Tuesday, October 29, 2019

NPE Phyllis Bush Memorial Award - Applications now Available

by Donna Roof, NEIFPE

In 2011 Phyllis and I attended the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. Although retired for over 10 years, she still strongly believed in public schools and their teachers and students. Right then and there, she decided that she needed to take the energy from all of those public education advocates back to Indiana. Upon returning home, she gathered friends who also believed in public schools to form the grassroots group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), to fight against education reform and to bring back the joy of learning and teaching.

Phyllis’ advocacy for public schools, teachers, and students was known not only statewide but also nationally. She encouraged teachers, parents, and concerned citizens to Speak Up! and Speak Out! for public schools, the cornerstone of our democracy.

Do you have a grassroots group that is working to save public education? If so, then complete the Network for Public Education application for the NPE Phyllis Bush Memorial Award.

From the Network for Public Education (NPE):

Applications are now open for The Network for Public Education Phyllis Bush Memorial Award.


This annual award that includes a monetary prize is given to a grassroots group that best exemplifies the ideals of Phyllis Bush. We are looking for a grassroots group that has made a substantial difference in fighting the privatization of public education during 2019. The award will be given at our annual conference March 28 and 29 in Philadelphia. All applications are due by January 1, 2020. The winner of the award will be announced at the 2020 NPE conference.

The picture above shows Phyllis with Arizona SOS, the winners of the first annual Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots organization.


Monday, October 28, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Oct 28, 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.


Chicago Teacher Strike: Three Things To Remember

Perhaps you have a negative view of teachers going on strike. You may want to reconsider that. The Chicago Teachers Union is fighting to help students and public schools as much as they're fighting for their profession.

For more information see The Schools Chicago Students Deserve.

From Peter Greene in Forbes
“Put the concerns of children ahead of the concerns of adults,” has been one common refrain. Another was to emphasize that education was the solution to the problems of poverty.

Reformers have argued that teachers should take responsibility for the problems of childhood poverty–so now the teachers of Chicago are doing exactly that. Critics can say that common good contracts are an overreach, that teachers should stay in their lane and not try to run the city. But teachers have been told repeatedly that it’s up to them to look out for the children and to mitigate the problems of childhood poverty. Now, in Chicago, teachers are doing exactly that.


Her first year ‘felt like a losing battle’ — until this Indianapolis teacher earned her students’ trust

Note that this teacher had minimal resources and huge class sizes since IPS (and the state) spent money funding "innovation" schools for some, rather than fully funding the city's public schools for all.

From Chalkbeat*
In her first year of teaching, Makayla Imrie ate Goldfish crackers for lunch, battled a broken copier, and was on her feet all day in a classroom without working air conditioning.

But those weren’t the hardest parts of her job.

Her fifth-period class posed perhaps the greatest challenge, with 44 chatty seniors who filled every desk in her classroom.

“This has got to be some kind of joke,” Imrie thought to herself. “This is impossible.”


DeVos Sent Millions to Unaccredited Colleges

From Diane Ravitch
The Washington Post reported today that the Education Department spent millions for student aid at for-profit colleges that were ineligible to receive federal funding.

A trove of documents released Tuesday by the House Education and Labor Committee shows the Education Department provided $10.7 million in federal loans and grants to students at the Illinois Institute of Art and the Art Institute of Colorado even though officials knew the for-profit colleges were not accredited and ineligible to receive such aid.


IPS teachers could see raises as high as $9,400 under tentative contract deal

Well paid teachers means more stability for students. If this is approved, it's thanks to some really hard work on behalf of teachers (and students) by the union.

From Chalkbeat*
Mid-career teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools could get “catch up” raises as large as $9,400 if school board members approve a tentative contract for the next two years.

Teachers across the district would see substantial pay increases under the proposal, with the district’s starting salary for teachers rising to $45,200 this school year, according to a union official.

The sweeping raises are the result of a tax referendum approved by the voters last November — with the promise of higher teacher pay — that will inject about $27.5 million a year into the school system for the next eight years. The raises also mark a significant and potentially reinvigorating victory for the Indianapolis Education Association, a teachers union that has been weakened by scandal and the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools.


