Archives for category: Indiana

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Indiana) endorsed State Superintendent Glenda Ritz for re-election.

I add my strong support for Ritz, who has shown courage, integrity, and vision on behalf of the children of Indiana, even as Governor Pence and his allies have kept up a relentless attack on public schools and on Ritz personally.

The editorial says:

“In a year [2012] that saw sweeping Republican victories in Indiana, more than 1.3 million Hoosiers chose Democrat Glenda Ritz for state superintendent. No clearer repudiation of the state’s direction in education policy – school choice, high-stakes testing, Common Core, punitive school letter grades – could be found than in the resounding 2012 defeat of Superintendent Tony Bennett, the face of so-called education reform.

“But newly elected Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP-controlled General Assembly and deep-pocketed reform supporters did not get the message. They immediately set to work to diminish Ritz’s authority – at one point establishing a shadow education agency to undermine her work. The state superintendent has spent much of the past four years battling their obstructive efforts, but she delivered on her pledge to challenge the direction Indiana’s public schools were being taken. Today, Ritz remains the best candidate to prevent development of a two-tier system: private schools allowed to choose their own students and public schools left with fewer resources to serve everyone else. She’s best positioned to finally move to a student-centered testing system and to serve as a check on a voucher program with few safeguards.

“Republican Jennifer McCormick, superintendent of Yorktown Community Schools, has a solid record of serving students and public schools. But her promise to put students before politics is diminished by the tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions she’s accepted from the very individuals and interest groups determined to steer money from public schools for private benefit….

“Ritz, a former school media specialist, defends her record, noting improvements in performance at nearly 200 schools targeted for assistance; supporting student success in career and technical education; an increased number of school safety specialists; continuing focus on family literacy; and a strategy to address a growing teacher shortage.

“The reason I speak about outreach so much is because that’s what my job is really about – serving kids in our schools, making sure they get what they need,” she said. “Where people say they have a perception I don’t work with somebody? I work with everybody. That’s the only way I can move things forward.”

“McCormick pledges to improve communication, which she argues is “very splintered, not real timely and not very manageable to try to find what you’re being told.”

“I would argue we don’t have a lot of real leadership at the (Department of Education) to give us the guidance that would be necessary for superintendents and principals and educators,” she said.

“It’s a valid complaint confirmed by other administrators, but it also ignores the full-court defense Ritz has been forced to employ. She would benefit in a second term from appointing an unofficial cabinet of advisers – retired administrators and teachers who can suggest ways to improve procedures for local school districts, particularly in improving the state’s testing program.

“As a district superintendent, McCormick might be better prepared for administrative duties, but she is not prepared for the inevitable political forces. As of Wednesday, she had accepted more than $195,000 – more than two-thirds of her total contributions – from school choice advocates. Some are the same donors who backed Bennett four years ago. The same legislators responsible for laws harmful to public education will return to the Statehouse in January.

“To ensure the votes they cast in 2012 continue to protect Indiana’s public schools and place students first, Hoosiers should choose Ritz once again.”

Compared to Donald Trump, Mike Pence seems like a stable, moderate guy. He will be the steadying hand who keeps Trump from going off the tracks and doing crazy things. But you need to know more about Mike Pence, as seen by a constituent, Sheila Kennedy.

RFRA, Pence and Holcomb

“What has been interesting about having Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence on the national ticket has been the research on Indiana’s Governor being done by national media outlets.

“Here in Hoosierland, we know Pence as an avid culture warrior uninterested in the day-to-day administration of state agencies. We know him as an opponent of Planned Parenthood whose disinclination to authorize needle exchanges led to an HIV crisis in southern Indiana, as an adversary of public education responsible for diverting millions of dollars from the state’s public schools in order to provide vouchers for religious schools, and of course as the anti-gay warrior who cost the state economy millions of dollars by championing and signing RFRA.

“The national press has investigated Pence’s previous activities, both in Congress and as editor of the Indiana Policy Review, a (very) conservative publication. What they’ve found won’t surprise anyone who has followed Pence, but the research has confirmed that the Governor has certainly been consistent….

