Monday, March 30, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Mar 30, 2020

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.


NEWS FROM FWCS

FWCS shifting to new measure of achievement

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools is investing in a new way to measure student progress.

Replacing two existing internal assessments with the Northwest Evaluation Association's MAP/Skills assessments will benefit teachers and parents, Superintendent Wendy Robinson told the school board this month.

“We can't rely on the state accountability, and we have to stop adding things that aren't aligned to our curriculum that won't help teachers with instruction,” Robinson said...

The school board March 9 approved the testing purchase at a cost of $235,986, which will be paid from the 2019-20 formative assessment grant awarded by the Indiana Department of Education. The licenses are for reading/language arts and math, according to documents provided to the board.

FWCS teachers will continue to receive paychecks

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Members unanimously endorsed a resolution authorizing Superintendent Wendy Robinson to carry out actions necessary for the safety and well-being of the FWCS community during the unprecedented school closure. This includes – but isn't limited to – authorizing continued paychecks.

Robinson commended the board for its support. Some FWCS employees work multiple jobs and have lost their other sources of income, she said.

“It was the right thing to do,” Robinson said.

Anne Duff, board secretary, called it an “easy decision.” Board President Julie Hollingsworth agreed, describing it as “very easy.”


FWCS approves pandemic preparedness measures

From WANE.com
The Fort Wayne Community Schools Board of School Trustees approved a resolution granting the Superintendent and/or her designee to carry out any action deemed necessary for the safety and well-being of the school community during the closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to, authorizing the continued payment of employees.

SCHOOL CLOSURES DISRUPT SPECIAL NEEDS SERVICES

‘I don’t have a clue what to do’: What Indiana’s coronavirus school closures mean for special education

From Chalkbeat*
Katie Vescelus has resigned herself to the idea that, with schools closed statewide in response to the coronavirus outbreak, her son, Matthias, will likely fall behind his fifth-grade peers. For Matthias, who is blind, working remotely means relying on technology his parents aren’t very familiar with and losing some critical real-time help from his teacher.

Schools in Indiana are closed until at least May 1, and campuses may shut down through the end of the school year amid the global pandemic. While some schools could cancel classes altogether, the push toward teaching students remotely leaves educators trying to figure out how to best serve students from afar.

School closures place a burden on families and raise concerns for all students’ academic progress. But the closure creates a particularly difficult challenge for the more than 173,000 students in Indiana who receive special education services, ranging from extra time on exams to one-on-one classroom aides.


PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE VITAL

Stephen Sawchuk: This Was the Week We Learned How Vital Our Public Schools Are

From Diane Ravitch
This is one of the best articles I have ever read in Education Week. It is not an opinion piece. It is a news article by veteran journalist Stephen Sawchuk.

He begins:

This was the week that American schools across the country closed their doors.

It was the week that our public schools—often dismissed as mediocre, inequitable, or bureaucratic—showed just how much they mean to American society by their very absence.

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

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, March 23, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Mar 23, 2020

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.


STUDENTS NEED TEACHERS

Nancy Bailey: Online Learning Can Never Replace Human Teachers

Diane Ravitch comments on Nancy Bailey's post titled Disaster Capitalism, Online Instruction, and What Covid-19 Is Teaching Us About Public Schools and Teachers

From Diane Ravitch
Online learning can never adequately replace public schools and teachers. In such a desperate time, closing public schools due to this pandemic is showing Americans how reliant we are upon those schools to fulfill, not just an educational purpose, but the real social and emotional needs of children and families.

We’re left with stark revelations about this country’s shortcomings, while at the same time we witness the heroism of teachers and staff who care for all children at this dark time. It is that caring and love that have always been the hallmark of what teaching and public schools have been all about. It is and will continue to be what saves public education and the teaching profession.

This crisis will not throw students into a future of nothing but online learning. It will instead remind parents and students of how much their public schools and teachers mean to them.

LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS PROTECT EMPLOYEES

EACS staff to be paid in shutdown: Board unanimous in approval of resolution

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
A few East Allen County Schools employees waited for a text from Superintendent Marilyn Hissong on Tuesday night, eager to know the outcome of the school board meeting.

Their curiosity was understandable. The agenda included action on a resolution addressing payment during a pandemic-related emergency closure.

They needn't have worried about the board's vote. The seven board members readily endorsed the item, which authorized wage payments to employees – salaried and non-salaried – who are instructed not to report to or perform work at the direction of the superintendent.


TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN

It's Okay. You Don't Have To Homeschool.

Maybe schools and teachers and parents should take a reasonable approach during the current school closures!

From Curmudgucation
Like most teachers, I've had those student requests. End of the period, usually, they stop by the desk, usually looking downhearted. "Could I have the assignments for the next week or so," they ask. And then the cause. Death of a relative. Family emergency. A non-elective operation. A family tragedy. Some sort of unavoidable crisis that would take them away from school.

My answer was usually something along the lines of, "Just worry about taking care of yourself. We can sort out the work when you get back." On the occasions when the absence might cause extra falling-behind stress, I would offer some general direction ("We're going to be finishing the novel, wrapping up the rough draft, working in groups for the project"), but always with the same caveat-- take care of yourself first.

TIME TO CANCEL THE TESTS

Washington State: All Standardized Tests Canceled for Students for Spring 2020

From Diane Ravitch
As of March 13, state assessments are canceled statewide for the remainder of the 2020 school year. These include: Smarter Balanced Assessments (English Language Arts and Math) for grades 3–8 and 10; Washington Access to Instruction and Measurement (WA-AIM) English Language Arts and Math for grades 3–8 and 10; English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA21); Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science for grades 5, 8, and 11; Washington Access to Instruction and Measurement (WA-AIM) Science for grades 5, 8, and 11; WIDA Alternate ACCESS for English learners; and WaKIDS for Transitional Kindergarten.


CDC GUIDELINES FOR ADMINISTRATORS AND SCHOOLS

Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs

This is a good place to reference often as information changes. How should schools handle the coronavirus pandemic?

