Archives for category: Indiana

Under former State Superintendent Tony Bennett, five schools–four in Indianapolis and one in Gary–were taken over by the state and given to private operators. Students are leaving, there’s not enough money, and there is acrimony between the private operators and the schools.

The new State Superintendent Glenda Ritz prefers improving schools rather than taking them over, but she is working with a hostile state board of education, appointed by a hostile governor. After two years of privatization, all five schools are still F-rated.

The losers? The children.

Governor Mike Pence didn’t like the results of the election in 2012 when voters chose Glenda Ritz as State Superintendent of Education. For the past two years, he has whittled away the authority and funding of her office and transferred it to other agencies. He even created a new agency to assume control of education policy, turning her office into an empty shell. He mat think he is clever but in fact he is acting like a tinhorn dictator, defying the will of the voters.

In this editorial, Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal Fazette explains Pence’s shabby and shameful machinations.

She writes:

“When voters elected Glenda Ritz nearly two years ago, they made it clear they didn’t like the direction of Indiana schools under Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“Today, an appointed State Board of Education is set to undo the results of the 2012 election. Two resolutions that would strip most of Ritz’s authority are on the board’s meeting agenda. Working in concert with a new education bureaucracy created by Gov. Mike Pence, the 10 members – all appointed by Pence or Gov. Mitch Daniels – are preparing to reduce the superintendent to a figurehead and wrest control of key functions of her office.

“Aside from painting Ritz as weak and ineffective in advance of the next election, the proposals hand unprecedented control of Indiana schools to the governor’s office without any consideration by voters.

“Even the GOP-controlled General Assembly seems to have been duped into laying the groundwork for the takeover.

“A measure was quietly passed in 2013 to establish the new Center for Education and Career Innovation, with money transferred from the Department of Education. Not even the chairman of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee was aware of the financial sleight of hand. CECI’s staff now works full time to undermine Ritz.

“The State Board of Education includes professionals who seem to have the best interests of students at heart. They should recognize the resolutions crafted by the governor’s education staff are counter to the very democratic principles taught in our schools….

“Hoosiers should be angered by efforts to subvert the democratic process. Voters don’t elect supermajorities. They choose individual representatives and statewide officials entrusted to respect the will of the voters.

“Supermajority status does not confer the right to nullify an election, and we believe that members of the State Board of Education and the Republican legislators themselves do not support that course.

“The board members can demonstrate it by rejecting the resolutions and focusing instead on their responsibilities toward students. It’s the course Indiana voters chose.”

Governor Pence seems determined to strip Ritz of any authority. By doing so, he shames himself, defies the voters, and presents to the nation an example of anti-democratic behavior.

Two years ago, Glenda Ritz pulled off an astonishing upset in Indiana when she trounced rightwing favorite Tony Bennett to win the position as State Superintendent of Instruction. Bennett far outspent her but lost anyway. She got more votes than new Governor Mike Pence. Since then, Pence has worked tirelessly to undermine Ritz’s authority and transfer her responsibilities to other agencies, including one that he created. He wants her powerless. He wants to reverse the election results and undermine democracy in Indiana. Ritz’s defeated opponent Tony Bennett was immediately hired as Commissioner of Education in Florida, but resigned hurriedly after a scandal in Indiana broke about grade-fixing during his tenure to protect the charter school of a big campaign contributor.

Here is a report from retired teacher Phyllis Bush of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Bush is a board member of the Network for Public Education.

“ISTA has learned that the State Board of Education intends to further diminish Superintendent Ritz’s role as Chair of the board and transfer some responsibilities to the board’s staff at the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI). The actions will take place at the board meeting on Wednesday.

“The board will propose dramatic new board procedures through approving a resolution that will form a one-time, ad hoc committee that will approve the new measures intended to cut into the Superintendent’s traditional role as Chair.

“It’s no secret that the Governor and the CECI have wanted to remove Superintendent Ritz as Chair of the State Board of Education. In December, it was disclosed in a leaked CECI memo that Ritz being the Chair was perceived as a “problem” that should be addressed by the legislature. The goal then was to have the Chair appointed by the Governor.

“This latest move coincides with efforts to seemingly make the Department of Education a minor administrative bureaucracy folded within one agency under the Governor’s office.

“Efforts first began when the Governor, with the stroke of a pen and without legislative approval, created and diverted funding for his duplicate education agency, the CECI.

“We learned just weeks ago that the Governor’s Indiana Career Council has adopted a new strategic plan that includes consolidating more than 30 state agencies and programs, including the Department of Education, totaling more than $650 million, under one lead agency directed by the Governor.

