Archives for category: Indiana

Forget all that rhetoric about “choice” to “save poor kids from failing public schools.” It is a rightwing ruse to siphon public money for private and religious schools.

Proof: in Indiana, voucher enrollments expanded by 50% this year. Fully half the voucher students never attended any public school.

These are not children who were “trapped in a failing school.” They are children whose parents want the state to pay their tuition at a nonpublic school.

“Students using the voucher program — the second largest and fastest-growing of its kind in the nation — now account for 2.6 percent of Indiana’s school system, according to the latest annual report released Monday by the Indiana Department of Education.
Vouchers, billed by the state as “choice scholarships,” funnel tax dollars to support student tuition at private schools. The program is controversial: Proponents say the program expands quality options for poor children, and opponents say the state shouldn’t use tax dollars to pay for religious education while draining the coffers of public schools.”

In a few short years, the program has changed as restrictions are dropped.

The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association said the voucher program “has become an entitlement program which in large part, now benefits middle class families who always intended to send their children to private (mostly religious) schools and taxpayers are footing the growing bill.”

“Several rules placed on the program at its infancy have since relaxed, including the enrollment cap in the first two years and a requirement that students must first try out a public school in their neighborhood before they used a scholarship. New rules last year also allowed siblings and students qualifying for special education services to use vouchers.

“The program has also become less racially diverse over time. This year 61 percent of students using vouchers are white, compared with 46 percent when it started. Just 14 percent of the students are black this year, compared with 24 percent in 2011-12. (Overall, 71 percent of Indiana students are white. About 12 percent are black.)”

This is not a bug or a glitch. This is exactly what voucher proponents like ALEC have wanted all along.

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.

 

To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.

 

Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.

 

A few examples of his snappy style:

 

“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”

 

He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”

 

He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”

 

Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”

 

The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”

 

Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.

 

One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:

 

“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”

 

Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.

 

Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.

 

Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.

 

Hoosier School Heist is listed on amazon.com, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website http://www.hoosierschoolheist.com.

According to those who were there, about 1,000 parents, educators, and other citizens packed the statehouse in Indianapolis to let the Governor and Legislature know that they support State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, and they don’t want their 1.3 million votes for her to be nullified by petty politics.

 

Here is a video and text from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

 

Here is Cathy Fuentes Rohwer speaking to the crowd in a riotous speech that had everyone cheering. Cathy wrote a passionate letter that ran on this blog. Cathy said what every teacher and parent knows: “My child is not college-and-career-ready because he is a child!” She also said: “Standards don’t educate children, teachers do!”

 

Here is the text of her great speech. “We can’t afford a three-tiered system of charters, vouchers, and public. We tried segregation and it didn’t work.”

 

Here is the video of Phyllis Bush’s wonderful speech.

 

And if you want even more, here are articles about the rally:

 

http://in.chalkbeat.org/2015/02/16/photos-ritz-supporters-rally-at-statehouse/#.VOj8jkK4mCR

 

http://www.journalgazette.net/…/Disdain-shown-for-Repub…

 

http://www.tribstar.com/news/local_news/statehouse-rally-supports-ritz-slams-gop/article_a7487dc5-457a-5c62-a06b-5c2a31acc6d4.html

 

http://thestatehousefile.com/supporters-rally-superintendent-ritz-public-education/20256/

 

http://wishtv.com/2015/02/16/teachers-parents-rally-for-ritz/

 

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2015/02/16/ritz-declares-teacher-rally-know-need/23515403/

 

http://www.wthr.com/story/28117025/statehouse-rally-today-to-support-superintendent-ritz

 

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2015/02/rally-for-ritz-to-take-place-in-indy-today

 

http://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/rally-for-ritz-packs-the-statehouse

 

http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/news/opinion/our-opinion-does-the-fight-over-hoosier-education-policy-have/article_56a45910-76c8-5e70-b048-8a49a4a54150.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a smart editorial, Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette remembers an earlier election when voters chose between an educator and a political figure.

 

The voters in the early 1990s chose the educator, just as they did in 2012, when they overwhelmingly elected Glenda Ritz.

 

Now the politicians are gathering like a wolf pack to take away the office and its powers, perhaps because she is an educator.

 

Who should lead our schools as state superintendent? The people of Indiana have spoken, but the powers-that-be in Indianapolis are not listening.

