Monday, August 7, 2023

In Case You Missed It – August 7, 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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"Parents who have children in public schools are satisfied with them, based on their experience. But the general public swallows the negative narrative spewed by the mainstream media and rightwing politicians and thus has a sour view of public schools. This gap in perception has persisted for many years but seems to be increasing as Republican politicians like Texas’s Greg Abbott and Florida’s Ron DeSantis amp up their attacks on public schools.

"Since it is not newsworthy to report that most parents are satisfied with their children’s public schools, the media loves to publish stories about crises and failure. Eventually, it becomes the conventional wisdom." -- Diane Ravitch


Matt Barnum: Pundits and Politicians Despair about Public Schools, But Parents Are Happy with Them

As has been true for decades, American public school parents are happy with their children's public schools. Media coverage, on the other hand, means that "those other schools somewhere else" are no good.

If parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with their local schools, where are the terrible schools?

From Diane Ravitch
The pandemic upended many things about American schooling, but not this long-standing trend. In Gallup’s most recent poll, conducted late last year, 80% of parents said they were somewhat or completely satisfied with their child’s school, which in most cases was a public school. This was actually a bit higher than in most years before the pandemic. A string of other polls, conducted throughout the pandemic, have shown similar results.

“Contrary to elite or policy wonk opinion, which often is critical of schools, there have been years and years worth of data saying that families in general like their local public schools,” said Andy Smarick, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.


For at least two decades the Indiana General Assembly and other state legislatures around the country have done their best to divert tax money from public schools to privately run charter schools and private religious schools. If someone had devised a plan to specifically strip public schools of needed funds they could not have come up with a better way to do it. This year, for example, more than 95% of Indiana families are eligible for vouchers to help pay for religious school education.

The voucher plan was originally meant to help low-income students "escape" from "failing" public schools. Most of the students who now use Indiana's school vouchers are not low-income, and many are from families who have been paying for private education without state assistance. For this reason, the Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly has stopped referring to school vouchers as a plan to help low-income students and is now focused on "parental choice." Ironically, when schools are privatized it's the school that has the choice of what students are allowed to attend, not the other way around.

Instead of trying to fund three systems of education (public, charter, private/religious), the General Assembly ought to follow Article 8 of the Indiana Constitution and
...provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all

Textbook fee elimination will require adjustments

Fortunately, Indiana parents will no longer bear the burden of enormous textbook fees because of the inability (or refusal) of the legislature to fully fund public education.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly hasn't provided enough money to cover the costs of textbook fees for the state's public school systems.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Parents are getting a big win as their kids go back to school this year: no more textbook fees. But as the details unfold, school districts around the state are preparing for a shortfall between what the state is going to give them and what the actual costs are.

Lawmakers, pushed by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb, did the right thing in the state budget and eliminated those pesky fees, which sometimes cost parents hundreds of dollars per child.

Indiana was one of only seven states to charge the fees even though the state constitution requires a free public education.

But there are questions about whether legislators set aside enough money to make up the costs.

Indiana's near-universal voucher program starts now

Billions of tax dollars are being funneled into the accounts of religious institutions.

From Axios Indianapolis
When Hoosier students start heading back to school this week, it's expected that thousands more will do so at a private school while the state picks up the tuition tab.

Driving the news: State lawmakers earlier this year expanded eligibility for the Indiana Choice Scholarship program, known as private school vouchers, allowing all but the wealthiest Hoosier families to get a voucher to cover at least part of the cost of private school tuition.

Why it matters: The change is expected to balloon participation in the program, diverting millions of public dollars away from public schools and sending the money instead to mostly religious schools that don't have to accept all students or follow the same non-discrimination laws.

How it works...

Evidence suggests voucher schools push out struggling students

Parents don't always get to choose their schools. Private and charter schools often choose their students.

From Steve Hinnefeld in the School Matters Blog
Do private schools push out students who receive state-funded tuition vouchers when they struggle academically? A newly published research study provides evidence that they do.

On the other hand, the researchers don’t find support for the idea that the schools are “cream skimming”: that is, admitting more voucher students who are high-achieving and easier to educate.

The study, “Cream Skimming and Pushout in Students Participating in a Statewide Private School Voucher Program,” was published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Authors are R. Joseph Waddington and Ron Zimmer of the University of Kentucky and Mark Berends of Notre Dame.

...[The researchers] find little evidence that students with low test scores or a history of discipline problems were less likely to enroll in private schools with vouchers. But they do find evidence of pushout: for example, the lowest-achieving voucher students were 3 to 9 percentage points more likely to leave private schools than higher-achieving peers, a “modestly” higher rate.


Florida Adopts Curriculum to Indoctrinate Students in Rightwing Views

The right-wing governor of Florida has complained that public schools try to "indoctrinate" and "groom" students. The opposite is true.

From Diane Ravitch
Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly says he opposes indoctrination in schools. Yet his administration in early July approved materials from a conservative group that says it’s all about indoctrination and “changing minds.”

The Florida Department of Education determined that educational materials geared toward young children and high school students created by PragerU, a nonprofit co-founded by conservative radio host Dennis Prager, were in alignment with the state’s standards on how to teach civics and government to K-12 students.

The content, some of which is narrated by conservative personalities such as Tucker Carlson and Candance Owens, features cartoons, five-minute video history lessons and story-time shows for young children. It is part of a brand called PragerU Kids. And the lessons share a common message: Being pro-American means aligning oneself to mainstream conservative talking points.


Houston: Miles Seeks Approval to Hire Uncertified Principals and Teachers

These folks know nothing about education. They apparently believe that "anyone" can teach. It takes a trained professional to make the thousands of daily educational decisions that teachers make. It's more than just babysitting.

From Diane Ravitch
Mike Miles is asking the Texas Education Agency to allow him to recruit uncertified teachers, principals, and deans. This move follows the Broadie playbook that education experience doesn’t matter. Broadies are known for their love of TFA. Miles may be reaching even lower since uncertified teachers do not require a college degree.

Houston ISD is seeking board approval this month for a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to hire uncertified deans and assistant principals for the next three years.

**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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