Archives for category: Indiana

Documentary about Corporate Takeover of Public Education Debuts Aug. 14

A documentary about corporate and political interest groups attempting to take over America’s public education debuts across the country Friday evening, Aug. 14. The one-hour documentary, “Education, Inc.,” screening begins at 6 p.m. in the Herron School of Art Basille Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St. at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Sponsored by Indy Apples and IUPUI, the event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the lot west of the Herron School of Art building or the parking garage next to the Natatorium.

The documentary is expected to raise awareness of corporate education reforms in public education throughout the country. As public schools nationwide struggle for funding—complicated by the impact of poverty and politics—the documentary illustrates how “education reformers” see opportunity and access to big money.

Following the screening at IUPUI, a panel of local educator analysts will discuss reaction with viewer participants. Moderator Dr. Khaula Murtadha, IUPUI associate vice chancellor for community engagement, will be joined by panelists Carole Craig, co-chair of the NAACP-Indianapolis education committee; Brandon Cosby, national education leadership consultant; and Laura Schlegel Ruegger, a local public schools parent and attorney who works in education issues across the state.

Education, Inc. was produced by filmmakers and public school parents Brian and Cindy Malone. They said they made the film for house parties and community screenings so that students, parents, citizens and public school advocacy groups start an important conversation about the role and value of public education in America.

If you want to screen the movie in your town, contact the film makers here.

Indiana has a teacher shortage.

Is it surprising? State after state has teacher shortages. This is the outcome of a dozen years of phony “reform,” which demonizes teachers, bust unions, takes away teachers’ right to due process, and ties salaries and evaluations to test scores.

Congratulations, “reformers”!

Dave Bangert of the Journal & Courier writes:

What sort of gymnastics will state lawmakers try to pull off at this point to remedy a looming teacher shortage after years of running off potential, young candidates by convincing Hoosiers that public schools were essentially broken?

And will they actually be willing to shoulder some of the blame?

We’re about to find out.

Last week, the chairmen of the Indiana House and Indiana Senate education committees asked House Speaker Brian Bosma for a summer study into the creeping ambivalence to the teaching profession. It’s a situation that has depleted the ranks of undergrads studying education in state universities and put some districts on their heels when it comes to recruiting for open positions.

In their letter to Bosma, Rep. Robert Behning and Sen. Dennis Kruse laid out numbers that have pricked up ears in recent months. New data from the state show that “licenses issued to first-time teachers (have) declined from 16,578 in 2010 to 6,174 in 2014.”

“We think,” Behning and Kruse wrote, “it would be wise for the Indiana General Assembly to proactively address this issue.”

No kidding.

Where to start?

The biting commentary came right away from teachers, who have been bristling under state-pushed reforms — the killing of collective bargaining, the rise of private school vouchers, pay raises tied in part to student performance on standardized tests and more — put into high gear in 2010.

Was “reform” intended to make teaching an undesirable profession? Was its purpose to drive good teachers out of their classrooms and discourage many from entering teaching? If so, “reform” is working. But it isn’t reform. It’s destruction.

Glenda Ritz released this statement today:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will seek reelection to her current position in 2016.

INDIANAPOLIS – Glenda Ritz, Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued the following statement announcing her decision to seek reelection as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Over a million school children are starting school. They begin this school year with the hope and optimism that education can make a difference in their lives. The best use of my time and talents will be to serve our children, their families and the taxpayers of Indiana as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I must continue to be 110% engaged in supporting public education.

Now is not the right time for me to run for governor. Under my leadership, I have brought the discussion of public education into the public discourse and have started to fundamentally change how we support schools. My work is not finished, and my passion is stronger than ever. I am resolutely dedicated to educators, students, and families from Pre-K to graduation.

Recent stories in the news media have pointed out that we do indeed have major issues that impact our families. Two of them particularly concern me—a rising childhood poverty rate and a major decrease in the numbers of college-level students pursuing majors that will lead to teaching. Both of these issues require a redoubling of my commitment to serve as Superintendent to provide the needed wrap-around services to our children and to address the barriers that have been put in place to attract and retain teachers.

The people of Indiana know we need a new governor, a governor that supports public education that directly affects their abilities for better jobs and stronger communities. As Superintendent, I will continue to advocate for what is right to educate our children to improve our economy for all Hoosiers. With the help of all of you, we will keep education the focal point of the gubernatorial race.

Many of my supporters will be disappointed in my decision, but I know that we share a vision for education. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all who have so passionately supported my campaign for governor.

With my personal commitment to doing what is needed to prepare this and future generations for the challenges of tomorrow, I will enthusiastically seek re-election as your Superintendent of Public Instruction. ”


While cleaning up my files, I discovered this excellent article by Alan Ehrenhalt, contributing editor to Governing magazine (and formerly executive editor for 19 years). It was written in 2013, but remains pertinent today.

