Archives for category: Indiana

Reading’s daily education brief today is like being trapped in a nightmare and wishing you could wake up. In this case, it is not a bad dream, it is an ugly reality with familiar faces intent on giving public dollars to private and for-profit schools. Add to that the reports of students fearful for their future, and the outlines of an frightening new world emerge.

Politico reports that Indiana’s approach to school reform–based on privatization–will guide the Trump education reformers. The key to Trump reform is diverting public dollars to charters–including for-profit charters and virtual charters–and vouchers for religious schools.

HOOSIER POLICIES HEAD TO WASHINGTON: The same players who sparked intense education battles in Indiana – and transformed schools in the Hoosier State – are poised to enact those policies on a national stage. Just as George W. Bush brought Texas-style accountability to the Education Department and President Barack Obama tapped Chicago basketball buddy Arne Duncan, Donald Trump’s education policies are expected to reflect the Indiana imprint of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Already, three Hoosiers key in shaping Indiana’s school choice landscape are considered contenders to serve as Trump’s education secretary: Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University; former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett; and Rep. Luke Messer, a former state representative who served as executive director for School Choice Indiana when the state’s 2011 school choice law was passed under Daniels’ watch. Indiana ties also played a role in Trump’s selection of the campaign staffer who helped him craft his $20 billion school choice plan that encourages vouchers and charter schools: Robert Goad, an aide on loan from Messer.

– Pence used his platform as Indiana governor to aggressively expand a voucher program that allows taxpayer money to flow to religious private schools. Pence also pushed for more charter schools, and choice has now become a defining element of Trump’s vision for education. Indiana’s voucher program allows nearly 33,000 students to go to private school on the public’s dime – making it the single largest voucher program of any state in the country. John Jacobson, dean of Teachers College at Ball State University, said the state’s voucher program hasn’t been around long enough to fully understand the long-term impact. Because of that, Jacobson said, “I would hope they are cautious at the national level.” Has Indiana’s voucher program been a positive change for families? “If you were to ask a parent who received a voucher to a school of their choice, they would say yes,”Jacobson said. “For the general public, I think it’s been difficult for the public to accept, taking public dollars and allocating that to private entities.”

Bennett, you may recall, was at the center off a grade-fixing scandal. The grades of a charter school founded by a major campaign contributor were mysteriously increased by adjusting the formula for calculating grades. Bennett was defeated in his bid for re-election as state chief in Indiana, but quickly hired by Florida as chief (he is a protege of Jeb Bush). He resigned as chief in Florida after the grade-fixing scandal broke.

PAC tied to Teach For America spends big on a local Indiana election, but no one quite knows why

Here we go again. Teach for America, working through its little-known but well-funded political arm, called Leadership for Educational Equity, is dumping a load of money into a school board race in a small district outside of Indianapolis. It wants to place a charter school teacher on the school board of Washington Township, a district of 11,000 students.

The TFA candidate, Deitric Hall, is a newcomer to Indiana. He moved there from California three years ago. LEE has given him $32,000 to run for school board.

LEE has been active in funding candidates for key state and local positions in other states, on school boards and in legislatures.

Their candidates will of course support TFA, charter schools, and privatization.

Chalkbeat Indiana writes:

It’s a small-scale version of a phenomenon that has played out in urban districts around the country as outside campaign contributions have increasingly influenced pivotal school board races. In Indianapolis Public Schools, outside contributions helped radically reshape the board in 2012 and 2014, when out-of-state funders backed a victory for charter-school supporters.

But unlike in IPS, Washington Township isn’t facing a pivotal election — and Hall’s opponent had raised barely any money until this month. That has raised eyebrows in the area, where locals wonder why LEE, even given Hall’s connection to TFA, would spend so heavily on the race.

A native of California, Hall moved to Indianapolis three years ago for a teaching position through TFA, a national nonprofit that recruits new teachers for school districts with high-needs students.

He landed a position at KIPP Indy Unite Elementary, where he now works with students with special needs. Hall, who doesn’t have children, says his background as an educator will offer valuable insight to the board, and despite being new to the community, he is dedicated to improving the schools.

LEE’s spokesman is Erik Guckian, who previously served as top education advisor the Tea Party Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina. Under McGrory’s leadership, and presumably with Guckian’s advice, the state shut down its successful career teacher preparation program (North Carolina Teaching Fellows) and shifted its $6 million to TFA.

Three of the five school board seats are up for election in Washington Township. Hall is facing off against one opponent, John Fencl, for an at-large seat representing the entire district.

Fencl has deep roots in the community: He is a parent of two middle schoolers in Washington Township where he also grew up and went to school. Fencl, an accountant, has volunteered as a math tutor and coach in the district. He said his work mentoring middle school boys has given him particular insight into the schools.

“I’m focused on the district, involved in the district,” he said. “I understand what Washington Township schools are about.”

When Fencl filed a fundraising report with the county earlier this month, he had raised just $750, which he said was because he wasn’t sure how competitive the race would be. But when he saw how much money Hall had raised, he shifted into high gear. In just a couple of weeks, Fencl boosted his fundraising to close to $7,500, he said. About $5,000 of that came from a single donor, Washington Township attorney Charles Rubright.

Since it became clear how much money Hall raised, other community members, including parents and even high school students, have become active in the race. They say they are motivated by concern over the role out-of-state funding is playing in Hall’s campaign.

Kristina Frey is a Washington Township parent who leads the Parent Council Network, a longstanding political group that endorsed Fencl. When she learned that Hall had joined the race, she set up a meeting to hear about his plan for the district and she came away uncertain why he was even running, she said.

“My suspicion is that folks in the education reform movement are looking at how they can potentially expand outside of IPS boundaries,” Frey said. “I would not be surprised to see them come back again with more money and try to gain a majority as they did in IPS.”

Will Washington Township vote in a TFA representative with big money behind him or will they elect a parent who is active in the community? We will see in a few days.

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,