Archives for category: Indiana

Tony Lux, recently retired as superintendent of the Merrillville Community public schools, has written a blistering opinion article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.


He says that it is time for all supporters of public education to unite and vote for legislators who support public education.


Despite the fact that the voters of the state of Indiana overwhelmingly ousted State Superintendent Tony Bennett, an advocate of privatization, his policies continue.


Glenda Ritz, running against Bennett, received more votes than Governor Mike Pence, yet Pence has used the powers of his office to cut down the power of Ritz and to push ever more profit-making into the schools.


The only way to stop the total destruction of public education in the great state of Indiana is to vote for legislators who will support public schools against the entrepreneurs, privatizers, and profiteers.


Lux writes:


All public schools continue to be harmed financially [by Pence’s policies of privatization]. Tax caps and expanded tax reductions have reduced state income. Along with the continuing obsession for maintaining the golden grail of a $2 billion state surplus, these factors have resulted in declarations by the governor that there just isn’t any state money to appropriately increase school funding. Nevertheless, diversion of education tax dollars toward the proliferation of unproven charter schools and private school vouchers have reduced funding for all public schools.

The governor makes grand claims that Indiana lives within its means (despite tax income that is diminishing due to an array of continuing and expanding tax deductions), and that Indiana maintains strong reserves (through “reversions” that take money back from state programs that serve the public), while still making “investments in education.” These claims ring incredibly hollow and are transparently hypocritical to anyone close to public education (and other public services as well).

Supposedly, business tax breaks will bring new jobs. But those new jobs require better-skilled graduates. Only thriving public schools in our cities, towns, suburbs and farm communities will achieve those results. Charter schools have little evidence of success, and tax dollars for vouchers are being expanded to pay for already-successful students rather than to fund programs for underachieving students.

The state’s return on investment in these strategies is practically negligible in increasing the percentage of students at grade level and in increasing the college and career skills of our high school graduates.


Mel Hawkins of Indiana says the election of 2014 may be the most important ever for the future of public education in Indiana. Now is the time to step up and support those who will fund our public schools and oust those vandals who would destroy them and turn our children into profit centers.

Tony Bennett, once the State Commissioner of Education in Indiana, then defeated by Glenda Ritz in 2012, then appointed as State Commissioner of Florida, then resigned after news broke that the state grades were manipulated to favor a charter school owned by one of Bennett’s major campaign contributors. After the scores were adjusted, the charter’s grade miraculously rose from a C to an A.


Bennett was leader of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” and an outspoken advocate for the Common Core.


Now there is more scandal in the wake of Bennett’s Indiana tenure in office. One of his top aides has been questioned about his dealings with Cisco, for whom he worked before and after he worked for Tony Bennett.


AP reporter Tom LoBianco, who broke the original story about Tony Bennett and grade-rigging, wrote:


“A former top Indiana education official’s role in the sale of $1.7 million worth of videoconferencing equipment to the state by Cisco Systems Inc., where he worked before and after holding that state position, has added to calls to strengthen Indiana’s ethics laws amid a recent spate of boundary-pushing incidents.


“Todd Huston left his Department of Education job as chief of staff to former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2010 for a position with Cisco, where he had previously worked. He was involved in the 2012 sale of a new TelePresence videoconferencing system to the DOE that officials later determined was a waste of taxpayer money.


“Although Huston says he was careful to keep his work for the state and for Cisco separate over the years, good-governance watchdogs say his role in the sale violated the spirit of Indiana’s ethics rules designed to stop state employees from cashing in on their public experience in the private sector.”


More on Todd Huston: He now works for the College Board, whose CEO is David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards:
Todd Huston
Senior Vice President, State and District Partners
Todd plays an integral role in the College Board’s mission to meet the needs of K–12 and higher education clients, as well as the needs of state governments. He directs key aspects of College Board strategy, as influenced and determined by external market trends, policy and standards.

Todd’s extensive experience in education includes serving as a local school board member, a member of the Indiana State Board of Education and as the chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Education. Most recently, Todd was the strategic business development manager at Cisco Systems, where he helped higher education and K–12 customers transform their operations and student experience with new technologies.

Todd earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Indiana University and is the father of two.

P.S. Todd Huston is an elected member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

Question: How many jobs can one man hold?

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


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