Ehrenhalt sees through the fraud in the high-stakes testing obsession of our day, in which scores on standardized tests are used to label children, rate teachers, and close schools.

He begins by writing about the Tony Bennett grade-rigging scandal in Indiana, then moves on to Florida, where Jeb Bush launched measurement mania.

He writes:

The Tampa Bay Times newspaper lamented that “after grading schools for 15 years, Florida’s education leaders still cannot get it right.”

One might easily go further and argue that changing the results to make the picture look brighter, whether it involves outright cheating or not, is cause for embarrassment all by itself. If new test questions can have that much effect on a school’s overall performance grade, then why should anybody believe in the integrity of the system?

What’s especially humiliating is that Florida is the birthplace of the school testing movement, the state where former Gov. Jeb Bush decided in 1999 to begin awarding overall letter grades to individual schools to provide information for parents and help assess statewide educational performance. More than a dozen states have begun using a similar system since then, several of them just in the current year. Now they are being told that the Florida model they dutifully copied is too full of flaws to be trusted.

That matters a great deal because a lot more is riding on FCAT test scores than just local bragging rights. If a school receives repeated grades of D or F, it can be required by the state to take a variety of drastic measures, such as making the entire faculty reapply for their jobs, converting the school to a charter or closing it down altogether. So public confidence in the grading process is essential if the state is to have any credibility as a dispenser of draconian educational remedies.

States applying or adapting the Florida model have learned that changing the questions on the test, or switching to a new type of test altogether, can result in wildly fluctuating school grades. School officials in New Mexico this year were delighted to find out that the number of schools receiving A grades had more than doubled in comparison with the results from the year before. Was this the product of innovative new pedagogical techniques? Well, no. It was because the state had abandoned the federally designed No Child Left Behind test and switched to a new one designed by state education experts. Mississippi had a similar experience. Its school test scores went up dramatically because state officials took the expedient step of removing high school graduation rates from the list of test criteria for some schools.

The dramatically higher scores that resulted were a cause for initial state elation. But on further review, they raised another serious question. If the testing process is based on solid educational research, then the results from different tests ought to be reasonably congruent. If the results are dramatically disparate, there is a disturbing suggestion that the people writing the tests aren’t sure what it is they are supposed to be measuring.

Then he shifts his focus to Maine:

Maine is another state that has endured a season of controversy based on the introduction of its new school grading procedures. Gov. Paul LePage, a tireless advocate of school measurement, pushed through a new system this year based largely on the Florida model. Schools were evaluated on student test scores in reading and math; the percentage of students who had shown improvement in their scores during the past year, especially among the bottom 25 percent; graduation rates among upper-level students; and percentage of students who take the national SAT exam.

When the statewide results were tallied, Maine’s schools averaged a C grade—a reasonable enough sounding score. But when researchers in the state began looking at the results in greater detail, they found something that disturbed them. What the tests were really tracking was demographics. Schools in poorer communities around the state nearly all finished lower than their counterparts in affluent suburbs, regardless of academic methods. High schools that were graded A had an average of 9 percent of their students on free or reduced price lunch. Schools that got an F had 61 percent of their students receiving subsidized lunches. To a great extent, the test was simply a measure of poverty, not school quality.

He recognizes that testing has become a problem in itself:

It is hard not to conclude in the end that the school testing movement represents a popular fad in educational policy that is desperately lacking in either substantive methodology or common sense. Its fundamental assumption, underneath all the jargon, is that schools fail because they just aren’t trying hard enough, not because they are being asked to educate pupils who are culturally and socially unprepared to learn. Cooking the books on the tests won’t do anything to solve this problem. All it will do, when the extent of the mischief is revealed, is undermine public confidence in the entire enterprise of school testing.

We have gotten into the business of measuring school performance with precise testing numbers because it’s something we know how to measure. In doing so, we leave aside the subtler and more personal things that teachers and principals do all the time to make their schools function in an orderly way and disseminate as much learning as they possibly can. In the words of Roger Jones, a professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia, one of the states that enacted an A-F grading system this year: “We have gotten so caught up in testing that we have lost sight of a true education.”

Russ Pulliam of the Indystar makes a startling admission: Charter schools in Indiana are mostly low-performing schools. Instead of “saving poor children from failing public schools,” most charters are low-performing.

Pulliam tells the story of Tim Ehrgott, who “was zealous for education reform in the early years.” He worked with Pat Rooney, a businessman who fought for vouchers and created a private scholarship program. He helped build the charter movement and founded his own charter. Now Ehrgott thinks it’s time to crack down on poorly performing charters. Today, Infiana has one of the largest voucher to grams in the nation.