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Who is this guidance for?
Why is this guidance being issued?
What is the role of schools in responding to COVID-19?
How should schools prepare for, and respond to, COVID-19?
When a confirmed case has entered a school, regardless of community transmission
When there is no community transmission (preparedness phase)
When there is minimal to moderate community transmission
When there is substantial community transmission

CORRECTIONS

My Failed Effort to Correct News about the CDC’s Advice to Schools

Diane attempts to correct some misunderstandings.

From Diane Ravitch
As soon as I saw Laura’s comment, I read the CDC guidance and promptly posted the full CDC guidance.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Coping in the time of COVID

NEIFPE member Stu Bloom wrote this op-ed for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about the importance of face-to-face education and teacher-student relationships.

Coping in the time of COVID: Crisis helps reaffirm the central role teachers, schools play in our public life

Friday, March 20, 2020

Naomi Klein, in her book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” described how natural and man-made disasters open the door to privatization. During the COVID-19 disaster, we must ensure that doesn't happen to public education.

Schools have been starved over the past few decades. The underfunding of public education has opened up schools to vulnerability under the Shock Doctrine.

“When it comes to paying contractors, the sky is the limit; when it comes to financing the basic functions of the state, the coffers are empty,” Klein writes.

The education technology industry is ready to dump its items on schools (for a price, of course), especially now that many schools have closed and are using technology to connect with their students. Teachers, students and parents should all remember, however, that computers, phones, iPads and similar digital devices are tools, not ends in themselves. No digital tool can replace the human-to-human interaction of a teacher-student relationship.

“(It's) an assertion that rests on the assumption that ed-tech is good, that it can replicate at home what happens in the classroom,” writes Audrey Watters in her Hack Education Weekly Newsletter. “ 'This may be our moment,' ed-tech folks exclaim, giddily sharing lists of their favorite digital learning tools (with little concern, it seems for questions of accessibility, privacy, or security) and tips for quickly moving 'to the cloud.' Of course, education technology – as a field, an industry, a discipline, a solution, what have you – has had decades and decades and decades to get this right. It still hasn't.”

As of this writing, schools are closed for more than half of America's children. But public schools, and public schoolteachers, are about more than academics.

Teachers care about their students. Friends of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may think teachers are only in it for the money, but public schoolteachers care about the whole child. Teachers are first responders when it comes to taking care of the nation's children.

Schools feed and house (and sometimes clothe) students every day. Those students who have little or no home resources will suffer most from the lack of open school buildings.

“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare something that educators have always known,” writes Glenda Cohen at “We Are Teachers.” “Schools, side by side with hospitals, are the most important institutions in our country's social safety net. Of course, we've said this since the era of school shootings, where teachers have placed their bodies (literally) in front of students to keep them safe.

“But the coronavirus pandemic has put this into even sharper focus, as we grapple with the domino effects of closing entire school districts for prolonged periods at a time. Some public schools will be closed anywhere from a day to a month.”

Cohen writes that coronavirus has highlighted four important things about our nation's schools:
  • Schools are key to keeping the economy running.
  • Schools provide respite housing for homeless students during daytime hours.
  • Schools help to prevent large-scale child hunger every day.
  • Schools are the primary source of public health information for many families.
Nancy Flanagan, who blogs at “Teacher in a Strange Land,” notes schools and teachers have stepped up.

“Teachers are like those firefighters in Kirkland, Washington, who came to transport extremely ill nursing home residents to the hospital, without gloves and masks. Just doing our jobs, just following directions,” Flanagan writes.

“Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of teachers who organized take-home packets and figured out how to get coursework online, even if they didn't have a clue about how to do it before last week. And thank you to those who pointed out, with considerable asperity, how incredibly inequitable virtual instruction will be, but went ahead and made plans to do it anyway. Thanks to all who sent home food or arranged for food pickup – or even made a single call to a single household, to make sure an adult was home.

“Nobody knows how to do this well. Nobody. But schools and teachers are still trying.”

Stu Bloom is a retired teacher and a member of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.


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Monday, March 16, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Mar 16, 2020

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.


TESTING IS A WASTE OF TIME

Time to cancel state tests

With all the school that will be missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing our students need is to come back to school and waste their time taking standardized tests. It is an easy call...cancel Indiana's tests.

From School Matters
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick and the Indiana Department of Education are calling for standardized tests to be canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak that is closing schools across the state. It’s not an easy call, but it’s the right one.

The department asked Friday for schools to be excused from state and federal requirements for standardized assessments for the 2019-20 school year. The requests go to Gov. Eric Holcomb and to the U.S. Department of Education.

Indiana has yet to make the choice for children

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Our students aren't numbers, statistics to be categorized for government reports. Education can't be measured by blanket questions that only serve as checks in the boxes for self-serving policy makers. Every student walks the path of knowledge in their own unique way; we should encourage them to embark on this journey rather than force them all on the same road.

Standardized testing such as ILEARN/ISTEP acts against this very idea. The current government believes that questions created by an analytical construct are more indicative of student success than trusting educators to do their job.

Indiana staggers behind in education, failing our students, our teachers and our community. As a community, we must work together to forge a future our next generation can be proud of. A future where the teachers have decent wages, a future so bright no student is left in the dark, and a future where our administration is reflective of the society they come from. The promise of an education system that guarantees equal opportunity for every child.


RED FOR ED

Teachers plan walk-in protest for lawmakers

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
“While some of the lawmakers did listen to public school supporters and some positive changes were made, there is still work to be done,” the union leaders said. “We hope this walk-in will remind lawmakers that we are not giving up and still expect more for our Indiana public schools!”

AFTER SCANDAL CHARTERS GET LEGISLATIVE REWARD

Unaccountable: Amid scandal, lawmakers still favor charter schools

Instead of strengthening the oversight of charter schools, the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly decided to reward charters with the chance to grab more dollars from real public schools.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The biggest public spending scandal in the state's history came to light in a State Board of Accounts report halfway through the current legislative session. As much as $85 million was misspent by online charter school operators funneling taxpayer funds to connected companies, including $65 million collected for students who were not enrolled in the schools. The investigation has been turned over to federal authorities.

