Monday, March 20, 2023

In Case You Missed It – March 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.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column of our blog page to be informed when our blog posts are published.

Three of this week's articles are in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Support local newspapers and media. Click the link at the end to subscribe for online access or delivery.


Democrats oppose textbook funding mandate

Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly continue to do as much damage as they can to public schools. Governor Holcomb called for funding textbooks so parents wouldn't have to pay for them. Republicans in the House left the mandate for paying for textbooks in the law but deleted the funding leaving the school systems in the lurch.

"House Republicans deleted the funding from their version of the budget, which the chamber approved in late February on a party-line vote. They boasted in a budget summary that their proposal 'eliminates fees for textbooks and curricular materials.' It does: It makes it illegal for public and charter schools to charge for them. But it doesn’t provide any money, leaving the funding up to the schools."

From School Matters
Indiana Democratic legislators are pushing back on a plan by House Republicans to shift the cost of textbooks and curricular materials to public and charter schools.

First to step up: Rep. Tanya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute. In a news release this week, she says Republicans are pulling an “accounting trick” that will cost Vigo County Community Schools nearly $1.4 million a year.

“Our state constitution promises tuition-free education for all students, and it’s time to make good on that promise for students and families,” Pfaff says. “But House Republicans’ budget is a bait and switch that saddles the Vigo County School Corporation will the cost of all students’ textbooks …”

As of now, Indiana is one of only seven states where families are charged for textbooks and curricular materials. The state pays for books and materials for students who qualify by income for free or reduced-price school meals, but all other families are on the hook for the expenses.


How School Voucher Laws Protect Discrimination.

Private and religious schools want public money, but they don't want to follow the same rules that public schools follow.

" man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever..." -- Thomas Jefferson

From Peter Greene in Forbes
The intent is clear enough—to provide education service providers (private schools, tutors, education materials publishers, etc) with the ability to use taxpayer dollars however they see fit. No officials can ask them to alter their “creed, practices, admission policy, hiring policy or curriculum,” meaning that a private school could be free to discriminate as it wishes, even as it uses taxpayer dollars to deliver religious instruction.

This allows states to operate—and require taxpayers to fund—a school system that exists in parallel dimension where the United States Constitution is forbidden to reach. Private schools and other education service providers will be free to discriminate against students and staff on the taxpayer’s dime. The voucher non-interference language further insures that the system will be one in which it is the school, not the family, that has choice—”admission policy” is one of the protected areas.

We’ve already seen vouchers used to send millions of taxpayer dollars to anti-LGBTQ schools and schools with anti-science curricula. We’ve seen plenty of research indicating that voucher programs hurt result in sub-par education for students. But with laws written to protect such actions, it’s hard to know how far such taxpayer-funded miseducation could go.

Northwest Allen County Schools

Northwest Allen County Schools board meeting site to change in April

Northwest Allen County Schools is changing the venue for their board meetings.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The Northwest Allen County Schools board will conduct business in a different venue beginning next month because its typical meeting site will be repurposed for central office staff.

The elected officials unanimously endorsed the April 10 move to the Perry Hill Elementary School gymnasium and the related central office reconfiguration with little discussion Monday.

Meetings are currently held in the boardroom, which is within the central office facilities at Perry Hill and can seat about 50 attendees.

NACS is working to ensure the gym will have proper amenities for the meetings, such as Wi-Fi, audio and video. The district livestreams the proceedings, but the audio quality can vary depending on the speaker.

Indiana Preschool Enrollment

Indiana opens enrollment for pre-K program

Indiana's preschool program is now accepting enrollment applications.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Families of 4-year-olds can now seek enrollment in Indiana’s preschool program for the upcoming academic year, officials announced Monday.

Open to children from lower-income families, On My Way Pre-K awards grants to eligible children so they can attend high-quality preschool programs for a year before kindergarten.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration reported a record high enrollment this academic year – 6,230 youngsters. That was up by about 30% from the previous year, which had 4,793 students.

Participation in northeast Indiana surpassed 400 students, including 267 from Allen County, the program’s enrollment dashboard said.

Officials expect even more participants this upcoming cycle, said Courtney Penn, director of the agency’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.
FWCS Improvement Projects

Fort Wayne Community Schools advances on referendum projects

Fort Wayne Community Schools is spending referendum money to improve schools.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
More than $2 million in improvements – including an elementary school expansion – that Fort Wayne Community Schools voters endorsed at the polls three years ago took a step toward reality Monday.

The school board unanimously approved Moake Park Group as the architect/engineer for the Franke Park Elementary School addition. The firm will also serve in the same role for a project addressing entrance vestibule and office security at three other elementary schools.

The projects’ combined estimated construction budget is $2.3 million. The estimated design contract fees total $184,000.

