Tom Ultican blames Democrats for the destruction of public schools in Indianapolis, led by the well-funded Mind Trust. 

What he describes is the Democratic party’s betrayal of public education and democracy. It is a shameful legacy, and it is not about the past. It is happening right now.

He writes:

”The Mind Trust is the proto-type urban school privatizing design. Working locally, it uses a combination of national money and local money to control teacher professional development, create political hegemony and accelerate charter school growth. The destroy public education (DPE) movement has identified The Mind Trust as a model for the nation.

“A Little History

“In 1999, Bart Peterson became the first Democrat to win the Indianapolis mayor’s race since 1967. Peterson campaigned on the promise to bring charter schools to Indianapolis. He claimed, “We are simply in an age where cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, 1950s style education just doesn’t work for a lot of kids. The evidence is the dropout rate. The evidence is the number of at-risk kids who are failing at school.”

“The new mayor joined with Republican state senator Teresa Lubbers to finally achieve her almost decade long effort of passing a charter school law in Indiana. In the new charter school law, Lubbers provided for the mayor of Indianapolis to be a charter school authorizer. Then Democratic governor, Frank O’Bannon, signed the legislation into law.

“During his first run for office, Peterson invited David Harris a 27-year old lawyer with no education background to be his education guy. Harris became the director of the mayor’s new charter school office. By the 2006-2007, the Peterson administration had authorized 16 charter schools.”

He then goes on to quote conservatives who are thrilled to see that Democrats have embraced their privatization agenda.

Tultican lists the board of directors of the Mind Trust. Notably, none are educators.

“It is noteworthy that no school teachers or parent organization leaders are on this board which is dominated by corporate leaders and politicians. It is possible that one of the four school organization chief administrators taught at one time during their career but no one with recent classroom experience is represented.”

Mind Trust leader David Harris became a rising star in the privatization movement. Tultican helpfully lists his peers, all prominent in the “Destroy Public Education Movement.”

And then there are the funders! Gates, Walton, the usual suspects, the crowd that is contemptuous of public schools.

“December 2016 the not so Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) published a lengthy piece lauding privatization and choice in public schools. They held Indianapolis up as being a leader in developing 21st century schools and The Mind Trust as the catalyst. The paper stated:

A key reason is The Mind Trust, founded in 2006 by Mayor Peterson and David Harris as a kind of venture capital outfit for the charter sector, to raise money and recruit talent. The Mind Trust convinced Teach For America (TFA), The New Teacher Project (now TNTP), and Stand for Children to come to Indianapolis, in part by raising money for them. Since then TFA has brought in more than 500 teachers and 39 school leaders (the latter through its Indianapolis Principal Fellowship); TNTP’s Indianapolis Teaching Fellows Program has trained 498 teachers; and Stand for Children has worked to engage the community, to educate parents about school reform, and to spearhead fundraising for school board candidates. The Mind Trust has also raised millions of dollars and offered start-up space, grants, and other help to eight nonprofit organizations and 17 new schools, with more to come.

“The PPI claims that bringing in 500 teachers who commit for just two years and have only five weeks of teacher training improves education. This is supposedly better than bringing in experienced teachers or newly minted teachers who are committed to a career in education and have between one and two years of teacher training at a university.

“They are also saying that having Stand for Children invade Indianapolis with their dark money and undermining local democratic processes is desirable.

“Instead of raising millions of dollars to improve public schools, The Mind Trust is using that money in a way that undermines the education of two-thirds of the students in Indianapolis who attend those public schools.”

This is as good an analysis of the privatization movement as you will read. And an ansolutely devastating critique of the role of the Democratic Party in promoting this anti-democratic attack on public education.

The Mind Trust has taken the lead role in destroying public education in Indianapolis. It is a shameful legacy.