Monday, April 10, 2023

In Case You Missed It – April 10, 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.


"Voucher programs change swiftly from a minor expense to a major budget expense, an unaccountable taxpayer-funded subsidy for private schools even as public schools are slowly defunded. Any promise that a voucher program will have a minor impact on state finances is an empty one." -- Peter Greene


Indiana: Bill Would Criminalize Librarians, Allow Parents to Censor Books

The Indiana General Assembly is not against censorship. While Republicans in the Indiana legislature might think Indiana teachers are competent enough to carry around loaded weapons, they certainly don't think teachers are capable of choosing appropriate reading material for their students.

On the other hand, parents, who legislators consider too incompetent to make their own decisions about medical care for their children, are more than capable of deciding what reading material should be available to their children, and every other child in their local schools.

From Diane Ravitch
The Indiana legislature is considering a bill that would empower parents to censor books they find objectionable and to criminalize librarians who allow such books in libraries. The story was originally reported on WYFI, the NPR station in Indiana.

Chalkbeat reported:

The House Education Committee heard hours of testimony Wednesday from school employees, librarians, and others across Indiana who expressed opposition to a proposed amendment to a bill that would strip these employees of a legal defense against charges they distributed material harmful to minors.

The hearing was the latest evolution in a months-long legislative process driven by concerns among some parents that pornography is rampant in schools. While lawmakers have drafted legislation to address these concerns, they’ve presented little evidence to suggest it’s a widespread problem. The latest iteration of the legislation also targets public libraries.

Indiana lawmakers debate bill allowing parents to challenge “obscene and harmful” library materials

From the Indiana Capital Chronicle
Current Indiana law already outlines criteria that has to be met for a book to be considered criminal.

Outlawed materials must, as a whole:
  • describe or represent, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse
  • appeal to the prurient interest in sex of minors
  • be patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors
  • lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors
Lawmakers aren’t seeking to change Indiana’s decades-old statutory definitions. Republicans held, too, that they aren’t seeking to have classic novels or books “where someone has two moms or two dads.”

“I don’t think anybody thinks the word sex is obscene or sexually explicit,” Cash said, referring to individual references that might exist within a single book. “And if they do — well, that’s why there’s a process.”

But Democrats on the committee repeatedly pointed out that while some parents view certain materials as harmful or obscene, others might disagree.

Lobbyists Congratulate Themselves for 20 Years of NCLB Standardized Testing

There are piles of dollars to be made in public education, even if you don't have a clue about education!

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
It’s hard to learn your lesson – especially if doing so costs you money.

Case in point: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the largest lobbying organization in the country, issued a new report examining the impact of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the George W. Bush era law making standardized testing the centerpiece of K-12 education.

So an organization representing oil companies, pharmaceutical giants and automakers just opined on public school policy as if it were made up of experts.

And guess what?

Business folks don’t know what the heck they’re talking about in education.

Because after sorting through 20 years of NCLB controversy, political shenanigans and factual mistakes, the supply side cabal thinks the law is just fine.

It’s kind of like a judge watching a driver plow his car into a brick wall repeatedly and then instead of taking away his license, awarding him a safe driver certificate.

It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out why.

Think about it. These are supply side cultists. If our education policy is working just fine as is, then there’s no need to raise taxes on all the business interests the free market fan club represents to fix the problem.

And, moreover, we can keep funneling the education dollars we do spend to corporations (many of whom are represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation) who profit off the law by making tests, grading tests and selling test prep material.

The only thing shocking here (maybe) is the way the media publishes the Foundation’s results as if they were truths handed down from on high.

What’s the matter, journalists? You’ve never heard of a conflict of interest?

An organization like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation with proven ties to the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is somehow the epitome of unbiased advocacy!?

The organization’s own report describes the Foundation as “tireless advocates for high-quality academic standards, assessments, and accountability as tools for educational equity.”

By its own admission, then, this is the testing industry evaluating itself. And – surprise – it gave itself a high score!


Voucher expansion shows lawmakers have lost sight of their mission

In 2011, Indiana's voucher program was started to "help poor kids in failing schools." Back then there was no talk about fixing the so-called "failing" schools...just get some kids out and let the public school system collapse.

Now we know the plan to help "poor kids" was just another ruse to transfer public dollars to private hands. It has taken a while, but the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly have, once again, raised the state's investment in school vouchers. Now it's possible for wealthy folks -- who would have sent their children to private schools anyway -- to send their kids to private schools on the public's dime.

And the poor kids? They're going to be left in underfunded public schools.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
What many people who voted to support this program of parental choice don’t know is that it was never intended to get “poor kids out of failing schools.” What the state does not want the people to know is that every single promise they ever made about how the voucher program would be run, and who would benefit the most from it, has been compromised.

