Archives for category: Indiana

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld posts about the new state budget proposals in Indiana, which increases spending on education. Unfortunately, a disproportionate share of the increase is allocated to expanding vouchers. A family with two children and an income of $222,000 will qualify for vouchers to a private or religious school. This does not “save poor kids trapped in failing schools.” It is a subsidy for the affluent.

He writes:

Indiana House Republicans are bragging that their proposed state budget will make record investments in education, including an 8.5% increase in K-12 funding next year. That’s not false, but it’s misleading.

A huge chunk of that increase would go to private schools under a vastly expanded voucher program, not to the public schools that most Hoosier students attend.

The budget would boost state funding for K-12 schools by $697 million next year, an 8.5% increase from what the state is spending this year. But it’s estimated that about $260 million of next year’s increase would go to growing the voucher program, according to the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

In other words, 37% of the new money for education would go to vouchers that pay tuition for private schools, which enroll just over 7% of Indiana K-12 students. That’s hardly equitable.

The budget appropriation for base school funding, which accounts for 80% of state funding for public schools, would increase by only 4% next year and 0.7% the following year, House Republicans admit. That’s nowhere close to the current or expected rate of inflation….

The budget legislation would expand the voucher program to include families that make up to 7.4 times the federal poverty level: $222,000 next year for a family of four. Overall, the state would spend $1.1 billion on vouchers over two years, double the current spending rate.

It would also eliminate the “pathways” that students must follow to qualify for vouchers, such as having attended a public school, being eligible for special education or being the sibling of a voucher student. In practice, any student can qualify for vouchers by receiving tuition funding from a “scholarship granting organization.” But eliminating the pathways will make it simpler to get a voucher.

I’ve written about the many reasons vouchers are a bad idea: for example, voucher schools aren’t accountable or subject to public oversight; they discriminate against students, families and employees; they cause students to fall behind academically; and more. But what’s truly confounding about this voucher expansion is that it would benefit only people who don’t need it.

Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the objective is to increase “options.” “We want those parents to have the best choice they can have with regard to where their children should go, and all parents should have that,” he told reporters.

But a couple with two kids and an income of $222,0000 already has “options.” They can pay private school tuition without state assistance. In fact, it’s likely that most students who join the voucher program are already attending private schools. This is a handout for affluent families.

Please open the link and read the post in full.

Steve Hinnefeld writes on his blog School Matters that Republican legislators in Indiana want property taxes to pay for charter schools. This will mean budget cuts for public schools or higher property taxes.

Taxpayers in Indiana should be irate that their property taxes will bolster the bank accounts of for-profit charter chains like National Heritage Academies and Accel.

I remember when the idea of charter schools was first discussed in the 1980s. The promise of charter advocates (and I was one at the time) was that they would be more accountable than public schools; that they would cost less than public schools; and they would have higher test scores than public schools. In the more than three decades since the first charter schools opened, the public has learned that none of those promises came true.

Charter schools on average do not produce higher test scores than public schools, unless they choose their students with care. Many charter schools—in states like Ohio—perform far worse than public schools. They are less accountable than public schools because they have private boards that answer to no one. Their finances are usually opaque since they are not subject to the same budgetary oversight as public schools. And now we know that they do not cost less than public schools; they want the same funding as public schools, and many are subsidized by outside philanthropists. And, unlike public schools, charter schools close with high frequency and little warning. They destabilize communities. And that is why I no longer support charter schools.

Steve Hinnefeld writes:

Indiana legislators are considering a significant change in Indiana school finance that would, for the first, time, require public school districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools.

Senate Bill 398 is set for a hearing Tuesday in the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. A similar bill in the House hasn’t yet been scheduled for a hearing, but probably will be. House Bill 1607 goes further than SB 398 by also requiring school districts to share referendum funding with charter schools.

SB 398, authored by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, would require school districts to share revenue from their property tax-supported operations funds with charter schools. The money would be allocated according to the number of students who live in the school district and attend charter schools.

The measures follow a public advocacy campaign that may have pushed the issue of charter school funding onto lawmakers’ agendas. The campaign, which included TV and social media ads, focused on differences in funding between Indianapolis Public Schools and charter schools.

The bill would also make districts share property taxes with nearby public school districts to which their students transfer.