If you expected lawmakers would scramble to tighten spending rules and oversight of your tax dollars in the wake of this mess – think again. The Republican supermajority not only rejected attempts to hold virtual charter schools more accountable, it's now ramming through a last-minute measure to allow charter schools a cut of property taxes from referendums conducted by traditional public schools. Gov. Eric Holcomb, through a tie-breaking vote cast by his lieutenant governor, chose to stand with charter schools and against 291 public school districts.



DEVOS -- STILL UNFIT

DeVos Defends Trump’s Education Budget. Will Democrats Stick to Promises for Something Better?

This is who the current administration thinks is qualified to lead America's public schools. It's definitely time for a replacement. Remember in November.

...a must read.

From Jan Resseger
DeVos’s recent Congressional appearances have featured her standard rhetoric trashing public schools. She claims that federal spending has skyrocketed but student achievement, as measured by test scores, has not increased over the decades. Richard Rothstein addressed this myth in a 2011 brief for the Economic Policy Institute: “When properly adjusted for inflation, K-12 per pupil spending has about doubled over the last four decades, but less than half of this new money has gone to regular education (including compensatory education for disadvantaged children, programs for English-language learners, integration programs like magnet schools, and special schools for dropout recovery and prevention). The biggest single recipient of new money has been special education for children with disabilities. Four decades ago, special education consumed less than 4% of all K-12 spending. It now consumes 21%… American public education can boast of remarkable accomplishments in special education over this period. Many young people can now function in society whereas, in the past, children with similar disabilities were institutionalized and discarded. But it is not reasonable to complain about the increase in spending on such children by insisting that it should have produced greater improvement in the achievement of regular children. The increase in regular education spending has still been substantial… But in light of the actual achievement improvements documented by NAEP, it is not reasonable to jump to the facile conclusion of a productivity collapse in K-12 education. A more reasonable story is that spending has increased and achievement has increased as well. Perhaps we have gotten what we paid for.” Federal programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act were launched as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. These programs were designed to address the needs of groups of children historically left out and underserved.

Valerie Strauss: Betsy DeVos’s Pathetic Lies

From Diane Ravitch
Valerie Strauss wrote a stunning dissection of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s lies to Congress in her recent testimony.

Was she lying because of ignorance or a desire to mislead the public? She lied about charter wait lists, about progress over time on NAEP scores, and about the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program, which spends $440 million to launch new charters, entirely at DeVos’ discretion.


**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #345 – March 9, 2020

Dear Friends,

Are you still riled up about the end-of-session legislative sneak attack to divert property tax referendum money from traditional public schools to charter schools?

Please contact legislators in the next 24 hours about House Bill 1065 and House Bill 1066. Nothing was resolved this morning in Conference Committee meetings on these two bills.

Legislators will make decisions on these two bills tonight and tomorrow, before finalizing all bills and adjourning Wednesday evening. Your help is immensely important! If you sent messages over the weekend, send them again with vigor!

ISSUE 1: DIVERTING PROPERTY TAX REFERENDUM MONEY TO CHARTER SCHOOLS – HB 1065

This sneak attack on funding comes when public schools are focused not on legislative cliff hangers but on keeping students and staff safe in the coronavirus crisis.

This proposal should be dismissed until next year when it can get public testimony. Legislative leaders need to hear an earful from public school advocates in the next 24 hours to counter the abundance of paid charter school and private school lobbyists working the Statehouse.

In this morning’s Conference Committee on HB 1065, after Representative Thompson summarized the list of provisions that are likely to end up in his Conference Committee report, six Democrats spoke up strongly against the provision to divert property tax money to charter schools. One Republican defended the proposal. The meeting lasted 25 minutes.

Representative DeLaney (D – Indianapolis) pointed out that making this a “may” provision means that every time a public school board wants to propose a referendum to boost operating funds, they must immediately start negotiating with charter schools regarding the amount of the charter portion or else the charter schools will work to defeat the referendum.

Representative Pryor (D- Indianapolis) explained that including charter schools will raise the amount of property tax that will be requested from taxpayers. If for example the local school board needs $10 million from the property taxpayers, they will perhaps have to ask for $11 million to satisfy the charter school requests.

Talking Points

Your help is needed! Tell the leadership and members of the Conference Committee on HB 1065 listed below that you strongly oppose Sections 31-39 of the bill based on these points:
  • This major change to the content of HB 1065 was passed without any opportunity for public testimony. This subverts the democratic process. It should be deferred to the budget session next year.
  • The shocking and unbelievable response to the horrible $68 million virtual school fraud scandal so far has been this: leave weak audits for charter schools in place and then divert property tax dollars from traditional public schools to unmonitored charter school budgets in a new way. There’s something deeply wrong here.
  • This issue will guide the votes of angry educators next November.
  • Charter schools often enroll students from outside the district. Allowing charter schools to receive referendum dollars from district taxpayers who don’t want to support out-of-district students may make referendum elections more difficult to pass.
  • In addition to tuition support from the funding formula, charter schools already get $750 per ADM that traditional schools don’t get to cover operating expenses.
  • Not one single public school asked for this language. Suggestions that this is being done to give public schools more “freedom” are misleading.
  • There is zero evidence that allowing charter schools access to referendum funds would make the referendum more likely to pass.
  • HB 1065 in Sections 37-39 also proposes TIF districts, originally devised to help distressed areas, to be expanded to residential housing developments, further eroding the property tax levies available to support public schools, libraries and other taxing units. The 935 TIF districts in Indiana already capture $30 billion in Assessed Value which supports TIF projects and not public schools or other governmental units.
Take Action!

