Archives for category: Indiana

Fred Klonsky writes with amazement that Mayor Pete Buttigieg just realized that there are segregated schools in his hometown of South Bend.

He acknowledges that he was slow to come to this realization.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told Reverend William Barber that he didn’t notice South Bend’s public schools were segregated.

Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend.

“I have to confess that I was slow to realize — I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated… But what I slowly realized… if you looked at the county, almost all of the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” Buttigieg said in an interview with Rev. William Barber III.

Yes. “All the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” is a weird formulation.

But that he didn’t realize that integration was an illusion in his city?

Buttigieg is either a liar or suffers from too common a white blindspot.

In Indiana, more than 70 percent of black students attend a non-white majority school,

In 2015, several South Bend schools showed concentrated black enrollment, inconsistent with county racial realities.

The problem of racial segregation is a statewide problem in Indiana. There is much that is wrong in the Hoosier state, and the legislature doesn’t care.

Indiana doesn’t have a plan to combat segregation but it has a robust school choice program of charters and vouchers.

 

Indiana legislators have rewritten state laws to favor privatization of public assets. If a public school is considered unutilized, a charter operator can claim it for only $1. When the West Lafayette school district sued to challenge the law, a judge sided with the legislators. Give the public school away to a private operator, even though it belongs to the public who paid for it!

Karen Francisco, the brilliant editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, writes here that the state’s political leadership is conspiring against the public interest by giving away public property to entrepreneurs. More than once, the  public has been fleeced by shady charter operators in search of profit.

The “real estate racket” that the legislature endorsed on behalf of charter entrepreneurs is draining millions of dollars away from taxpayers in Indiana and other states.

It would take an accountant to disentangle the tangled web of real estate deals that allow charter operators to rip off the public.

Francisco tries to explain it here:

A decade ago, The Journal Gazette reported a local charter school, Imagine MASTer Academy, was using state tax dollars to pay a for-profit landowner nearly triple in rent what it could have paid to own its building outright.

No one – not the governor, attorney general or any lawmaker – stepped up to protect taxpayers from that poor deal. None showed interest in the growing number of national headlines about charter school real estate scams. In announcing last week it was getting out of the charter school business, the former property owner of Imagine MASTer Academy illustrated why West Lafayette and other public school districts must challenge Indiana law.

Admittedly, the complex shell game is tough to follow, but no one should doubt who is prospering when an out-of-state real estate investment company boasts of 10.5% returns on a charter school portfolio that just sold for $454 million. Is it any wonder Indiana teacher salaries weren’t growing?

EPR Properties of Kansas City, Missouri, bought Imagine’s North Wells Street campus in 2008 from Schoolhouse Finance, the real estate arm of Imagine Schools Inc., a management group hired by businessman Don Willis and other area residents to operate the local charter school. The sales price was $5.5 million. Two years earlier, Schoolhouse had bought the campus from the YWCA. EPR, a real estate investment trust, sold it back to Schoolhouse eight years later for nearly $7.4 million. Just two years later, it was sold to Wallen Baptist Church for $3.25 million.

In the interim, Indiana taxpayers made rent payments of nearly $2 million in a three-year period alone. Under a triple net lease, the public was also on the hook for the for-profit company’s property taxes, insurance and maintenance. When the charter school faced closure because of poor academic performance in 2013, Imagine was converted to Horizon Christian School. State officials, under another charter-friendly law, forgave $3.6 million in loans to Imagine.

We don’t know how much Horizon Christian School paid in rent during its six years at the Wells Street site.Although the school, now at3301 E. Coliseum Blvd., is supported almost entirely by taxpayer-funded vouchers, its financial affairs are not subject to public access laws.

The entrepreneurs are betting that the public won’t be able to follow the trail of bread crumbs that transfers millions of dollars from taxpayers to the bank accounts of private corporations.

Watch these stirring videos that show the huge crowd of teachers and their allies amassed in Indianapolis in a demonstration for public education!

See the dramatic and inspiring gathering of #Red4Ed in Indiana!

After years of being mistreated by the Republican governor and legislature in the Hoosier State, teachers are rising up and saying “Enough is enough!”

#Red4Ed is on the march!

Thousands of teachers from across Indiana will rally in Indianapolis on November 19, seeking better pay and more resources for their students.

Indiana has one of the most reactionary state governments in the nation.

Over 100 districts will close or switch to e-learning for the day.

The state’s largest school district, the Fort Wayne Community Schools, announced that it would close because so many teachers will be joining the protest at the State Capitol.

