Monday, July 17, 2023

In Case You Missed It – July 17, 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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“While we will continue to use state-mandated ILEARN results to inform our practices, SACS remains steadfast in our commitment to the growth and development of our students in ways that a single test is ill-equipped to measure.” -- SACS Superintendent Park Ginder


Test scores show 31% of Indiana students proficient in math, English

Once again we have proof that test scores measure family income: something we have known for decades. It's time to end the grading of schools (either officially or through the media) using test scores. The legislature will take this as permission to divert even more public money to religious and charter schools.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Standardized test results released Wednesday show just 31% of Hoosier students are at or above proficiency standards in both English and math.

Allen County ILEARN scores weren’t much better – and were even worse in Fort Wayne Community Schools, where only 18% of test takers were deemed proficient in both subjects, according to scores from the Indiana Department of Education.

Results were 30% in East Allen County Schools and 37% in each Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools.

...Local school officials stressed the assessment is one of many tools used to measure student achievement. They noted the scores help inform their practices.


Moms for Liberty [sic] continues their bullying of public schools, public school boards of education, and public educators. And now they've jumped into the "reading wars" even though they, as a group, know nothing about reading instruction. They reflect a selfishness persistent in America -- "I want what I can get for me, and by extension, my family, and to hell with what's good for society."

MFL Attacks Schools

Heather Cox Richardson: Moms for Liberty Signals the GOP’s Dumb Extremism

From Diane Ravitch
Moms for Liberty, which bills itself as a group protecting children, organized in 2021 to protest mask mandates in schools, then graduated on to crusade against the teaching of “critical race theory.” That, right there, was a giveaway because that panic was created by then-journalist Christopher Rufo, who has emerged as a leader of the U.S. attack on democracy.

Rufo embraces the illiberal democracy, or Christian democracy, of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, saying: “It’s time to clean house in America: remove the attorney general, lay siege to the universities, abolish the teachers’ unions, and overturn the school boards.” Radical right activists like Rufo believe they must capture the central institutions of the U.S. and get rid of the tenets of democracy—individual rights, academic freedom, free markets, separation of church and state, equality before the law—in order to save the country.

Because those central democratic values are taught in schools, the far right has focused on attacking schools from kindergartens to universities with the argument that they are places of “liberal indoctrination.” As a Moms for Liberty chapter in Indiana put on its first newspaper: “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future.” While this quotation is often used by right-wing Christian groups to warn of what they claim liberal groups do, it is attributed to German dictator Adolf Hitler. Using it boomeranged on the Moms for Liberty group not least because it coincided with the popular “Shiny Happy People” documentary about the far-right religious Duggar family that showed the “grooming” and exploitation of children in that brand of evangelicalism.

Politicization of Reading Instruction

Learning to Read in Middle School

From Teacher in a Strange Land
I am fascinated by the increasing politicization—no other word for it—of reading instruction. How to best teach reading has always been contentious in the United States, from the 1950s look-say method featuring Dick and Jane, accused of letting Ivan slip ahead of us in the space race, right up until last week, when Moms for Liberty jumped into the Faux Science of Reading (FSoR) fray.

It’s unclear why Moms for Liberty has aligned itself with the phonics-forward FSoR movement. I get that white parents, accustomed to being first in line for educational goodies, feel threatened when they’re told that other children may be having their needs met first. I know racism is a thread that has run through the entire history of public education in America. I also know that many ordinary citizens feel bewildered and angered by rapidly changing social beliefs and customs around acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

A friend of my says you can measure social progress by observing who can be beat up on Saturday night without consequences—Wives and girlfriends? Ethnic minorities? Gentle souls like Matthew Shepherd and Elijah McLain? I hate living in a country where threats align with archaic ideas about who’s in charge of our customs and institutions, including public schools. I hate it, but I understand why it happens.

What I do NOT understand is why a far-right, power-grabbing, deep-pocket-funded group of purported “concerned moms” are choosing to endorse One Right Way to learn the skill of reading.

Indoctrination from the Right

Stephen Owens: What Home Schooling Christians Fear

One persistent right-wing trope is that public schools "indoctrinate" children. Here we read about how the indoctrination is coming from the right wing.