South Bend school leaders face prospect of closing buildings, including a high school

From the South Bend Tribune
With the budget projecting a loss of nearly $17 million next year, South Bend school leaders say drastic adjustments will have to be made across the district, including closing schools and asking city residents to approve additional tax support.

“I’m pretty sure you will have to look at closing a high school,” Budget Director Jenise Palmer told the school board during its Oct. 14 meeting.

School Board President John Anella later said “buildings have to be closed,” as the the district’s K-12 school buildings “were built for 23,000 to 24,000 students” and now only 16,000 are enrolled.

South Bend could embrace innovation schools with Purdue charter partnership

Hopefully South Bend decides not to be as foolish as IPS.

From Chalkbeat*
In the face of shrinking enrollment and academic problems, the South Bend school district is in talks to form innovation partnerships with at least two charter schools — including Purdue Polytechnic High School, now slated to open its first campus outside the state capital.

If South Bend begins creating innovation schools, it would be the third Indiana district to pursue the strategy, which can bring charter schools under the auspice of the traditional school system. The South Bend schools, which enroll almost 16,000 students, is facing challenges that mirror some of those in Indianapolis Public Schools. Enrollment shrank by nearly 700 students this year, part of a steady decline as families opt for charter, private, and neighboring district schools. In the spring, the district staved off the threat of state takeover at a chronically failing middle school.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Oct 21, 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.


Betsy DeVos Floods North Carolina with Charter Cash

From Diane Ravitch
Betsy DeVos just dropped $36 million on North Carolina to lure children out of their public schools and into charter schools. The state is not sure it can spend the money.

North Carolina will now have more than $36 million in federal funding to help increase enrollment in charter schools, particularly for children from low-income groups.


Schools were quick to downplay ILEARN results, but experts stand by the test. Here’s why.

The standardized test is still the most powerful tool in the pocket of Indiana's privatizers. For more on the validity of ILEARN see Stop the Misuse of Tests.

From Chalkbeat*
While school leaders and lawmakers were quick to reason away concerns over shockingly low ILEARN scores, some testing experts and state education leaders are standing by Indiana’s new exam.

Calls to shield schools and teachers from any negative consequences of the low ILEARN scores were swift, after it was revealed that only one-third of students in grades 3-8 passed both the math and English portions of the exam. But when detangled from the question of accountability, experts say the results provide a valid measure of what students know.

Low 2019 scores weren’t a sign of a faulty exam, said Ed Roeber, Michigan’s former testing director and a consultant on Indiana’s technical advisory committee for assessments, said. Rather, Roeber said, it’s a reflection of “what instruction is or is not taking place in our schools.”

“I’m not discouraged by low performance,” he said. “I think it could be a real rallying cry for Indiana schools to evaluate what they are teaching and what students are learning.”


Bill Phillis: Never Thought This Would Happen in America

From Diane Ravitch
The state is in the process of replacing elected school board members in Youngstown. The electors in Youngstown elected board members. These board members will be replaced via the HB 70 process.

The Youngstown Board of Education has not been in control of the district for several years. State control of the district has not resulted in improvement. Therefore, elected board members are being removed from office because the state’s improvement process has failed. Sounds logical.

Youngstown board members have not been convicted of any crimes which would be cause for removal from office. Their hands have been tied by HB 70.

Congress and some state legislatures across the nation have not demonstrated a stellar performance. Should those elected officials be replaced by some convoluted appointment process?


The Koch network says it wants to remake public education. That means destroying it, says the author of a new book on the billionaire brothers.

You can listen to the "Have You Heard" podcast about Kochland at:


From the Answer Sheet
Early this year, the Koch network committed to starting an effort to transform public education. What would that look like?

The author of a new book on the billionaire Charles Koch and his late brother, David, says it would amount to the destruction of public education as we know it.

The Koch network is the influential assemblage of groups funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and more than 600 wealthy individuals who share his pro-business, anti-regulation view of economics and positions on social policy, such as climate change denial.

