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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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Presidents Day Rally, 2020

On Presidents Day, February 17, 2020, NEIFPE joined with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE) and other public education advocacy groups in a Public Rally for Education at the statehouse in Indianapolis.

NEIFPE member Terry Springer posted her thoughts about the rally on Facebook.

L-R: NEIFPE member Terry Springer, State
Representative  Melanie Wright (D-35),
NEIFPE members Cindi Pastore and Meg Bloom
After nearly a decade of advocating for public education, I came home from yesterday's Red for Ed Rally energized, somewhat hopeful, but realistic about challenges ahead. Here are my takeaways from the rally:
  • Rather small turnout for this annual rally and no ISTA presence suggests the need for more coordination/collaboration among public education advocacy groups.
  • Fewer people but passion and energy still filled the room
  • Every one of us – parents, teachers, students – represented those who weren’t/couldn’t be there. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each one of us provided a voice for at least 10 teachers, students, parents, citizens who weren’t there.
  • Some hopeful signs this session in legislation on reducing regulations and holding schools and teachers harmless, making 15-hour internship optional, decoupling test scores from evaluations
  • Still key issues ignored: teacher pay, lack of accountability for money going to charters and voucher accepting schools, and now providing one more pathway to qualify for a voucher
  • Legislators continue to put private school students before public school students.  
  • Thought-provoking ideas from speakers:
◊ Jennifer McCormick: We are who we vote for.

◊ Emony Calloway shared her experience of being a student in two schools that were closed. “Students in the neighborhood who look like me are getting shifted around. We need schools that do not open and close on a whim.”

◊ Michelle Smith listed the terrible and often horrifying life experiences her students (ELL) have faced before coming to the U.S. and asserts that testing required of these kids has no value for them and getting the test results eight months later is of no value to her as their teacher. She also asserts that legislators ought to understand that she doesn’t need an externship to learn about reality. Her students bring reality to her classroom every day – something I think is true for all teachers.

◊ Phil Downs, Superintendent of SWACS: Funding for schools has not kept up with inflation and schools have less money than a decade ago; public schools have to account for all money they receive – every penny. The same should be true of voucher accepting and charter schools. They need to show how public dollars are used: Every. Single. Penny.

◊ Dr. Ramon Batts, of Concerned Clergy: Schools are a part of the fabric of society. Teachers deserve to get paid for what they do. "If all you wanted was money, you'd do something else."

◊ Gleneva Dunham, AFT, called for all of us to know the position on education for each candidate before we vote.

◊ Cathy Fuentes-Rowher, ICPE: despite some positive movement in the legislature, there has been a great deal of harm done: 85 million dollars flushed down the toilet in Virtual Charter Schools; closing schools and disrupting student learning and siphoning public money to private schools.
  • There is an irony in holding schools and teachers harmless because the harm was the result of the actions of legislators.
  • We all have to keep contacting legislators – educating them – about the effects of their decisions on our kids.
  • We need to force legislators to listen to the professionals and to treat educators as professionals.
  • There are 16 teachers running for election and two running for re-election. We need to learn who they are and vote.
To everyone who attended the Red for Ed Rally in November, your work is not done. You need to take action; get informed contact legislators; talk to everyone - family, friends, colleagues; and vote. Those of us who represented you yesterday cannot do this work without you.
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Monday, February 17, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Feb 17, 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.

NEIFPE's 2019 YEAR IN REVIEW

YEAR IN REVIEW

NEIFPE Year in Review, 2019
Check out NEIFPE's Year in Review for 2019. This was a difficult task for NEIPFE members to create due to the loss of our hero, Phyllis Bush. Please check out the special tribute to her on pages 2-4.

PUBLIC FUNDS NEED PUBLIC OVERSIGHT

In a damning audit, Indiana calls on two virtual schools to repay $85 million in misspent state funds

Charter schools and voucher receiving schools in Indiana benefit from public funding. They need public oversight, just like public schools. Our legislators laid the groundwork for this fraud.