From Diane Ravitch, quoting Stephen Owens
The Washington Post had an article that feels tailor-made to produce schadenfreude in progressive circles. Titled The revolt of the Christian home-schoolers, the reporter detailed the experiences of a couple that chose to send their kids to public school after rethinking their own upbringing in closed, homeschool Christian communities. White evangelical readers will not be shocked by most of what’s written, as I believe most of us worshipped next to families that tsk-tsked mundane cultural experiences such as Halloween, dating, or public education.

Some folks almost gleefully shared the summary quote from the father, Aaron Beall: “People who think the public schools are indoctrinating don’t know what indoctrination is. We were indoctrinated.” After reading the piece I’m struck by my own ignorance of how many people’s experience with homeschooling is similar to the Beall’s. I’ve encountered dozens of (current and former) homeschool families in the churches I attended, the private school where I worked, and even in the real world! (That last part is a joke—homeschooled children become adults and usually don’t want to be labeled with the mean stereotypes of the schooling any more than those people who went to private or public school). The families I’ve encountered fall on a spectrum ranging from “act typical of any public/private school people” to “believed Song of Solomon was smut” but I’ve yet to meet anyone as extreme in their beliefs as who this article is describing.


House Republicans Propose Deep Cuts to Education, Health, Welfare Programs

Republicans in legislatures across the nation continue to complain about how poor America's public education is...and then do their best to make sure that public education is underfunded. We don't's their future, too. Perhaps the answer lies in the next article, under the title, "HOW TO BUY A LEGISLATOR."

From Diane Ravitch
House Appropriations Committee Republicans today released the draft fiscal year 2024 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation is an assault on education and job training, decimates research funding, and abandons ongoing public health crises.

For 2024, the bill provides $163.0 billion, a cut of $63.8 billion – 28 percent – below 2023. This year’s Republican allocation was the lowest for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill since 2008. The legislation:
  • Decimates support for children in K-12 elementary schools and early childhood education.
  • Abandons college students and low-income workers trying to improve their lives through higher education or job training.
  • Stifles lifesaving biomedical innovation by cutting funding for cancer research, mental health research, and neurological research, and by slashing funding for advanced research projects intended to develop new cures and therapies.
  • Surrenders to ongoing public health crises in mental health, opioid use, HIV/AIDS, and health disparities.
  • Harms women’s health by cutting programs that support maternal and child health, eliminating programs that provide access to health services and contraception, and adding numerous partisan and poison pill riders related to abortion and reproductive health.
“When 161 House Republicans voted earlier this year to eliminate all K-12 funding at the Department of Education, I was horrified, but that was just the beginning. Now, in the midst of a teacher shortage, they have introduced a bill that would kick 220,000 teachers from classrooms. We are witnessing a widespread attack on public education that should horrify all of us” Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) said. “Regardless of age or stage in life, this bill means you cannot count on government for any help. It limits women’s access to abortion while stripping maternal health services and making diapers more expensive. It decimates access to preschool, education, and job training. People can only hope they do not get cancer or need mental health services—you will not find support from House Republicans. These awful cuts will make it very hard for people and should not even be considered by this committee.”
Key provisions included in the draft fiscal year 2024 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill are below. The text of the draft bill is here. The subcommittee markup will be webcast live and linked on the House Committee on Appropriations website.


Lobbyists spent $20.7 million during session. Here’s which groups spent the most.

One correction we would make to this article. The authors state that voucher funding allows Indiana students to "use state money to attend the school of their choice." The truth is that voucher schools can choose the students they allow through their doors. Public schools accept all children. Private schools are allowed to discriminate.

From State Affairs: Indiana
Lawmakers approved a massive expansion of the state-funded voucher system, enabling roughly 97% of Indiana students to use state money to attend the school of their choice. Likewise, charter schools will receive millions of dollars in future years, in some cases siphoning away money historically dedicated to traditional public schools.

One clue as to why school choice advocates were successful this year could be in the data compiled and recently released by the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission showing how much each lobbyist spent trying to persuade lawmakers between Nov. 1, 2022, through April 30, 2023 — the period covering the most recent legislative session.

Hoosiers for Quality Education, a school choice advocacy group, and its affiliate reported spending a combined $433,754 on lobbying over the course of six months, hundreds of thousands more than any organization spent lobbying for their own interests. Most of that stemmed from spending on a massive public-facing advertising campaign arguing that charter school students were being unfairly underfunded.
**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both are available with a subscription. Staying informed is essential; 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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