But allow me to stick to just one simple angle of the big lie and debunk it once and for all, then we can get back to our need for a modern-day Robin Hood.

Niki Kelly of the Indiana Capital Chronicle pointed out in an exceptional piece that ran in The Journal Gazette on Monday that while the state is preparing to commit to “a massive expansion of state-funded vouchers for private schools at much higher eligibility levels for middle- to upper-income Hoosiers,” it is at the same time committing to much lower gross income limits for programs and services that are actually essential to struggling Hoosier families.

While it is hard to accept the reasoning of the state, the program will provide full vouchers to families who earn up to 400% of the free and reduced lunch level so that these families can send their children to private schools.

That means that a family of four can earn up to $220,000 and still qualify for the full voucher.

Meanwhile, Kelly reported, the cutoff for the supplemental nutrition program is 127%, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is between 13% and 16% of the federal poverty level, On My Way Pre-K is capped at 127%, and free and reduced-price lunch ceilings out at 185% of the federal poverty level.

If that is not enough to cause you to go and look for a hero, allow me to give you the statistics that the state does not want you to know. A total of 99.976% of all of the voucher schools are affiliated with a religious organization or church. In 2011, Black students made up 24.11% of the population of voucher schools; last year they were 10.45%. In 2013, 9% came from F-rated schools, last year, fewer than 1% of the population came from F schools.

The Empty and Expensive Promise of School Voucher Programs

Sadly, it's not just Indiana.

From Peter Greene in The Progressive
When New Hampshire’s Republican lawmakers inserted a school voucher bill into the state budget, proponents claimed that the new program would be no big deal, that it would only cost the state about $130,000. That was in May 2021. Less than two years later, the program’s cost now stands at $14.7 million—and the legislature is poised to spend more on it.

That pattern—school voucher programs swiftly ballooning to take a huge chunk of public dollars to fund private schools—has been repeated across the country.

In a new report from Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS), researchers look at seven states that have been running a school voucher program long enough to develop a track record. The results of the study show that program costs mushroom quickly into major state expenditures, directing mountains of taxpayer money at private schools even as public schools find themselves working with less funding.

Florida Vouchers: A Multi-Billion-Dollar Hole in the Budget

From Diane Ravitch
Florida lawmakers are about to take the biggest educational gamble in American history — financed with your tax dollars.

They want to offer every child in Florida the chance to use publicly funded vouchers at private schools that have virtually no regulation and offer no guarantee that the students will get educated.


Using charters to fix ailing IPS schools yields instability and inconsistent academic results

Indianapolis schools are still struggling while non-educators bungle "get rich quick" schemes to help poor kids pass tests. Charter schools can't replace adequate food...or secure shelter...or warm clothes.

Are they surprised to learn that charter schools would face the same problems that public schools face?

If the Indiana General Assembly stopped wasting its time on culture-war issues and began to address child poverty, test scores would go up.

From Chalkbeat*
Since 2015, IPS has brought on 10 charter operators to turn around nine of its chronically low-performing schools, categorizing them as restart schools within its Innovation Network of schools that are part of the district but have greater autonomy than traditional schools. But their test scores, even when COVID’s disruptions are accounted for, have for the most part improved only slightly or not at all. Two restart operators have been replaced. One restart school has closed. And no school has actually exited restart status.

As local charter schools increase in number and size, the district’s restart model is one way to examine whether the autonomy provided charter schools truly does turn around poorly performing schools. And the 2023 state assessments — which are ramping up in March and April — will provide another stress test for these restart schools.

Before the pandemic hit, passage rates on the state’s third grade IREAD test for the four restart schools that had operated for more than one year increased in some years and decreased in others. The share of students reaching proficiency in both English and math on state exams increased at most restart schools from 2021 to 2022, although the same is true in general for schools statewide as test scores rebounded from pandemic-driven declines.


Katherine Marsh: Why Children Don’t Fall in Love with Reading

Wouldn't it be nice if citizens and educators could get back to discussing educational topics?

From Diane Ravitch
What I remember most about reading in childhood was falling in love with characters and stories; I adored Judy Blume’s Margaret and Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse. In New York, where I was in public elementary school in the early ’80s, we did have state assessments that tested reading level and comprehension, but the focus was on reading as many books as possible and engaging emotionally with them as a way to develop the requisite skills. Now the focus on reading analytically seems to be squashing that organic enjoyment. Critical reading is an important skill, especially for a generation bombarded with information, much of it unreliable or deceptive. But this hyperfocus on analysis comes at a steep price: The love of books and storytelling is being lost.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**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: