Monday, January 27, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Jan 27, 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.


Letters: Pay is just one way teachers are devalued

Teachers in Indiana, like others around the country, want to have decent salaries, but they also want the respect they deserve for the job they do. When beginning teachers, who spent at least four years preparing for their profession, and are likely burdened with college debt, are offered salaries which qualify their own children for the poverty level federal school lunch program for children, they they are being disrespected as well as underpaid.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Letters to the Editor
Indiana expects...teachers to educate students to the highest standards while denying the financial benefits of professional achievement to our teachers and their own children. Indiana legislators and governors past and present have talked about improving schools by helping teachers and improving salaries – nothing but promises, empty and delayed, at least for the past 44 years.

We need bright, multitalented individuals to take on the diverse challenges of teaching, but as a state and culture, through low salaries, social and political attacks on the profession, and continued erosion of public school funding by privatization, we do little to incentivize talented young people to consider the profession. As a state, we need to reevaluate our priorities and take action to improve public schools by respecting teaching as a profession and teachers as skilled professionals.


How shifting political tides ended Indiana’s ambitious school takeover effort

The entire education "reform" movement has been built on the false narrative of "failing schools." In truth, society has failed the poorest and most at-risk students in our schools. Public education cannot solve the problems of racism and poverty alone. Public education is not responsible for the problems of racism and poverty. Legislators and policy-makers must accept their share of responsibility.

Out of another frying pan and into yet another fire? The failures of the Daniels-Pence administrations come to an end, but now IPS will subject their returned schools/children to the “Innovation model.” We’ll see how that “charter by another name” experiment works out.

From Chalkbeat*
When Indiana leaders took over five failing schools nearly a decade ago, the decision was an act of desperation. The campuses were languishing: Fights frequently broke out in the hallways and students spent class time filling out McDonald’s job applications.

But it was also ambitious, a sign that Indiana education officials would aggressively push districts to improve schools that had long failed to meet state expectations and would even seize control of campuses that didn’t improve test scores and graduation rates.


The United States Supreme Court is considering a school voucher case which could have far-reaching implications for public education in the U.S. Should states give tax dollars to schools which discriminate for religious reasons? Should your tax dollars go to a schools that teaches that your religion is somehow less than theirs? Should public funds support schools which play by a different set of accountability rules? Should your children of a minority religion -- or of no religion -- be subjected to a state sponsored prayer in school?

Here are three articles dealing with public school church-state issues.

Who Will Protect My Right NOT to Pay for Your Child’s Religious Education?

Blogger Steven Singer was subjected to anti-semitic stereotypes as a child. Should his tax dollars support schools which perpetuate those beliefs?

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
If successful, the case would open the door to publicly-funded private religious education across the country – not to mention siphoning much-needed money away from the public schools.

It’s bad enough that kids learn prejudicial lies from the pulpit and parochial schools. It’s worse if the victims of such prejudice have to pay for their tormentors to be thus indoctrinated.

In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom of 1779, Thomas Jefferson wrote “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical...”

Bill to ban school voucher discrimination should be heard

Senate Bill 250 sponsored by State Sen. JD Ford (D-Indianapolis) would prevent schools using taxpayer funds to discriminate against children of Indiana taxpayers.

From School Matters
...some voucher-funded Christian schools condemn homosexuality and require families and employees to sign “statements of faith.” Some voucher schools do not serve students with disabilities.

SB 250 would bar state voucher funding for schools that discriminate by disability, race, color, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, religion, or ancestry. (Current law prohibits discrimination by race, color or national origin).

At a news conference to promote the bill, Ford was joined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick and Dominic Conover, a 2019 Roncalli High School graduate who said school officials warned him to be silent after he organized support for the school’s counselors.

McCormick said it’s contrary to Hoosier hospitality for the state to fund schools that turn away students and staff because of who they are and whom they love.

School Prayer Isn’t in Question, but Wednesday, Supreme Court Will Hear Important Church-State Separation Case

From Jan Resseger
President Donald Trump made a splash last week pretending that students’ right to pray at school has been threatened. While this subject may appeal to his base, the law is settled on this matter...

Although prayer in school is not really at issue this week, another controversy involving religion and public education will reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices will hear oral arguments on Wednesday in an important case involving the First Amendment’s protection of the separation of church and state. The subject is the long fight over the First Amendment’s prohibition of “establishing” religion, in this case by using public tax dollars to pay for religious schools.

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


Monday, January 20, 2020

Bend the Arc

Take some time to bend your life's part of the arc toward justice.