In addition to your own Senator and House member, please contact the caucus leaders Sen. Bray-R (s37@iga.in.gov) Sen. Lanane-D (s25@iga.in.gov) Rep. Huston-R (h37@iga.in.gov) Rep. Bosma-R (h88@iga.in.gov) Rep. GiaQuinta-D) (h80@iga.in.gov).

Then contact members of the Conference Committee on HB 1605 to object to this sneak attack to divert property tax money from traditional public schools to charter schools:

Conferees to contact on HB 1065: Rep. Thompson-R (chair) (h28@iga.in.gov), Rep. Porter –D (h96@iga.in.gov) , Sen. Holdman (s19@iga.in.gov), Sen. Melton (s3@iga.in.gov)

Advisors to contact on HB 1065: Rep. Tim Brown-R (h41@iga.in.gov) Rep. Mayfield – R (h60@iga.in.gov), Rep. Cherry (h53@iga.in.gov), Rep. Jordan (h17@iga.in.gov), Rep. DeLaney-D (h86@iga.in.gov), Rep. Hamilton – D (h87@iga.in.gov), Rep. Pierce – D (h61@iga.in.gov), Rep. Pryor –D (h94@iga.in.gov), Sen. Bohacek – R (s8@iga.in.gov), Sen. Rogers –R (s11@iga.in.gov) Sen. Niezgodski –R (s10@iga.in.gov)

ISSUE TWO: REJECT VOUCHER EXPANSION IN HOUSE BILL 1066

The Conference Committee on House Bill 1066 also met Monday morning March 9th and did not mention anything about the private school voucher expansion that had been approved in the House version but taken out in the Senate version. The House included voucher expansion costing, according to the Legislative Services Agency, between $6 million and $12 million to provide private school vouchers for foster students and their foster family siblings. Senator Mishler, in the Senate Appropriations Committee, took out the voucher expansion, saying he didn’t want to open the budget for this purpose when many other requests to open the budget were rejected.

The fact that this part of the bill was not mentioned this morning does not mean it’s off the table. Let the legislators below know that the budget should not be opened for school voucher expansion, especially when it was not opened to address the huge issue of teacher pay!

Conferees to contact on HB 1066: Rep. Thompson-R (chair) (h28@iga.in.gov), Rep. Vernon Smith –D (h14@iga.in.gov), Sen. Raatz-R (s27@iga.in.gov), Sen. Stoops-D (s40@iga.in.gov)

Advisors to contact on HB 1066: Rep. Behning-R (h91@iga.in.gov) Rep. Bacon – R (h75@iga.in.gov), Rep. DeLaney-D (h86@iga.in.gov), Rep. Klinker – D (h27@iga.in.gov), Rep. Pfaff – D (h43@iga.in.gov), Sen. Buchanan – R (s7@iga.in.gov), Sen. Melton- D (S3@iga.in.gov)

Any contacts you can make with lawmakers in the next 24 hours on these two issues will help public education!

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is representing ICPE extremely well in the 2020 short 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 www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org 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 of 2018, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Mar 9, 2020

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.


MORE MONEY FOR CHARTERS AND VOUCHERS...TEACHERS, NOT SO MUCH

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #344 – March 7, 2020

If it's after 9 AM on March 9 when you read this, it's probably too late to have an impact on the legislation that this edition of Vic's Statehouse Notes covers. However, It's still worth it for you to read what the Republican led Indiana legislature has done. (If, by chance you're reading this before 9 AM on March 9, click the link and write to the legislators noted in the article.)

The Governor and his allies in the Republican supermajority-based houses of the Indiana General Assembly have made it clear that the Red for Ed rally in November didn't convince them that teachers actually needed more money for themselves or their schools. The matter, according to the Governor, is still being studied. According to the Republican leadership in the legislature, 2020 isn't a budget year so spending more money on public schools or teachers is inappropriate...best wait for next year when the entire state budget is examined.

On the other hand, they didn't hesitate to authorize more money for charter schools and vouchers!

1. They sneaked in an amendment that allows charters to grab a share of public school money acquired through referenda on the same day they refused to allow state audits of charters.

2. More money for vouchers!

From the Indiana Coalition for Public Education
With fall elections looming, Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Holcomb had tried to muzzle attacks on traditional public schools this session to keep from riling up the thousands of educators who marched on the Statehouse last November. Their muzzling act has now failed. Educators are riled and you should be too if you are an advocate of public education.

What did Amendment 6 do? It allowed charter schools for the first time to get a share of property tax referendum money when local school boards ask property taxpayers to raise taxes. This bad idea to divert some of the referendum money from traditional public schools to charters was defeated last session but has been raised again in this sneak attack as a “may” provision, seen as a step to next session’s effort to make it a “shall” provision.

The huge policy shift of this amendment was recognized by 16 Republican senators who voted “No.” The vote ended in a tie, 25-25. Lt. Governor Crouch vote “Yes” and the amendment passed, thus linking Governor Holcomb to the ire of public education advocates, just when he was trying to smooth things over for the election.

Ironically, this amendment to divert more money to charter schools was passed on the same afternoon that a different amendment failed saying charter schools should have state audits to prevent the $68 million fraud case in virtual charter schools from ever happening again. The effort to reform charter school audits went down 20-30."

No More Middle Ground: At this point, you are either for public education, or you are against it

Indianapolis teacher Shane Phipps also expresses anger at the legislature's actions. His apt description of giving the right of charters to suck up more public funding, this time from referenda sponsored by public schools, is villianous...a perfect choice of words.

From Inside Education with Shane Phipps
It’s hard to think of a more villainous move than the state stealing from the funds that desperate school corporations have to go begging for because the state is starving them of funding. If school districts were properly funded in the first place, there would be no need for any referendums. But in order to stay afloat, many districts have done the incredibly difficult work to get the extra money they need from their communities who are so generous to give a little extra for the cause of public education. And now you see your elected officials trying to rob public schools of even those funds. It makes me shiver to thing what might be coming next.


Indiana lawmakers open a door for charter schools to share referendum funds

Chalkbeat discusses the issue here.