Many will wear buttons remembering our dear Phyllis Bush, a founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education, a teacher activist and founder of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, who died eight months ago but left behind hundreds and thousands of admirers inspired by her passion for public education. Phyllis’s wife, Donna Roof, and her many former students and friends will be at the rally on November 19, remembering the dedication, love, and wit that Phyllis brought to her role as a teacher and as an advocate for public schools.

 

Politico Education reports that Secretary Betsy DeVos and her political appointees are fanning out across the country to promote charters, vouchers, and educational “freedom” from public schools. She will be in Indiana and Ohio, which already have vouchers and charters, most of which are low-performing.

Under DeVos, the official  mission of the U.S. Department of Education is to destroy and privatize public schools.

 

DEVOS HEADS TO INDIANA, OHIO: The Education secretary begins Day 2 of the Trump administration’s “back to school” tour with stops in Indiana and Ohio today.

— DeVos will visit Purdue Polytechnic High School, a public charter school in Indianapolis, in the morning where she’ll meet with students and faculty and tour STEM classes, according to the department. The administration said the school is a good example of an approach to education that breaks down the silos among K-12 and higher education and businesses.

— In the afternoon, DeVos will head to Cleveland. She’ll tour the Great Lakes Science Center and a specialized high school, MC2STEM High School, which is part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. DeVos will then visit EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, “where formerly incarcerated individuals are given the tools they need to transition home, including the opportunity to learn a skilled and in-demand trade in the culinary arts,” the department said.

— Several other top Education Department officials are also fanning out across the country today as part of the administration’s nationwide tour to promote its “rethink school” agenda.

— Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais will be in Montana. He’ll tour schools and meet with officials in Pryor and Billings along with Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

— Johnny Collett, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, will head to Missouri. He’ll tour an elementary school in Belton and meet with students and faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

— Scott Stump, the assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education, will be in New Mexico. He’ll tour a high school in Albuquerque in the morning and Santa Fe Community College in the afternoon.

Jan Resseger noted that the Colorado state board of education awarded a contract to MGT Consulting based on their “success” in turning around the public schools of Gary, Indiana. She shows in this post that there was no turnaround.

She writes:

Colorado state school board members praised MGT’s record in the so-called turnaround of the only whole school district it has managed—for the past two years—in Gary, Indiana. The fact that MGT Consulting, a for-profit, was praised for work in Gary caught my eye. I have been to Gary, just as I have been to Detroit, whose public schools have shared some problems with Gary’s. Detroit’s school district was assigned a state emergency fiscal manager by former Governor Rick Snyder; in fact Detroit’s school district was assigned an emergency manager named Darnell Earley after he left Flint, where, as municipal emergency fiscal manager, he had permitted the poisoning of the city’s water supply. Fortunately Detroit’s schools have been turned back to the democratically elected local school board, which hired a professional educator, Dr. Nikolai Vitti.

And I have been to the cities in Ohio now in state takeover, and being operated by appointed Academic Distress Commissions. I am thinking of Youngstown, which in four years under an Academic Distress Commission and appointed CEO, has not turned around. I am thinking of Lorain, where outright chaos has ensued under an Academic Distress Commission’s appointed CEO, David Hardy. And I am thinking of East Cleveland, whose schools are just beginning the state takeover process, and ten other Ohio school districts—including Dayton and Toledo—being threatened with state takeover.

All of these Rust Belt cities and their school districts are characterized by economic collapse. They are industrial cities where factories have closed and workers moved away to seek employment elsewhere. When industry collapses, the property tax base—the foundation of the local contribution of school funding—evaporates, and as workers lose jobs or leave, local income tax revenue collapses as well…

In July 2017, the state took over the school district in Gary and turned the schools over to a private, for-profit management company: MGT Consultants. MGT hired Peggy Hinkley, a retired school superintendent to run the schools, but she resigned a little more than a year later. The Post-Tribune‘s Carole Carlson describes Hinkley’s tenure: “Hinkley served 14 months and ruffled the feathers of some elected officials who criticized her decisions, especially the closing of the Wirt-Emerson School of Visual and Performing Arts. When Wirt-Emerson closed in June (2018), it left the district with just one high school, the West Side Leadership Academy. It stoked fears of a continuing exodus of students who would leave for charter schools or other districts… Under Hinckley, Gary reached a deal resolving $8.4 million in back payroll taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS forgave a large portion of the debt, leaving the district with a $320,000 payment. The freeing up of the liens on buildings allowed Hinckley to list 33 vacant schools and properties for sale. By November, the district had accepted five offers, amounting to $480,000. More sales are still being weighed. In all, Hinckley erased about $6 million of the district’s $100,000 million in long-term debts and reduced its monthly deficit from about $1.8 million to $1.3 million… Academically, all seven elementary schools received Fs on state report cards this year.”

