Sunday, February 18, 2024

In Case You Missed It – February 19, 2024

NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is off this week for the President's Day Holiday. We'll be back with more updates on February 26, 2024. Thanks for supporting Public Education.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in Public Education news.

Be sure to enter your email address in the new Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"...what this is going to do is add to intimidation of teachers, allow unsubstantiated slamming of schools, increase distrust of public ed, make some political hay for Rokita, and spread smoke without light. All that and waste the time of a lot of people working in public education (which school administrator will draw the task of doing the daily Check For Lies on the AG Website). What it won't do is improve the quality of public education in Indiana." -- Peter Greene in Curmudgucation, IN: From the AG, Another Edu-witch Hunt Site

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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Monday, February 12, 2024

In Case You Missed It – February 12, 2024

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.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"For GOP lawmakers who view public education as a quasi-socialist project, the gaping hole in state budgets left by subsidizing private school tuition is a feature, not a bug." -- by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider in In Red States, the Bill for School Voucher Bait-and-Switch Is Coming Due

VOUCHERS BAIT AND SWITCH

In Red States, the Bill for School Voucher Bait-and-Switch Is Coming Due

The Indiana voucher program was supposed to save the state money and improve student achievement. Vouchers were supposed to "save children from 'failing schools.'" Sadly, the program doesn't do any of those things. The Bait-and-Switch is coming due.

From The Nation
Bait-and-switch is an old retail tactic. You lure customers in with promises of a deep discount, only to inform them that the deal has a catch. The real price tag, it turns out, is quite a bit more.

Though it took supporters of school vouchers a while to catch on, they’ve learned quickly that the trick works just as well in education policy as it does in retail sales. Pick a price that will get people in the door, and then break the news once you’ve got them where you want them.

In Arizona, taxpayers are now staring down a $400 million shortfall, with an even bigger bill coming due next year. How did the Grand Canyon State go from sitting on a huge cash reserve to facing a rising tide of red ink? Simple. Voucher proponents suggested that paying for private school tuition would cost taxpayers $65 million a year; but as it stands, the program is on track to cost roughly 15 times that. All told, Arizona taxpayers are likely to spend close to a billion dollars reimbursing the cost of tuition and luxury expenses—including ski resort passes, pianos, and theme park tickets—for families whose children were never enrolled in the public schools.

It isn’t just Arizona’s problem. Over the past two years, multiple states have enacted universal or near-universal voucher programs that far exceed initial cost projections...

FORT WAYNE AND INDIANA NEWS

Child labor is an education issue

Indiana Republicans want to weaken child labor laws.

From School Matters
UPDATE: Senate Bill 146 was amended Feb. 5 on the Senate floor to remove provisions that conflict with federal child labor law.

Indiana legislators seem determined to roll back regulations that protect children from exploitative work conditions, even if it means clashing with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

One anti-regulatory bill, House Bill 1093, has been approved by the House and sent to the Senate. Another, Senate Bill 146, is up for second-reading amendments in the Senate today. Both measures would significantly ease restrictions on the hours that minors can work in Indiana.

They mark a turning away from a 100-year commitment by state and federal governments to protecting children and enabling them to get an education without being burdened by working for wages.

Homestead High School project needs $18.9 million more

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Southwest Allen County Schools expects an additional $18.9 million will be enough to complete the final stages of Homestead High School’s multiyear transformation – a construction project initially said to cost $169 million.

The board Tuesday approved four resolutions allowing the district to proceed with two taxable general obligation bonds totaling $12.7 million.

A $6.2 million first mortgage bond is anticipated to provide further funding, said Mark Snyder, director of business. That doesn’t require board action because of previous board approval when SACS first sold bonds to pay for the Homestead additions and renovations project.
Indiana senators want to put school boards in charge of approving lessons on sexuality

The move to restrict sex education is growing again with the rise of Moms for Liberty.

From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Indiana lawmakers are considering legislation that would require school boards to approve all lessons and materials on sexuality and require schools to publicly post a list of the teaching material on their websites, prompting concerns about who has the final say in sex education and the definition of sexuality.

State senators passed the bill Tuesday by a vote of 38-10. It now moves to the House for consideration, where Republicans also hold a supermajority.

The bill would require school boards to approve by July 1 all materials used to instruct students on “human sexuality,” author of the bill and state Sen. Gary Byrne told lawmakers Tuesday. Byrne told senators he intended to make sex education more transparent for parents.

Schools would also be required to post a list of the materials to their websites and the board must approve what age students will receive instruction, whether students will be taught in a co-ed setting and whether the lesson will be provided by a male or female instructor.

Rokita’s new ‘Eyes on Education’ portal prompts pushback from Indiana school officials

Indiana's Attorney General enlists the public to make allegations against public schools without any proof.

From the Indiana Capital Chronicle
A new dashboard unveiled Tuesday by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office makes public more than two dozen allegations of “potentially inappropriate materials” in Hoosier schools, like critical race theory materials and gender identity policies.

But numerous local officials told the Indiana Capital Chronicle they weren’t made aware of the complaints and contend the allegations were not properly vetted before the portal went live.

Attorney General Todd Rokita referred to “Eyes on Education” as a transparency tool that intends to “empower parents to further engage in their children’s education” and provide “real examples of indoctrination.”

The portal accepts submissions pertaining to K-12 classrooms, colleges, universities and “other affiliated academic entities in Indiana.” But it is unclear how, or if, they are vetting the accuracy of the allegations.

Indiana officials say they want more information about what fees schools are charging families

From the Indiana Capital Chronicle
Indiana’s K-12 schools are spending more than state leaders expected on student textbooks — and some are still sending bills to students’ families — prompting lawmakers to request additional information about what’s being expensed.

The questioning comes a year after the General Assembly dedicated $160 million in the current state budget to eliminate textbook and curriculum fees for Hoosier families, starting with the 2023-24 academic year.

Based on the funds available in May 2023, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) estimated the per student reimbursement amount to schools would be approximately $151.88. Based on spending in the current academic year, however, the actual per student reimbursement amount came out to $158.21.

Still, IDOE data obtained by the Indiana Capital Chronicle shows the state reimbursed 395 traditional K-12 districts and charter schools a total of about $159 million for the current academic year — about a million dollars below what was appropriated.

What’s not clear, though, is the amount each school actually spent on textbooks and other materials overall, or how much individual districts requested in reimbursements from the state.
**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 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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Monday, February 5, 2024

In Case You Missed It – February 5, 2024

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.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"'The primary role of chaplains is to provide pastoral or religious counseling to people in spiritual need,' the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said in a statement. 'Allowing them to assume official positions — whether paid or voluntary — in public schools will create an environment ripe for religious coercion and indoctrination of students.'

"Without any oversight to prevent chaplains from imposing their own religious viewpoint on the children they counsel, HB 1192 and SB 50 could undermine the religious freedom of students of all faiths and no faith."
-- the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette** editorial board.

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 2024

Faith-based school chaplains would test First Amendment

We included this article from last week's In Case You Missed It again this week. It continues to be read and spread through social media. And now the Senate has passed their version of the bill.

Contact your state representative to stop this bill before it goes any further. We need trained counselors in our public schools, not religious indoctrination. Indiana taxpayers already fund sectarian religious instruction through school vouchers. No more.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Indiana’s student-to-counselor ratio ranks worst in the nation, according to the 2023 State of the Indiana Girl Report published in September.

Two bills introduced in the General Assembly — one in the House, the other in the Senate — seek to fill the counselor void, but critics say their solution is unconstitutional and could end up further harming some children’s emotional and mental health.

...Proponents of HB 1192 and SB 50 likely will tout the proposals as remedies to the mental health needs of Hoosier students.

Chaplains are trained and certified to provide spiritual and emotional support. Lawmakers should leave mental health care services to the professional school counselors qualified to do that job.

Allen County school districts react to bill aiming to address 3rd graders who fail state reading exam

Does retention even work?

"Tamyra Kelly, a public information officer for East Allen County Schools, said they’re in favor of any extra support for students learning to read.

