Monday, October 19, 2020

In Case You Missed It – October 19, 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.


VOUCHERS AND THE SUPREME COURT

School vouchers and a Supreme Court nominee

From School Matters
Barrett served from 2015-17 on the board of Trinity School at Greenlawn, a South Bend Catholic school, the New York Times reported. Trinity had a policy during Barrett’s time on the board that effectively prohibited same-sex couples from enrolling their children in the school, according to the Times.

That would seem to cast doubt on Barrett’s claim in her confirmation hearing that she had “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference” and would not do so. It also raises policy questions about whether publicly funded institutions should practice discrimination.

In the two years that Barrett was on the Trinity board, the school received over a half million dollars in Indiana voucher program funding. Since the start of the state’s voucher program, Trinity School at Greenlawn has received nearly $2 million in state support for student tuition.

HOLCOMB STILL "STUDYING" TEACHER PAY

Still no payoff: Teacher salary study unconscionably tardy

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Honors for the slowest study in Indiana history surely must go to Gov. Eric Holcomb's teacher pay commission. Beginning with its closed-door meetings, tardy public input sessions and, now, a delay in the release of its final report until after Nov. 3, the panel's work looks more like a stalling tactic than any real effort to address lagging teacher salaries or inform Hoosiers.

After nearly two years of study, there's no excuse for waiting to release information until after Election Day. What's in the report or recommendations the administration doesn't want voters to see?

Holcomb announced the seven-member study commission in his 2019 State of the State address, pledging to “make teacher pay competitive with surrounding states.” Data at the time showed Indiana teachers, on average, earned $50,554, but starting pay was as low as $30,000. Neighboring states paid much more: An average $61,600 in Illinois and $57,000 in Ohio, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

A report from the Rockefeller Institute found Indiana educators, on average, made only $6,900 more a year in 2017 than they earned in 2002, for the smallest pay increase in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Adjusted for inflation, Indiana teacher salaries decreased by 15% over the 15-year period, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

In addition to prompting Holcomb to appoint the study commission, the figures compelled the General Assembly to increase education spending in the last biennial budget, although the increased funding also included $37.5 million in new benefits for charter and voucher schools.


HOW ARE TEACHERS DOING?

How Are American Teachers Doing, Really?

From Peter Greene in Forbes
Imagine you’ve got a business, housed in the basement of a single building. A tremendous storm sweeps in, and the basement floods—standing water, four inches deep. Some workers are asked to stay at their station, working ankle deep in water. Others are moved to the first floor, forced to use unfamiliar equipment that they must learn to use on the fly while trying to do something that is kind of, but not really, like their usual work. Nobody knows when the storm is going to end, or when the basement will be pumped dry.

You would think that upper levels of management might send someone in to check up on the workers. To see how they’re doing, what problems they’re encountering, maybe even ask what can be done to help or hire extra people to deal with the extra work the chaos creates.

You would think.

But in the pandemic storm of U.S. education right now, that’s mostly not what’s happening. Across the nation, we have next to no data about how things are working, about how teachers and students are holding up, about what resources schools need.

NACS SCHOOL MOVES TO REMOTE LEARNING

NACS school closes to students: Remote learning instituted after rise in COVID cases

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
An influx of COVID-19 cases at a Northwest Allen County middle school is prompting a week of remote learning for that building, the district announced Sunday evening.

Maple Creek Middle School's extracurricular and after-school activities also are canceled, but they could be rescheduled as early as the week of Oct. 19, the district said.

Teachers will work on-site this week, the district said, and custodial staff will thoroughly clean the school.

The pivot from in-person classes followed an increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases at Maple Creek in the past two weeks, the district said.

“Because of the number of students being quarantined at the moment, and because of the number of confirmed cases during such a short period of time, we are taking extra steps to help keep our students safe and on track,” Principal Bill Toler said in a statement.

The COVID-19 cases include students in each grade level and appear to have originated from a variety of sources, the district said.

The number of confirmed cases at Maple Creek – which enrolled about 900 students in grades 6-8 last academic year – represents about 1% of the school's on-site student population, the district said. The district has said about 86% of NACS students opted for on-site instruction this year.


TEACHERS ON THE FRONT LINES

Wisconsin, South Carolina: Two Teachers Die of COVID-19

From Diane Ravitch
Yesterday, I posted an article by an economist who wrote that schools are not super spreaders, and that the rate of transmission of COVID has been very low among students and teachers. Some readers got angry at me for posting this article. Let me be clear that I am not a scientist or a doctor. I do not know whether it is safe to reopen schools. I am as uncertain about the right course of action as many other people.