“For example–and despite his disclaimers of discrimination to George Stephanopolous and others–Out Magazine unearthed an earlier article advising employers not to hire LGBTQ folks, and describing homosexuality as a “pathological” condition:

““Homosexuals are not as a group able-bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”

“Another article, from December of 1993, was entitled “The Pink Newsroom” and argued that LGBTQ folks shouldn’t be allowed to work as journalists without being forced to identify themselves as gay publicly, since their LGBTQ status would surely create a conflict of interest when writing about politics.

“Other outlets have reported his efforts while in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, his speeches warning against the use of condoms, his insistence that climate change is a “hoax,” and his longstanding support of creationism and denial of evolution.

“It’s highly likely that the Trump-Pence ticket will lose nationally in November, relieving Indiana voters of the task of defeating Pence at the polls. In his place, the GOP is running Eric Holcomb for Governor. Holcomb, it turns out, is pretty much a Pence clone. (The link has video from his meeting with the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star.)

“Eric Holcomb had his chance to distance himself from the economic disaster of Mike Pence’s RFRA legacy in Indiana.

“Instead, in a painful 4 minute answer to the Indianapolis Star editorial board, Holcomb doubled down on the same discrimination law that risked $250 million for state’s economy, and threw his weight behind Pence’s failed agenda.

“Holcomb has previously embraced all of Pence’s agenda.

“In November, we’ll see whether Hoosier voters have had enough of incompetence and theocracy, or whether we will vote to endure more of the same.

“This is a very strange political year.”

Sheila Kennedy, professor of law at Indiana University, writes here about Mike Pence and his lapdog change of stripes since becoming Donald Trump’s veep candidate.

Pence drops his support for free trade and nuzzles Donald’s ear.

She writes:

Pence has always had close ties to ALEC and the Koch Brothers. Other positions he has taken since joining the Trump ticket, however, represent a dramatic change from previous postures. For example, Mr. Conspicuous Piety seems positively eager to support a twice-divorced, foul-mouthed, belligerent buffoon who models behaviors inconsistent with both the culture-war positions for which the Governor was previously known and the civility he actually practiced.

(Speaking of civility: For sheer chutzpah, its hard to top Pence’s recent criticism of Democrats for “name calling.” Psychiatrists have a word for that: projection.)

This Indiana teacher wants you to know what Governor Mike Pence did to the public schools on his home state. He didn’t do it alone. He had the help of Republicans who control the legislature, and he built on the anti-public school record of his predecessor Mitch Daniels.

The New York Times reviewed Pence’s record on education, noting his support for charters and vouchers and his efforts to undermine State Superintendent Gloria Ritz, who received more votes than Pence in 2012. All the sources the Times quoted are conservatives.

But the Indiana teacher, who is self-described as a conservative, calls out Pence for his ongoing attacks on the teaching profession.

In Indiana, small, rural schools are shutting down because funding has been cut, families are moving out of district, and whole communities are losing jobs where school corporations are the largest employers.

Inner-city schools, like Indianapolis Public Schools, are urban nightmares as charter schools take away public school funding, yet only meet the needs of a fraction of the population.

Cities like Indy, Detroit, and Chicago are the poster-children for big government in education. The corporate rich and politicians get the money, and the urban poor, of which have a racial bias, receive a sub-standard education.

This is what Pence brings to the Republican Party ticket if he follows the path he’s paved in Indiana. If you don’t think education effects all parts of society, then education has benefitted you. If you know what the school-to prison pipeline is, then I don’t need to explain anymore.

Karen Francisco is the editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette. I invited her to comment on Mike Pence’s his stewardship of the economy in Indiana. She did not touch on his abominable education policies, which are anti-public school and anti-teacher. Pence favors school choice, especially charter schools and vouchers. Anything but public schools.

She wrote:

Prepare to hear much in the coming days about the great state of Indiana. The Trump campaign, eager to claim any sort of connection to honest-to-goodness governing, will hold up Gov. Mike Pence as architect of a soaring Hoosier economy.

Consider Trump’s claims upon introducing his running mate – and the reality.

