Monday, August 17, 2020

In Case You Missed It – August 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.

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FWCS' 1st day mostly 'positive': District's new leader visits schools, lauds students for masks

Fort Wayne Community schools open up under the threat of a pandemic...

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
...The first day had hiccups including long waits for the help desk, login struggles among students learning remotely and jammed phone lines, particularly for transportation, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said. Some of the technology troubles stem from students getting used to a new system, she said, and the district is creating a troubleshooting document to help parents address common tech issues.

There were no mask issues, said Stockman, who accompanied Daniel to the schools.

“Everything we saw in schools was positive,” she said.

Sandra Vohs' assessment was similar. The teachers union president said educators had nothing but praise for the students, who were following guidelines and happy to be back.

Don't open, FWCS board hears: Teachers union chief says Thursday return too soon

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Vohs, the teachers union president, suggested alternatives to the current Return to Learn plan – including starting the academic year exclusively with e-learning – because, she said, Allen County coronavirus statistics are concerning.

The Allen County Department of Health said Monday 34 additional residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Allen County to 3,964. The total number of Allen County deaths attributed to coronavirus remained at 162.

“We don't think that anybody should be reopening right now based just on the community (coronavirus trends),” Vohs said. “I think we've got a great plan when things are better. But things aren't better right now, and it's naive to think that once kids get into the buildings that we're going to be able to follow everything.”

FWCS chief tries to find silver linings in challenges

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Mark Daniel acknowledges he became the Fort Wayne Community Schools superintendent during unprecedented conditions.

It would be understandable if Daniel felt discouraged. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted traditional schooling, spurring countless hours of planning so classes can begin Thursday – in person and remotely.

But Daniel finds the upside.


Indiana blocks some charter schools from $10 million coronavirus relief grant program

Indiana charter schools get money from the state for each student they have on their rolls. Some Indiana charter schools have also gotten money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (something that public schools aren't allowed to do). Now, those charters are dismayed because they can't also get money from a grant for helping schools deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

These whiners aren't interested in educating our children. They're interested in one thing: getting public MONEY.

From Chalkbeat*
A $10 million grant program meant to help Indiana schools grapple with the impact of the coronavirus is pitting charter and traditional public schools against each other and creating tension over how to divvy up federal aid.

The state notified several Indiana charter schools last week that they had won competitive grants to help them serve the most vulnerable students. But then the schools learned that restrictions that weren’t mentioned in the initial application would prevent them from accepting the grant.

The Indiana Department of Education is withholding federally funded coronavirus relief grants from schools that also received money through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to interviews with and documents shared by school leaders.


David Berliner and Gene Glass: Why Bother Testing in 2021?

With all the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, do we still really need to be subjecting our students to invalid, expensive, time-consuming, and academically worthless standardized tests?

From Diane Ravitch
Without question, the “system” of the U.S. Department of Education has a huge stake in enforcing annual achievement testing. It’s not just that the Department’s relationship is at stake with Pearson Education, the U.K. corporation that is the major contractor for state testing, with annual revenues of nearly $5 billion. The Department’s image as a “get tough” defender of high standards is also at stake. Pandemic be damned! We can’t let those weak kneed blue states get away with covering up the incompetence of those teacher unions.

To whom are the results of these annual testings important? Governors? District superintendents? Teachers?

How the governors feel about the test results depends entirely on where they stand on the political spectrum. Blue state governors praise the findings when they are above the national average, and they call for increased funding when they are below. Red state governors, whose state’s scores are generally below average, insist that the results are a clear call for vouchers and more charter schools – in a word, choice. District administrators and teachers live in fear that they will be blamed for bad scores; and they will.


Member of FWCS board defends her retweets on issues

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Jehl, who holds a nonpartisan office, regularly retweets political posts to her 84 followers; her Twitter bio does not include her affiliation with FWCS. Topics she has retweeted about since June include the Black Lives Matter movement, the presidential candidates, the coronavirus pandemic and the reopening of schools.

Multiple tweets upset Farlow.

"These tweets ... were not only offensive in nature, but they attacked the integrity of the entire public school system," Farlow said. "They attacked my role as a professional and called me a parasite : not me personally but teachers in general. They attacked First Amendment rights of protesters and said they should be shot. They attacked our minority students and likened masks to being forced to wear a hijab or a burka. This is completely unacceptable to me."

That's a mouthful of accusations, Jehl said. She specifically rebutted the claim about her stance on public education, stressing that she serves on the board because she believes in public education.


Indiana governor proposes moving fall student count date to avoid school funding cuts

Holcomb’s “solution” is temporary and there's no guarantee that it will be approved by the anti-public education forces in the Indiana General Assembly.

From Chalkbeat*
Pushing back on a move last week to cut state aid to schools that stay fully remote, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb proposed Wednesday keeping funding levels steady through the fall.

Holcomb’s proposal would stave off cuts for a few months — and buy time either for students to return to classrooms or for Indiana lawmakers to discuss potential changes to a state law that otherwise would reduce state dollars for students learning mostly online.

He suggested delaying the Sept. 18 count date of student enrollment that’s used to calculate school funding. By postponing the count date until at least December, schools won’t immediately see their funding dip.

But Holcomb’s proposal does not guarantee that schools will be fully funded for the whole school year...

Unacceptable risk: Threat to school funding defies safety guidelines

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Indiana Senate leader Rodric Bray had little interest in how online-only schools were funded in 2019, when some lawmakers called for a summer study committee to examine spending in the wake of a virtual-school scandal that cost Indiana taxpayers more than $68 million.

Bray, who was among the legislators who accepted and later donated campaign cash from officials tied to the now-closed schools, said there were more pressing issues to consider. He did not assign the topic to an interim study committee last year.

Today, however, the Senate president pro tem appears to have much interest in the topic. In spite of assurances from Gov. Eric Holcomb and other legislative leaders that Indiana schools wouldn't face budget cuts, Bray issued a letter last week warning school officials they will face a 15% cut in funding if they offer only online instruction, which 31 districts initially plan to do out of concern for COVID-19. In some cases, their local county health departments have ordered them to offer only online instruction.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, 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


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