Clearly, in Gary, Indiana, MGT Consultants has not miraculously achieved the kind of quick school district turnaround Colorado’s state school board bragged about when it contracted with MGT to take over three school districts.

Read on to learn about the role of ex-Indiana superintendent Tony Bennett and the Corporate Reform-disruption-greed Movement.

The state board of education in Colorado has decided to turn over schools in three districts to a for-profit management corporation that claims it can turn the schools around, at a cost of millions of dollars. Where there the firm has ever turned any schools around before isin doubt. The political connections of the firm are not.

Read here about the story and a deep dive into the history of MGT Consulting.

In all cases, the state board gave districts the go-ahead to pay millions of school district dollars for MGT Consulting, a for-profit management firm, to virtually take over the schools. The move has elicited hope from some that the company can improve student performance after everything the districts have tried has failed. But the contracts have prompted condemnation from critics who say the firm has a dubious track record and is diverting tax dollars to private profits at a time when every cent should be spent on student needs…

Leaders of the Florida-based MGT say they specialize in allocating public money more effectively while improving teacher effectiveness in the classroom and school culture. Its management process includes sub-contracting areas of school work to other companies, and it boasts completing over 10,000 projects in many states and abroad over several decades.

MGT is more than just a school testing consultant. The limited liability corporation also consults for other government agencies, including conducting impact studies of privatizing public prisons, according to its website. MGT’s current chief executive officer also co-founded a consulting and lobbying firm tapped into a national network of for-profit education institutions, Republican education reformers, the testing industry and charter schools.

That’s part of what draws controversy as public school academia question the motives of a company headed by pro-school voucher officials working to save failing public schools — for profit…

The group began its work in the 1970s but has been led in its current iteration since 2015, when Trey Traviesa first appears as MGT’s title manager in Florida state records.

Traviesa is a longtime Floridian and former Republican state representative for the Tampa Bay area. He became a lobbyist, venture capitalist, banker and charter school co-founder after serving in Florida’s House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008.

While serving in the state House, Traviesa sponsored legislation to expand Florida’s school voucher program. That program created incentives for corporations to pay for mostly low-income students to leave their school districts and attend private schools.

MGT was hired largely on the basis of its claims of success in Gary, Indiana.

Chalkbeat wrote about the situation in Gary, which is inconclusive and certainly not a demonstration of success:

It’s early to say anything definitive. In 2017, MGT won a four-year contract to manage schools in Gary, Indiana. The deal is potentially worth about $11.4 million, if the state funds the contract for all four years and if the company meets performance goals.

Gary’s school district has about 5,000 students enrolled this year, down from about 11,000 ten years ago. The students in Gary overwhelmingly qualify for free or reduced price lunch, a measure of poverty, like in Adams 14, but only a handful of students are learning English as a second language.

In Gary, the state ordered an emergency manager to come in not only for academic problems, but because the enrollment decline and fiscal mismanagement problems landed the district deep in debt. MGT took over the responsibilities of the superintendent and the school board, at the state’s request, and reports directly to state officials.

The work has been controversial. Some lawmakers called for removing the firm when it was discovered that Tony Bennett, who was state superintendent in Indiana from 2008 through 2013, is a partner in the Strategos Group, which acquired MGT in 2015. Lawmakers argued that the policies Bennett rolled out in his time as state superintendent contributed to Gary’s financial problems that led the state to require an external manager.

MGT has not been removed, however, and Bennett doesn’t have an active role in the management of the district. According to news reports citing state officials, since the takeover, the Gary district has decreased its debt, slowed its enrollment decline, and purchased new textbooks. The latest state rating of the district has also improved slightly.

In other words, MGT has been in charge of Gary (which former state chief Tony Bennett tried to destroy) for one year. It has not created a successful turnaround, there or anywhere else.

Was the Colorado State Board of education influenced by Governor Jared Polis, who has a long record as a supporter of school choice, having founded two charters himself?

Bill Phillis points to  the latest online charter scams. He forgot to mention the A3 scam in California, in which eleven people were indicted based on allegations that they embezzled between $50-80 million by inflated enrollments and phantom students.