–Indiana’s unemployment rate was 5 percent in May, down from 8.4 percent when he took office in 2013.

Yes, the unemployment rate was 5 percent in May, but the figure was hardly noteworthy. Twenty-nine states had lower unemployment rates.

– – Indiana has a Triple A credit rating.

Yes, it does – along with more than a dozen other states. But the Indiana General Assembly has passed balanced budgets –which are required by the state constitution –while ignoring serious needs in social services, infrastructure and education.

— Private-sector jobs have increased by 147,000 since Pence took office.

That’s generally true, but Indiana’s rate of private-sector job growth isn’t exceptional. At just under 6 percent, it’s half as strong as job growth in Florida.

Trump’s embellishments mirror Pence’s own claims of strong economic leadership One of the governor’s current tall tales is that more Hoosiers are working than at any time in the state’s 200-year history.

That’s impressive only if you’ve never taken a statistics class. Adjusted for population growth, Indiana’s highest job participation mark was May of 2000, coming after more than a decade of Democratic control of the governor’s office and an eight-year boost from a Democratic administration in the White House.

About 80 percent of Hoosiers of working age were employed in May of 2000, compared to about 75 percent today.

What Trump and Pence don’t say about the Indiana economy, however, is the most important thing to know. Per-capita personal income in the state is abysmal. – 39th lowest in the nation. Hoosiers earned just 86 cents for every $1 the average American earned in 2015. That figure is down from the inflation-adjusted 93 cents Hoosiers earned on the dollar in 1995.

Real average weekly wages in Indiana grew by just 0.7 percent over the last six years, compared to a national increase of 2.6 percent.

If Indiana’s economy has any real strengths, one is its enduring manufacturing sector, particularly the automotive industry.

But as a congressman, Mike Pence voted against the Detroit bailout, stating that “we can’t borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy or a healthy domestic automotive industry.”

Thousands of GM and Chrysler workers in Indiana would disagree, of course. A Fort Wayne labor official called Pence out a year ago when the governor tried to claim credit for a $1.2 billion investment in the GM truck assembly plant in Fort Wayne.

“(Pence) considered it an affront to free-market ideology,” the UAW’s Randy Schmidt wrote in a column published on our op-ed pages, “He instead preferred a classic bankruptcy, one that would have liquidated GM’s assets, and sold the Fort Wayne plant in pieces to the highest bidder.


If Pence’s approach to the auto bailout as a congressman had carried, it would have proven disastrous to the Indiana economy. Likewise, his embrace of the state’s religious freedom law as governor last year would have landed a crushing blow to ur economic interests. It took the intervention of business and legislative leaders to clean up the mess the governor helped to create.

Pence might have convinced himself that he’s responsible for a booming Indiana economy. But as he and Donald Trump try to make a case their case in Cleveland this week, keep in mind that the Hoosier economy isn’t zooming ahead, and it would likely be in worse straits if he had been allowed full control of the steering wheel.

I want to be super fair to Mike Pence. So I am introducing him by citing the Wikipedia entry about him, which is factual.

Note that he is proud to support the Tea Party. Note also his leadership of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, which is affiliated with the State Policy Network. The latter is a hard-right organization that supports charter schools and vouchers and opposes public sector unions. It is affiliated with ALEC, another hard-right group that wants to privatize public schools and eliminate teachers’ unions.

Pence, as we know, supported this agenda as governor. Many Indianans are happy to see him give up his chance to run again, giving them an opportunity to pick a better governor for their state.

In his zeal to reduce the power of government, Pence denies that smoking is dangerous to one’s health.

Pence also denies that climate change is a problem. He has said that “global warming is a myth.”

Maybe his function on the ticket is to make Trump look like a moderate by contrast.

Indiana was once a state that strongly supported its public schools. But now that the far-right has taken control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, the public schools are viewed by state government as an inconvenient burden to the state.

There is one state official who has tried to protect the public schools from Indiana’s rabidly conservative Republicans: State Superintendent Glenda Ritz. She was elected in 2012 with more votes than Governor Pence. He never forgave him for outpolling him, and he spent much energy trying to remove the powers and duties of her elected office.

