Monday, August 24, 2020

In Case You Missed It – August 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 teachers march for Public Education, November 2019


The Trump administration declared teachers ‘essential workers.’ Here’s what that means.

Teacher are "essential" -- except when it's time to negotiate a new contract.

From the Answer Sheet
The Trump administration is now labeling teachers “essential” workers, a move aimed at pushing school districts to open for in-person instruction for the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The declaration of teachers as “critical infrastructure workers,” which came in an Aug. 18 guidance published by the Department of Homeland Security, means that teachers exposed to coronavirus but who show no symptoms can return to classrooms and not quarantine for 14 days as public health agencies recommend.

DHS said the label is only advisory and not meant to be a federal directive. Still, school districts that want teachers to return to classrooms — even when teachers don’t think it is safe enough — could use the federal designation to bolster their own mandates.


Indiana will start tracking COVID-19 cases in schools

From Chalkbeat Indiana*
Indiana will start matching COVID-19 tests to student records to notify schools of positive cases and create a public dashboard tracking the spread of the coronavirus in schools, the state’s top health official announced Wednesday.

The state aims to launch the public dashboard next month. Schools will be asked to submit numbers daily on new positive cases among students, teachers, and staff, said Dr. Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner.


MI: Teacher Fired Over Political Tweet. If Only There Was A Way Protect Against Such Injustice.

“And while conservative outlets large and small whined about the unfairness of Kucera's firing, somehow not one that I read managed to connect the dots between this unjust firing and the gutting of laws to protect the due process of teachers and the kneecapping of their unions. I'm sorry for what happened to Justin Kucera--here's hoping that he realizes that it was not sucky liberals who are responsible.”

From Peter Greene at Curmudgucation
...the Michigan GOP totally asked for this.

A decade ago, they were busily hacking away at public education through ever manner of attack they could devise. That included a package of laws that then-governor and never-a-friend-of-education Rick Snyder that cut teacher tenure off at the knees. For instance, the old job security laws (what we call "tenure" really isn't, but it's the term everyone's used to) required that a district had to show "reasonable and just cause" to fire a teacher with tenure; the new law just requires proof that the firing was not "arbitrary and capricious."

The new batch of laws also made tenure harder to get, and that's where Kucera's troubles seem to lie. A teacher is "on probation" for the first five years of their career, meaning they can be fired for pretty much any reason at all, including Pissing Off The Wrong People or Looking Like A Potential Source of Headaches for Administration.

When tenure battles were all the rage, teachers and their supporters said repeatedly that teachers need job protections so that they don't have to constantly looking over their shoulders and worrying about a hundred little things like political affiliation. "You big wimps are just afraid of accountability," was the reply.


State leaders kick the can

From Steve Hinnefeld at School Matters
Faced with questions about state funding for schools that are operating online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb came up with an answer: Kick the can down the road.

Holcomb, together with leaders of the Indiana House and Senate, proposed delaying the “count day” for recording school corporations’ official fall enrollment from September until at least December. That means schools will continue to receive complete state funding through the fall semester.

But it doesn’t address what happens beyond that. Neither does it ensure that schools will get their get the funding they expected for the 2020-21 school year, without having it reduced because some students attend virtually. That will be up to the legislature.


Strong voice to advocate for schools indispensable

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction is now an appointed position, along with every member of the State Board of Education. Your vote is more important than ever.

The Governor appoints the Superintendent and 8 other members of the eleven member board. The other two members are appointed by the majority leaders of the state's legislative houses -- the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. Indiana's one-party government has a history of snubbing public education in favor of privatization.

Vote for pro-public education candidates.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
If we could count on Jennifer McCormick occupying the top state schools post come January, it would be easier to accept the governor's “trust us” pledge to fully fund public schools – both those with students in classrooms and those where it is necessary to offer online-only instruction.

But the power play that made the state superintendent of public instruction a gubernatorial appointee goes into effect in 2021, and those responsible for it are now asking us to trust them on school funding. Without McCormick's fierce advocacy for public schools, any pledge to do no harm to schools and students should be regarded warily.

Events over the past 10 days have fueled school districts' financial concerns, beginning with a warning from Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray that schools not offering classroom instruction were subject to a 15% budget cut, per the current funding formula for virtual instruction. School leaders, some of whom have been forced to offer only online instruction because of their local health department's COVID-19 guidance, objected.

Gov. Eric Holcomb insisted Wednesday it was his intent to deliver full funding. But it's not his call unless he steps up with an executive order...


SACS' e-school years in making

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
For Southwest Allen County Schools, dreams of launching a virtual school didn't begin with COVID-19.

The planning started about five years ago, and efforts to launch the program began in earnest last fall as administrators began meeting with teachers to develop some courses, said Park Ginder, Homestead High School principal.

Administrators envisioned offering the program to homebound students and those needing to make up a credit.

“Then COVID hit,” Ginder said. “We're able now – because we were past the ideation stages – able to use a catastrophe, basically, to meet needs and push things forward.”

Called eSACS, the virtual school was one of three learning options the district offered middle and high school students this fall.


Southwest Allen County Schools opens enrollment for eSACS to all Indiana Students

Southwest Allen County Schools is allowing access to its eSACS Virtual Secondary School to all students in Indiana. Enrollment opened Wednesday for students in 7th through 11th grades.

“We are now at a point with our e-learning school that we are going to be able to open it up to students from across the state,” said Superintendent Dr. Phil Downs.

The district has been working on this plan for over 5 years. The ongoing pandemic isn’t the reason it was started, but COVID-19 accelerated the district’s plans.

“Certainly the COVID situation, when we decided we were going to have to put something together for our students, it very quickly became obvious to us this is something that students around the state would be interested in maybe having access to,” said Dr. Downs.

*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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