"Don't just complain...put some skin in the game!"
  • Become informed; read your local paper, watch the news.
  • Talk to your friends, neighbors, and family about issues that concern you.
  • Be a voice for those who have no voice: your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your students.
  • Register to vote, then vote on election day (or earlier).
  • Help a friend register to vote then make sure they get to their polling place on election day (or earlier).
  • Find out who your legislators are. Call or write them with your opinions.
  • Take an afternoon and drive to Indianapolis to talk to your legislator(s) in person.
  • Volunteer.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about a subject that concerns you.
  • Join with others to change the world.
  • Never give up.


In Case You Missed It – Jan 20, 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.


Two Master Bloggers–Peter Greene and Steven Singer–Deconstruct the “National Parents Union”

From Diane Ravitch
In the world of ed reform (ed deform), billionaires must always wear masks, because parents and teachers don’t trust their motives. What are they after? What are they trying to do? What gives them the right to rearrange my local public school? Who elected them? Best to find a front group to carry their water for them. Or their spear.


Trump said he will move to ensure students and teachers can pray in school. They already can.

How many ways can you say "pandering?"

From the Answer Sheet
President Trump has promised to ensure that students and teachers can exercise First Amendment rights to pray in school. Actually, they already can, and many do...

students of all faiths are free to pray alone or in groups during the school day, as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others. Nobody can compel students to participate in prayer, and courts have ruled that nobody should pray in front of a school assembly. But nobody can stop a student or teacher or custodian or principal or anybody else from praying.


While the Governor provides up to a 6% increase for state workers, the annual inflation rate is hovering around 2%. Indiana teachers are losing economic ground every day.

Indiana governor says again wait a year on teacher pay boost

Indiana’s governor has outlined to state legislators how to free up tens of millions of dollars toward boosting teacher pay but he doesn’t want them to act on it until next year

Holcomb offers plan to boost teacher pay

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Gov. Eric Holcomb proposed a budgetary maneuver in Tuesday's State of the State speech to free up money for teacher pay in 2021 – a down payment of sorts on the next budget cycle as teachers continue to pressure lawmakers to increase their lagging salaries...

But Democrats said Holcomb's proposal can be put into place now for immediate increases.


Indiana School Funding Explained

Indiana is:
  • 47th in per pupil spending
  • 39th in teacher retention
  • 51st in teacher salary growth


Monday, January 13, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Jan 13, 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.


Teacher pay touted, testing derided at education forum

At a local education forum last week, some local legislators encouraged the state to increase teacher pay. Let's see how they vote when the time comes.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
“Teacher salaries are set at the local level. ... It is a local decision on how many of those dollars actually go into the classroom,” Brown said.

Abbott said legislators should consider reducing or removing “unnecessary burdensome regulations” imposed by the state that add to school expenses.

GiaQuinta said, “We need to keep putting more money into the system, in my mind, for traditional public schools.”

The General Assembly has increased public education spending by $1 billion in the last three years, Kruse said, “and I think we need to keep doing that. I think it's not good that our teachers are not getting a starting salary of at least $40,000. I think there's still some schools where you're making $32,000 or $33,000 ... (for) a beginning teacher, which I think is too low.”

Panel chooses $291 million for university projects, not teacher pay hike

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Legislators gave initial approval Tuesday to spending $291 million in cash on six university projects despite Democratic attempts to push the money to teacher pay.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed House Bill 1007 by a party-line vote of 13-7 with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats against.

Indiana governor changes stance on teacher pay action

Indiana Governor Holcomb continues to postpone any decision on teacher pay. Meanwhile, Indiana schools are experiencing difficulty finding teachers, pay for Indiana teachers is lower than surrounding states and lower than the national average, and schools are working with funding which still hasn't caught up to pre-2008 funding (when adjusted for inflation).

From Indiana Business Journal
Republican Eric Holcomb has said he would wait for recommendations later this year from a teacher pay commission he appointed in February, but he told reporters Monday—on the first day of the legislative session—that might change with state tax revenues growing faster than expected.


Bernie Sanders Calls for an End to Annual Standardized Testing

From Diane Ravitch
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was one of the few members of the U.S. Senate to vote against No Child Left Behind when it was approved by Congress in 2001.

Today is the anniversary of the signing of that law.

Sanders writes that the federal mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8 has been an expensive failure.

In this article in USA Today, Sanders calls for an end to the NCLB mandate...


Mike Bloomberg Announces Centerpiece of His Education Agenda: Charter Schools Galore!

Is there something about being uber-rich that leads one to support public school privatization? Why do folks like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and now Mike Bloomberg, consistently support the defunding of public education?

From Diane Ravitch
So pleased was Bloomberg with his charter policy [as mayor of New York City] that it is now the centerpiece of his national education agenda.

He doesn’t care about the nearly 90% of kids who are enrolled in public schools.

He believes in privatization.