Under Indiana’s current school finance system, the state provides comparable per-pupil funding to district and charter schools. But districts can also levy local property taxes to pay off debt and for their operations funds, which pay for facility construction and maintenance and for transportation. The state gives charter schools an extra $1,250 per pupil to compensate for their lack of property taxes.

A Legislative Services Agency analysis says SB 398 would shift nearly $70 million a year from school districts to charter schools after a three-year phase-in. The biggest impact would be in Indianapolis and Gary, where more students attend charters or transfer than attend district schools.

Advocates for charter schools argue their students deserve the same funding as students who attend district schools. However, charter schools aren’t subject to the same requirements as district schools and aren’t overseen by elected school boards. It’s rare in Indiana for voters to have no local election mechanism to influence how their property taxes are spent.

The campaign for more charter school funding highlighted the difference in per-pupil funding between IPS schools and Indy charter schools that aren’t affiliated with the district. The ads were “endorsed” by the Indiana Student Funding Alliance, whose website has no contact information or details about who or what it is.

According to Facebook’s ad library, the ads on the platform were paid for by the Institute for Quality Education, an Indianapolis nonprofit that advocates for charter schools and private school vouchers. The group’s political action committee, Hoosiers for Quality Education, is a major donor to Republican politicians. In 2022, it gave $22,500 to Behning’s campaign and $5,500 to Rogers’ campaign.

Open the link and finish reading.

State Senator Ryan Mishler is having serious misgivings about Indiana’s voucher program after trying to resolve parents’ complaints about bullying. He met with the school leadership and found them to be unresponsive to his concerns and indifferent to the parents. He had met previously with many public school leaders and had found them to be respectful and responsive. He was shaken, and he published this statement:

He began:

An Open Letter to District 9 on Voucher SchoolsI feel obligated to share my experience with a voucher school so parents are aware of the weight that has been on the families in a particular community. This buyer’s remorse is the consequence of repeated deficiencies and the effects that they are having on some of the school’s students and families. I hope that families heed my candor, but if nothing else, let this serve as a transparent record of my time with the school.

My first encounter was when the school reached out to me, wanting to “tweak” the current voucher program, which I did. Soon after, a parent contacted me stating their child had been suspended for five athletic games for consensually kissing a girl in school. At the parent’s request, I followed up about the reprimand with the principal, and voiced my opinion that the penalty did not fit the crime, and there seemed to be little due process for the student. I asked how they would have treated him if the student didn’t play a sport and was told that the school had been waiting on a response from the girl’s mother before deciding on any punishment. However, the principal made it clear that the student was held to a higher standard than his peers because he was an athlete. The suspension ended after two and a half games. When the single, minority mother and her child went in front of the school’s “disciplinary” board, they were told that he had not suffered enough.

About a year later, I ran into a parent who expressed their worry about how a student was being treated by a staff member. Over several months, many more contacted me with the same concern, regarding the same staff member and student. I discovered the staff member was previously fired for similar behavior at a public school. I felt I could go directly to this staff member in question to resolve the issue. During this meeting, I shared the information the parents brought to me, and the first comment made was, “I don’t care what parents think,” a worrisome start to the conversation. I mentioned we all make mistakes, but we need to learn from them, and correct our behavior. I was basically given the “there is nothing you can do about it” attitude.

After the unproductive confrontation, I looked to the parents who came to me to see how they wanted to proceed. Their suggestion was that I reach out to the superintendent. I made the call, and his advice was that I speak to the staff member and principal directly, which I had already done to no avail. The superintendent said in a phone conversation that he would be happy to meet with the concerned families. In a later email, he stated full confidence in the leadership at the school. They would investigate fully, give me a copy of the bullying policy, and he will be praying for me. The parents had put me in touch with a family who had previously gone to the administration for the same situation with the same staff member. Their story was that of neglect and humiliation. At that point, the Superintendent lost all credibility.

As a last resort, the parents agreed to a meeting with the principal, so I went ahead and scheduled. When we arrived, the principal met us at the door, but told us that he would not meet with us as a group, only one at a time. Each parent had to schedule their own meeting, and since I had scheduled the present one, he met with me. The others were asked to leave. I requested they stay to talk to me afterward, and the principal said they could, so long as they waited outside of the building. I petitioned for the parents, stating that they pay tuition so there was no way they were going to wait outside. After which, they were permitted to stand in the hall.