“This new resolution brought forth by the governor-appointed state board of education members is the latest in this fixation over gaining singular power at the expense of the authority of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Please contact the members of the State Board of Education and urge them to work WITH Superintendent Ritz instead of continuing on this path of disrespect for her, the office she holds and the 1.3 million voters who elected her.”

Over the past few years, as almost every state adopted the Common Core standards, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan insisted they did so voluntarily. He insisted that the creation of the standards was “state-led” and that the federal government had nothing to do with it. No part of these statements was true. The states adopted the CC because they would not be eligible to compete for a share of nearly $5 billion in Race to the Top funding unless they did so. “State-led” meant that the Gates Foundation, which enjoys a close relationship with the US Department of Education, paid more than $200 million to create and evaluate CCSS, and as much as $2 billion to aid in their promotion, advocacy, and implementation.

It would be illegal for the US Department of Education to direct, supervise, or control curriculum or instruction, so Duncan has pretended he was an arms-length observer.

But he was not and is not.

Mercedes Schneider tells the story here of Duncan’s efforts to force Indiana to stick with standards that were allegedly “state-led” and that were not as good as the standards that Indiana previously had. On what legal authority does he have the right or power to tell a state what its academic standards should be? None.

When Indiana recently threatened to drop the Common Core, the US Department promptly sent out a letter threatening to withdraw the state’s waiver from NCLB, on grounds that Indiana had promised to adhere to high academic standards as a condition of getting the waiver.

The irony here is that Indiana already had superior academic standards prior to adopting the Common Core. Even the conservative policy group, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, rated Indiana’s academic standards as at least equal to, perhaps superior to, the Common Core.

Duncan likes to tell the media that “we are lying to our children.” In this case, to put it euphemistically, he is prevaricating to the public.

In recent years, Indiana has gone overboard for charter schools, believing that they held the secret to raising the test scores of low-income students.

But blogger Steve Hinnefeld analyzed the passing rates by income levels and discovered that public schools outperform charter schools in Indiana.

He wrote:

“I merged Department of Education spreadsheets with data on free and reduced-price lunch counts and ISTEP-Plus passing rates. Then I sorted by free-and-reduced-lunch rates and focused on schools where 80 percent or more students qualified for lunch assistance. Results include:

“For charter schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 48 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 62.3 percent; passing rate for math, 62.5 percent.

“For conventional public schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 57.2 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 64.1 percent; passing rate for math, 68.1 percent.

“The data set includes only schools that enroll students in grades 3-8, who take ISTEP exams; it excludes high schools and many primary-grade schools. I also tried to screen out nonstandard schools such as juvenile detention centers and dropout recovery schools.”

He also reported that fewer charter schools get high grades from the state than public schools.

Not what you would call a high-performing sector, despite the boasting and promises.

Phyllis Bush, one of the founders of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, describes here the growing sense of hope among her fellow activists.

Bush joined a contingent of colleagues in Austin for the first conference of the Network for Public Education. Bush is a member of the board of NPE.

Everyone, she says, felt the energy in the room when hundreds of Resistance leaders gathered.

She writes:

“Arising from this message of validation, we could feel there is hope and that the tide is turning. Momentum is building, and it feels as though we are approaching a tipping point. The 500 activists at the conference represent thousands more across the country who are questioning the wisdom and the speed with which education reforms and untested policies have been implemented and which ask for virtually no accountability for charter schools and for voucher-funded parochial schools.

“Parents and teachers are protesting the vast amount of instructional time devoted to preparing kids to take tests whose only real value appears to be to label students, teachers schools, and communities as failing…..”

“Throughout the country there is a growing sense of outrage over the bill of goods corporate reformers have sold legislators. The primary way in which these reformers have operated is by writing stock legislation that governs legislation at the state level and threatens local districts with punitive action.

“Throughout the country, there is a growing sense that parents and educators have been right all along; public schools are not failing. The corporate, for-profit reformers view children as data points and test scores; their view is unacceptable. The research shows that this “brave new world” of testing, accountability, charters and vouchers that Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, the Koch brothers, the Walton Foundation and ALEC have promoted is not working.”

“Parents and teachers know that the joy of learning comes from imagining, creating, playing, thinking, experimenting, problem solving and being ready to learn. The joy of learning comes when a child has an “aha moment” when he or she finally gets it. Parents know that play contributes to learning; that children need the physical activity at recess and in gym class just as much as they need “rigor” sitting at a desk; that art and music help children learn much more than learning to practice for a test and bubble in an answer sheet.”