From Chalkbeat* Indiana
In what has become one of the nation’s largest virtual charter school scandals, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy officials showed “substantial disregard” for following the rules and may have “focused on maximizing profits and revenues by exploiting perceived vulnerabilities” in local oversight and state funding processes, the report said.


GUESS WHO IS SKEPTICAL OF BILLIONAIRES SHAPING ED POLICY?

Bill and Melinda Gates have spent billions to shape education policy. Now, they say, they’re ‘skeptical’ of ‘billionaires’ trying to do just that.

From the Answer Sheet
You won’t believe what Bill and Melinda Gates are saying makes them “skeptical.”

For years, they have spent a fortune trying to shape public education policy, successfully leveraging public funding to support their projects, but never having the kind of academic success they had hoped for. That never stopped them from continuing to fund pet projects.

Now, in the newly released 2020 annual letter of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates says that lack of success is no reason to “give up,” and then, she says this:

We certainly understand why many people are skeptical about the idea of billionaire philanthropists designing classroom innovations or setting education policy. Frankly, we are, too. Bill and I have always been clear that our role isn’t to generate ideas ourselves; it’s to support innovation driven by people who have spent their careers working in education: teachers, administrators, researchers, and community leaders.

SADLY, INDIANA RANKS #1

What Charter Advocates Want From States

Charter advocates really like Indiana because our legislators have been helping them take over local and community control for years. We must elect legislators who understand that community public schools need to be supported.

Perhaps Indiana's #1 ranking is why virtual charters were able to steal $85 million from our students.

From Curmudgucation
What exactly would charter proponents like to see in state charter regulations? As it turns out, we don't have to guess, because the National Alliance of Public [sic] Charter Schools regularly publishes a ranking of the states based on the "strength" of their charter laws. This year's edition is the 11th, and it's available right now! Woot!

If you are concerned about the rankings, I can give you some highlights. Indiana, Colorado and Washington come in at spots 1, 2 and 3. Florida (State motto: "Making sure there is no public school system for Certain People's grandchildren") is down at 7. Maryland, Kansas, and Alaska are at the bottom. Five states are not on the list at all--no charter laws. There are some other surprises, like Ohio at a measly 23.

Teachers and friends of Public Education rally at the Indiana State
House on November 19, 2019. Governor Holcomb did not attend.

HOLCOMB, LEGISLATURE, IGNORE TEACHERS

No funding action after big Indiana teacher protest

Legislators complained that Indiana teachers didn't follow through with lobbying and letters. On the other hand, teachers might find it hard to lobby and write letters during their 50-hour work week.

Meanwhile, Governor Holcomb, who couldn't be bothered to attend the rally and respond to teachers, took time out of his busy schedule to speak to supporters of vouchers and charter schools for "school choice week."

From WANE.com
Several thousand teachers at a boisterous Statehouse rally put complaints about their treatment in front of Indiana lawmakers as this year’s legislative session started.

But those chants for improved school funding didn’t result in additional money as Republican lawmakers pushed through this year’s only planned spending bill even before the session reached its midpoint this past week.


PRESIDENT ATTACKS PUBLIC EDUCATION

Trump Lied About Philly Student in “Failing Government School”

From Diane Ravitch
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Trump singled out a child from Philadelphia who, he said, was “trapped in a failing government school.” In fact, the child attends one of the city’s most elite charter schools. Didn’t Betsy DeVos realize she had given $1.3 million to the self-same charter school in 2019?

President Donald Trump turned a Philadelphia fourth grader into a poster child for the school-choice movement Tuesday when he told the nation that thousands of students were “trapped in failing government schools” and announced that the girl was at last getting a scholarship to attend the school of her choice.

But Janiyah Davis already attends one of the city’s most sought-after charter schools, The Inquirer has learned. In September, months before she was an honored guest at Trump’s State of the Union address, she entered Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III.


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

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #342 – February 10, 2020

Dear Friends,

Here is your chance to stand up for public education! Come to the Statehouse on Presidents’ Day to support public education!

On Monday February 17th, you along with your friends, family and colleagues are invited to a “Rally for Public Education”.

Speakers begin at 2:00 pm in the North Atrium.

