana? If public schools falter because teachers leave the state or the teaching profession, then parents will choose private schools and private schools will win the competition that the General Assembly began in 2011. Keeping good teachers is essential to the success of public education.

Compare This Budget with Six Previous Budgets

Claims about the new budget can be weighed by comparing it to the previous six budgets. Study the table below to see how the new 2019 budget matches up with recent budgets going back to 2007.

Source: The summary cover page from the General Assembly’s School Formulas for each budget
Prepared by Dr. Vic Smith, 4-26-19

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 seven 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.

Here is How Republican Leaders Added Up New Money for K-12 Education to Equal $763 Million

Keep in mind that when counting new money, the new money for the first year must be repeated in the second year as the base for an additional increase. Thus, the new money in the 2019 budget is 178 million for a 2.5% increase in the first year plus 178 million to match that increase for the second year plus 183 million to raise the second year by 2.5%.

That totals to $539 million.

Then the Governor’s plan to reduce pension payments by $150 million over two years was enacted.
Adding $150 million raises the total to $689 million.

Then categorical funding for specific programs like the Teacher Appreciation Fund received $74 million in new money.

Adding $74 million raises the total to the number you have heard: $763 million.

What is a 70% Voucher?

Most taxpayers have never heard of a 70% voucher. It appeared suddenly in the House budget without discussion or debate. Senator Mishler and Senator Bassler did not include it in the Senate budget approved by the Appropriations Committee, but on the floor of the Senate, the 70% voucher was put back in the budget by the Republican caucus on a second reading amendment using a voice vote. No roll call record is available of who supported this move toward more privatization of education in Indiana.

Here are the details:
  • The historic legislative fight in 2011 over the original voucher bill established a 90% voucher for families of four currently making $46,000 or less. This means that 90% of the per student support for a public school student goes to the parent to pay for private school tuition.
  • A 50% voucher was established for families of four currently making $69,000.
  • Now, for the first time in the eight year history of vouchers, $19 million more money will go to a new concept: a 70% voucher to families of four making between $46,000 and $57,500, while families between $57,500 and $69,000 would still receive a 50% voucher from Indiana taxpayers.
  • This would probably not add many students to the voucher count but would give significantly more money to the parents making between $46,000 and $57,500 who already have students in the voucher program.
  • The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency says the newly proposed 70% voucher would cost an extra $7.7 million in the first year of the budget.
  • It would cost $11.3 million in the second year.
  • Adding these two years together, this 70% voucher would cost taxpayers $19 million.
  • The 70% voucher was not debated in any bill but just appeared in the budget. The secrecy of how this concept appeared is stunning. In eight years, it has never before been proposed.
  • Giving more money to voucher parents was not the General Assembly’s stated priority. No case was made that this 70% voucher solves any problem. It received no debate or public review. It was a total surprise when it showed up in the budget. This program has undercut the priority on more money for teacher pay.
Let legislators know that you strongly oppose the passage of the 70% voucher and that you think it undermines the effort to make more money available for teacher raises.

What are School Scholarships?

School Scholarships, not to be confused with Choice Scholarships, are scholarships for students to attend private schools given out by Scholarship Granting Organizations that collect donations for these scholarships, donations which give donors a 50% tax credit when taxes are filed.
  • In the first year, the budget for tax credits was raised by $1 million to total $15 million.
  • In the second year, the budget for tax credits went up another $1.5 million to $16.5 million.
  • The two-year budget total for private school scholarships in $31.5 million. That is $3.5 million higher than in the 2017 budget.
  • In this little known program, the Scholarship Granting Organizations can now raise $30 million next year for private school scholarships and $15 million (50%) will be returned to donors at tax time.
  • Here is the amazing part: There is no limit on the size of the donation. Wealthy donors who want to direct all of their tax obligation to private schools can do that and get 50% back as a tax credit. Donors to Indiana colleges are limited to a $200 tax credit for individuals, but there is no individual limit for School Scholarship donations. It is the most generous tax credit available in Indiana.
  • The School Scholarship law says that Scholarship Granting Organizations can keep 10% of their donations for administrative overhead. If donations total $30 million and use up the $15 million in tax credits, the SGO’s can keep $3 million, which is 10% of the total. It’s a lucrative business.
  • School Scholarships have raised the number of students receiving Choice Scholarships (vouchers). The voucher law was changed in 2013 under Governor Pence to say that if a student gets a School Scholarship one year, they can get a Choice Scholarship (voucher) the next year. This has been the mechanism for why so many voucher students (now 58%) have never even tried out a public school. They receive a voucher but they have been in a private school all along.
Your messages to legislators during this budget session clearly made a difference. Let your legislators know how you feel about the various provisions of the final budget.

Grassroots support of public schools makes all the difference. 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.