Melton cancels run for governor

A Gary Democrat who had launched a campaign to challenge incumbent Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2020 has withdrawn from the race.

In a statement released Monday, State Sen. Eddie Melton said he will instead file for re-election in his current office.

"Over the past six months, I have had the privilege of traveling our state and engaging with thousands of Hoosiers, hearing their concerns about educational funding, economic mobility, draconian laws oppressing women’s ability to make their own health care decisions, and failure to honor our Veterans' sacrifices," he said. "The ability to engage my fellow citizens in frank conversations has been a true privilege and honor.

"But, unfortunately politics today require way too much of a candidate’s time being spent on the phone chasing dollars."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Letters: DeVos failing public schools

NEIFPE member Kathy Candioto sent this letter to the editor about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

DeVos failing public schools

Published: January 12, 2020
I challenge anyone to name something positive that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has done for public education.

A longtime Republican donor from Michigan (whose family's worth is $5.4 billion), Devos got off to a rough start when her 2017 Senate confirmation hinged on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. The hearings revealed her amazing lack of knowledge on education law and policy.

DeVos attended private schools, as did her children. Caring little about public schools, she is strong advocate for vouchers and charters. It is shameful that Cabinet member DeVos should be held in contempt of court and her department fined $100,000. (October, 2019).

Public school supporters look forward to the end of DeVos' tenure in 2020. DeVos has been a complete failure to our public school teachers and students.

Kathy Candioto

Fort Wayne

Monday, January 6, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Jan 6, 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 $1 charter school law challenged by 2 more districts, following West Lafayette case

Communities pay for their local schools yet the State of Indiana allows private companies to buy those schools which have closed for $1.

From the Journal & Courier
A pair of Northwest Indiana school districts, fearing they might have to give up recently vacated classroom space for $1 to a charter school, followed West Lafayette Community School Corp.’s lead this week, filing a lawsuit challenging a state law they say is unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the Lake Ridge School Corp. and School City of Hammond filed a suit naming Gov. Eric Holcomb, the State Board of Education and the Indiana Department of Education, arguing that the state law – passed in 2011 and designed as a key piece of Indiana’s school reform movement – treated the districts unfairly and amounted to a “taking without just compensation.”


Indiana’s 2019 graduation rate is steady, but fewer students are passing the exit exam

Perhaps decisions about education should be made by actual educators rather than the reform-informed/influenced legislators.

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana could see fewer students require waivers as it adopts what’s known as graduation pathways, which offers Indiana high schoolers multiple options for completing the requirements to graduate, thus deemphasizing testing. Students choose their path based on their interests, such as going to college or earning a technical certification.

Supporters of the approach say pathways better prepares students for careers, but critics insist the options could lower the bar for Indiana’s students and devalue the state’s diploma.

The new data also shows that virtual schools continue to post some of the lowest overall graduation rates in the state. Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, which closed in September after the state found it inflated enrollment, saw 5.6% of its seniors graduate. Achieve Virtual Education Academy graduated 48%, and Indiana Connections Academy graduated 61%.

Nationally, only about half of virtual students graduate on time, said Gary Miron, a national policy fellow at the National Education Policy Center.


Arguably the two most appalling stories about the standardized testing obsession of the 2010s

There's too much testing. We're using the tests in the wrong ways.

From the Answer Sheet
No teacher had been asked to help write NCLB, and the results showed: Schools were labeled as failing and penalized unfairly; many schools sharply limited or dropped teaching key subjects such as history, science and the arts because only math and reading were tested; and test preparation became the focus of the school day in many classrooms. Recess for young kids? No time.

Arne Duncan...knew that NCLB had been a failure, but he pursued policies that made standardized testing even more important than before. He wanted states to use the scores to evaluate teachers and principals...

There were stories about teachers being evaluated on the test scores of students they didn’t have and subjects they didn’t teach.

There were stories of high-performing teachers getting poor evaluations because of complicated and problematic algorithms that were used to calculate their “worth” in class...

And there were stories of pep rallies and other incentives to get students “excited” about taking standardized tests.

But there were two that still resonate deeply and reveal just how vacant — and mean — some of the policy was...


Chalkbeat: How GreatSchools Inc. Contributes to Segregation

Despite the fact that Separate but Equal was declared unconstitutional in 1954, the US still has segregated schools.

From Diane Ravitch
Matt Barnum and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee wrote a provocative article about the way that a private school rating agency rates schools and steers patents toward white affluent schools and away from schools where children of color predominate. Larry Cuban reposted the article on his blog.

GreatSchools ratings effectively penalize schools that serve largely low-income students and those serving largely black and Hispanic students, generally giving them significantly lower ratings than schools serving more affluent and more white and Asian students, a Chalkbeat analysis found.