The focus on K-12 education follows long involvement by the Koch brothers in higher education. As leaders of a conservative movement that believes U.S. higher education is controlled by liberals who indoctrinate young people, they spent as much as an estimated $100 million on programs at hundreds of colleges and universities that support their views.

Now the network says it is going to try to transform K-12 education, though the details are unclear. The Kochs and their allies have long supported the school choice movement — which seeks alternatives to traditional public school districts — as well as the use of public funds for private and religious school education, as does Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.


IPS teachers union membership declines after a year of turmoil

Unions provide a voice for teachers, and this allows teachers to speak up for their students. Let’s hope we see union membership rise.

From Chalkbeat*
The weakened state of the union reduces the influence of educators at a pivotal moment for the state’s largest district. With a new superintendent in place, Indianapolis Public Schools leaders will face decisions on whether to close schools, boost teacher pay, and expand partnerships with charter schools.


These Indiana districts are asking voters to approve a tax increase for more school funding

So sad that our legislators waste our tax dollars on voucher schools and privately run charter schools and force the public schools, the only constitutionally mandated schools in the state, to become beggars.

From Chalkbeat*
One Marion County district is among 10 in Indiana that will ask voters to approve a tax increase on Nov. 5 to supplement state funding for local schools.

Lawrence Township is seeking a construction referendum, which would generate an additional $191 million and is not subject to the property tax cap. The funds would be used to expand and renovate school buildings. This vote marks the first school referendum for Lawrence Township, adding it to the growing number of cash-strapped districts in Indiana that rely on appealing directly to residents.

More than 115 of the state’s nearly 300 districts have put at least one referendum on the ballot since 2009, and they have been increasingly successful in passing them, according to data from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.


Monday, October 14, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Oct 14, 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.


Racial Disparity in Student Discipline Isn’t All About Race

From Gadfly On The Wall Blog
Black students are suspended from school at substantially higher rates than white ones.

That’s indisputable.

When teachers send kids to the office, when principals issue detentions and suspensions, the faces of those students are disproportionately black or brown.

So what does that mean?

Are minority children more badly behaved than white ones?

Or is it an indication that our public schools are overrun with racist teachers and principals?

Those appear to be the only choices in Trump’s America.

There’s either something desperately wrong with children of color or the majority of white staff at public schools can’t handle them.

But the reality is far more complex, and no matter who you are, it will probably make you uncomfortable.

The problem is that there are variables the binary choice above doesn’t even begin to explain, and chief among them is child poverty.


Indiana's next governor will have a greater impact on public education than in the past. For the first time the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction will be an appointed position instead of elected.

Indiana's Governor will now have a much greater impact on education policy and the voters will have a lesser one. The Governor will not only appoint the State Superintendent, but also appoints seven of the remaining nine members of the State Board of Education (SBOE). The other two members are appointed by legislative leaders. In Indiana, this means that all members of the SBOE as well as the State Superintendent are appointed by the State's Republican supermajority.

Voters of Indiana no longer have any direct impact on education policy in Indiana. We will have to choose a Governor very carefully in order to protect public education.

Why a candidate for governor wants to end vouchers, even though it’s politically ‘not possible’

Look very carefully at this candidate’s past as you consider him.

From Chalkbeat*
One candidate vying for the Democratic nomination in Indiana’s governor’s race is seizing on the frustration of public school educators by proposing a plan so sweeping that even he acknowledges it isn’t politically viable.

In his education plan, released Thursday, candidate Josh Owens calls for raising teacher pay by dissolving the state’s voucher program, which now serves some 35,000 Indiana students. It’s one of many of his ideas that — like previous progressive proposals, including using the state’s $2 billion budget reserves to fund teacher pay initiatives — are unlikely to win the backing of the state’s Republican supermajority.

GOP schools chief Jennifer McCormick stands by Democrat Eddie Melton as he launches run for governor

It seems logical that the Superintendent of Public Instruction would be for the candidate who actually supports public schools.