Education activists from both political parties are trying to save public education in Indiana.
They created a Facebook page called “Parents & Educators against the Daniels and Bennett Education Reforms.” It presently has 6,000 followers but expects that number to grow as more people learn about it.
Remember that it was a bipartisan group of voters who turned out corporate reform leader Tony Bennett, who subsequently resigned as superintendent in Florida in the wake of a grade-fixing scandal in Indiana on his watch.
An administrator of the Facebook page sent this message:
Dear Diane,
We have an amazing opportunity in Indiana to dispose of one of our biggest threats to Public Education in our Primary Election in May.
Representative Bob Behning, Chairman of the House Education Committee and former ALEC State Chairman, has a challenger!
We know that you are aware of the damage Behning has caused Public Education in our state, as you have written about him in your posts.
We are asking for your help in deposing him in May.
A Republican named Michael S. Scott ran against Behning in the Primary in 2012, and, while he obviously did not unseat Behning, he had a respectable showing.
Mr. Scott has now thrown his hat into this May’s election. In Indiana, a voter has to declare a party before voting in the Primary.
If we can convince a number of Democrats to declare “Republican,” they will be given the Republican ballot and vote for Scott and against Behning.
There are really no “down sides” for a Democrat voter to do this. In the November General Election, no distinction is made. They can vote for all the Democrats that they want to—even vote straight ticket, if they want. They may have difficulty running for office, in the future, as a Democrat and they will not be asked to work the polls for the Democrat party. These two problems affect almost no one.
The “Up sides” are: *We can send the clearest/loudest message of Hoosier support for Public Schools since Glenda Ritz’s victory over Tony Bennett to our Governor and Lawmakers ; *We can force Behning to spend his campaign funds (largely donated by corporate reformers) on a Primary, thus.. *Demonstrating to these corporate reformers that their money is wasted on Hoosier candidates. Diane, we need your help in making these points to Democrats. As you have long known, the fight to preserve Public Education has to be directed at both parties, as both have elements within who seek to destroy our schools.
That word is getting across in Indiana.
What we need now is for someone with your knowledge, your credibility, and your influence to help all understand that THIS CAUSE IS BIGGER AND MORE IMPORTANT than party affiliation and longtime habits. Many Republicans began to understand that concept when they crossed-over and voted for Glenda Ritz in the 2012 General Election. It may be a little more difficult to convince Democrats to declare “I am a Republican” in the primary so that they can vote for Scott! (It should be added here that there appears to be no Democrat vs. Democrat race in District 91, at any level. So, Democrats would not miss an opportunity to select a candidate for their party by declaring “Republican.”)
We respectfully ask your help. Please vote to support public education in Indiana!
Call (don’t email) the Senate switchboard and tell your senator and any others you know to oppose 
Sen. Carlin Yoder amendmenment (dues deduction)
Call to OPPOSE

It only applies to school employees.  

Senator Yoder has an amendment on HB 1126 –the Wage Payment Act bill to remove dues deduction for school employees. Offering it as a second reading amendment to HB 1126.  This is a direct attack on teachers and applies to no other public sector workers. 

Senate Phones: 317-232-9400
Call now or asap

Julian M. Smith
Scipio Elementary
President JCCTA
ISTA Board of Directors

Mark Giaquinta here explains the hoax of vouchers in Indiana. He served as president of the Fort Wayne school board. It was my privilege to visit some of that city’s excellent public schools when I lectured there a couple of years ago.

Vouchers were sold under the pretext of “helping poor kids escape from failing public schools.” So said the sponsors of the legislation.

In fact, the vouchers are now available for students who never attended public schools. They are a direct subsidy of religious schools.

One church, as Phyllis Bush pointed out in a guest post for Anthony Cody, is using the voucher windfall to repair its steeple.

Is this what the people of Indiana want? Or is it ALEC at work again, undermining a democratic institution?

Mark writes:


The voucher program in Indiana was defended as a method that would allow poor Hoosier children to escape from failing schools. Of course, many of us knew that was nothing more than a slogan. There never was a voucher requirement that to become eligible, the student leave a poor performing school or apply to a higher performing school (putting aside the problem of defining either). In addition, the income requirements extended well into middle class. Finally, the program was expanded to those who never attended public schools, thus eliminating once and for all the “help those poor kids escape” illusion.