 

Rocky Killion is an amazing superintendent in West Lafayette, Indiana. To begin with, he produced a wonderful documentary about the assault on public education, called “Rise Above the Mark.” You can go to the website to find out how to order a copy to show in your community (it is also for sale on amazon.com). He is very critical of the testing-gone-wild culture that has been foisted on public schools in Indiana and across the nation. He is very sensitive to the damage done to education, to children, and to teachers. His colleagues named him Indiana’s Superintendent of the Year for 2015.

 

Now he is furious because the computers that give the state test–the ISTEP–froze during a practice run. That was just too much.

 

“It’s inhumane what we are doing to the kids, what we are doing to the educational environment, we lost so much instructional time today, it’s ridiculous,” Killion told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis on Feb. 12, after computers froze during a dry run for ISTEP last week.

 

The Superintendent of the Year for 2015, as named by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, followed it with this: “I would prefer all of my students’ parents withdraw and become home-schooled during ISTEP, and then we can re-enroll them…..

 

Killion wasn’t backing away this week.

He repeated the same advice Monday during a visit to West Side schools from Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction. (Ritz didn’t jump on board, instead calling on parents get their kids ready for ISTEP days.)

And on Tuesday, Killion clarified the statement, saying he wasn’t necessarily advocating the withdraw/home-school/re-enroll plan.

“Since there’s no legislative mechanism, that’s the only opt-out workaround that I know to tell parents,” Killion said. “Typically, when I’m asked a question, I try to come up with the correct answer, and that’s what’s happened in this case.”

 

The journalist writing the column is critical of Killion and so is this legislator:

 

State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, wasn’t pleased to hear a superintendent “encouraging people to willfully thwart (the) system.”

 

“It’s just the latest episode in his series of irresponsible and provocative comments that bear little to no relevance to the school system he’s supposed to be leading,” Hershman said Tuesday, a day when the Senate was dealing with a bill that would strip some of Ritz’s authority and a resolution to shorten ISTEP that had doubled in length since last year.

 

“I think we test too much, and the ISTEP is not perfect, but testing is required under federal and state law,” Hershman said. “His comments represent a flawed example of leadership in education policy.”

 

Killion’s answer: “The only thing I’ve said is what I said in the interview when a reporter asked me how can parents opt out of ISTEP. That’s the only thing I’ve done.”

 

Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” 

 

Welcome to the honor roll, Rocky Killion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This afternoon many educators and friends of public education gathered to show their support for Glenda Ritz in Indianapolis. Ritz, as you know, is trying to do her job as state superintendent while Governor Mike Pence is undercutting her at every turn and trying to nullify her election in 2012. She won more votes than Pence. This has to bother him.

Here is a first-hand account of the rally:

“I heard on the 6 pm news that it was “hundreds” but I am pretty sure it was near a thousand. I shared an elevator in parking garage with a group of teachers and one of them had spoken to a security person (we had to be metal detected one at a time as we entered the state house with our coats off and belongings scanned like airport…I had to be wanded and lift my pants legs to show my shoes) who told her it was just over 1000. I think that was what I would have guessed…maybe 900. Some of those could have been there for other business but the atrium was packed, as many standing as seated and up the stairs and around the balconies during the 2 hours of speaking.

“Glenda opened her office after she spoke and greeted all who entered and posed for pictures. I was touched by the college students who were there and obviously they were impressed to be there and so excited to pose with Glenda.

“The cheering and chanting were quite loud at times and the speakers well received. I lost count but 10-12 speeches were given. My favorite was Cathy Fuentes Rawher, an Indiana parent whose “rant” was posted last week in this blog. I saw children as young as two and elders who looked near 80. I saw school buses as well as motor coaches delivering folks.

“We had a couple of inches of snow early this morning and the southern part of the state got 6-7 inches and wind chills were an issue. I think it was an impressive turnout considering the bad weather and that many schools were making up days missed due to snow. The legislators were meeting and we were LOUD!”

This afternoon, hundreds of supporters of Glenda Ritz turned out at a rally in Indianapolis to show their support for the embattled superintendent of Indiana public schools. Governor Mike Pence and his allies in the legislature have been trying to strip away the powers of her office, even though she was elected by more voters in 2012 than Governor Mike Pence.

