Archives for category: Indiana

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

In Indiana, Republican legislators want to expand the voucher program so more students can attend religious schools paid for by taxpayers. Glenda Ritz opposes the expansion.


“Ritz is referring, in part, to an idea in Senate Bill 334, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, that would allow schools to accept voucher students for the spring semester as late as Jan. 15 — four months after the current Sept. 1 deadline.
“The bill would eliminate provisions in state law that limit students to just one voucher per school year and would do away with current rules requiring students who leave a private school before the year ends to pay back the rest of that year’s tuition. House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said he plans to hear the bill, a signal it could have support among House lawmakers.
“At a Senate Education Committee hearing on the bill last month, Yoder said he proposed the bill, which passed the Senate last week 40-9, for programs similar to ones at The Crossing, a network of private religious alternative schools that serve about 2,500 Indiana students.
“The network includes 28 accredited private Christian schools spread throughout Indiana that cater specifically to students who struggled at other schools, were expelled or dropped out.”
“Yoder’s bill, however, would apply to any eligible student who wants to transfer to an eligible private school, not just those who are struggling and want to switch to a school in The Crossing network.”


Ritz may not be able to stop the legislative raid on funds that the state constitution reserves only for public schools.


Under Indiana’s former Secretary of Education Tony Bennett, the state determined to crack down on low-performing schools. Five schools were handed over to private management. The result was a disaster. Four schools made no progress at all. Enrollment plummeted at all the takeover schools.


Two recent comments point up the failure of private management in running public services. You would think that public officials would look at the record and stop privatizing public services and instead work to improve them.



Reader Chiara writes:


“What I love about the (bipartisan) mania for “running government like a business” is how they seem incapable of delivering basic government services.

“It’s the worst of both worlds. It’s not good government and it’s not good private sector. It’s this awful hybrid that we seem to be stuck with. Can we have two sectors again- a public sector and a private sector? Can we hire some people who don’t have complete contempt for the public sector they’re supposed to be improving?”


Another reader recounts the failure of private corporation Edison in Gary, Indiana.



“Roosevelt school in Gary, IN was taken over a few years ago by EdisonLeaning, a for profit charter school. There is a legal battle between the Gary Community Schools and EdisonLearning as to who is responsible for fixing up the school which is falling apart.



“Here is a partial quote from The Times of NW Indiana.



“GARY — As temperatures dipped below 20 degrees, Gary Roosevelt students and teachers stood outside the school Wednesday protesting a lack of heat in the building and the ability to get a quality education.

“Students have rarely been in the building since they returned from the Christmas holiday. The school was dismissed a half-day on a couple of days because of problems with the boilers that heat the building. It closed Jan. 8 due to the lack of heat and again Wednesday.

“The school is scheduled to be closed Thursday and Friday for development days.

“The students say enough is enough.

“Roosevelt senior Cary Martin said it’s really bad inside the building.

“Some of us have come to expect not being in the building because it’s too cold,” he said.

“This happens every year, but it’s time for a change. This is affecting our education. This is really sad.”

“He said there are also problems with water inside the building, with few water fountains working and none of the showers in the locker rooms.

“Some of my colleagues and friends stink after class because they can’t wash up,” Martin said.

“Food is also an issue, along with mold and damage in the school’s band room.

“In January 2014, due to the heating failures, a number of pipes burst causing the hallways near the gym to flood with up to 2 inches of water. In June 2014, Indiana American Water Co. turned off the water due to a lack of payment on the bill.


“Freshman English teacher Brandi Bullock said the temperature in the hallways ranges in the 40s, while the classroom temperatures are sporadic with some warm classrooms and others freezing.

“The problem is that we can’t be in the classrooms because there are not enough warm spaces,” she said. “It used to be that the library was a warm respite from the cold but the boiler that supported that room is not working.”

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette published a stinging editorial against the state’s voucher program, which Republican leaders want to expand.


The newspaper is one of the few strong voices supporting public education in a state that was once known for its excellent public schools. Now it has a governor and legislature determined to undermine the public schools, take resources away, punish its teachers, and transfer funds to charter schools and religious schools.


Indiana permits for-profit charters, and they are making money at the expense of children and taxpayers.


Any number of sleazy, for-profit operators have opened schools in Indiana.


The voucher program this year, the editorial estimates, will cost taxpayers about $130 million, which should have gone to community public schools.



Parents and teachers have been complaining about Indiana’s state testing, called ISTEP. But now David Rutter chimes in to support them in a scathing column printed in the Chicago Tribune. The state tests are worthless, he says, and Indiana is a national joke because of handing control of education over to politicians.



Public education. Sorry. We apparently can’t do that in Indiana. It’s too hard. And it’s even worse. Not only might Hoosiers parents fret if their public schools are any good, even basic student competence can’t be tested because Indiana can’t figure out a useful academic test.