 

School Bus
Indiana and Oklahoma online charters caught stealing tax dollars
It should not be surprising that online charters steal tax funds for students not enrolled. This charter sector is unregulated and is typically not monitored effectively.
The Indiana experience with online charters seemed to surprise Indiana officials despite stories from news publications going back several years. Two online charters stole $40 million.
Oklahoma officials have charged an online charter (EPIC) of inflating enrollment to steal $10 million.
ECOT may be at the top of the list of thieves in charterland. State officials have documented over $110 million that the ECOT Man stole. There were at least 10 years Ohio officials didn’t even check the ECOT enrollment data.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 | ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net| www.ohiocoalition.org

 

Indiana is one of the state’s that has been all in for choice. One of the choices pushed by former governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence is Virtual Charter Schools. These are online schools that allegedly enroll home-schoolers or students who prefer not to attend a Brick-and-mortar school.

Study after study has found that these online schools have high attrition, low test scores, and low graduation rates. However they are very profitable since their operators are paid far more than their actual costs.

The name of their game is enrollment, since their costs decline as enrollment grows, and they must constantly replace those who drop out.

Unfortunately, the incidence of fraud is high since the online schools are seldom auidited.

Indiana is currently trying to recover $40 million from two online charter corporations and their authorizer, which was stolen by inflating enrollments.

Indiana will try to claw back around $40 million from two virtual charter schools and the public school district charged with overseeing them after an investigation found the charters inflated student enrollment counts and defrauded the state for the last three years.

Daleville Community Schools is the charter authorizer, charged with oversight, for Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. A state audit found that the schools inflated their enrollment counts, which are used to determine how much money the schools receive from the state.

A report, provided by Daleville, showed that hundreds of students counted in the online schools rolls were never assigned a single class. In the 2016-17 school year, 740 students took no classes in the first semester and 1,048 took no classes in the second semester. 

Many students were re-enrolled by the school, even after they had left. In at least one case, the school re-enrolled a deceased student, said State Examiner Paul Joyce.

Joyce told the State Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday that the schools’ action could be considered criminal.

Is it a novel idea to treat the theft of millions of dollars as “criminal?” That certainly did not happen in Ohio, where the operator of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) closed his doors rather than repay the state some $60 million in inflated charges. Over the years, ECOT collected nearly $1 billion, and there were no audits or efforts to recapture public funds until the past year. No criminal charges either.

You know the old saying: If you steal a fortune, you are treated as a gentleman, if you steal a loaf of bread, you go to jail.

 

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, is a great defender of democracy, honesty, and public schools. She is a keen observer of the school choice hustle in Indiana, where grifters and entrepreneurs are welcome to rip off the public. Thanks, Former Governor’s Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence, and compliant legislators.

In this editorial, she explains how charter schools and voucher schools evade accountability. One neat gimmick is to change the name of a failing choice School, and the clock gets reset. Presto, Change-O.

She begins:

When Horizon Christian Academy produced some of the lowest standardized test scores in the state in 2015, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Quality Education defended the Fort Wayne school’s poor performance by claiming accountability for Indiana voucher schools is greater than for public schools.

“Traditional public schools as well as public charter schools can receive an F for four consecutive years before the state can intervene,” Erin Sweitzer told The Journal Gazette. “Private voucher schools, however, are required to stop accepting new voucher students after two consecutive years of receiving a D or F.”

What Sweitzer and other voucher proponents don’t acknowledge is the accountability loophole that allows charter and voucher school operators to walk away from a failing school and open shop under a different name – with barely an interruption in the generous flow of state tax dollars. After a D grade in 2015-16, Horizon Christian Academy went on to receive an F for each of the next two academic years. The state prohibited the school from accepting new voucher students last year, but paid $880,000 in vouchers for returning students. That’s on top of the $11.4 million Horizon’s three schools have collected since the taxpayer-funded voucher program began in 2011.

Now, the school’s co-founder has left Horizon and is preparing to open a new faith-based school, Abraham Preparatory Academy.

Tammy G. Henline told The Journal Gazette’s Ashley Sloboda that the school, at Statewood Baptist Church, is planning a “large, public registration soon.” WFFT-TV reported the school will “rely heavily on a virtual curriculum” and is seeking state accreditation, which would make it eligible to receive vouchers.

If the Indiana State Board of Education approves accreditation, it will deliver Exhibit A in the accountability charade supported by voucher proponents.

In the name of parent choice, they ignore policies that allowed the failing Imagine public charter school to reopen as Horizon Christian Academy and for unlicensed educators to earn six-figure salaries overseeing D- and F-rated schools.

Apparently the voters in Indiana don’t care about how taxpayer dollars are wasted.