The meeting consisted of myself, the principal, and one other administrator. There, I shared the parent’s concerns again, as I had voiced them previously to the principal over the phone. They claimed it was the first they had heard of anything and that they didn’t understand why no one had come forward. When I mentioned the family that had brought forward the concerns, they admitted to meeting with them, and had some less-than-kind words to say about the family. I guess they didn’t count. I asked if they knew about the incident with the staff member in question at the previous school. The answer was yes.

I asked what procedures they had put in place so that the previous incident might not happen again. Their answer was they didn’t have to because it was public knowledge. At this point in the conversation, the other administrator in the room unloaded. I haven’t been spoken to like that in my twenty years of representing my community. Now, I did throw a few choice words back. The overall attitude seemed to be, who are you to interfere with our business. I must admit that I was very disturbed! I can see why the parents were so uncomfortable to come forward and speak with administration. This school received $2.87 million dollars in state tuition subsidy last year. That alone gave me every right to ask the questions. Plus, I had an obligation to those families I represent who turned to me when their children were being bullied and mistreated.

The parents scheduled their respective meetings, where they were told that the administration would look into the matter and meet with the students and other staff members. Several weeks passed and not a single student had a meeting. When asked why, the principal replied that they did not have the time. It was mentioned that if no action is taken, these parents will lose any trust they may have had in the school, and the response from the principal was that the school would have to take that chance. Many more weeks passed without any conversations held, which left the parents with no real answers to this urgent concern. I did receive a copy of an email sent from the principal to a parent acknowledging that the student did have an unfavorable experience at the school. During this silence, some parents reached out the Department of Education, only to be told the state agency had limited authority over voucher schools.

As this was going on, there was an altercation between another student and the staff member in question, resulting in the student leaving the school and even the student’s home. The only reason the family knew of the incident was because another staff member was so appalled, he personally reached out to the family and informed them what had taken place. Fortunately, an intervention brought the student home and back to school after a few weeks. No one from the school even bothered to reach out. Yet another minority family disregarded!

During this time frame, allegations of similar behavior emerged regarding yet another staff member. The parents discovered this employee also had a recent DUI. The school’s response for the DUI was that it occurred outside of work “on their own time.” Apparently, higher standards only applied to student athletes and not staff members. Eventually, this individual cut ties with the school, a decision that had been long overdue.

What really surprised me most is that it had been made public that some of these organizations had been abusing kids for over 50 years. One would think this kind of history would lead to these allegations being taken seriously and followed up on, but no such reform occurred. Now, I understand how they got away with that kind of behavior for so many years! Upon discovering there is no accountability for these schools, I began working with the chairman of the Senate Education Committee to help me put some procedures in place. I made a pledge to those parents that I would not support one additional dollar spent on the voucher program until there are policies put in place that protect these kids from abusive behavior and mistreatment. This is the most disgusting situation I have encountered in my 20 years in the Senate. I am appalled that this behavior continues to happen repeatedly.

I have worked with public schools from all over the state. When issues have come up, the administrators have always been proactive, looking into the matters brought into question, and responding promptly. That is the leadership that I am accustomed to and expect to see in the institutions responsible for instructing our children. When I see such blatant avoidance, I cannot help but believe that these administrators are knowingly hiding something more. I would not call that leadership!

Since this all unfolded, several of the families relocated so they could send their children to the public school of choice. I would advise families looking at voucher schools to be aware that they are on their own at this point and time. They should strongly consider an alternative to the blemished and blatantly flawed procedures of accountability when choosing a school for their child. We need to hold the schools to the same high level of accountability they expect from the students and their parents.

Steve Hinnefeld reports on a recent Gallup Poll that shows high patent satisfaction with public schools. Parents are not seeking “choice,” yet the legislature keeps enhancing legislation to create more school choice.