Teachers' pay not on '20 agenda

Teachers...Parents...have you followed up with your legislators and the Governor since the Red for Ed Rally last November? If you don't then we were just making noise with no substance.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
In just 48 days, Indiana lawmakers hope to curb the smoking epidemic, shore up the state's unemployment fund and make some modest changes in education.

But the biggest issue – raising teacher pay – will have to wait until 2021.

The session opens Jan. 6 and must end by midnight March 14. But the desired end-date is March 11 due to NCAA basketball coming to town.

Republicans are holding firm that a short session isn't an appropriate time to open up the state's two-year budget.

But Democrats say that's exactly what they are doing by planning to change the existing budget to pay for a handful of building projects with cash instead of bonding. This is akin to buying a house with cash instead of taking out a mortgage.

Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, proposed funneling some of the excess dollars in the state's reserve fund – $200 million of $300 million identified by Republicans – to an existing Teacher Appreciation Grant program.

Gov. Holcomb talks teacher pay

The challenge, Holcomb says, is trying to put money in teachers’ pockets yet preserve district autonomy.

Holcomb created his “Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission” to address that challenge.

“Thankfully, the Teachers Association (union) is at that table on that teacher commission,” says Holcomb.

“I want to make sure, once again, this is critically important that salaries are locally bargained.”


Schools fight trend to prepare new teachers

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped more than 33% nationwide since 2010, and Indiana has been affected more than most, according to a report this month from the Center for American Progress.

The nine states where enrollments dropped at least 50% include Indiana, 54%, and neighboring Michigan and Illinois, 67% and 60%, respectively, the nonpartisan policy institute found.

The report, “What to Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs,” examined federal data from 2010 to 2018, including the number of students who completed such training. That figure dropped 28% in that period.

The trend is worrisome for Fort Wayne Community Schools, the state's largest school district. It serves nearly 30,000 students.


Education Law Center: The Failure of Vouchers in Texas and of Voucher Expansion in Arizona

From Diane Ravitch
It has not been a good year for vouchers. The research continues to show that they don’t “save poor kids from failing schools.” They are in fact more likely to cause their academic performance to decline.

Pastors for Texas Children has led the effort to block vouchers in Texas and SOS Arizona led the effort to block voucher expansion in Arizona.

Voucher advocates (Koch-funded) are coming back with new legislation for 2020, and Arizona SOS has pledged to beat them again.

There are heroes among us.


WI: Pre-K Cyberschool Shenanigans

With all the news about the damage screen-time is doing to young children you'd think that legislators would be against more of it, yet here we have another state falling for the online preschool scam...just like Indiana.

From Curmudgucation
A few Wisconsin legislators have a dumb idea for a law. They'd like to spend $1.5 million on cyberschool-- on line computerized instruction-- for pre-schoolers.

This is just layers and layers of dumb.

First, cyberschools in general have proven to be lousy. Spectacularly lousy-- and that's in a study run by an organization sympathetic to charters.. Students would be better off spending a year playing video games lousy. So bad that even other charter school promoters won't defend them lousy. In short, outside very specific sets of special needs, there is no evidence that cyberschooling works.

Second, while there is still considerable debate, the general consensus is that screen time for littles should be somewhere between very small amounts and none at all.

Third, academic studies are a lousy idea for littles, unlikely to yield real benefits even as they may create real harm.


A tiny Indiana town saw promise in virtual charter schools. Then things started to unravel.

The lesson to be learned here is that you cannot trust charter schools to have the best interests of children in mind. The Bottom Line is profit...

From Chalkbeat*
When Indiana’s largest charter network collapsed earlier this year after an enrollment scandal that triggered state and federal investigations, the resulting mess left hundreds of students scrambling for transcripts, dozens of teachers unpaid, and $40 million still owed to the state.

The downfall of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy also placed under the microscope Daleville Community Schools, a tiny rural district that runs just two brick-and-mortar schools serving fewer than 1,000 students in total.

Despite having no experience as a charter authorizer, Daleville took on an oversight role when Indiana Virtual School opened in 2011 and, over the years, accepted more than $3.2 million in state funding to monitor them and ensure their success.


What’s next for Indy ‘turnaround academies’?

From School Matters
It seemed like a victory for Indianapolis Public Schools when the Indiana Charter School Board voted Dec. 13 to reject charter applications for three Indianapolis “turnaround academy” schools.

But it’s not over till it’s over. The fate of the schools – Emmerich Manual High School, T.C. Howe School and Emma Donnan Middle School – is still in the hands of the State Board of Education. And the board has already turned a cold shoulder to the idea of returning the schools to IPS.

The State Board of Education will consider what happens next at its Jan. 15 meeting.

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