Archives for category: Indiana

What is happening in Indiana right now is an outrage. The Republican party holds every statewide office but one: State Superintendent of Education.

 

That post was won by Democrat Glenda Ritz in 2012, when she defeated Tony Bennett, the avid promoter of charters, vouchers, and Common Core, even though Bennett outspent her by a margin of 5-1. It was a stunning upset. Ritz got more votes than Governor Mike Pence or anyone else on the ticket. Tony Bennett, chair of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” was quickly hired as Florida Commissioner of Education but almost as quickly resigned when the story broke that he had adjusted school grades to protect the charter school of a big campaign donor.

 

From the day of Glenda Ritz’s election a little more than two years ago, Governor Pence has employed every political strategy to strip her office of any authority for education. He created a competing agency that reports directly to him. He appoints every member of the State Education Board, which the State Superintendent chairs. Now in his pettiness, he and his allies in the Legislature are moving bills to remove her as chair of the State Board and allow the Board to elect its own chair which obviously won’t be Ritz. If Pence and pals have their way, Ritz will have a title with no authority whatever.

 

Dave Bangert, a columnist for the Lafayette Journal and Courier, wrote a scathing article about this sordid situation. Most shocking is the statement by David Long, the president of the Indiana State Senate, in a radio interview. In defense of the party’s willful effort to strip Ritz of her duties, he said, “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, OK?” The implication was that she was “just a librarian,” unqualified for the position to which the voters elected her.

 

You have to wonder whether he was so condescending because he has no respect for librarians or because he has no respect for women.

 

Whatever it is, he certainly has no respect for the voters. Ritz was elected by a large margin. As Bangert writes, an attack on Ritz is an attack on the voters.

 

Frankly, I would like to see her run against Mike Pence in two years and do to him what she did to Tony Bennett. Go, Glenda!

The chair of the Indiana House Education Committee has started an education lobbying business. Presumably, he will be paid to lobby himself and his colleagues. This is remarkable, to say the least.

 

A veteran lawmaker who oversees education in the Indiana House of Representatives has formed a lobbying company to represent education clients, raising potential ethical questions at a time when state lawmakers are considering sweeping new ethics rules.

 

House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, formed Berkshire Education Strategies last June, and has continued leading the House education committee since then. Behning said Wednesday that he is looking to represent student testing company Questar in Oklahoma and would like to sign up more clients. But he added that he was doing everything possible to ensure he only represents clients out of state, and not in Indiana.

 

“We’re trying to put together a contract that’s very clear nothing would be done in Indiana, even in the potential (ethics) changes, I don’t think I would fall under any,” Behning said. “It’s a citizen legislature and you’re going to have conflicts, regardless. There’s probably bigger conflicts in the legislature…..

 

“Behning’s decision to start a lobbying firm comes at a sensitive time for House lawmakers, who are considering ethics reform in the wake of a trio of Statehouse scandals involving former House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, former Indiana Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Troy Woodruff and former Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett.”

 

The words “Indiana legislature” and “ethics” seem to be diametrically opposed.

 

 

 

 

Sorry I missed this great post when it came out in November. Jersey Jazzman, one of the nation’s best education bloggers, foretells the handover of the York City public schools to a for-profit charter chain and excoriates the state officials who are permitting this travesty to happen.

 

He digs into the stats on York City to show that it is performing about where you would expect given the socioeconomic disadvantage of its students. York City, he says, needs help, more resources, not a for-profit charter chain to siphon money out of its budget.

 

He writes:

 

Let’s recap:

Tom Corbett abdicated his responsibilities to the children of York and defunded their schools.
He sent in his personal hack to force the district to turn those schools over to a private, for-profit corporation through a shell non-profit.
The hack — as if he were a made man — told the district if they didn’t take his offer, he’d take over.
No one knows how much money the charter company is going to make on this deal.
Trust me, folks, we’re just getting started…

 

Meckley believes this plan is warranted because York’s schools aren’t performing up to snuff. But the truth is that they are exactly where we’d expect them to be, given the demographics of the city.

 

Do you want to see a photo of Jon Hage’s gorgeous yacht? Look here. He is the CEO of Charter Schools USA. The yacht was up for sale recently. He lives well. His business is very profitable with taxpayer dollars.

 

Jersey Jazzman asks:

 

And what kind of performance have the good people of Florida received for all of that money?

 
The chain was considered high-performing until this year. And on Tuesday the Orange School Board voted 7-0 to deny its applications for three new campuses.

 
Because charters are publicly funded per pupil, Charter Schools USA would receive about $27 million a year to run the three schools at capacity if approved.