Go to the ICPE website for additional information: www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org

Renewed Attacks

Public education, an institution that has undergirded our democracy for 190 years, remains under attack:
  • Last Tuesday in the State of the Union address, President Trump falsely labeled public schools “failing government schools” as he called for $5 billion taxpayer dollars to go to private school scholarships.
  • We have a private school voucher advocate with no professional experience in public schools as US Secretary of Education.
  • Next year Indiana could mimic this unbelievable “lead without K-12 experience” problem. In 2019, the General Assembly passed a law confirming that the Governor of Indiana can appoint a Secretary of Education in 2021 who is not required to have any experience in K-12 education, replacing our elected State Superintendent of Public Education, an elected office serving Indiana since the 1851 Constitution.
  • Proposals in the current legislative short session to give teachers at least a small bonus from surplus funds were ignored by the supermajority. The excellent economy produced $291 million to be spent now, but it was all given to pay cash for college buildings. Underpaid teachers who came to the Statehouse in record numbers last November have been told to wait until next year.
Public education has been under attack for a long time. For an even longer time, public education has been a tremendous cornerstone to progress and democracy.

It’s time to remind the Statehouse of our support for public education!

Public officials in the Statehouse need to put a higher priority on PUBLIC education. Only constituents and voters can get them to do that. That’s where we need your presence in the Statehouse. I hope to see you there!

Partners and Details

Many groups are partnering with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, the organizer, to support the “Rally for Public Education” on Presidents’ Day. Others may be added. In alphabetical order, they are:

AFT Indiana

Concerned Clergy

Indiana Parent Teacher Association

IPS Community Coalition

Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

Washington Township Parent Council Network


Speakers at 2:00 pm in the North Atrium are being coordinated by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, and Joel Hand, ICPE will serve as MC. Speakers include:
Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana State Superintendent of Public Education

Gleneva Dunham, President, AFT Indiana

Julie Klingenberger, President, Indiana PTA

Dr. Phil Downs, Indiana Superintendent of the Year, Southwest Allen County Schools

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, President, Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Dountonia Batts, Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Justin Deem-Loureiro, Student

Zoe Bardon, Student

Emony Calloway, Student

Rev. Ramon Batts, Concerned Clergy
I hope to see you at the Statehouse!

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 10, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Feb 10, 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.


CHARTERS COMPLAIN ABOUT POOR FUNDING

As Indianapolis districts boost teacher pay, charters say they are struggling to compete

Charters divert dollars/resources away from the public schools which serve over 90% of Hoosier children and then complain about not having enough money to give competitive pay to their teachers. Perhaps they should stop spending their dollars on questionable marketing practices.

From Chalkbeat*
When Victory College Prep Academy did an analysis recently of how salaries at the southside charter school compare to district schools, it revealed some stark differences: Educators there are making roughly $6,000 less per year, on average, than they would make at an Indianapolis Public Schools campus when raises go into effect this fall.

“We started asking ourselves, where can we find money in the budget to get closer to their number?” said Ryan Gall, executive director for Victory, which enrolls about 900 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. “We have to do something.”

TRUMP/DEVOS ATTACK PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The people who currently run the government apparently hate the government and everything in it, including public schools.

How do Trump and DeVos know enough about public schools to hate them so much? Neither of them...or any of their children...ever attended a public school.

PA: DeVos Stumps For Trump, Masters Lying

From Curmudgucation
So this is apparently the school choice lie that Trumpists are going to lean on:

“They want government control of everything — your health care, your wallet, your child’s education,” DeVos said. Democrats “want complete control over where, how, and what American students learn,” she said. “They want to close every charter school, take away every educational option from low-income families, limit choices everywhere for everyone.”
That was Betsy DeVos, the actual secretary of education, out on the campaign trail instead of in her office again Wednesday. A government official raising the specter of government doing things, because thats where we are now, being represented by people whose most fervent desire is to burn down the house they've been given stewardship over.


In State of the Union, Trump makes clear his aversion to public schools

From the Answer Sheet
If for some reason you haven’t been clear about what President Trump thinks about traditional public schools, consider what he said about them in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

There was this: “For too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

What’s a “government school” to Trump? A public school in a traditional public school district.