He reports:

  • Indiana parents are happy with their children’s schools. A remarkable 88% said they were satisfied with the quality of their child’s school. Figures were even higher for some groups: 90% for parents of elementary children and 96% in rural areas and small towns.
  • Parents know what schools are teaching and support it: 81% say they know what their children are learning in school, and 78% say they agree with it.
  • Those who disagree with what schools are teaching are a tiny minority of parents. Only 7% don’t approve of what the schools teach, and two-thirds of those admit they don’t know what that is. In other words, “I don’t know what they’re teaching but, whatever it is, I don’t like it.”

Yet a tiny and uninformed minority – much of it unconnected to schools — seems to have the ear of Republicans, who keep pushing legislation to restrict what schools can teach about race, gender, sexuality and other made-up controversies. They’ve also promoted “curriculum transparency” bills, apparently in the idea that schools are keeping parents in the dark.

Many of the same people who promote The Big Lie about the 2020 election also just happen to be promoters of charter schools and vouchers.

Patrick Byrne is one of them. He is the CEO of

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld writes about him here.

Patrick Byrne has been back in the news. Remember him? If you’ve followed Indiana politics – especially education politics – for the past decade, you very well may.

Byrne, the former CEO of, has as a prominent election denier trying to cast doubt on the fact that Donald Trump lost in 2020. He was part of an “unhinged” White House meeting Dec. 18, 2020, where he and others reportedly urged Trump to fight harder to overturn the results.

Byrne promoted the idea that 65% of all education spending should be in the classroom. A big, simple solution. George Will loved it. So did the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, and the legislature so they passed a law mandating it.

Byrne has made big contributions to organizations pushing charters and vouchers.

Byrne spent eight years as board chair of EdChoice, the Indianapolis-based pro-voucher organization started by the libertarian economist Milton Friedman. He stepped down in 2019, the same year he left after his affair with a Russian woman who tried to influence U.S. politics became public.

Election denialism and school privatization: two big, simple ideas that are wrong.

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports on a disturbing possibility in the Hoosier state: charter schools are eyeing property taxes as a source of additional funding.

I remember when charter schools were first launched, in the late 1980s, their advocates (and I was one at the time) made three promises: one, they would get better results than public schools (they don’t); they would be more accountable than public schools (they are not); and they would cost less because they eliminate bureaucracy (they insist on the same funding as public schools).

Hinnefeld wonders whether it would be “taxation without representation” if property taxes were allocated to privately managed schools.

Unfortunately, the heavily gerrymandered legislature gives the privatizers whatever they want.

Will they draw a line now?

Steve Hinnefeld, Indiana blogger, recounts the curious trajectory of a fdderally funded tutoring program. To speed things along, the U.S. Department of Education made a no-bid contract with The Mind Trust to find tutors and students. The Mind Trust is known for its role in promoting charter schools. So far, it has signed up 200 students from an eligible pool of more than 50,000.

Indianapolis nonprofit the Mind Trust was awarded a no-bid contract to manage Indiana Learns. It will be paid up to $3 million to run the two-year, $15 million program, according to the contract. The Mind Trust is known for promoting charter schools; it has helped launch 45 charter or innovation network schools in Indianapolis. It also operates Indy Summer Learning Labs with United Way of Central Indiana.

Steve Hinnefeld reports that the voters of Indiana did not buy the anti-CRT baloney in important school board races. Indiana is a solid red state where Republicans swept every statewide race. But parents mostly like their school boards.

He begins:

School board elections are the quintessential local elections. In most states, including Indiana, they are nonpartisan. Voters make their choices based on the pros and cons of candidates, not parties. Issues matter, but candidates with strong networks of friends and supporters are likely to do well.

That makes it hard to draw conclusions from the school board elections that took place across the state last week. But it appears that conservative culture warriors didn’t do as well as they had hoped.

In some school districts, candidates vowed to take on “critical race theory” and “wokeness” in the schools. Those folks won and now have a majorityin Hamilton Southeastern, an affluent suburban district north of Indianapolis where white parents protested the hiring of the district’s first Black superintendent last year. In the New Albany-Floyd County district, two candidates backed by Liberty Defense, a PAC that supports Republicans, were among four winners.

But in Carmel and Noblesville, suburban districts that are demographically and politically similar to Hamilton Southeastern, they gained a seat but remained a minority. In Zionsville and Avon, also Indy suburbs, supporters of teachers and administrators won all contested seats. Zionsville conservatives who wanted to rewrite curriculum, and one who made national news when he said “all Nazis weren’t bad,” fell short. In Northwest Allen Schools, a suburban Fort Wayne district, incumbents held off a challenge by conservatives, including one endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.