"'In our experience, retention would not be the answer. A bill that could fund earlier intervention and supports would be most favorable to schools and their students,' Kelly said."

From WANE.com
School district leaders in the greater Fort Wayne area are reacting to a state bill that focuses on making sure students can read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.

Senate Bill 1 would support holding back students who fail the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment (IREAD-3), a grade three reading assessment developed in accordance with state legislation, while also requiring schools to give remediation to students at risk of not passing.

The bill was written by Sen. Linda Rogers (R) and 30 other GOP lawmakers. Once referred to as the “retention bill” by some, Senate Bill 1 has been amended to contain more efforts before getting to retention, with that being more of a last resort.

CHILD TAX CREDIT EXPANSION

U.S. House Passes Child Tax Credit Expansion. Bill Heads to Senate.

Children learn best when they are safe, well-fed, and well-cared for. The tax credit expansion will help.

From Jan Resseger's Blog
For a long time, the needs of poor children have not been much of a motivator for American social policy reform.

Many of us remember Bill Clinton “ending welfare as we know it” in 1996, but we have very likely forgotten the title of the bill that ended welfare: the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, a law whose name specifically blamed the poor for a lax attitude about bettering themselves through work. The American Rescue Plan generously expanded the Child Tax Credit and made it fully refundable. That COVID relief bill, passed in March of 2021, reduced child poverty in the United States by 40 percent during that year, but Congress allowed it to expire at the beginning of 2022, when Joe Manchin and the majority of Congressional Republicans said the modest cash payments were discouraging parents from working. This month, the Washington Post reported another example of politicians punishing children for the supposed sins of their parents: Republican governors in 15 states have rejected a new, federally funded program to give food assistance to hungry children during the summer when school is not in session. Nebraska’s governor said: “I don’t believe in welfare.”

While a lot of politicians have shown themselves willing to overlook the well documented needs of millions of U.S. children, last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan compromise tax bill that combines business tax breaks and significant expansion of the Child Tax Credit. The bill will now move to the U.S. Senate.

FORT WAYNE AREA NEWS

Southwest Allen County Schools begins strategic plan process

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Small-group conversations Wednesday among Southwest Allen County Schools stakeholders – including students, parents and teachers – marked the beginning of a four-month effort that should end with a roadmap for the district.

School board President Jennifer Bennett expects the final product – a strategic plan – will ensure that district leaders are basing decisions on a cohesive vision.

“I’m excited to get this process going,” she told about 40 people gathered at the transportation conference room for the first of four strategic planning sessions.

Along with collecting feedback from invited participants, SACS will seek input from the broader community via an emailed survey, Superintendent Park Ginder said.

Bidding closes for NACS construction projects

From WANE.com
Northwest Allen County School Board Members approved maximum price amendments for three construction projects in the district.

Bids for the Carroll High School additions and renovations, Willow Creek Middle School, and Central Office construction are closed as contracts with Weigand Construction were approved Monday.

The guaranteed maximum price amendment for the three projects adds up to approximately $130 million. They will be funded through lease financing which will keep the community’s tax rate the same. Wayne Barker, Superintendent of NACS, said the costs are less than what they expected.

Groundbreaking nears for Northwest Allen County Schools construction projects

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Northwest Allen County Schools expects to celebrate groundbreakings next month as three projects totaling $130 million in construction costs get underway.

“Countless hours have been spent to get us to here,” Superintendent Wayne Barker told the board Monday, adding that contractors could start moving dirt next week. “It won’t come soon enough because we have students to educate, and they keep coming. So that’s a very good problem.”

The board agreed last spring to address increasing enrollment by building a third middle school and by expanding and renovating Carroll High School. The elected leaders also approved construction of a central office because it has outgrown its space at Perry Hill Elementary School. That project includes renovations to Perry Hill.

Board action Monday addressed the projects’ guaranteed maximum price. Willow Creek Middle School will cost about $73.5 million; the Carroll improvements will cost about $41.1 million; and the new central office and Perry Hill renovations will cost about $15.8 million.

**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 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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