MONEY FOR VOUCHERS

Vouchers, choice, and the misuse of tax dollars

From Live Long and Prosper
Indiana's voucher program began as a plan for low-income students to "escape" their "failing schools" and go to the private schools that wealthier people have always been able to afford. In order to qualify, then-governor Mitch Daniels insisted, a student must have spent at least one year at a public school.

Since its inception in 2011, it has changed into a middle-class entitlement program. Most students who get Indiana "scholarships" are students who have never attended a public school. A third of students who get Indiana "scholarships" are students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches. Less than one percent of Indiana's "scholarship" students are "escaping" from a "failing school."


INDIANA CONTINUES TO MISUSE STANDARDIZED TESTS

Indiana lawmakers passed a 2-year hold harmless. Here’s what that means.

The achievement tests that Indiana students take each year were not been developed to evaluate teachers or schools.

The state continues to misuse standardized tests to punish students, teachers, and schools.

From Chalkbeat*
Schools won’t be punished for low test scores earned during the first two years of the state’s new ILEARN test — a move by state lawmakers Monday that will render schools’ 2019 and 2020 state grades essentially meaningless.

The House approved the hold harmless legislation 89-0, passing the bill through both chambers and showing strong support for Indiana’s first-ever multi-year exemption.

TAX DOLLARS TEACH RELIGION

Those Christian Textbooks Adopted in Schools That Receive Taxpayer Funding

From Diane Ravitch
In 2017, the Orlando Sentinel published a powerful three-part series about unregulated and unaccountable voucher schools in Florida, called “Schools Without Rules.” In Florida, voucher schools receive $1 billion each year of taxpayer funding.

In 2018, the Orlando Sentinel published an article about the textbook companies that supply teaching materials to voucher schools and homeschoolers. Their books incorporate religious values into their content.

Prominent among them is the ABeka company in Florida.

Their textbooks reflect a religious approach to science, history, and other subjects.

Private schools' curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together

From the Orlando Sentinel
...dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who did not...

The books are rife with religious and political opinions on topics such as abortion, gay rights and the Endangered Species Act, which one labels a “radical social agenda.” They disparage religions other than Protestant Christianity and cultures other than those descended from white Europeans. Experts said that was particularly worrisome given that about 60 percent of scholarship students are black or Hispanic.


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

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #341 – February 5, 2020

Dear Friends,

It’s the elephant in the room.

Consider the teacher pay issue. Then come to the rally for public education on Monday, February 17 at 2 p.m. in the Statehouse.

At the half-way point in the short session of the General Assembly, proposals for a teacher pay bonus have been ignored by the Republican supermajority, with the message: wait until next year.

Over 15,000 teachers came to the Statehouse in November, a record-shattering number for an education issue. Their message: they need a pay increase to keep going.

Legislators had excess money from a good economy to hand out: $291 million. Did they give a little part of that for a teacher bonus?

No.

HB 1007 was passed quickly through both houses and has already been signed by Governor Holcomb giving all the extra money to pay cash for higher education buildings, rather than borrowing to build them as planned in the 2019 budget. This quick action guaranteed there would be no last minute attempt to fund teacher bonuses in the short session.

Democrats tried to amend the bill to spend the money on teacher pay. The amendments failed.

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick expressed disappointment in delaying new money for teacher pay in an interview on Channel 8 after Governor Holcomb’s State of the State speech, accurately commenting that “the Governor’s speech highlighted great things in the state, but teacher pay is not one of them.”

The supermajority priorities are clear here: buildings over teachers.

Why?

Why have Gov. Holcomb, Speaker Bosma and the Republican leadership team decided to ignore the plea of Indiana’s underpaid teachers for a bonus this session? Why have teachers been told to wait for another year?

I see four theories which may add to your own analysis.

Theory 1: Perhaps the Governor and Republican leaders have concluded that underpaid and angry teachers will not defeat them in the November election so there is no political need to provide a quick bonus now.

