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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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