If you are not outraged about this, you are either not paying attention or you don’t care about the children and the public schools in your community. You also don’t care about your tax dollars being wasted.

From Chalkbeat*
But Democrats raised concerns that the proposal would set lawmakers up to later tweak the law to be a requirement to share referendum funds rather than an option. They worried the provision would take funding away from traditional public school districts, which are increasingly relying on referendums that can help pay for teacher salaries, building renovations, and day-to-day operations.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Senator paid by maligned school: Virtual School facing accusations of fraud

An Indiana State Senator, Travis Holdman, had a business arrangement with charter schools (until the schools were caught defrauding the state, then he quickly severed his ties). That same senator is among the people in the state (the Indiana General Assembly) who are responsible for funding those same charter schools.

Isn't it time to vote for public education? Isn't it time to rid the legislature of people who care more for their own re-election and profits than they do our children.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
A state senator with a legal practice and consulting business was paid between 2011 and 2019 by a virtual charter school now accused of defrauding taxpayers of $68 million.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, ended his contract with Indiana Virtual School last year as allegations of malfeasance arose.

It is unclear how much Holdman made from his contract because the school is shuttered. Attempts to reach the founder, superintendent and attorney for the school were unsuccessful Monday. Holdman declined to say how much he was paid but considered it a small account.


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

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #344 – March 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

Your help is needed this weekend on two issues. Please contact legislators on two Conference Committees before 9am this Monday morning (March 9).

ISSUE 1: DIVERTING PROPERTY TAX REFERENDUM MONEY TO CHARTER SCHOOLS

It was a sneak attack against funding for traditional public schools.

Amendment 6 to House Bill 1065 was filed Monday morning March 2nd just minutes before the filing deadline for consideration this session.

Amendment 6 to House Bill 1065 was filed after all committees had stopped meeting, circumventing all opportunities for public testimony.

With fall elections looming, Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Holcomb had tried to muzzle attacks on traditional public schools this session to keep from riling up the thousands of educators who marched on the Statehouse last November. Their muzzling act has now failed. Educators are riled and you should be too if you are an advocate of public education.

What did Amendment 6 do? It allowed charter schools for the first time to get a share of property tax referendum money when local school boards ask property taxpayers to raise taxes. This bad idea to divert some of the referendum money from traditional public schools to charters was defeated last session but has been raised again in this sneak attack as a “may” provision, seen as a step to next session’s effort to make it a “shall” provision.

The huge policy shift of this amendment was recognized by 16 Republican senators who voted “No.” The vote ended in a tie, 25-25. Lt. Governor Crouch vote “Yes” and the amendment passed, thus linking Governor Holcomb to the ire of public education advocates, just when he was trying to smooth things over for the election.

Ironically, this amendment to divert more money to charter schools was passed on the same afternoon that a different amendment failed saying charter schools should have state audits to prevent the $68 million fraud case in virtual charter schools from ever happening again. The effort to reform charter school audits went down 20-30.

Thus the shocking and unbelievable Senate response last Monday to the horrible $68 million virtual school fraud scandal was this: leave weak audits for charter schools in place and then divert property tax dollars from traditional public schools to charter schools in a new way.

Voters need to remember these actions and inactions in November.

Amazingly, the only Democrat to vote in favor came from Senator Tallian, who has since said it was a mistake. She is no doubt hoping as public school advocates are hoping that this provision, Sections 31-36, will die in the Conference Committee on HB 1065, which will meet on Monday, March 9, at 9:00 am to reconcile the House version and the Senate version of House Bill 1065.

Talking Points

Your help is needed! Contact the members of the Conference Committee on HB 1065 listed below with some or all of the following talking points:
  • This major change to the content of HB 1065 was passed without any opportunity for public testimony. This subverts the democratic process. It should be deferred to the budget session next year.
  • Charter schools often enroll students from outside the district. Allowing charter schools to receive referendum dollars from district taxpayers who don’t want to support out-of-district students may make referendum elections more difficult to pass.
  • In addition to tuition support from the funding formula, charter schools already get $750 per ADM that traditional schools don’t get to cover operating expenses.
  • Not one single public school asked for this language. Suggestions that this is being done to give public schools more “freedom” are misleading.
  • There is zero evidence that allowing charter schools access to referendum funds would make the referendum more likely to pass.
  • HB 1065 in Sections 37-39 also proposes TIF districts, originally devised to help distressed areas, to be expanded to residential housing developments, further eroding the property tax levies available to support public schools, libraries and other taxing units. The 935 TIF districts in Indiana already capture $30 billion in Assessed Value which supports TIF projects and not public schools or other governmental units.
Take Action!

In addition to your own Senator and House member, please contact the caucus leaders Sen. Bray-R (s37@iga.in.gov) Sen. Lanane-D (s25@iga.in.gov) Rep. Huston-R (h37@iga.in.gov) Rep. Bosma-R (h88@iga.in.gov) Rep. GiaQuinta-D) (h80@iga.in.gov).

Then contact members of the Conference Committee on HB 1605 to object to this sneak attack to divert property tax money from traditional public schools to charter schools:

Conferees to contact on HB 1065: Rep. Thompson-R (chair) (h28@iga.in.gov), Rep. Porter –D (h96@iga.in.gov) , Sen. Holdman (s19@iga.in.gov), Sen. Melton (s3@iga.in.gov)

Advisors to contact on HB 1065: Rep. Tim Brown-R (h41@iga.in.gov) Rep. Mayfield – R (h60@iga.in.gov), Rep. Cherry (h53@iga.in.gov), Rep. Jordan (h17@iga.in.gov), Rep. DeLaney-D (h86@iga.in.gov), Rep. Hamilton – D (h87@iga.in.gov), Rep. Pierce – D (h61@iga.in.gov), Rep. Pryor –D (h94@iga.in.gov), Sen. Bohacek – R (s8@iga.in.gov), Sen. Rogers –R (s11@iga.in.gov) Sen. Niezgodski –R (s10@iga.in.gov)


ISSUE TWO: REJECT VOUCHER EXPANSION IN HOUSE BILL 1066

Also meeting Monday morning March 9th at 9:30am is the Conference Committee on HB 1066. The House included voucher expansion costing, according to the Legislative Services Agency, between $6 million and $12 million to provide private school vouchers for foster students and their foster family siblings. Senator Mishler, in the Senate Appropriations Committee, took out the voucher expansion, saying he didn’t want to open the budget for this purpose when many other requests to open the budget were rejected.