 

1.3 million voters chose her over the Republican reform idol Tony Bennett, then superintendent of the state. Since then, the governor and legislature have waged constant war on Ritz, either because she is a Democrat or because she is a woman or because they fear her ability to win votes, or all three.

A few days ago I was interviewed for this podcast by Justin Oakley, whom I met last fall in Indianapolis. Justin gave me a wristband that says “Just Let Me Teach.”

 

We talked about the effort by Givernor Pence and the Legislature to crush State Superintendent Glenda Ritz. We speculated: is it because they want to destroy the only elected state official? Is it because she is a woman? Is it because she was elected by a bipartisan coalition and won more votes than Governor Pence?

 

Let’s apply Occam’s Razor, the logical principle that says one should look for the simplest, most obvious reason. It’s clear: Governor Pence is afraid of Ritz. She got more votes than he did. He has to smear her her and diminish her, even if it means nullifying her election. She might run against him and beat him.

 

Join the rally at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on Monday to show your support for public education and Glenda Ritz!

Peter Greene and I are on the same page about Indiana. What is going on there has nothing to do with education, nothing to do with children, and everything to do with politics, power, and money.

 

Peter’s post, as usual, is brilliant. 

 

He writes:

 

In the modern era of education reform, each state has tried to create its own special brand of educational dysfunction. If the point of Common Core related reforms was to bring standardization to the country’s many and varied state systems, it has failed miserably by failing in fifty different ways.

 

What Indiana provides is an example of what happens when the political process completely overwhelms educational concerns. If there is anyone in the Indiana state capitol more worried about education students than in political maneuvering and political posturing, it’s not immediately evident who that person might be.

 

The current marquee conflagration of the moment is the announcement of a new Big Standardized Test that will take twelve hours to complete. This announcement has triggered a veritable stampede from responsibility, as every elected official in Indianapolis tries to put some air space between themselves and this testing disaster. And it brings up some of the underlying issues of the moment in Indiana.

 

Currently, all roads lead to Glenda Ritz.

 

Back before the fall of 2012, Indiana had become a reformster playground. They’d made early strides solving the puzzle of how to turn an entire urban school district over to privatizers, and they loved them some Common Core, too. Tony Bennett, buddy of Jeb Bush and big-time Chief for Change, was running the state’s education department just the way reformsters thought it should be done. And then came the 2012 election.

 

Bennett was the public face of Indiana education reform. He dumped a ton of money into the race. And he lost. Not just lost, but looooooooosssssssssst!!! As is frequently noted, Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent for Public Instruction with more votes than Governor Mike Pence. I like this account of the fallout by Joy Resmovits mostly because it includes a quote from Mike Petrilli that I think captures well the reaction of reformsters when Bennett lost.

 

“Shit shit shit shit shit,” he said. “You can quote me on that.”

 

And it gets better. Read it.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, a parent in Bloomington, Indiana, posted the following “rant” (as she calls it) on her Facebook page. She is one of the parents who is outraged by Governor Pence’s unrelenting attack on State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who was elected in 2012 with more votes than Governor Pence. She is a member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. The great majority of parents—Democrats, Republicans, and independents–send their children to public schools, not to charters or voucher schools. They see clearly what the Governor and the Legislature are up to: the destruction of their community’s public schools. They know what is behind it: money, campaign contributions from private interests who will profit by the proliferation of for-profit charters. And they are furious that their votes for Ritz have been disregarded by Pence and his allies.

 

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer writes:

 

“Governor Pence has swooped down on his white horse and hat to right the wrongs of the ISTEP. You have got to be kidding me.

 
Fixed ISTEP?

 
Yes. The same way that dissolving his secondary department of education at the start of this session (CREATED BY HIS OWN EXECUTIVE ORDER WASTING MILLIONS OF OUR HARD-EARNED TAX DOLLARS) “FIXED” the troubles with Ritz and the SBOE.

 
Governor Pence has created both problems and then somehow gets credit for finding solutions. Heck, he doesn’t need his own state-run newspaper. He’s got a confused unaware citizenry.

 
It was the pressure of his constituency and that of the super majority that made them PASS A LAW TO STOP COMMON CORE AND CREATE NEW STATE STANDARDS. Yes, the feds require college and career ready standards. So give up the waiver already. Democrats, Republicans– these are corporate education reformers we are talking about and they are not doing ANY OF THIS FOR YOUR KIDS. It is all about the money.