If Governor Holcomb was worried that teachers would rise up to block his re-election, he would have chosen to get on the good side of teachers with a bonus in the current session. Press reports prior to his State of the State address made it sound like he might help teachers now, but if he temporarily felt so inclined, he chose to fall in line with Republican legislative leaders who clearly did not want to add a teacher bonus in the short session. Instead, he announced a $250 million transfer in 2021 from the surplus to pay for local teacher pension payments, a move which he said would free up $50 million each year for extra teacher pay in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.

It is highly unusual to announce budget details more than a year in advance. Obviously, it assumes his re-election.

It is not clear how teachers will respond to this “wait another year” treatment.

Theory 2: Perhaps the Governor and Republican leaders believe they gave enough to K-12 in the 2019 budget, despite the pleas of teachers that the teacher shortage is still a huge problem due to low pay.

Republican leaders keep referring to the $763 million added to the 2019 budget, apparently thinking that was enough for the biennium and teachers shouldn’t be asking for more in a non-budget year.

Here’s how Republican leaders get to the $763 million figure:

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

That totals to $539 million. Compare this figure to $710 million new dollars added to the 2007 budget and $616 million new dollars (which then included property tax) added to the 1997 budget. Adding $539 million in the 2019 budget was not a historic high for K-12 tuition support.

Then the Governor’s 2019 plan to reduce pension payments by $150 million over two years was enacted.

Adding $150 million to the $539 million raised the 2019 total to $689 million.

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

Adding $74 million to $689 million raised the 2019 total to the number you have heard: $763 million.

Governor Holcomb has now clarified that his pension payment of $150 million last year freed up $65 million in each year of the biennium for teacher pay. Interestingly, that adds up to $130 million and the mantra of $763 million has apparently been reduced by $20 million. The Governor did not explain the $20 million discrepancy.

These are not numbers for a satisfied victory lap. The 2019 budget did not provide teacher pay increases that would keep teachers from moving to higher paying jobs in neighboring states or in another career.

Theory 3: Perhaps Republican leaders believe their own faulty analysis that local school boards are at fault for low teacher pay because they are spending too much on “overhead” and not enough on “classroom” spending.

Speaker Bosma’s response to the enormous teacher rally in November was to say that local school boards have had the money to pay teachers but are not spending it correctly on the classroom. He cites the statistics on classroom spending which say 58% of education dollars are spent on “the classroom.”

Public school advocates should know that the statistics he cites give a misleading and bogus narrative to the teacher pay issue.

“Dollars to the Classroom” has been a mantra of Republicans since a controversial 2006 law passed narrowly by the House 51-49 allowed Gov. Daniels to say: “We can’t keep shoveling money into a system where 40 cents off the top of every dollar goes to what is not essential.” (Jan. 18, 2009, Indiana Lawmakers, WFYI-TV)

Creating these misleading statistics was only designed to allow sound bites such as that from Governor Daniels above. It is completely unfair to criticize local school boards for non-classroom spending without knowing the circumstances of the district. Many essentials including facilities and debt are defined as “non-classroom” spending. Growing districts have to build new buildings and carry higher debt. That would lift their non-classroom spending and lower their percentage.

The classroom spending statistics are a cover for legislative leaders who have not put enough into K-12 education over the last decade to keep up with surrounding states.

What are the “overhead” spending categories defined in accordance with Indiana Code 20-42.5? Here is a complete listing of what Speaker Bosma thinks can and should be trimmed to boost teacher pay: (Numbers are from the chart of accounts)

23100 Board of Education
23200 Executive Administration/Superintendent Office Services
25100 Fiscal Services/Business Manager
25200 Purchasing Services
25300 Printing Services
25200 Planning, Research, Development and Evaluation
25600 Public Information Services
25700 Personnel Services
25800 Technology Services
25900 Other Support Services
26000 Maintenance Services
27000 Student Transportation
30000 Noninstructional Services (including food services)
40000 Facilities Acquisition and Construction
50000 Debt Services
60105 Donations to Foundations
60700 Scholarships

That’s the complete list for “non-classroom” spending. All other categories are called “classroom” spending and are then figured as a percentage of total spending, giving politicians the opportunity to criticize schools that fall below the arbitrary standard of 65%.

