Monday, February 20, 2023

In Case You Missed It – February 20, 2023

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

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The Indiana General Assembly is currently in session so the Republican supermajority is doing its best to damage the state's public schools.

We report on Republicans' annual quest for more voucher money and the attempt to make school board elections partisan.

Indiana: GOP Legislator Has Misgivings About Vouchers After Abrasive Meetings

Indiana State Senator Ryan Mishler (9th District) has raised an important point about the state's voucher plan. There's no public oversight.

Like most Republicans in Indiana, he stops short of denouncing the entire voucher program, but he does, thankfully, issue a warning to parents who choose to use the voucher program to send their children to private schools. Additionally, he states that schools receiving public tax dollars be publicly accountable...a position to which we heartily agree.

From Diane Ravitch
I have worked with public schools from all over the state. When issues have come up, the administrators have always been proactive, looking into the matters brought into question, and responding promptly. That is the leadership that I am accustomed to and expect to see in the institutions responsible for instructing our children. When I see such blatant avoidance, I cannot help but believe that these administrators are knowingly hiding something more. I would not call that leadership!

Since this all unfolded, several of the families relocated so they could send their children to the public school of choice. I would advise families looking at voucher schools to be aware that they are on their own at this point and time. They should strongly consider an alternative to the blemished and blatantly flawed procedures of accountability when choosing a school for their child. We need to hold the schools to the same high level of accountability they expect from the students and their parents.

Indiana House Republicans “committed” to voucher school expansion

Despite State Senator Ryan Mishler's recent objections, the Indiana Republican Party, a party that used to support fiscal responsibility, is once again calling for increased funding for private and religious schools.

Despite the lack of public oversight and church-state entanglement, Indiana's voucher program has cost the state over $1 billion since its inception in 2011, money that should have gone to the public schools. Public schools must justify how their money is spent. Parochial and private schools do not. Public schools accept all children no matter what their religious affiliation is, their achievement levels, their family incomes, what special needs they bring with them, and their sexual orientation or gender preferences. Private schools discriminate using a variety of methods.

Public funds should go to public schools.

From the Indiana Capital Chronicle
The promise comes one week after a powerful GOP senator threatened to halt new Choice Scholarship funding

Indiana House Republicans will seek to expand the state’s “school choice” program despite a top GOP senator’s call for more voucher school reforms.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said his caucus is “110% committed” to funding — and growing — Indiana’s voucher program, known as Choice Scholarships. He suggested that lawmakers will widen eligibility for the vouchers in the House-proposed state budget, which is expected to be unveiled later Friday.

That’s the opposite of what Mishawaka Sen. Ryan Mishler said state lawmakers should do in the current legislative session.

Instead, the powerful Republican senator threatened to hold up new state spending on the voucher program — and advised parents to “beware” of non-public schools — after he claimed to have witnessed “disgusting” behavior at a private Catholic school in northern Indiana.
Another article in the Indiana Capital Chronicle provides additional information.
Indiana House Republicans propose major school voucher expansion in next state budget

Fort Wayne-area diocese responds to lawmaker's letter

This appeared in Saturday's (2/18/23) Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Mishler was “not privy to confidential interviews with parents,” investigation details and other actions taken while he wasn’t present, the statement said. The diocese, a regional district of the Roman Catholic Church, said Mishler first approached the Catholic high school in September about a concern involving a staff member on behalf of another parent.

“He was advised of the diocese’s standard practice to address issues at the lowest possible level and then move forward,” the diocese’s statement said. “He was advised that standard practice and policy, as well as pertinent law, did not allow Marian’s administration to speak with a parent, such as him, about matters involving another parent’s child or to disclose confidential personnel information regarding its staff, such as disciplinary actions.”


Parents know best — except when they don’t

Public education benefits the public. Rob Boston, in this post on the website of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote,
Public education benefits everyone, whether you directly use it or not. In most parts of the country, public schools are funded by property taxes, and every homeowner pays – even those who have no children or whose children are grown. There’s a simple reason for this: It’s in society’s interest that our children be educated, and public schools are providing that for 90% of them (and remain available for the other 10% whose parents have decided to educate them elsewhere).
Public schools accept every child no matter their family income, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), or their sexual orientation. Everyone pays because everyone benefits. Public dollars are rightly set aside for this public good. Our tax dollars should not be used for educational services that line private pockets, enrich religious institutions, or support racist and/or discriminatory practices. Period.

From The Answer Sheet
The news recently broke of an online neo-Nazi home-schooling network called “Dissident Homeschool.” The group is easily mocked as an example of abusive parenting and of home schooling gone wrong. But it’s when combined with another set of recent news stories that we should be worried.

While these racist home-schoolers have been colluding, a separate group of state legislators and governors have been hard at work changing their state laws to divert taxpayer dollars — with no strings attached and no meaningful regulations — toward voucher programs that include these home-schoolers.

Those pushing these policies use slogans like “fund children, not schools,” as a justification for moving public money from public schools and toward whichever education-related expenses parents choose. This, they claim, will improve education.

But the truth is disturbingly different, as inadvertently disclosed by the head of a Utah school choice lobbying group who was recently caught on a recording explaining, “I want to destroy public education.” The disclosure didn’t matter; her group successfully advocated for a Utah bill creating one of these new universal voucher programs.


Partisan school board elections still a bad idea

This is not really a surprise. The Republic supermajority in the Indiana Legislature tried this last year, though it failed. They seem to think that education should be a partisan issue.

Apparently, according to the culture warriors, public schools are Democratic, and private and religious schools are Republican.

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld, from Bloomington, Indiana, thinks it's a bad do we.

From School Matters
Indiana Republican legislators seem determined to turn school board elections into partisan political affairs. There are so many reasons this is a bad idea. I’ll start with this: It would prevent many excellent board members from serving.

I’m thinking of David Sabbagh, who was a thoughtful and dedicated member of the Monroe County Community School Corp. board. Years earlier, he was elected to the Bloomington City Council as a Republican. Sure, he was what today would be called a RINO, but he had an R by his name on the ballot.

And I’m thinking of Keith Klein, who was elected four times to the MCCSC board before his untimely death in 2021. I have no idea what his political affiliation was, or if he had one. Like Sabbagh, he put the wellbeing of the school district and its students ahead of any thought of politics.

If school board elections had been partisan, I seriously doubt if either of them would have been elected. It’s been years since the voters in Bloomington elected anyone but a Democrat to public office. But the school board is different. I’ve followed the MCCSC board, as a reporter and a citizen, for 35 years; and with just a few exceptions, I couldn’t name the political affiliation of its members.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is 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 [NOTE: NEIFPE has no financial ties to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]

Note: NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is posted by the end of the day every Monday except after holiday weekends or as otherwise noted.


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