It’s all too hard.


The yearlong embarrassing battle over ISTEP is not merely recreational political fisticuffs. It cost the state $65 million to produce an off-the-cuff test that measures nothing verifiable. Public school teachers who put their 400,000 students through the 12-hour torture are not even sure what the test was supposed to measure….


If the test were accurate, the state’s entire student body went from marginally intelligent to totally dumb in one year.


Don’t worry, though. The state now acknowledges this test was pointless. It’s not even apparent what the point was supposed to be.


The idea that any one test can measure 400,000 unique, distinct young human minds seems preposterous on its face….



Indiana misplaced the point of public education. It’s about children.


When schools are transformed into partisan political war zones, predictable devolution always damages the higher good.


The Indiana Legislature has decided its function is to punish bad schools and bad teachers by taking money and resources away from the spendthrift offenders. Of course, holding resources hostage hardly ever makes a school better.


As occurred this week when 2015 ISTEP results were revealed tardily, the effect is a statewide battery of badly designed tests mandated by amateurs whose only knowledge of public education is the instinct to impose “accountability…..”
Here’s a short chronology on how we reached this particular disaster:


1: First, Gov. Mike Pence ditches the reviled Common Core standards and orders “Indiana-specific” standards that are remarkably similar. And do it now.


2: Then he does not give state educators enough lead-time to write the standards and pilot-study the resulting test. ISAT is not a pop quiz. The state has constructed a test that students must study for weeks to take.


3: Then he fails to realize until it’s too late that changing tests on the fly blows up the testing process and create a large, ugly ripple in every state classroom. It’s the sort of misjudgment that amateurs make.


4: Then, finally, he grasps his favorite political excuse by blaming Superintendent of Public Education Glenda Ritz for a botch that mostly is beyond her control but clearly within Pence’s realm. She warned him. He ignored her.


At its intellectual heart, Statehouse denizens just played a $65 million joke on Indiana taxpayers, parents, teachers and students.


It seems that Indiana’s political leaders want to destroy public education and drive students into charters and voucher schools. The testing mess may have been part of that plan, or I may be crediting them with more forethought and calculation than they can muster.



The lone critic on the Indianapolis school board has decided not to run for re-election. Gayle Cosby asked critical questions about the board’s “reform” policy of eliminating neighborhood public schools and working closely with charter networks. Board members expressed relief that she is stepping down. Low-income residents will have no voice on the board.


A victory for the corporate reformers. Domination is never enough for them. They want total control, no dissent.

In the current climate of union-busting in Indiana, State Senator Pete Miller has proposed a plan to pay teachers more if they have needed skills (like STEM backgrounds), without increasing the funding available. That means that any increased pay will be taken away from other teachers. This is a way to break the unions and to create divisiveness in the schools, in place of collaboration.


The reformers never give up on their plans to turn schools into businesses and children into products, with test scores as the “profit.”


If you live in Indiana, get active to stop this bad idea. The link shows you how to take action.

A computer glitch did it. Thousands of students in Indiana received the wrong scores on the state tests.


Company officials downplayed the problem,  but education officials said the integrity of the tests was crucial, as they will affect student grades, teacher pay, and people’s lives.


This is is the latest in a series of flaws that have plagued the computerized testing.




Indiana “School Matters” is great for the rich but a bad deal for other Indianans
“Indiana’s School Scholarship Tax Credit program is “almost too good to be true,” the head of the state’s Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization tells the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.
“That may be true if you’re one of the rich people getting a 50 percent kickback from the state on your contributions to private K-12 schools. Two-thirds of the credits go to Hoosiers who make more than a half million dollars a year, the JG’s Niki Kelly reports.
“And it’s also a good deal for private schools like those represented by the Lutheran group and the other four Scholarship Granting Organizations that dispense the tax credits. No one else gets such generous help from the state to help with their fundraising.
“But it’s arguably not so good for the Indiana taxpayers who are paying more and more money every year to fund private schools, most of them religious. And it’s not a good deal for public schools that struggle as the state sends more money to private schools.
“Betsy Wiley, president and CEO of the Institute for Quality of Education, another of the Scholarship Granting Organizations, suggests that paying for the program is a wash because the state isn’t paying to educate students who might otherwise be in public school.
“But that’s bogus. It’s likely that most of the scholarships are going to students who would never have attended public schools. So their schooling is an added-on cost for the state.
“More significantly, any student who receives a scholarship from a Scholarship Granting Organization for one year becomes eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers for as long as his or her family remains income-eligible. And the student’s siblings get vouchers too.
“Indiana’s voucher program was supposedly created to let children from poor families escape “failing” public schools. But the idea that families should first give public schools a chance was quickly dropped. As of 2014-15, two-thirds of new voucher recipients entered the program through the scholarship program. Four-fifths of new voucher recipients had never attended a public school.”