Pressure from Speaker Bosma and others to lower “operational, non-classroom” spending is egregiously wrong on two points:
1) Safe schools – Spending on safe schools, both on hardening buildings and on training, is an obvious priority in Indiana in the past two years, but it is considered “non-classroom” spending. It is wrong for Speaker Bosma and his supermajority leaders to pressure local leaders to spend less on school safety.

2) Public information and parent information – School choice requires schools to inform parents and to market their school to the community. If they don’t, their school will die from dwindling enrollment. Spending on parent information and marketing is categorized as “non-classroom” spending. If Speaker Bosma pressures local school districts to spend less on marketing in order to pay teachers, he is pushing for them to risk the very existence of the school which depends on parent information for enrollments. He can’t support school choice and simultaneously support cutting the money spent on marketing the school to parents.
Theory 4: Perhaps Republican leaders don’t see low teacher pay and the resulting teacher shortage as a big problem. They think it can wait. If teachers leave the classrooms of our public schools, then private schools look better and students may transfer to private schools, which some Republican leaders who want to privatize all of our schools would favor.


The step by step privatization of all public schools is the goal of those who favor the policies of Milton Friedman and libertarians like Charles Koch. To this faction, destabilizing traditional public schools with severe teacher shortages and teacher turnover will help bring about the deconstruction of public education and lead to the privatization transition they want.

Consider these four theories and let your legislators know you are concerned about teacher pay.

Two Things You Can Do
1) Communicate with your legislators to let them know you think teachers need a bonus in pay now, not next year. Too many schools are having real problems with teacher shortages and teacher turnover when teachers go for higher paying positions in other states or in other careers.

2) Come to the “Rally for Public Education” sponsored by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education to speak up for better K-12 funding for teacher pay and for other needs:

When? Monday, February 17, 2020, 2 p.m.

Where? The North Atrium of the Indiana Statehouse

Bring friends! Bring posters! Bring your voices! Wear RED for PUBLIC ED!

Check out rally details on the ICPE website: www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org

Thank you for your strong support for public education!

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.

Monday, February 3, 2020

In Case You Missed It – Feb 3, 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.


CATCHING UP ON SCHOOL FUNDING

Wisonsin

Schools Lost $4 Billion After Decade of Cuts, Diversions

Like Indiana, the Wisconsin legislature has yet to fund public education at pre-recession levels. And, like Indiana, public money has been diverted to privatization.

From Up North News
By the conclusion of 2021, the state of Wisconsin will have invested $3.9 billion less in its public schools than if education funding had remained at 2011 levels, according to a new analysis of state funding.

That is according to a report released Wednesday by the Wisconsin Budget Project, a Madison-based organization that analyzes state budget and tax issues.

In compiling the report, the organization traced a decades’ worth of budget decisions enacted by the GOP-controlled Legislature that resulted in record cuts to public education.

In short, the report found many state lawmakers have deemed tax cuts more important than supporting Wisconsin’s 400-plus public school districts.

The loss in public education dollars was accomplished by diverting millions toward the expansion of the private voucher school program, offering tax cuts primarily aimed at the wealthiest households and wiping out business taxes in manufacturing agriculture, according to the report.

CORPORATE "REFORM" HAS FAILED

TIME Magazine: How the “Reform” Movement Has Failed America

From Diane Ravitch
Piling on tests and punishments for students and teachers and closing schools doesn’t solve any problems, and it certainly doesn’t improve education.

The article gives a much abbreviated history of “reform” from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Betsy DeVos. Testing and choice, they assumed, would fix all the problems.

Not true.

For almost twenty years, the Bush-Obama-Trump program of standardized testing, punitive accountability, and school choice has been the reform strategy. It has utterly failed.


SOUTH BEND PASSES ON PURDUE POLYTECHNIC

South Bend superintendent moves to end negotiations with Purdue charter school

From the South Bend Tribune
A potential partnership between South Bend schools and a charter school network appears to be off the table.

According to the agenda for Monday’s South Bend school board meeting, the board will vote on a recommendation by Superintendent Todd Cummings to “terminate efforts” to negotiate an agreement with Purdue Polytechnic High School South Bend for next school year...