I am not qualified to offer any guidance. The decision about reopening depends on the community and expert judgment. Everyone should follow the science, wear a mask, practice social distancing both indoors and outside, and wash their hands frequently. It may be safe to reopen schools in some places but not safe in other places. What is important to know is that the COVID is surging again in many states, that the infection rate is rising nationally, and that this is a contagious and deadly disease. Be informed.

The stories below tell what happened to two teachers. They loved teaching; their students loved them. It is not clear where they became infected with the disease.

TEACHER CANDIDATES FOR PUBLIC OFFICE

Science teacher challenges Banks for House seat

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Chip Coldiron is the latest Democrat who will try to end the Republican Party's domination of northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District.

It's a tall order: Second-term Republican Rep. Jim Banks captured nearly 68% of all votes cast in the district in the 2016 and 2018 general elections. Among Hoosiers in the U.S. House, only Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky received a larger share of ballots – 73.4% in the northwest 1st District – over those two elections.

First-time candidate Coldiron won a four-candidate Democratic primary contest in June, while Banks clobbered his GOP primary opponent.

If Banks defeats Coldiron in the Nov. 3 general election, it would be the 14th straight victory since 1994 for a Republican candidate in the 3rd District.

The district consists of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Jay, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells and Whitley counties and parts of Kosciusko and Blackford counties. House terms are for two years, and the job pays $174,000 a year.

The Journal Gazette recently interviewed Banks and Coldiron. Their answers have been edited for clarity and space.

Why voters should elect each candidate to Congress...

**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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Monday, October 12, 2020

In Case You Missed It – October 12, 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.


VOUCHERS RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY S.C. SUPREMES

South Carolina: Supreme Court Strikes Down Voucher Plan!

The state Constitution of Indiana, like South Carolina's, forbids using money "drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution" (Article 1, Section 6). Apparently, however, it doesn't really mean what it says. The state has funneled nearly a billion dollars to non-public, mostly religious, schools since the school "choice" program began in 2011.

From Diane Ravitch
The ruling was a bitter pill for conservatives in state government, who have over the years repeatedly tried to get public money allocated in various ways, including vouchers, to private schools...

The Constitution says, “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

In South Carolina, the state Constitution means what it says.

SCHOOLS HAVE FLEXIBILITY ON DAY LENGTH

Indiana officials give flexibility on length of school days but hesitate to loosen too many rules

How do you feel about longer school days?

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana education officials will allow a handful of school systems to take an unconventional approach to the length of their school year during the pandemic.

With the changes approved Wednesday, a few districts — including Center Grove Schools and Paramount charter network in Indianapolis — can offer longer school days to take advantage of in-person learning and cut back on e-learning days to help with planning.

They will still give the same number of hours of instruction as a normal school year but don’t have to do it in the standard 180 days.

“Under the current environment, every day with our students is a gift, and we treasure each moment for student instruction,” Brown County Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack told the State Board of Education.

CHANGES TO FWCS REMOTE PROGRAM

FWCS altering remote program: Changes being made to ensure attendance

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools will introduce revamped attendance procedures next week for remote learners, district leaders said during a virtual update Tuesday.

Changes will address inconsistent attendance practices and a lack of engagement among middle and high schoolers during the first nine weeks of the year. The second quarter begins Monday.

“Parents need to understand this is school, and students have an obligation to show up when the class is taking place,” said D. Faye Williams-Robbins, chief of student, family and community engagement.


MCCORMICK CAMPAIGNS FOR DEM GOVERNOR CANDIDATE

McCormick criticizes Holcomb as she campaigns for his Democratic challenger

No one knows the issues with education in our state better than Supt. McCormick! We would be wise to listen to her before we vote!

From Chalkbeat*
“Any educator who’s probably watching this could tell you there are a lot of things we do that don’t make sense,” [Indiana State Superintendent] McCormick said. “And then we tell you how to improve upon it, but you have to have leaders who will listen. And we’ve tried to be a voice, but it is really difficult to do right now when you have the executive office of the governor, and you have the House and the Senate under supermajority, and you have a state board who is really the governor’s board.”

McCormick didn’t name specific policies that she felt were burdensome but went on to discuss the challenges of school funding, teacher retention, and pandemic instruction.

This election season, McCormick’s cross-party endorsements of several Democrats, including Myers, mark the latest chapter in years of strife between the state’s top elected education official and the governor. McCormick denounced the “toxic” behind-the-scenes politics that she blamed for encumbering her job when she announced she would not seek a second term.

COVID CASES RISE IN STATE'S SCHOOLS

Virus in schools steadily rising: Total cases in county rise to nearly 6,700

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Confirmed cases at schools continue to rise, the state virus dashboard showed in its weekly update Monday. Collectively, 944 schools reported 1,992 student cases, 406 teacher cases and 447 staff cases.