The vast majority of voucher money is now spent by those desirous of a religious education; a facet of the educational experience with which public schools cannot compete. The recent release of the Voucher Study details the number of students receiving taxpayer assistance and the names of the various Catholic, Lutheran, Islamic and non-denominational schools they attend. There are approximately 2800 voucher students within the FWCS boundaries. (FN1) FWCS estimates it lost about 500 students to vouchers; therefore more than 80% of the recipients were already parochial school students.

More alarming, the common school fund has not grown to accommodate the policy decision to fund both public and private schools. The result is fewer dollars for all public schools as the common school fund is diverted to ….. church steeples! Yes, you read that correctly. In a recent address to parish members, Rev. Jake Runyon , Pastor of St. Jude Parish, spoke at length on the importance of parishioners applying for the tax funded choice scholarships. His remarks were recorded and are available on the parish web site. Pastor Runyon made it clear that increasing the number of voucher students will, “ease the financial burden on the parish.” He then went on to explain to parishioners that expanding the tax supported scholarships will make it less difficult, “for me to do some certain thing on the Church side of things like fix the steeple, paint the roof and maybe grow the ministries we can do, you know, on the Church side of things.” (at 13:00 to 14:00).

I love my Catholic faith and I am proud of my Catholic education, paid for by my dad. I even introduced a Resolution to the FWCS Board a few years back congratulating our Catholic colleagues for Catholic Schools week. My grandfather, Thomas Kelly, stood in for Bishop Noll and broke the ground for Central Catholic High School (with Superintendant Abbot turning dirt beside him). I am, nonetheless, dismayed and disappointed at this acknowledgement that the common school fund has become part of a shell game to support religious activities. It is my hope that community leaders will speak out forcefully to legislators and bring this sorry chapter of constitutional contempt to an end. I fully understand the consequences of speaking out on this issue but I have no desire to serve on the school board and witness its demise as the result of policies which I believe would shock the consciences of the delegates to our Constitutional Conventions of 1816 and 1850.

Thanks for your consideration.

Mark E. GiaQuinta

FN 1: I have not distinguished between a voucher and a “Choice Scholarship” because both direct public dollars from the common school fund to religious education and because the tax funded scholarship program creates voucher eligibility in subsequent years. It is disappointing that so very few taxpayers and “tax watchdogs” understand how the Scholarships work. A taxpayer creates a scholarship of at least $1,000 for her student at a particular school and receives a tax credit (50%) which is taken from the common school fund. The private school can pay the balance of the tuition because the scholarship is a gateway to a voucher in subsequent years.

Mark E. GiaQuinta, Esq.
444 East Main Street
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
Telephone: (260) 426-0444
Facsimile: (260) 422-0274
Legal Assistant: Carrie Thomas, (260) 399-1528,

The Indiana State Teachers Association reports on a bill to privatize more public schools in Indianapolis. Privatization is not new. It is the theme song of the Obama administration in collaboration with libertarian think tanks and far-right governors.

What is new here is that the legislature is passing this plan with no evidence that it will benefit children or improve education. No, wait, there IS. Evidence. The evidence shows that all such turnovers have failed. This is faith-based policy.

The House Education Committee passed HB 1321 (Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis) 9-4 along party lines.

The bill gives the IPS School Board power to enter into contracts with “special management teams” (i.e. outside vendors) to create “innovation schools,” formerly called under the bill “portfolio schools.” These terms are simply euphemisms for takeover schools.

HB 1321 is being pushed and supported by the IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and IPS school board, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Stand for Children, and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

It is being promoted as an opportunity for collaboration between the school board and charter schools in exchange for “flexibility” with IPS schools earning a grade of D or F. However, the chief bit of flexibility the bill focuses in on is the elimination of teacher rights and input. The superintendent talked about best practices and teacher buy-in, yet his bill models neither.

The main talking points against this bill are:

The IPS School Board was elected and the IPS Superintendent was hired to operate the schools in their school district—not pay middlemen to do their work.

The performance record of these outside private companies taking over schools in this state has been a failure—all 5 schools that have been taken over (now in their 3rd year of operation) remain “F” schools (4 in IPS, 1 in Gary). Taxpayers have paid millions of dollars so far to these companies with no discernible return.

Blaming teachers and their unions is a cop-out and indefensible: in 2011, the General Assembly narrowed bargaining and discussion topics and timelines and created new teacher evaluation and due process laws heavily favoring school employers. It is clear that the intent is to make these teachers “at will” employees.

HB 1321 is an insult to teachers working in some of the most challenging schools in the state and “giving away” students and teachers in these schools is shameful.


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