Now the two versions of HB 1066 will be reconciled by the Conferees listed below. Let them know that the budget should not be opened for school voucher expansion, especially when it was not opened to address the huge issue of teacher pay!

Conferees to contact on HB 1066: Rep. Thompson-R (chair) (h28@iga.in.gov), Rep. Vernon Smith –D (h14@iga.in.gov) , Sen. Raatz-R (s27@iga.in.gov), Sen. Stoops-D (s40@iga.in.gov)

Advisors to contact on HB 1066: Rep. Behning-R (h91@iga.in.gov) Rep. Bacon – R (h75@iga.in.gov), Rep. DeLaney-D (h86@iga.in.gov), Rep. Klinker – D (h27@iga.in.gov), Rep. Pfaff – D (h43@iga.in.gov), Sen. Buchanan – R (s7@iga.in.gov), Sen. Melton- D (S3@iga.in.gov)


Any and all messages you can send to lawmakers this weekend on either issue will help public education.

Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is representing ICPE extremely well in the 2020 short 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 www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org 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 of 2018, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Mar 2, 2020

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.

PURDUE'S "FIRST YEAR FREE" BAD FOR EVERYONE

Professor: Purdue's 'first year free' plan bad for students, bad for the university

A free year of college sounds pretty good until you hear who is teaching it...

From the Journal & Courier Online
While this is the official description of “Fast Start,” what Klinsky and President Daniels actually announced on Feb. 18 is this: Klinsky and Sherry are paying Purdue $1 million dollars so that Purdue can pay the College Board $1 million dollars to cover Indiana high school student CLEP exams. And they will be receiving their freshman year at Purdue for free not from Purdue professors but instead from those Klinsky has chosen.


NEW VIRTUAL CHARTER, SAME FACES

Indiana: Key Employees of Failed Online Charter Join New Online Charter

From Diane Ravitch
Last year, two large online charter schools collapsed in Indiana at a cost of $86 million.

Now a new online charter has opened and hired some key employees of those that defrauded they public.

Last summer, as two large Indiana virtual charter schools collapsed under the weight of fraud allegations, a small new online program made its debut.

Indian Creek Online Academy was launched by a 2,000-student district south of Indianapolis experimenting with new ways of reaching students.


INDIANA LEGISLATORS TRY TO PASS BLAME ON TO IDOE

How the state missed thousands of ‘ghost’ students at two Indiana virtual schools

IDOE is not to blame here.

From Chalkbeat*
An alleged $86 million education scam has exposed a troubling weak spot in Indiana: For years, two virtual charter schools appear to have duped the state’s school funding system.

How did the thousands of “ghost” students go undetected by the Indiana Department of Education — the gatekeeper of student counts and school funding — leading Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy to draw millions more in state dollars than they should have?

In a memo sent to state lawmakers this week, the IDOE said it “takes all measures available from a data validation standpoint to ensure schools are not being improperly funded.” The department runs some 70 rounds of checks on enrollment counts used for funding, including steps to clean up data and verify that students aren’t being claimed by more than one district.

INDIANA SUPERINTENDENT MCCORMICK..."WE ARE WHO WE VOTE FOR"

Ed chief leery of new laws

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
“We're staring at 2,200 new laws just for K-12,” McCormick told the partially filled auditorium. “I encourage you to share with your legislators, 'Just take your foot off the accelerator for a minute.'”

She repeatedly said, “we are who we vote for,” and applauded the more than 30 teachers running for state office.

She also noted a troubling statistic: 35% of teachers will leave the profession within their first five years. The turnover comes with high costs and can be a nightmare for administrators trying to fill the positions as well as for the teachers who taught beside those who left.

“When a good teacher walks out, you feel it every day,” McCormick said. “It takes a toll on everyone.”


INDIANA LEGISLATORS REJECT PILOT PROGRAM

Indiana lawmakers scrap plan to let schools count high school equivalency as a diploma

Just another way our legislators show they don’t care about Hoosier students. Guess they’d rather waste millions of dollars on fraud that lines pockets instead of a pilot that would have cost the taxpayers nothing and could have made a positive difference in the lives of Hoosiers.

From Chalkbeat*
A panel of Indiana lawmakers walked back a potential pilot program for high schools Monday after concerns were raised about allowing students who don’t receive a diploma to graduate.

The pilot would have allowed seniors behind on credits to be counted as graduates if they pass a high school equivalency exam and take steps toward career training.

It would have been a big change since students who earn their equivalency, Indiana’s version of the GED, are currently considered dropouts. The idea passed through the Senate earlier this month, but the House education committee changed the proposal Monday to no longer affect schools’ graduation rates.


PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

Those Third-Grade Punishment Laws

From Live Long and Prosper
Not all children are the same and we shouldn't expect them to be. We don't expect all third graders to be the same height by the end of the school year. Why should we expect them to be at the same reading skill level?

Why is it only reading "grade level" that triggers retention? What about math "grade level" or music "grade level" or physical education "grade level" or behavior "grade level?"

And what if we retain a child in third grade and he still can't read at "grade level" after a second year? Do we retain him again? How many times?

...There are external forces in children's lives that have an impact on school achievement. Teachers have no control over things like a child's food or housing insecurity. Teachers can't be held responsible for a child's lack of health insurance or lack of medical/dental care, Teachers can't control the environmental pollutants in a child's neighborhood.

ACCOUNTABILITY

The gift of school accountability

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Editor's note: The following are remarks delivered by Indiana Superintendent of the Year Phil Downs at the Feb. 17 public education rally at the Indiana Statehouse.