This is up from Thursday's dashboard totals of 1,676 students, 335 teachers and 343 staff members at 742 schools.

The actual number of confirmed COVID-19 cases affecting schools is likely higher given 1,067 schools haven't reported to the dashboard. School participation is voluntary.

Regionally, cases have affected 102 schools in 10 northeast Indiana counties, including 44 public and 11 non-public schools in Allen County.

COVID'S IMPACT ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Trump Has COVID. What That Means For Public Schools

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
Freedom is a wonderful thing and should be preserved as much as possible.

But your freedom ends where mine begins.

Your choice not to wear a mask in public increases the infection rate in my community. Your decision to eat in a restaurant, go to a bar or spend a weekend at an amusement park puts not just you and your family at risk, but me and mine as well.

And if you send your child to a school building in an area of moderate to high infection rates, you are increasing the likelihood that someone I care about will get sick and perhaps die.

We have both rights and responsibilities.

If you live out in the woods all by yourself, you don’t need to constrain your personal freedom. You can do whatever you can get away with.

But if you live in a community – as nearly all of us do – you have to give up some of that freedom to the rest of us.

This is simple civics – something you would have known had our schools not stopped teaching it because it wasn’t on the big annual standardized tests.


CAN SCHOOL CHOICE REDUCE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT?

“Free to Choose: Can School Choice Reduce Student Achievement?”

From Diane Ravitch
For the past thirty years, school choice advocates have claimed that the best way to improve education was to give families public money to send their child to a private or religious school. The very fact of “privateness,” they said, meant better quality. This turns out not to be the case. Students never receive a voucher that is enough to pay for elite private schools. Typically, the voucher schools are lesser quality than the public school the child leaves, because voucher schools are not required to have certified teachers. In recent years, numerous studies show that children who leave a public school and go to a voucher school lose ground academically.

This study was published in 2018. Its findings are consistent with studies of voucher effects in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Indiana, and other states. Voucher schools are free to teach scientific nonsense and fake history. In Florida and elsewhere, they are free to discriminate against groups of people they don’t like.

*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 fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

2020 Election: Voting by Mail Help

VOTE-BY-MAIL

Many Indiana voters are choosing to vote by mail in this year's election. Unfortunately, vote-by-mail is not open to everyone in Indiana, so those who do not qualify will have to vote in person. To find out if you qualify to vote by mail check the information on the Indiana Secretary of State's web site. Click on the drop-down menu, Absentee Voting By Mail, for a list of who qualifies. The Secretary of State's site also contains the information in this post.

If you wish to vote by mail in Indiana and you haven't yet requested a vote-by-mail ballot, you should do so immediately. Requests for a ballot must be received by October 22, 2020, but the sooner you request a ballot the sooner it will arrive. Once you receive the ballot, carefully follow the directions to fill it out and return it as soon as possible. Go to the Indiana Voter Portal to request a ballot. Click on Apply Online/Get Forms.

Link to the Indiana Voter Portal: indianavoters.in.gov

You can return your vote-by-mail ballot via the US Postal Service or by delivering it in person to your county election board office. If you mail your ballot, it must be received by the County Election Board by noon on November 3. To ensure that it arrives on time mail it at least two weeks in advance, or hand deliver it to the election board office.

MAKE SURE YOUR BALLOT IS RECIEVED

If you mailed in your ballot, or delivered it to the county election board office, you should check to see that the ballot was received.

Visit the Indiana Voter Portal. Click on CHECK VOTING STATUS and enter your personal information. When you arrive at the Voter Portal, check the name at the top to make sure it is yours (see below).


Scroll down to the section titled Absentee Ballot Information. In this section you can see information about your Absentee Application as well as your Absentee Ballot. The latter will list the date when the ballot was sent to you, and the date on which it was recieved at the county election board office (see below).

Additional information can be found at an Indianapolis Star article titled How to track your absentee ballot in Indiana and fix ballot problems. Note that some of the information in the article is specific to Marion County.

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Monday, October 5, 2020

In Case You Missed It – October 5, 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.


NEW VIRTUAL SCHOOL GETS PUBLIC FUNDS FOR HOME SCHOOLERS

To woo home-schoolers, a new Indiana virtual school offers $1,700 stipends

Publicly supported charter schools have opened the flood gates for grifters to grab more public funds.

From Chalkbeat*
...a new K-6 public virtual school, called Tech Trep Academy, that caters to home-schoolers. Families have the flexibility to teach their children however they wish because the school doesn’t require students to take traditional classes or complete homework. Officials assume students are in attendance unless a parent says otherwise.

But unlike traditional home schooling, Tech Trep is publicly funded.