Linda Wolfson, vice president of the Community Forum for Economic Justice, is one opponent. She has called for the school district to strengthen its own science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) magnet programs, namely the one at Riley High School.

“There seems to be a consistent effort to destroy public education,” Wolfson said at a community meeting, “not to provide an alternative.”

STUDENT HOMELESSNESS

Homeless students on rise in US: Study: FWCS has 685; EACS, 131; both let kids stay in school

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
A record-high 1.5 million public school students nationwide experienced homelessness in the 2017-18 academic year, and 74% of those lived with other people for lack of alternatives, according to federal data the National Center for Homeless Education released Wednesday.

Indiana's homeless student population for that year was 18,625, up by 4.3% from the 2015-16 school year, the center reported...

Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools are among the districts serving homeless students. The districts serve about 30,000 and 10,000 total students, respectively.

The homeless population has steadily grown at FWCS, which had 367 such students in 2013-14 and 951 in 2018-19. This year's count is at 685 as of Jan. 1, the district reported.

“A lot of people are surprised by the number of homeless students we serve,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

At EACS, the homeless population this academic year as of Thursday was 131, and the majority are students whose family is or was living with others for economic reasons, said Michelle Wenglikowski, director of student services.


FORCING "INNOVATION"

Parents, teachers speak out against restarting School 67 as an IPS innovation school

Why does IPS want to go against the will of the parents and the community? Why not provide this school and staff with the resources they need instead of forcing “innovation” on them. This school is not failing. IPS is failing it.

From Chalkbeat*
Through tears, parent Christina Brown asked the board not to change School 67, which is also known as Stephen Foster.

“That whole staff is a family. They love the parents. They are so welcoming. They are so helpful,” said Brown, who has four children at School 67. “Keep that building. Keep that family.”

None of the board members addressed the comments or spoke about the school. Johnson declined to comment on the recommendation before it is officially presented to the board Thursday.

CAMPAIGN 2020: DEVOS TO STUMP FOR #45

Trump Picks DeVos as Surrogate for His Campaign

Public school hater, Betsy DeVos will be on the campaign trail this year. Protect your public schools.

From Diane Ravitch
Politico Morning Education writes that Trump has chosen billionaire Betsy DeVos as a campaign surrogate, despite the fact that she is the most disliked member of his Cabinet. No doubt he hopes for DeVos campaign money but also wants to stick his thumb in the eye of teachers and supporters of public schools. DeVos champions charter schools and vouchers. She despises public schools.


VIRTUAL SCHOOLS...VIRTUAL PAYCHECKS

To recover missing paychecks, Indiana Virtual School counselors file a federal lawsuit

Like other charter school failures in Indiana,  the taxpayers will wind up paying for this.

From Chalkbeat*
When the online schools lost their charters in August, school board members immediately resigned — despite pending state and federal investigations, an unpaid state debt of $40 million, and thousands of student records still needing to be transferred.

The lawsuit zeroes in on the school’s founder, Thomas Stoughton, who it claims was responsible for the day-to-day management of the schools, the nonprofit board, and the companies running the schools, AlphaCom and Bitloft...

An attorney for Daleville Community Schools, the virtual charter schools’ authorizer, declined to comment on pending litigation. Virtual school officials had sought funds from the district to pay teachers after they said the schools had run out of money — a request that Daleville did not grant.

While some blame Daleville’s lax oversight for leading to the problems at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, Daleville officials have contended that they intervened as soon as they discovered potential wrongdoing at the schools.

LOCAL ED FORUM -- TEACHERS SPEAK OUT

Education frustration: State lawmakers get an earful on school resources

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Teachers described working to the point of exhaustion, spending money from their own pockets to supplement classroom activities and struggling to help kids with no funding to help. Others talked about discouraging their own family members from pursuing a career as an educator.

“I feel disenfranchised,” one elementary school teacher said, adding that when his parents and grandparents were teachers, there was more support for public schools.

Although pay and benefits were a concern, none of the teachers said they believed it was the biggest issue facing northeast Indiana schools.


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

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