Ehrgott has been schooled by reality.

Ehrgott doesn’t see the overall success that was promised. “Charters in the D-F range should be closed immediately. Those in the C range should not be automatically renewed,” he said. “Produce superior results or be closed.”

“More than half the charters, he added, are getting D or F. “Even when you standardize the results for at risk factors, charters are failing at twice the rate of traditional public schools.”

The hype, spin, and empty promises of the charter movement have run their course. Teach for America’s claims that its inexperienced kids could close the achievement gap are obviously hollow. Chris Barbic’s Achievement School District in Tennessee is a failure. The chickens are coming home to roost. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

Doug Martin reports that Governor Mike Pence is attracting major campaign contributions from the fabulously wealthy circle of friends allied with the Koch Brothers.


Martin writes:


On June 25, just one day after the governor wrote a letter to president Obama saying Indiana would not comply with proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules against greenhouse omissions, Mike Pence’s campaign received a $10,000 gift from Marvin Gilliam of Bristol, Virginia.


Gilliam is the former VP of what was once one of the largest coal producers in America, Cumberland Resources, which was purchased by Massey Energy in 2010.


In 2013, Gilliam and Koch Industries, along with other wealthy donors, financed the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, a longtime Republican and anti-LGBT climate denier who “used his position to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist.”


By funding Pence, the Koch Ring knows they will have a steady far-right ally, who will join them in denying climate change, in promoting the privatization of public education, and in their other radical schemes.


Pence will face a strong challenge from State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz. In 2012, she beat rightwing hero Tony Bennett and won more votes than Pence.


The question for Indiana is whether its people are prepared to fight for their state or to hand it over to the corporate elites.


By the way, if you have not read Doug Martin’s Hoosier School Heist, you should. It is a well-documented report on the corporate takeover of Hoosier public schools by profiteers.



The latest poll shows that most Hoosiers want a new governor. 54% want a new governor. Less than a third say they want to re-elect Pence.

Two issues loom over Pence. One was his early support (and then retraction) for a bill that would have allowed people to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation (it was only when major corporations threatened to leave Indiana that Pence changed his views on the bill). The other is education, where Pence has continued hhis predecessor Mitch Daniels’ agenda of privatizing public education.

Go, Hoosiers! Get a new governor who cares about children, public schools, and the future of Indiana and the nation!

A last-minute deal to create a loan program for charters has raised questions in Indiana, since charters already have heavy debts.

“In the final days of this year’s legislative session, Republican lawmakers dropped into the massive state budget bill a provision giving charter schools access to $50 million in low-interest state loans.

“The measure was a last-minute effort to appease Gov. Mike Pence, who had sought more funding for charter schools, and it received virtually no public scrutiny.

“Now some critics — including the Senate’s chief budget writer — are sounding an alarm about the new program, given the significant debt of many charter schools.

“The main concern: Who will be on the hook if charter schools don’t repay the loans?”

The usual answer: the taxpayers of Indiana.

“In 2013, the state forgave and paid off more than $90 million in charter school loans. The move drew protests from traditional public schools whose loans were not forgiven and consequently charter schools were no longer given access to the loan money.

“Kenley said Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma plan to do the same thing again with the new loan program — an assertion that neither denied outright.

“It’s always a possibility in the future,” Bosma said.

Watch Glenda Ritz announce for Governor of Indiana. Now we know why Governor Pence has worked so hard to grind her down.

Go, Glenda, go!

Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the College of Education at Indiana University, wrote a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star agreeing with the dean of the College of Education at Purdue: Indiana is on track for an education disaster because of the policies enacted by the legislature at the behest of former Governor Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue) and continued by his success Mike Pence.


He wrote:


Indiana’s downward trend in education enrollments can be traced directly to the policies promoted under then-Gov. Daniels and Indiana schools superintendent Tony Bennett. Between 2000 and 2012 constant-dollar teacher salaries in Indiana decreased by 10 percent, outpaced nationally only by North Carolina’s 14 percent decrease.


At the same time, the wrong-headed Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability policies promoted by Daniels and Bennett increased regulation of education schools and licensure requirements for teacher education students while lowering standards of preparation for nontraditional teacher prep programs. Coupled with the equally flawed testing and test-based teacher evaluation policies implemented in the state, these rules have driven out experienced, effective teachers while discouraging new teachers from entering the field.


Unless Indiana changes course, its public education system is headed for disaster. Already teacher shortages are being felt across the board, not just in traditional shortage areas.


It is wonderful to see education leaders speaking out fearlessly and telling the truth. Indiana’s leaders have led education to a precipice. Will the electorate permit them to continue destroying public education and higher education?


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