From Chalkbeat
While touting bipartisanship, Republican State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick stood by Sen. Eddie Melton on Tuesday night as he announced his run for Democratic nomination for Indiana governor.

But her show of support for a potential opponent of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb also shows the strained relationship between McCormick and Holcomb’s administration.

“When I got into office I learned two things rather quickly,” she said while introducing Melton. “One, do not over-assume there is an appetite for bipartisan activity in Indiana. Secondly, I learned, do not underestimate the power of bipartisan activity when it is used in a positive manner.”


Betsy DeVos Breaks the Law by Continuing to Collect Debt from Students After Judge Told Her Not to

From Diane Ravitch
Will billionaire Betsy DeVos go to jail for defying the direct order of a judge?

In 2015, for-profit Corinthian Colleges went bankrupt after state attorney generals complained of fraud. Thousands of its former students were left in the lurch with a mountain of debt for a worthless “education.” After the company filed for bankruptcy protection, the federal department of education ruled that as many as 335,000 students might have their debts canceled, “under The Borrower Defense to Repayment program—an initiative started in 2016 to provide loan relief for students who had been defrauded by predatory schools.” This was during the Obama administration.

However, when DeVos became Secretary of Education, she limited the program of loan forgiveness and began to hound many of the students who had been defrauded. The applications of some 160,000 students for loan forgiveness were shelved. DeVos was ordered by Judge Sallie Kim to stop hounding students to repay student loans that should have been forgiven.

But, as we have seen before, Secretary DeVos has great sympathy for for-profit corporations and no sympathy for students who were defrauded.


K12 Inc. Welcomes Education Reform Leader to Executive Team

Missing from this puff piece about former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, is any mention of his charter school grade-fixing scandal. In 2013, Bennett resigned as Florida Education Commissioner when news came out that he changed grades for an Indiana charter school run by a powerful Republican political donor.

The author of this article refers to Bennett as "one of the nation's foremost experts in education policy." We find that description ironic given his history of cheating in favor of political donors.

From Olean Times Herald
A powerhouse in the education reform movement has joined K12 Inc., the nation’s leading provider of online curriculum and school programs for students in kindergarten through high school.

Dr. Charles A. “Tony” Bennett—who has more than three decades of experience in school management, strategic planning, and operations—has been named Senior Vice President, Academics and External Relations. As one of the nation’s foremost experts in education policy, he will manage and implement a diverse portfolio of initiatives and programs that support, measure, track and ultimately improve student academic achievement and growth across K12-powered schools.


Advantage, public schools

From School Matters
Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski challenged conventional wisdom when they published research that found public schools were better than private schools at boosting student achievement.

Five years later, their conclusions have been confirmed several times over – especially by studies of state voucher programs that provide public funding for students to attend private schools.


Andrea Gabor: To Succeed in Business, Major in the Liberal Arts

From Diane Ravitch
Andrea Gabor blows up the myth that the path to success in business requires a major in business or that there is a “skills gap” in STEM subjects.

If you want to succeed in business, she writes, major in the liberal arts.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Oct 7, 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.


A Teacher's Final Lesson

NEIFPE members remember our own Phyllis Bush as we read about this teacher's fight with "Cancer Schmantzer" and her parting words. We remember Phyllis’s call to stand up and fight for what we are passionate about. Don’t waste time on insignificant things...and don't give up.

From Curmudgucation
One positive outcome from having recurrent cancer was that it taught me to let go of the insignificant things and to just enjoy the people and places. After three recurrences, my body finally had enough and I passed away on Sunday, September 22, 2019 at the Cleveland Clinic.

I am extremely grateful for the life that I lived. I was fortunate to have a loving family, supportive friends, a stable and meaningful job, and a house to call my own. My wish for you is to stop letting insignificant situations stress you out. Do what is important to you. Relax and enjoy the company of those around you. What do you value in your life? In the end, that's what matters.

This obituary was written by Ashley preceding her passing as part of the many preparations to make the transition easier on her family.