Within weeks of launching, it’s come under scrutiny for wooing families with dollars, which state education officials say could be an illegal enrollment incentive. The state will pay more than $860,000 toward Tech Trep this school year with scant assurance that the money will be spent on education. The Middlebury Community Schools district is overseeing the school and stands to gain nearly $1,000 in state funding for each student it enrolls.

FWCS BUDGET

FWCS gets no public comments: $309.5 million budget plan a 1% increase on last year's

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The public kept silent Monday on Fort Wayne Community Schools' proposed $309.5 million spending plan that could result in a 2% property tax rate increase.

Nobody in the socially distanced, downtown audience offered feedback during the school board's public hearing, nor did anyone submit comments or questions virtually during the meeting's livestream.

Presented Sept. 14, the proposed 2021 budget is 1% more than the current $305 million budget. The board is expected to approve the plan Oct. 12.

IN GOVERNOR ELECTION

Indiana governor hopeful Woody Myers would overhaul school funding, scrutinize charters

Myers supports the state's public schools, so why hasn't the Indiana State Teachers Association endorsed him? Perhaps ISTA is hedging their bets because the Republican Governor, Holcomb, is leading by double digits. Would Holcomb give ISTA a voice in his choice for state Secretary of Education or will he follow the recent history of Republicans in Indiana and work against public schools for the benefit of privatization?

From Chalkbeat*
Myers and running mate Linda Lawson, a former state representative, are emphasizing education as a key component of their ticket, playing to those who may be disgruntled with Indiana’s education reform movement that embraced school choice and accountability measures such as standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and school letter grades.

Myers also favors a more cautious approach to reopening school buildings during the coronavirus pandemic.

He picked up endorsements from Republican Superintendent Jennifer McCormick and the American Federation of Teachers Indiana but failed to win support from the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union.


Seeking re-election, Holcomb highlights progress on teacher pay — and what comes next

There has been little progress in Indiana teacher pay, despite what Governor Holcomb claims. His administration has stalled any decision about teacher pay and now, due to the pandemic, there is going to be less money for schools.

From Chalkbeat*
...Holcomb has also been criticized by Indiana teachers, who turned out in record numbers last year at a Statehouse rally to pressure lawmakers to take action on teacher pay, standardized testing, and school funding. While Holcomb has promised to study the teacher pay issue and have experts bring policy suggestions, he hasn’t yet delivered the results. One of his promises to raise teacher pay in the future may no longer be financially viable in a pandemic economy.

And Holcomb, who has spent his career working for Indiana’s GOP, appeared to have a strained relationship with fellow Republican Jennifer McCormick, the state’s education leader who has advocated for teachers. In a splashy move last week, McCormick crossed party lines to support Holcomb’s opponent in the governor’s race.

COVID-19 IN INDIANA SCHOOLS

Indiana officials report nearly 1,900 cases of COVID-19 in schools

From Chalkbeat*
The soon-to-be released dashboard will show new and total school COVID-19 positive cases among students, teachers, and staff. If a school has fewer than five cases among students, the state will suppress the information to protect confidentiality.

Because the numbers cover just one period, “it is not possible to identify any trends from the currently available data,” said Jennifer O’Malley, state Department of Health spokeswoman, said.

On the dashboard, the public will be able to filter data by school district and see a map of schools with cases.

DEVOS ATTEMPT TO FUND PRIVATE SCHOOLS STOPPED BY COURTS

US Ed Secretary DeVos wants to give public money from the CARES act to private schools. The courts have, so far, prevented the attempt at redirecting the funds.

DeVos Loses Fight to Split Public School CARES $$ with Private Schools

From Diane Ravitch
Betsy DeVos lost the biggest fight of her tenure as Secretary of Education. Federal judges consistently rejected her legally binding rule requiring states to give private schools a share of the $13 billion Congress allocated for public schools and for needy students in private schools. DeVos wanted private schools to get a share of the federal money without regard to the need of their students. The judges said no.


GA: State Super Wood Outmaneuvers DeVos

From Curmudgucation
“Georgia will abide by federal law, but we are not going to layer additional stress and burden onto our students and teachers during this time,” Woods said in a statement Thursday. “In this environment, these tests are not valid or reliable measures of academic progress or achievement, and we are taking all possible steps at the state level to reduce their high-stakes impact.”
It's an elegant solution to a problem that shouldn't exist. The Georgia Education Association applauds the move favoring "compassion over compliance," and hopes that the Governor likewise suspends teacher evaluations (teacher evaluations based on a test that has zero student consequences are baloney). GeorgiaCAN, the state's arm of the ed reform octopus sticks to the talking point that these tests are really necessary for finding out where students stand and what they've lost because a once-a-year narrow standardized test is so much better for that than the professional tools and judgment of actual classroom teachers.

*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 fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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