Valerie Strauss writes about Governor Pence here. To say the least, he doesn’t like public schools. He was also one of the first governors to celebrate the passage of a “religious freedom” bill that recognized the right of businesses to discriminate against gay people. Under Pence’s leadership, business owners could refuse to see their goods or services to gay people because their religious is against gay people.

Mike Pence is on the far right fringes of the GOP.

I recently posted a link to a Brookings Brief by Mark Dynarski, which warned that vouchers had not been successful in two states, Louisiana and Indiana. About the same time, the University of Arkansas released a research review that lauded vouchers. Although I did not know Dynarski, I contacted him and asked if he would explain the discrepancy for the readers of the blog. He graciously agreed.

He wrote:

In a recent article for Brookings, I highlighted recent research on vouchers to attend private schools that had found negative effects on student achievement. The same day, May 26, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial pointing to positive effects of school vouchers on student achievement, citing a review of studies published by researchers at the University of Arkansas. You asked if I could help readers understand the discrepancy.

In its reading of the University of Arkansas review, the Wall Street Journal included the review’s findings for voucher programs that operated in the US and programs that operated in Colombia and India. The largest positive effects of vouchers were from the program in Colombia. Education systems are quite different in other countries, however, and findings from Colombia and India have little relevance to debates about vouchers in the US today. If we ask about voucher programs that have operated in the US, the review reports that average effects of those programs is about zero.

The Louisiana and Indiana programs I focused on operated statewide. The negative effects reported for these programs could be a result of private schools being compared to higher-quality public schools in suburban and rural areas. Earlier voucher programs that reported positive results often operated in single cities—Milwaukee, New York City, Dayton, DC—which means studies of them essentially are comparing private schools only to urban public schools.

The Louisiana and Indiana programs also are recent, and my piece notes another possible explanation for their negative effects. Public schools have been under pressure for the last fifteen years to improve student achievement, which may have caused them to up their game. Recent research I cited concluded that public schools have substantially caught up with private schools. The National Assessment of Education Progress reports that private schools still have higher test scores than public schools, but those score differences could arise because of differences between private school students and public school students. The research approaches used in the Louisiana and Indiana studies allow for ‘apples to apples’ comparisons. Essentially the same students are compared in public and private schools and the test-score results favor public schools.

Vouchers will continue to be an important topic for discussion and debate, and we need to be open to new evidence and let our understanding of the world and of education be affected by it. I emphasized in my piece that our historical understanding that private schools perform better than public schools may be flawed. The University of Arkansas review is valuable for synthesizing a large amount of research on vouchers since the nineties into quantitative findings. The recent studies in Louisiana and Indiana are valuable for asking what the effects of vouchers might be today if a state were to begin a program or continue one. That the findings are negative means policymakers should proceed with caution—the relative positions of public and private schools may have changed.

I hope the discussion is useful for your readers, who rightly might feel a sense of whiplash from having different findings about vouchers released on the same day.

Kind regards,


Since radical extremists took control of state government in Indiana, the governor and legislators have been on an absurd mission to destroy public education, to drain resources from public schools and give it to charter operators and religious schools, and to ruin the teaching profession.


One person has stood in their way: Glenda Ritz, the only statewide elected official who is a Democrat. She has fought to stop the madness, and the governor and legislature have tried to strip all power from her office.


She has fought hard to protect public education and educators.


Glenda has been endorsed by the Network for Public Education Action Fund.


I happily endorse Glenda Ritz for re-election as State Superintendent of Public Schools.


Here te is the back-story, along with information about how you can help Glenda win.



“In 2012, grassroots public education groups all over Indiana worked together to defeat education “reformer” Tony Bennett and to elect Glenda Ritz, who ran on a platform of “more time for teaching, less time for testing.”



“Unfortunately, with the election of Mike Pence as Governor, the political agenda for Indiana schools that Governor Mitch Daniels and Superintendent Bennett started is still in effect. After the election, Pence told a reporter that he would move forward with Tony Bennett’s reform agenda anyway despite the overwhelming vote for Ritz. Since that time, he launched a duplicate education agency to take powers away from her office, he tried to make her position appointed instead of elected, and he signed a law removing her as chair of the State Board of Education.