Nearly 73% of voters approved the work in spring 2020 as part of a $130 million referendum that also included major renovations to Wayne High School and Blackhawk and Miami middle schools.

**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.


Monday, March 13, 2023

In Case You Missed It – March 13, 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.

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.


State legislatures around the nation are working hard to defund and damage public education through book banning, charters, and vouchers.


Targeting teachers, school libraries exercise in legislative overreach

This op-ed penned by Michael Shaffer ought to anger you. Legislatures around the country, including the Indiana General Assembly, are jumping on the book-banning bandwagon in support of a minority of loud extremists who use threats, intimidation, and fear to force schools to bend to their will.

Not content with diverting billions of tax dollars to fund private and religious schools, the mob of book banners and their cronies in Republican-gerrymandered state legislatures want to limit the rights of (what is likely) the majority of parents who want their children to have access to accurate accounts of history and literature reflective of reality.

What constitutes "inappropriate?" The book banners want to decide for you.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
...SB 12 (authored by Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, to protect the “little tykes” and passed by the brain trust in the Senate) states, any teacher or school librarian who willingly subjects students – who include significantly more than “little tykes” – to material harmful to minors can be found guilty of a Level 6 felony and subject to 2 1/2 years in prison.

We would all agree with this, wouldn’t we? After all, who would want anything to happen to our school-age children that is harmful to them?

But wait, there’s more. It starts with a very carefully chosen word that has my blood boiling.

“Inappropriate.” Any parent or guardian can file a complaint against any book that a school has in its library or teacher has in their book collection that is inappropriate. Let that sink in.

Inappropriate? Not pornographic?

Just to be clear, we are not talking about taking Playboy or Hustler magazine off the shelves of your local high school library periodical sections. The bill specifically uses the word “inappropriate” and applies to any public school K-12 classroom or library in Indiana.

I am not in favor of putting pornographic materials in the hands of kids. But that is not what this bill is talking about.

This bill comes straight from the hands of Purple for Parents and Moms for Liberty (a branch of the American Legislative Exchange Council), which have self-appointed their organizations as the guardians of purity and appropriateness for our children, all the while spewing hate speech and falsities as quickly as they can hurl invectives in their auctioneer-paced rampages.

It is only fair to point out that SB 12 only applies to traditional public schools and charter schools; voucher schools are not affected at all.

Apparently, the only Indiana teachers and librarians completely safe from felony prosecution are those who teach in voucher schools, as long as they practice the right religion...

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Whose Black History Will Be Taught?

The "war of northern aggression." That's what they called the Civil War.

Pretending that the Civil War and the Reconstruction amendments solved the problem of racism in the United States and neglecting to teach our children about our true history is educational malpractice.

From Diane Ravitch
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. reviews the long debate about how to teach Black history in an article in the New York Times. The debate began as rationales by sympathizers of the Confederacy, who changed the Civil War into “The War Between the States.” In a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, not long ago, I heard the war described in a historic home as “The War of Northern Aggression.”

Dr. Gates writes:

Lurking behind the concerns of Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, over the content of a proposed high school course in African American studies, is a long and complex series of debates about the role of slavery and race in American classrooms.

Miami Herald: “Parental Rights” Is the Battle Cry of Extremists

Which parents get to choose the books to deny to everyone? Do the extremists speak for all parents? Not likely.

From Diane Ravitch
Their narrative goes that to be “pro-parent” you must not want your children exposed to topics like “critical race theory,” or you only support a whitewashed version of this country’s history of racism. Being pro-kid means you don’t want them to learn that there are men who date men, women who date women and people who don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. It means you want school libraries sanitized from content that might offend your sensibilities.

It means that there’s one way to look at America and education and anyone with a different opinion be damned, called names like leftist, communist, anti-American.

It’s as if only groups like Moms for Liberty represent what parents want. The group seems more preoccupied with banning books than concerned that too many kids in our schools cannot read at grade level. The leader of its Miami chapter once called the protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police “race wars” and repeated QAnon conspiracy theories on Instagram, Politico reported.

To be a parent, under this definition, means to be a conservative in the most extreme sense of the word...

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers on Oklahoma’s State Superintendent: “I Alone Will Indoctrinate Your Children”

"Beware the zealot who is going to save you from something that may or may not exist and intends to burn down your house to do it."

From Diane Ravitch
Dr. Meyers writes:

Oklahoma’s new state schools superintendent is about to take a desperate situation and make it awful.

His plans for stamping out “wokeness,” critical race theory, and boys using the girl’s bathrooms sounds nothing like a plan to advance education, and more like a platform to become Ron DeSantis Jr. The irony of this culture war approach to education is transparently hypocritical. Walters claims to be all “for academics and against indoctrination,” while making it clear that he alone will decide who gets hired, who gets raises and what gets taught in our schools. That is the very definition of indoctrination.