 
“Their performance in Orange County is abysmally poor,” board Chairman Bill Sublette said of the Renaissance schools. “They’re underperforming the schools in the area that they’re drawing from. How can we look taxpayers in the eye and approve them?”
But Jonathan Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA, said he is proud of all of the company’s schools, including Chickasaw.

 
“We do an excellent job over time, even with the lowest-performing students,” he said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to turn those scores around in a year.” [emphasis mine]

 
JJ: I guess David Meckley knows better than the entire Orange School Board. Maybe CSUSA’s history in Indiana convinced him:

 
“The four takeover schools in Indianapolis lost huge numbers of students — between 35 and 60 percent at each school — between the start of classes in 2011 and when the takeover operators took over in 2012. Schools are mostly funded on the basis of their enrollment, so the departures came at a steep cost for the private operators.
On top of that, the takeover schools saw their share of a pot of federal funds for low-performing schools that is controlled by the state shrink as more state schools became eligible to claim that money. Tindley lost $212,000, and Charter Schools USA’s three schools lost more than $601,110 because of across-the-board reductions.
Together, the cuts have left takeover operators with much higher costs than they anticipated.
Sherry Hage, CSUSA’s chief academic officer, says the operator is planning to stick with its schools despite the costs. But for some, the price tag is proving too high. Earlier this month, Tindley shocked state education officials by threatening to pull out of Arlington shortly after the start of the school year unless the nonprofit could get $2.4 million in additional aid.”

 
– See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/11/york-pa-and-death-of-public-education.html#sthash.wCR7cUKg.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever since Governor Mike Pence was elected in 2012, he has steadily chipped away at the power of Glenda Ritz, the state commissioner of education who was also elected in 2012 but on the Democratic line. In this solid red state, Ritz got more votes than Pence.

Ritz is an experienced educator, and she has worked to improve public schools and the teaching profession, whereas the Governor and Legislature prefer to gut both of them.

Pence created an alternate education agency to take away Ritz’s authority. Now he has a plan to finally crush her office altogether.

According to the Indiana Economic Digest, citing an editorial in the Tribune-Star:

“Power wins.

“Unless some virtuous political maverick at the top levels of Indiana government appears this winter, the dynasty running Hoosier government will finally complete its two-year-long crusade to wither its last obstacle to full dominance. Gov. Mike Pence announced the check-mate move Thursday as he laid out his goals for the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

“The governor wants legislators to give the Indiana State Board of Education members the power to pick their own chairperson. Under existing Indiana law, the state superintendent of public instruction automatically serves as the board’s chairperson. In other words, the voters decide who chairs the Board of Education. In 2012, they emphatically chose Glenda Ritz, a school-teacher Democrat, as their state superintendent over Republican school-reform star Tony Bennett. The defeat galled Republicans. They never accepted the people’s choice.

“So, with every tool possible, they’ve relentlessly circumvented Ritz, usurping the authority attached to her job. Republican legislators suddenly embraced an idea tossed around for decades — making the superintendent a governor-appointed position, rather than an elected one. With the GOP holding super majorities in the state Senate and House, the only thing preventing it from following through with that tactic was its blatantly obvious political motivation.

“Pence’s proposal injects a new twist. Instead of ousting Ritz, the change drains a huge amount of her remaining power. The other 10 members of the Board of Education — all appointed by Republican governors — would select their chairperson to set the agenda for education policy in Indiana. Ritz would be reduced to just another member, because the others would certainly not choose her.

“Disappointingly, the Republican leaders of the Legislature endorsed Pence’s plan last week. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long expressed their frustration with the embarrassing dysfunction between the governor’s board and Ritz, calling it a “sideshow” and framing Pence’s proposal as a solution. Ritz is not the problem. The problem is the power party’s refusal to tolerate a rejection of their ballyhooed education reforms by the same voters who simultaneously approved of the Republicans’ efforts in other aspects of governing.”

Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press writes that a months-long investigation of Indiana’s State Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett “found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges….” The AP gained access to a copy of the 95-page report.

 

The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law. That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.

 

Inspector General David Thomas, who is leaving office this month, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday about the discrepancies. But the full report compiled from the six-month investigation, which is closely guarded, clearly shows that Thomas’s investigator believed grounds existed for charges against Bennett.

 

The report also cites the successful prosecution of former Lake County Surveyor George Van Til as a blueprint for prosecution. Van Til, a Democrat, pleaded guilty last December to six counts of wire fraud and admitted to using county employees for campaign work between 2007 and 2012.