Read more about the impact of private-school vouchers on public school funding at his website, drphildowns.com...

Public schools are held accountable for every penny that comes across our desks. We are held accountable for every penny budgeted, and we are held accountable for every penny spent. Every. Penny. This financial oversight is a gift to us and to our taxpayers.

Accountability is a gift that helps us all make the right decisions. Accountability is also why some school districts have been taken over by the state.

And accountability is why we now know that virtual charter schools have ripped off the taxpayers of Indiana to the tune of at least $68 million.

This year, Indiana is projected to take $168 million from the already underfunded tuition support budget and, through the Choice Scholarship Program, give it as vouchers, primarily to organizations one of whose central tenets is that we are all sinners and need help, and then deny them the gift of any financial oversight whatsoever.


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

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #343 – February 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

An astounding scandal is rocking the Statehouse in the closing weeks of the short session: Two virtual charter schools defrauded the taxpayers of Indiana of $68.7 million, according to a report filed February 12th by the State Board of Accounts.

The second shock hit on February 14th when it was revealed that State Senator Travis Holdman served as a paid consultant to these two virtual charter schools from 2011 to 2019, according to a report filed by Steve Hinnefeld, School Matters blogger based in Bloomington and confirmed in a story by well known reporter Niki Kelly in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on February 17th.

Your action this week outlined below can help prevent future fraud. Legislators can still act to correct auditing requirements for charter schools that are now obviously inadequate.

Fraud in Two Virtual Charter Schools

In a summary of the State Board of Accounts findings reported by Arika Herron on the front page of the Indianapolis Star on February 14th, the incredible dimensions of this fraud included:
  • “more than 14,000 students were counted as enrolled when they should not have been” between 2011 and 2019 in the Indiana Virtual Charter School and the Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy.
  • For three school years from 2016 through 2019, the “two schools received more than $103 million in state funds and funneled $85 million to related parties, including several companies run by the school’s founder , Thomas Stoughton and his son.”
  • “The state is requesting reimbursement of the $85 million, improperly paid to 14 different vendors that were related to the schools through a common employee of family member.”
Powerful Senator as Paid Consultant

There’s more to this shocking story: State Senator Travis Holdman was paid for eight years as a consultant to the two virtual charter schools (Indiana Virtual Charter School and Indiana Virtual Pathways School), according to reports by Steve Hinnefeld (School Matters) and Niki Kelly (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette).

Do other charter schools pay powerful legislators as consultants?

Senator Holdman has been in the Indiana Senate since 2008 and serves as chairman of the powerful Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. He declined to tell the Journal Gazette on February 17th how much he was paid but considered it a small amount, saying “I tried to keep an arms-length business relationship with them. I’m terribly embarrassed to be linked in any way.”

Take Action

One problem that could by fixed in the current special session pertains to audits.

Public schools get audited by the State Board of Accounts. Everything is transparent. Charter schools, however, which have received $1.4 billion in the past five years from Indiana taxpayers according to figures cited by Sen. Mark Stoops, are not audited by the State Board of Accounts but instead can arrange for an audit by any private firm. Obviously, this didn’t work in the case of the two virtual schools.

The Senate Appropriations Committee meets Thursday morning February 27th and could amend HB 1066 or HB 1204 or some other related bill this week to say that charter schools must be audited by the State Board of Accounts, providing oversight and transparency.

The committee could also drop the proposal in HB 1066 to open the budget and expand private school vouchers to the 11,000 foster children in Indiana and their foster family siblings, at a cost estimated by the Legislative Services Agency to be $6 million to $12 million! The budget was not opened to boost teacher pay and should not be opened in this short session for expanding private school vouchers.

Let your legislators and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee know that you are appalled by this scandal and the loss of $68 million. Tell them:
  • all charter schools must be audited by the State Board of Accounts.
  • this can’t wait until next year.
  • they should fix the law for better audits yet this session.
  • the budget should not be opened to expand private school vouchers to foster children and their siblings, at a cost of $6 million to $12 million.
Senate Appropriations Committee members and their email addresses are:

Republican Senators Mishler (S9@iga.in.gov), Bassler (S39@iga.in.gov), Boots (S23@iga.in.gov), Brown (S15@iga.in.gov), Charbonneau (S5@iga.in.gov), Crider (S28@iga.in.gov), Ford (S38@iga.in.gov), Holdman (S19@iga.in.gov), Zay (S17@iga.in.gov)

Democrat Senators Tallian (S4@iga.in.gov), Breaux (S34@iga.in.gov), Melton (S3@iga.in.gov), Niezgodski (S10@iga.in.gov)

If you don’t read this in time for the Thursday, February 27th meeting, the Senate could still add second reading amendments to bills next week, so let them know how you feel about the virtual school scandal.


The Need for School Stability

Students need stable schools.

One of the great features of public schools run by elected boards for nearly 180 years is their stability as cornerstones of local communities.

Now, millions of taxpayer dollars are going to unstable private and charter schools run by unelected boards, whose closures disrupt the education of students in crucial ways.

Urge your Senator and your member of the House to stabilize our schools with proper audits.


Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

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

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

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is representing ICPE extremely well in the 2020 short 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 www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org 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 of 2018, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.

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Monday, February 24, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Feb 24, 2020

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'S VIRTUAL CHARTER SCANDAL

The main item on the list of articles this past week is the virtual charter school scandal in Indiana.

Indiana lawmakers aren’t cracking down on virtual charter schools despite calls for change

Indiana legislators seem to be ok with throwing away 85.7 million of our tax dollars that should have gone to public schools.

Why?

Follow the money. Republican legislators regularly get their campaign coffers filled with money from charter school management companies.

Children attending public schools, on the other hand, have no lobbyists.

From Chalkbeat
Indiana lawmakers have killed three attempts to tighten the state’s charter school authorizing laws, even after Gov. Eric Holcomb called for improved accountability of troubled online charter schools.