Beware the zealot who is going to save you from something that may or may not exist and intends to burn down your house to do it. Beware the fearmonger who incites the masses to muzzle free and open discourse about dangerous ideas so that he can make duplicate zealots for even worse ideas. Beware the evangelist who rails against other people’s sins while lining his pocket from two jobs at taxpayers’ expense while vowing to cut wasteful government spending. Ryan Walters makes more than the governor.


Indiana House budget covers textbook fees at schools' expense

For years, parents of Indiana public school teachers have had to pay for their textbooks despite the Indiana Constitutional guarantee of "a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all."

The Indiana General Assembly now wants to put the burden of textbook fees on the local school systems, while increasing state money for private and religious schools.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The House plan enables lawmakers to claim a win for parents no longer facing textbook fees while touting increases in school funding. But a disproportionate part of the new money goes to expanding the voucher school program.

The Senate could provide true relief for the students attending public schools in our state by using some of the money carved out to grow the voucher system to cover the tab for books and other needed curriculum materials. The money is there. It’s just a question of priorities.


Charter schools win in proposed Indiana budget amid public advocacy campaign

As expected from the anti-public schools Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly, "[p]roperty tax losses could be in the cards for some traditional public schools"

From Indiana Capital Chronicle
Charter schools in Indiana could see big gains under the current draft of the next two-year state budget. But the deal could cause long-term losses for traditional public schools, some of which stand to lose millions of dollars needed for teacher raises and other non-classroom expenses.

A new funding stream carved into the House Republican budget would mandate the amount of funds every public school district and charter school receives for operations, which are collected through local property taxes.

Charter schools would still be unable to tap into local tax revenues, but instead would get $1,400 per student from state funds in 2024, and $1,500 in 2025, according to the draft budget. A current state grant offers charter schools $1,250 per student each school year...

...That would mean cuts to local operations funds at some schools — especially in districts with a large tax base such as Indianapolis. It’s still not clear how exactly individual school districts could be impacted, however. A fiscal impact statement says schools statewide could lose $87 million in 2025 and $177 million in 2026.
**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.


Monday, March 6, 2023

In Case You Missed It – March 6, 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.

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.

This week we start off with some good and bad news from the Indiana General Assembly -- book banning has progressed through the Senate, but partisan school board elections have been avoided for another year.

In Fort Wayne area news we have stories about a canceled play because it included LGBTQ characters, new bus schedules, and a new sponsor for FWCS's Amp Lab. (All three of these stories are from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette which is behind a paywall. Please support your local newspaper. See the link at the end of this post.)

Finally, Diane Ravitch reports on a failed attempt to sneak vouchers into a Texas school district.


Senators debate ban on “inappropriate” library materials for minors

The fight against censorship is crucial. We must preserve the First Amendment right to access information and make our own decisions about which books are available for ourselves and our children.

From the Indiana Capital Chronicle
What books should Hoosier kids be allowed to read in school? Who decides which texts are “inappropriate” for students? And what say should parents have about removing books from library shelves?

Those questions were at the heart of nearly two hours of debate in the Indiana Senate Tuesday as lawmakers weighed a bill that seeks to ban materials deemed “harmful to minors” in school libraries.

Senate Bill 12 ultimately advanced 37-12 to the House.

Language in the proposal, authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, removes “educational purposes” as a reason that public schools and libraries could claim legal protection for sharing “harmful material” with underage students. That includes books and other materials deemed to be obscene, pornographic or violent.

The bill also carves out a new process for parents to request the removal of books they believe are “inappropriate” from school libraries.


Effort to move Indiana to partisan school board elections dies in the House

For the second time in as many years, we've stopped the Indiana legislature from making school board candidates declare a political party. Public education is for everyone and should be non-partisan.

From the Indiana Capital Chronicle
A bill that would have let Hoosier communities decide if local school board elections should be partisan died in the Indiana House after lawmakers failed to vote on the measure by Monday’s deadline.

That means school board races will stay non-partisan — at least for now. Language from the bill could still crop up in others before the end of the current legislative session.

House Bill 1428, authored by Rep. J.D. Prescott, R-Union City, sought to add political party identifications to what are now nonpartisan school board elections throughout the state. The legislation was the first to extend “local control” over the issue.

Monday was the deadline for House bills to pass out of the chamber. Prescott did not call the bill for a full chamber vote, however, likely indicating a lack of support from the House Republican caucus.