 
Glenda Ritz put together new state standards by including as many of the players she could and being sure that she was including all of the many standards that the supermajority, SBOE and governor required of her. She and her staff wanted to ask for a halt to the accountability until they could roll out and test this assessment. This is our superintendent enacting THE POLICY SET BY THE GOVERNOR THE SBOE AND THE SUPERMAJORITY. (Yes, in line with the federal requirements. So drop the waiver already. Aren’t you so flipping proud of your surplus as others have pointed out).

 
But it’s not even about standards. There is NO RESEARCH that shows that standards educate children. I thought they salivated over data? SHOW ME THE DATA.

 
It’s about Chambers of commerce blaming teachers for not having kids “college and career ready for a global economy” while they and their corporate interests ship jobs overseas or avoid paying workers a living wage so the top tier can make more money. SHOW ME THE JOBS, INDIANA SUPERMAJORITY. Because these kids in public schools can sure as heck show you some jobless parents.

 
It’s about making money off of these exams that show that kids are failing and blaming the schools of education for creating these teachers who can’t get kids to test well. Let’s test the teachers to test the schools of education to prove that they, too are failing. Watch them open their virtual online academies of teacher preparedness training. OR, more profitable, let’s create more Teach for America unskilled well-meaning teachers to replace those union thugs.

 
It’s about a narrative that calls superintendents CEOs and views schools as businesses and education as a product and our kids.. widgets in a factory. Those unskilled laborers are creating a better product because of competition.

 
It’s about a message that claims that our public schools are failing. And the offer: MARKETS WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING.

 
It’s about ALEC (google ALEC and destroy public education) and the Friedman Foundation and creating a market. Choose your schools, privatize the system so the markets can improve everything. Try charters (where only engaged parents can transport kids and get on lotteries and no democratic accountability to the people exists because there is no voting for a board to run them and they are proven to be no better and no worse, but way way more open to corruption and harm for kids).

 

Try your voucher (then you don’t have to go to school with those kids. Except, of course in your private school doesn’t want to keep you or deems you a behavior problem).

 
Where these have existed, public schools have not improved. What of the kids in those schools?

 
Here’s the thing.

 
My child is not college and career ready because he is a child. A test does not begin to sum up what I want for him. I trust teachers. i believe in public education because I believe that every single child regardless of background should have the same opportunity to a free, high quality public education as it states in our Indiana constitution. I believe that accountability means:

 
Every child should have a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym teachers, art teachers, music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, band. Every child. But instead our schools are being strangled. They are jumping through hoops where every. single. thing. is. tied. to. a. score. And the purpose is money.

 
Tell you what:

 
Let’s privatize firefighters and police officers. They don’t get to houses in the inner cities or out in rural areas fast enough. Let’s see if competition improves things. Oh? That child in the meth trailer out in the county? Too bad. If his parents weren’t on drugs maybe they could have afforded to buy a house closer to the damn fire department.

 
No, you know what? I don’t ride the city bus. But my teens could use a new used car. Give me a voucher for the money for public transportation because the money should follow my child. I don’t like to touch the books at the library either, gimme my voucher for Barnes and Noble.

 
Ridiculous? Our ancestors would be appalled that we want to go back to the days where the children lie dying neglected in the streets.

 
Governor Pence and his friends at ALEC, the Koch brothers, don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in a government for the people, by the people and of the people. They don’t believe in democratically elected school boards and schools.

 
Glenda Ritz was in the way of a much bigger agenda. My child who has not yet lost his baby teeth is a pawn in a game that has taken away our local control, relegated our public school system to a circus act of jumping through testing hoops to please the ringmaster… who can bring the tent down at any time.

 
Fix the problem? Be rebellious, Indiana. Wake up and smell the fascism. You’ve got someone who gets his way by executive order and a supermajority with no checks and balances. The one dissent in the education policymaking just lost her major responsibilities–not by democratic vote, but by changing her position through statute.

 
Follow the money and you’ll find the motivations.

 
I hope the mama bears and papa bears, and yes, the Grandma and Grandpa Grizzlies will get mad enough to do something radical:

 
Vote. Until then, see you at the protests and rallies.”

 
-Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

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