A Chalkbeat investigation of Indiana Virtual School last year revealed how state law doesn’t go far enough to hold operators and authorizers of online charter schools accountable. The probe found that Indiana Virtual posted dismal academic results, hired few teachers, and had spending and business practices that raised ethical questions.

...Indiana lawmakers, including Behning and Kruse, have seen campaign contributions from online education companies. K12 Inc., one of the largest online education providers in the country, has given more than $90,000 to Indiana Republican races since 2006, according to the state campaign contribution database. Connections, another large national provider, has given more than $20,000.

Legislator backed over contract

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
"Bosma accepted $10,000 and Bray $2,000. Area lawmakers who received contributions include $700 for Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne; $500 for Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne; $300 for Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven; $3,000 for Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn; $1,200 for Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn; $1,000 for Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen; $5,000 to former state Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne; $400 for Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington; $700 for former Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion; $3,000 for Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle; $2,000 for Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne; and $700 for Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne."

‘We can’t just be giving this money away’: Who’s to blame for the $85 million Indiana Virtual School scandal?

The lion’s share of the blame for this educational and fiscal outrage goes to our legislators who have refused to set up a system of real accountability for charter schools. There are legislators who personally benefited from this shocking misuse and waste of our tax dollars.

From Chalkbeat
Amid the outcry over a new state investigation detailing an alleged $85 million self-dealing scheme at two Indiana virtual charter schools, state leaders are asking why it took years to catch large-scale enrollment inflation and widespread financial conflicts of interest.

State leaders, education officials, and charter school advocates have pointed to several players who they believe share the blame for the apparent misdeeds at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. And, as Chalkbeat has reported, some officials were made aware of red flags years ago, but didn’t step in.

“We can’t just be giving this money away without accountability,” said Democratic state Rep. Ed DeLaney, of Indianapolis. “The scope of this is stunning. … There appears to have been every kind of misfeasance or malfeasance you can imagine.”


School choice costing taxpayers

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Operators of two Indiana charter schools spent nearly $86 million in tax dollars at businesses in which they had ties. The money came from state tuition support for students who, in some cases, were never enrolled in the schools.

This is the school choice Indiana lawmakers celebrate – a breathtaking violation of the public trust.

A special report by the State Board of Accounts was released last week, based on an investigation of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. Chalkbeat, an online education news service, first reported in 2017 that one of the online schools collected nearly $10 million in 2015-16 while graduating only 5.7% of its seniors – the lowest graduation rate in the state. Chalkbeat revealed a web of business interests between school founder Thomas Stoughton and AlphaCom, a for-profit company he operated while charging the school millions for management services and rent for offices in a suburban Indianapolis office park.

State Democrats call for more oversight of virtual charter schools

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fallout from the demise of two virtual charter schools continued Wednesday as Democrats called for more oversight and that political contributions taken by Republicans from the schools be returned.

Senate Democrats pointed to multiple bills they offered in 2019 and 2020 to provide more guardrails for virtual charter schools but Republicans controlling the chamber refused to hear them.

Republicans on the Senate Education Committee also rejected an amendment Wednesday that would have addressed the issue.

"We need to have some guardrails. We need to have some accountability," said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

Indiana Virtual School and its sister academy have been under a cloud since a Chalkbeat investigation in 2017 uncovered inflated enrollments and money being sent to a bevy of outside vendors related to the founder.

NEIFPE AMONG SPONSORS OF RALLY IN INDY

Public ed supporters return to Statehouse

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
About 100 public education supporters rallied at the Indiana Statehouse on Monday – a move meant to sustain pressure on legislators to support teachers and students.

“We need to keep the ideas present,” said Terry Springer, a retired Fort Wayne teacher who is a member of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.

It was a much smaller event than when 12,000 teachers flooded the capitol building in November.

The major issue still under debate is teacher pay, as legislators and the governor have refused to add additional dollars this year – instead waiting until a new state budget is drafted in 2021.

A state commission is also analyzing the best way to increase teacher pay in Indiana, which lags behind other Midwestern states.

“They are just postponing what needs to be done,” Springer said...

"[State Superintendent, Jennifer] McCormick...said she doesn't want to hear any more stories about who is related to a teacher. Legislative leaders regularly note how many members of their family teach and how important the profession is."

“ 'No more stories. No more promises,' she said. 'It's time to act'.”

Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer
McCormick spoke at the ICPE Rally for Public Education
in Indianapolis on February 17, 2020.

ONLINE PRESCHOOL IS CONTAGIOUS...NOW IT'S NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire Seeks to Pilot Online Pre-Schooling and Tries Again for Charters

From Diane Ravitch
Kids aren’t meant to sit still in front of a screen. They use their whole bodies to learn, and they want and need to move. Let’s not forget that some of the essential milestones for preschoolers are gross and fine motor skills. They need to practice galloping, throwing a ball, zipping up their jackets to go outside, and holding a pencil. Having good motor control is essential for children’s growth and independence. They cannot develop it by sitting at a computer.

COLLEGE TEST-SCORE REQUIREMENTS A THING OF THE PAST?

Test looming for lawmakers on education

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Test-weary high school students have one less high-stakes exam to worry about. The days of sweating over SAT or ACT scores are numbered.

“Research shows that high school GPA (grade point average) is by far the best indicator of future college success,” said David Chappell, director of enrollment management at Indiana University Fort Wayne, in an email. “Across the country, colleges and universities are moving to test-optional admissions practices to increase accessibility by recognizing that an individual student's ability to succeed may not be fully represented by a standardized test score. We will maintain our admissions integrity, academic standards and level of selectivity, while providing applicants the choice whether or not to include standardized test scores in our holistic review of their academic preparation.”

The Fort Wayne campus joins IU campuses across the state in adopting test-optional admissions. Ball State University, Hanover College, Earlham College, the University of Evansville and St. Mary's College are also test-optional. More than 1,000 colleges and universities have now dropped test-score requirements.


**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both, are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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