“Despite all of this obstruction, Superintendent Ritz has succeeded in moving forward with her education agenda for Indiana schools. She launched a grassroots “Division of Outreach” that hired coordinators all over the state to serve as a direct liaison between the Department of Education and the schools. She worked across party lines to bring an end to the statewide high-stakes, lengthy ISTEP exam and is now serving on a panel to design a test that will inform student growth. And she launched a statewide family literacy program to encourage more time for reading.

“Superintendent Ritz oversees the Indiana Department of Education, the only state agency that Governor Pence doesn’t control, so he is going to do everything in his power to make her a one-term superintendent. The Friedman Foundation has been polling on this race, and “Hoosiers for Quality Education,” affiliated with the American Federation for Children, donated $10,000 to Tony Bennett’s handpicked candidate running against Superintendent Ritz.
Superintendent Glenda Ritz needs our help. Please donate $25, $50, or $100 today at Additionally, you can sign up at to receive campaign notifications, to volunteer and to spread the message about her student-centered campaign.



“Together, we can prove once AGAIN that grassroots support from public education advocates can beat corporate money from special interest groups who want to put another Tony Bennett in office.”

Donna Roof, teacher of English in Indiana for more than 30 years, sent the following message to her class:



Dear Snider High School Class of 2016:
As I reflect on my career of over 30+ years in the classroom, many thoughts and images flash into my mind about what it has meant to me to be a teacher. My decision to retire was not easy. Teaching is much more than my career; it is my passion. Your class has helped me once again to remember why it has been. I honestly can say that there is no other career I would rather have. I simply love what I do. Believe me when I say you are students who make it easy to stay and hard to leave.
So what have all of these years meant? Quite simply, they mean so very much. When I see you, I don’t see test scores and data. I see unique, young people who have their whole lives ahead of them. Each of you has so much potential. You have lives that are more complicated than I can ever begin to imagine. You overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and are successful because you meet your challenges. As you pursue your dreams and goals, I dare you “to color outside the lines.”


I was fortunate to have had so many teachers who instilled in me the love of learning. If I have done the same with you, then we all have been successful. Everyday I entered my classroom believing I am a master teacher, for if I didn’t hold true to that claim, I shouldn’t be in this profession.

I’ve learned that schools are families. We laugh, we cry, we whine, we bicker, we get frustrated. However, even though we are not related by blood, we are related by a sense of community, by a sense of our common experience, and by a sense of our common humanity.

What have you learned from your experience here at school? Has it been numbers and equations, facts and hypotheses, or papers and projects? Have you learned how to share that knowledge with others? Have you learned to be more tolerant with others? Have you learned kindness, consideration, and compassion? Have you learned what it takes to have and to be a friend? Have you learned anything about truth or justice or honor or decency? Have you learned anything about loyalty or love? What kind of foundation have you begun to build while you were here?

While none of the above lessons will raise your scores on any of your exams, are these not the qualities that school is all about? Is this now what life is all about? The individual lessons that I have taught and that you may or may not have learned are not what is important. What is important is how you will apply what you have learned. Despite all that comes our way, working together, we persevere and succeed because that’s what we do.

As a teacher, I am in the business of helping you to grow in every way, whether it be academically, emotionally, or personally. As most of you are counting down the number of days until you get into the “real world,” don’t forget that each of the goals, the obstacles, the frustrations, the joys, and the sadness you’ve experienced here all add up to who and what you are and will become. For you see, this is what is important; this is what counts; this is what matters.

As you enter this newest chapter of your lives, all I can say is that our business here at Snider has been good. Even though I shall miss having you in class, I am thankful that I was able to spend this part of my career with you. No matter where you are, what you do, or what your age is, you will always be “my kids.” I will always look at my years of teaching with fondness, and as I say farewell to all of you, I also say thank you for what all of you have given me.
“Follow Your Bliss!”

Donna Roof