 

Bennett’s use of state resources during his failed 2012 re-election campaign came under scrutiny after the AP reported in September 2013 that Bennett had kept multiple campaign databases on Department of Education servers and that his calendar listed more than 100 instances of “campaign calls” during regular work hours. The AP also reported that Bennett had ordered his staff to dissect a speech by his Democratic opponent for inaccuracies ? in apparent violations of Indiana election and ethics laws.

 

Bennett, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the matter was closed and that he would have no comment.

 

Bennett was a former star in national education circles and protege of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But Bennett resigned as Florida’s schools chief in August 2013 after the AP published emails showing he had overhauled Indiana’s “A-F” school grading system to benefit a charter school run by a prominent Republican donor….

 

From Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2012, the investigation found more than 100 violations of wire fraud laws. They included 56 violations by 14 Bennett employees and 21 days in which Bennett misused his state-issued SUV. Former chief of staff Heather Neal had the most violations, 17.

 

In a section labeled “Scheme to Defraud,” the inspector general laid out its case, saying Bennett “while serving as the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Indiana, devised a scheme or artifice to defraud the State of Indiana of money and property by using State of Indiana paid employees and property, for his own personal gain, as well as for his own political benefit to be re-elected to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

 

The violations fell into five categories: political campaign fundraising, responding to political opponent’s assertions, calendar political activity meetings, political campaign call appointments and general political campaign activity.

Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.

 

When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.

Kevin Teasley, who is CEO of a small charter chain with schools in Indiana and Colorado, with new ones planned for Louisiana, admits that Indiana is overwhelmed by an explosion of charters and vouchers.

 

He writes:

 

After years of being in the minority, reformers suddenly found themselves in the rare position of actually being able to pass legislation during the Daniels administration, and now in the Pence administration.

 

These actions have been done with the best of intentions, but the result caused chaos, and reasonably so. Legislators added new charter authorizers; implemented new test schedules, new graduation measurements and tests, new standards, and new school accountability measures; and, yes, even created a new competitor called voucher schools.

 

All the while, schools and authorizers have had to adjust on the fly.

 

Adding to the challenge, groups wanting to “help” grow the movement work full time to raise scarce philanthropic dollars to create even more competition by recruiting out-of-state “best-in-class” charter models. Two groups approved to create multiple charters—BASIS and Rocketship—have announced they are not coming to Indiana after all.

 

Schools are opening with a fraction of the students they planned to serve. Phalen Leadership Academy planned for 300 but opened with 150. Indianapolis Academy of Excellence planned for 230 but opened with fewer than 80. Carpe Diem planned on 173 and opened with 87. The list goes on and on.

 

Inconsistent accountability measures contribute to the chaos. In the past 10 years, the state has gone from a “probation to exemplary” grading model to an A-F model. Neither is accurate nor helpful.

 

Many charters have too few students (see above) or grade levels to be graded accurately. For example, since 2012, ChristelHouse received an A, an F and a B. KIPP Indy received an A, a C, and this year, a D.

 

And now the Legislature plans to change the system again. The inconsistency, and some argue political, grading of schools has diminished what credibility the process might have had.

 

Hoping to stabilize the charter sector, he calls for time and patience. But these things are clear from his candid account: There are no waiting lists for charters; schools opening and closing; grading schemes written by politicians: This is chaos. It has nothing to do with improving education.

 

Matthew Tully of the Indianapolis Star calls on Republicans to stop their war against state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Ritz was elected in 2012, handiy beating incumbent Tony Bennett despite his 10-1 spending advantage. Since her election, the Republican Governor Mike Pence and Legislature and state board have done everything possible to undercut Ritz. Pence even created a rival education agency to bypass Ritz and the state education department.

Now the Governor and Legislature want to abolish her office, nullify the election, and turn the position into a gubernatorial appointment.

Matthew Tully says this is ill-advised. He favors an appointed office but thinks it would be wrong to do it in the current climate. She was elected fair and square. She got more votes than Governor Pence.

“Such a move would infuriate educators and others across the state and worsen what has been a toxic period in state education policy. It would be a slap in the face to voters who elected a Democratic superintendent in 2012, one who many GOP bosses, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s leaders, do not like….

“If you think the debate has been ugly of late — with state Board of Education meetings topping anything you’d find in a room full of sugared-up preschoolers — imagine what would happen if already frustrated educators and their supporters statewide see their votes steamrolled by a Republican legislative supermajority.

“Any benefit would be greatly overwhelmed by the ill will the move would inspire, and by the message it would send. In a state where no leaders are calling for the appointment of currently elected (and Republican-held) offices like treasurer and auditor, this would be a straight-up bully move. And it would backfire in a bad way on Republicans by giving the same voters who worked so hard against Bennett in 2012 a reason to get motivated for 2016.