Nixed Carroll High School play to be replaced, superintendent says officials didn't cave to pressure

The principal of Carroll High School felt it was unsafe to proceed with a play that depicted LGBTQ characters.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Carroll High School’s spring play will be replaced with another production because the original choice became a divisive and potentially unsafe activity for students, the Northwest Allen County Schools superintendent said after a standing-room-only crowd packed the board room Monday night.

More than 20 people – including parents, teachers and students – spoke during public comment at the school board meeting, with most addressing last week’s cancellation of “Marian: The True Story of Robin Hood.” A few speakers applauded Principal Cleve Million’s decision, but most criticized the school for nixing a play that included LGBTQ representation.

NACS Superintendent Wayne Barker said he supports Million and dispelled perceptions that NACS caved to pressure from complaining adults.

“It wasn’t about exclusion. It wasn’t about cowardice, or caving into calls,” Barker said. “It was simply (Million’s) concern for the well-being of our students.”

Barker addressed the issue at the end of the meeting, but most attendees had left the crowded room by then. Those who arrived too late for one of the 50 seats in the board room could watch the proceedings from a nearby overflow viewing area.

Over the weekend, a petition on protesting the play’s cancellation gathered support. As of late Monday, it had more than 3,200 signatures, although some speakers Monday noted the supporters likely include people from communities beyond NACS.

The petition indicates the play contains queer representation, including a same-sex couple and a nonbinary character.

“(Million) simply wanted this play to be about the students’ skill, about their talents, about their work ethic, and not about the storyline,” Barker said. “It was quickly going to become that, and it has anyway.”

Angela Stratton, a NACS taxpayer and parent, said many in the audience shared concern about silencing voices and preventing students from producing art that deserves to be performed.

“A representation of all of our students matter, not just the majority, not just the ones that make people comfortable,” Stratton said, listing minority and LGBTQ students as examples. “They deserve to have themselves shown in the art forms. They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be represented in this district.”


Fort Wayne Community, Southwest Allen revamp busing with efficiency in mind

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
When a Fort Wayne Community Schools bus is delayed by a train or inclement weather during its earliest route, it can be tough to make up time, leading to late pickups on its subsequent trips serving elementary and high schoolers.

Across town, it can take Southwest Allen County Schools buses 15 minutes to travel less than a mile because of congestion around three schools that start at similar times at Homestead and Aboite Center roads.

Both districts – which together serve about 14,600 bus riders and seek efficiency while facing driver shortages – will address these and other issues next academic year with new busing models.

Even non-riders will be affected by the adjustments because school hours will change.

FWCS is preparing for a two-tier schedule with start times of 7:20 a.m. for secondary schools and 8:50 a.m. for elementary schools. This replaces the existing three-tier structure that has different start times for middle and high schools.

Meanwhile, SACS – which has used a two-tier system for decades – is weighing three-tier options because officials believe it will help the district respond to the growing population near Bass Road, the district’s northern boundary.


Parkview signs on as Amp Lab sponsor

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
...Amp Lab opened to students in August.

Riley Johnson, its director, said Parkview’s financial sponsorship builds on an existing relationship.

Students have partnered with Parkview on its Forever in Your Heart program, which gives families keepsakes to remember a deceased loved one, Johnson said. Specifically, the teens helped develop new prototypes of mementos, he said, noting Amp Lab students have access to equipment including 3D printers.

A group is also helping Parkview develop educational materials for its initiative that teaches safe sleep and basic infant care courses to eighth graders, Johnson said.

Board member Noah Smith asked about the atmosphere at Electric Works now that other entities, including Do it Best, have moved in.

Johnson said he was nervous the professionals might be frustrated to see groups of 17-year-olds on the Electric Works campus, but “they’ve welcomed our kids as much as our kids have welcomed them.”


Texas: How a Brazen Attempt to Sneak Vouchers into a School District Was Derailed

Texas voters have consistently rejected vouchers so Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick decided to push vouchers through the "back door."

From Diane Ravitch
Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are crazy for vouchers, even though they would underwrite the tuition of students already in private schools and defund public schools. Behind them, of course, are rightwing billionaires. Here is a story by Forrest Wilder in the Texas Monthly of one sneaky effort that failed:

In October, I wrote about a wild, under-the-radar scheme in the Hill Country town of Wimberley to route taxpayer money to private schools around the state. Unbeknownst to almost anyone in the community, all-Republican members of the Wimberley ISD school board had spent much of last spring and summer laying the groundwork for a plan to create Texas’s first school-voucher program, using a loophole in state law.

The plot had been cooked up by a consortium of right-wing activists and donors, a politically connected charter-school executive, and Texans for Education Rights, a new nonprofit founded by Monty Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier, and Aaron Harris, a GOP consultant from North Texas. Under a novel proposal floated by Texans for Education Rights, students would enroll in Wimberley ISD but attend private schools of their choice across Texas “at no cost to their families.”
**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.