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.


No comments: