Tuesday, May 30, 2023

In Case You Missed It – May 30, 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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"Expanding school choice was a key part of GOP legislators’ education program, but it wasn’t the only part. The supermajority also passed what the ACLU referred to as a “slate of hate”: laws to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, set the stage for banning books and prosecuting school librarians, ban teaching about sex in early grades, and force schools to out trans kids to their parents." -- Steve Hinnefeld in School Matters: Charter schools made big gains in legislative session


Hanushek Backs Down: Spending on Schools DOES Make a Difference

Nearly all public school workers -- and probably most of the students -- know that money matters when it comes to helping students succeed in school. From hiring qualified and sufficient staff members to providing support systems and supplies, schools work better when they are fully funded.

The Chicago Teachers Union knew this back in 2012 when they published The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve 2.0. In it, they provided evidence for full funding, and wrote,

"The problems in education were the result of too-large class sizes, limited curricula, inadequate facilities, not enough support personnel, and lack of adequate funding."

Eleven years later public schools are still being underfunded. In Indiana, money for public education is being diverted to private religious schools and privately run charter schools while the constitutionally mandated public schools are scrambling for dollars (see the next two articles).

In this article from Chalkbeat*, posted by Diane Ravitch, we learn, yet again, that funding matters.

From Diane Ravitch
The paper, set to be published later this year, is a new review of dozens of studies. It finds that when schools get more money, students tend to score better on tests and stay in school longer, at least according to the majority of rigorous studies on the topic.

“They found pretty consistent positive effects of school funding,” said Adam Tyner, national research director at the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. “The fact that Hanushek has found so many positive effects is especially significant because he’s associated with the idea that money doesn’t matter all that much to school performance.”


Charter schools made big gains in legislative session

The Indiana General Assembly has chosen, once again, to favor privatization and donors over the vast majority of Indiana's children who attend public schools.

From School Matters
All told, the budget and student funding formula will provide about $671 million in state funds over the next two years for brick-and-mortar charter schools and another $112 million for virtual charter schools. That doesn’t include the local property tax funding that charter schools in four counties will receive.

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said at the start of the session that expanding school choice would be a priority. Growing the voucher program was on the table from the start, but it wasn’t until the last day of the session that charter school funding bills took their final shape.

As Chalkbeat reported, a $500,000 campaign by charter supporters, including catchy TV and Facebook ads attributed to the Indiana Student Funding Alliance, certainly helped. The Institute for Quality Education, an Indianapolis organization that promotes vouchers and charter schools, helped pay for the ads. Its political action committee, Hoosiers for Quality Education, gave over $1.3 million to Republican campaigns in 2020-22. Another pro-charter group, Hoosiers for Great Public Schools, gave over $1 million. Arguably no other special interest did more to keep the Statehouse in solid GOP control.

State won’t properly fund education. Voters can.

One Indiana school system has decided to take funding matters into its own hands. This is great for them...because their community can afford it. Not every school system in Indiana has the tax base to raise sufficient funds to make up for the millions of dollars the state is diverting from public education to private religious schools and privately run charter schools.

From School Matters
If the state won’t do it, we will. That’s the attitude driving a proposed property-tax referendum in the Monroe County Community School Corp.

Superintendent Jeff Hauswald laid out the rationale at a meeting Wednesday. He said the referendum will pay for free or reduced-price pre-kindergarten and cover educational costs that families now pay out of pocket, such as fees for Advanced Placement exams and career and technical education classes.

The MCCSC school board voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Hauswald to go forward with plans for the referendum, which would raise property taxes by up to 8.5 cents per $100 assessed property value. It comes on the heels of a referendum that voters approved last November. The 2022 referendum raised teacher and staff pay while the 2023 vote will be “family-centered and community-focused.”

...“To be clear, there’s nothing equitable about school funding in Indiana,” Hauswald said. “We would rather have full and adequate funding at the state level … But the state has said, nope, we’re not going to do that.”

And if the state won’t, and we can afford it, why shouldn’t we?


Literacy Experts: There Is No “Science of Reading”

The "reading wars" have heated up again.

From Diane Ravitch
...we do not see convincing evidence for a reading crisis, and certainly none that points to phonics as the single cause or a solution. We are skeptical of any narrowly defined science that authoritatively dictates exactly how reading should be taught in every case. Most of all, we are concerned that ill-advised legislation will unnecessarily constrain teachers’ options for effective reading instruction.

As for a crisis (always useful for promoting favored causes), the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been tracking reading achievement in the United States since 1972. Until the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, the scores were mostly flat for decades, even trending slightly upward before covid-19 shut down schools. The decline since the pandemic is a clear example of how societal factors influence reading achievement. Given the nation’s increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and widening economic disparities, that upward trend might even suggest encouraging progress.

Less absurd, but no less arbitrary, is using NAEP scores to argue that two-thirds of students are not proficient in reading. Diane Ravitch, a former member of the NAEP governing board, has equated scores at the proficient level with a solid A. Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP, has said that basic level is generally seen as grade-level achievement. Adding students who achieve at a Basic level (interpreted as a B) or above, two-thirds of students have solid reading skills. In other words, the argument only holds if we expect every student to get an A. We can always do better, but there is neither no convincing evidence of a crisis nor magic that eliminates inevitable variation in achievement.

New safety technology on tap for Fort Wayne Community Schools' natatorium

Technology will improve safety for FWCS swimmers.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools lifeguards will soon have new technology to help them spot swimmers in trouble.

The Ellis Aquatic Vigilance System will replace the outdated Poseidon drowning-detection system, which the Helen P. Brown Natatorium has used since 2001.

“We’re relying on a system that’s not working for us,” natatorium Director Liz Caywood told the school board Monday.

The new technology combines the use of cameras that cover activities in the pool and on the deck with an operator in a distraction-free room, Caywood said. An artificial intelligence system helps detect unusual behavior, she added, and the system can provide alerts through programmable alarms.

*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 fortwayne.com/subscriptions/ [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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