“Yes, the change would likely guarantee fewer of the fights we’ve seen between Gov. Pence’s education appointees and Ritz’s office. And, yes, it would allow the state to have greater alignment at the top when it comes to setting an education vision. But that’s all worthless if the people on the ground — Indiana’s teachers — feel abused, and if voters feel betrayed”

“Anyone who thinks Indiana’s schools can be improved in any real way without the buy-in of its educators is living in a policy bubble and not a classroom.”

A concerned parent activist in Indiana sent this message:

 

 

As election campaign promises are being made, carefully consider any candidate who claims he or she will “reward our best teachers.”
“Rewarding our best teachers” is a purposely deceptive claim. In fact, after replacing traditional pay scales with merit based schemes in 2011, State Republicans immediately reduced funds from the “Teacher Performance Awards”. Originally budgeted at $11 million, the Republican controlled house voted to reduce this fund 82%. Across the state teachers evaluated as effective have been told, “there is no money for ‘rewards’.”
Many teachers today earn less money than they did in 2011, yet the 2014 Indiana Republican Platform claims “Retaining and Attracting Young Talent” is a top priority. The state continues to lose some of its best and brightest teachers to other professions.Talented youth entering college are being told, “You do not want to go into education.”
This year’s election must be about education. Voting for legislators or senators who claim to “reward our best teachers” is to vote for a promise that has already been broken.

 

 

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In 2011, Senate Bill 0001 (SB0001) passed, eliminating teacher contracts and requiring what evolved into the RISE evaluation. Those who supported this idea claimed it would reward effective teachers. In reality, most teachers saw that their pay froze.

 

Once this plan was implemented, districts searched their coffers for funds in which to “reward” effective teachers but found them drained by these same state senators who also slashed educational funding.

 

In essence, SB0001 did just the opposite of what it was intended to do. More quality teachers have left the profession than ever before. Most teachers, even those who have been dubbed highly effective since this evaluation was put in place, find themselves making substantially less money than they did in 2011.

 

Further, school districts in financially struggling areas that needed support the most found themselves losing teachers to more affluent districts that could bolster their funds through referendums. SB 1, whether intentional or not, gives effective and highly effective teachers real cause to hesitate to seek challenging assignments—which, in the end, hurts students who need quality teaching the most.”

 

Finally, many politicians supporting this type of merit pay claim this election year they will focus dollars on the classroom. However, the RISE evaluation has created such red tape for schools that they have had to hire more administrators for this accountability or pull resources out of the classroom to manage.

 

Sadly, six senators who supported this measure and are up for reelection this year stand unopposed. That makes the four races where senators who supported SB0001 even more important. If you vote in one of the four senate districts below, please show your support for public education by voting for the challenger.

 

In State Senate District 47, Sen. Ronald Grooms voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger Chuck Freiberger

 

In State Senate District 45, Sen. James Smith voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger Julie Berry.

 

In State Senate District 41, Sen. Greg Walker voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger AndyTalarzyk.

 

In State Senate District 29, Sen. Michael Delph was absent, but supports policies like SB0001.
Vote Challenger J.D. Ford.

Conservatives are supposed to conserve. however, these days conservatives are intent on smashing their community’s public schools and substituting a market-based system. this is Wall Street, not Main Street.

From a parent activist in Indiana:

“When it comes to public education, Indiana Republicans have been good at one thing – the deception of their own base of voters.

“Republicans lawmakers found themselves torn this year between traditional Hoosier conservatives and corporate sponsors who finance their campaigns. Conservative voters protested Federal overreach in education. Demanding Indiana maintain local decision-making for their schools, Hoosiers asked lawmakers to abandon the Common Core State Standards. However, the corporate ownership of the Common Core is pervasive.

“Republicans needed to quell conservative voter outrage at a Federal initiative taking away local control and costing taxpayers millions in compliance. Yet, they also needed to appease the big businesses that not only funded the Common Core, but funded their election campaigns as well. What were Indiana Republicans to do?

“Deceive us Hoosier Conservatives.

“Remaining loyal to their corporate sponsors, Republicans devised a scheme – rebrand the Common Core State Standards as the new Indiana College and Career Ready Standards. Confident they had cornered the voting booth, they stuck a new sticker over the Common Core and sold us out.

“State Republicans continue to deceive the public with their education platform of “supporting high state-based standards”. In fact, much of the Republican platform on education is written in deceptive terminology.

“The ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, said, “All warfare is based on deception.” The Republican Platform on education is nothing more than a declaration of war on our public schools. Unfortunately, Hoosier students are their casualties.”

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