Trump administration sides with Catholic school that fired gay teacher

The Catholic Church seems to be fine with accepting a religious tax exemption, and seems to be fine with accepting tax money through vouchers, but abiding by anti-discrimination laws is, apparently, a step too far.

From the Answer Sheet
The Trump administration is backing a Roman Catholic archbishop in Indiana who pushed a Catholic school to fire a gay teacher, saying in a legal document that the First Amendment protects the church’s right to make such decisions.


Teachers Are More Stressed Out Than You Probably Think

From Gadflyonthewall Blog
When I was just a new teacher, I remember my doctor asking me if I had a high stress job.

I said that I taught middle school, as if that answered his question. But he took it to mean that I had it easy. After all – as he put it – I just played with children all day.

Now after 16 years in the classroom and a series of chronic medical conditions including heart disease, Crohn’s Disease and a recent battle with shingles though I’m only in my 40s, he knows better.

Teaching is one of the most stressful jobs you can have.


A Good Teacher Is Not Like A Candle

From Curmudgucation
This is a close relative of the hero teacher myth, and it shares the notion that someone becomes a teacher out of some outsized level of nobility and self-sacrifice. And there are all sorts of problems with this baloney.

One is that, of course, someone who is teaching out of noble impulses of heroic self-sacrifice couldn't possibly be worried about making a living wage or having decent benefits. It's people who buy this sort of baloney who get all pearl-clutchy over teachers who want a decent contract, as if the desire to be able to support a family is sullying their noble calling, distracting from their "personal mission." This model becomes an excuse to take and take and take from teachers-- their money, their time, because, hey, you want to give your all to the kids, right?

More importantly, this is the kind of crap that saddles young teachers with a huge pile of guilt. Six years ago I wrote a piece that is still the most-read piece I've ever written.


Milwaukee School Board Votes to Restore Music Education in Every Public School!

From Diane Ravitch
A great victory for real education in Milwaukee, where the business community and politicians have been obsessed with “choice” for 30 years. From the FB page of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association.

This is a victory for students!

This is a victory for real education!


Boston: New Superintendent Reduces Testing Overload!

From Diane Ravitch
The new superintendent of the Boston Public Schools Brenda Casellius announced a reduction of district tests.

This does not affect the state-mandated tests, but it is a welcome acknowledgement that students need more instruction, not more testing.

School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has announced a moratorium on district-mandated standardized tests, according to a Sept. 19 memo to school leaders.

To read the memo, click here.


New Reports Confirm Persistent Child Poverty While Policymakers Blame Educators and Fail to Address Core Problem

Diane Ravitch comment, "Charters and Vouchers address none of these issues."

From Jan Resseger
The correlation of academic achievement with family income has been demonstrated now for half a century, but policymakers, like those in the Ohio legislature who are debating punitive school district takeovers, prefer to blame public school teachers and administrators instead of using the resources of government to assist struggling families who need better access to healthcare, quality childcare, better jobs, and food assistance.

Ohio’s school district grades arrived this week. At the same time, and with less fanfare, arrived a series of reports on the level of federal spending on children, reports documenting that, as Education Week‘s Andrew Uifusa explains: “The share of the federal budget that goes toward children, including education spending, dipped to just below 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2018—the lowest level in the decade.”

"No one is too small to make a difference." -- Greta Thunberg


What Greta Thunberg Told the UN Today

From Diane Ravitch
And a little child shall lead them.


Pennsylvania: Speaker of the House Berates Public Schools and Their Teachers, Praises Charters

Apparently "loving our public schools" is offensive to some. This Pennsylvania Representative, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, doesn't realize that supporting public schools is one of his jobs as a member of the Pennsylvania legislature...he needs to read the state Constitution.

From Diane Ravitch
Once again, we are reminded that charter schools are a Republican cause, and their champion is Betsy DeVos.

Mike Turzai, Republican Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, was on his way to a meeting with Betsy DeVos when he encountered some public school teachers, who were picketing with signs saying they loved their public schools.

Turzai found this deeply offensive, and he proceeded to lambaste the teachers as a “special interest group” defending a “monopoly.”