One disturbing result was in Lafayette, where a winning candidate said he looked forward to scouring classrooms for “gay and lesbian flags, that sort of thing.” But he’s one board member. He can make an ass of himself, but he can’t dictate policy, much less curriculum.

Open the link and keep reading.

Steve Hinnefeld, Indiana blogger, writes about the political donations of billionaires who claim to be “liberal Democrats.” First and worst is Reed Hastings, who is CEO of Netflix. Hastings claims to be a supporter of women’s reproductive rights, but he has funded Republicans in Indiana who passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. Why? Because these same conservative Republicans support charter schools. Hastings has said that he looks forward to the day when there are no more school boards, and every school is a charter. So, his passion for charter schools is stronger than his commitment to women’s reproductive rights. His allies in Indiana also loosened restrictions on guns. Michael Bloomberg, who favors abortion rights and gun control, also bankrolled the same Republicans.

Hinnefeld writes:

Indiana Republicans are spending several million dollars to protect and extend their supermajority status in the state House and Senate in Tuesday’s election. If they succeed, they may want to thank a California billionaire. One who’s usually described as a liberal Democrat.

Reed Hastings is a CEO of Netflix. Politically, he’s known for donating to Democratic politicians, nationally and in California. Netflix supports liberal causes, like abortion rights. But in Indiana, his campaign contributions go almost entirely to Republicans, who trample on his supposed principles.

It’s possible Hastings has given more money to the Indiana House and Senate GOP campaigns than any other individual in the past couple of years. Not directly. The money is funneled through a political action committee called Hoosiers for Great Public Schools. The PAC, headed by former Democratic Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, was founded in 2020 to promote charter schools.

Almost all its direct support for candidates goes to Republicans.

Hastings has given the group $1.4 million, half of it in 2020 and half this year. It also got $200,000 from John Arnold, a Texas billionaire. That’s all the money it has raised.

Hoosiers for Great Public Schools has made campaign contributions totaling $926,000. Some $400,000 went to RISE Indy, a PAC that has supported charter-friendly candidates for the Indianapolis Public Schools board. Another $100,000 went to Hoosiers for Quality Education, which promotes school choice, including vouchers and education savings accounts, and gives exclusively to Republicans.

Of the remaining $426,000 that Hoosiers for Great Public Schools contributed, nearly all went to GOP candidates and groups. It has given $190,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, $45,000 to the Senate Majority Campaign Committee, and $75,000 to House Speaker Todd Huston, along with four- and five-figure donations to individual Republicans.

That’s who Reed Hastings is helping elect in Indiana.

A similar story can be told about Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City. He’s known for supporting liberal causes, including gun control and abortion rights. In recent years, Bloomberg has given $550,000 to Stand for Children Indiana, which supports charter schools. All of Stand for Children’s state-level contributions this year have gone to Republicans.

There’s a cynical argument for such behavior: If you have money and you want to influence Indiana politics, you give to Republicans, because they have the power.

Peterson, CEO of Christel House International, which operates charter schools in Indianapolis, told me in 2020 that the purpose of Hoosiers for Great Public Schools was to support charter schools. But Indiana Republicans are no longer in love with charter schools. In 2021, they gave charters a modest funding increase. In 2022, they did nothing. They have moved on to favoring a more radical form of school choice in which state money “follows the child,” including to private and religious schools.

What did Hastings get with his support of the Indiana GOP? For one thing, a new law that says Hoosiers don’t need a permit to carry a handgun in public. For another, a discriminatory anti-trans law that bars transgender students from school sports teams. Republicans also tried to restrict what schools could teach about “divisive topics” – i.e., racism and slavery – but fell short.

Shame on Reed Hastings!

Shame on Michael Bloomberg!

Shame on John Arnold!


Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld is puzzled, as am I. School choice has not fulfilled any of its bold promises. The charter industry is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse, and large numbers of them close every year. Vouchers were supposed to “save poor kids from failing schools,” but mostly they subsidize well-off kids who never attended public schools. Why do red states keep pumping more resources into failed programs that are neither innovative nor successful?

He writes:

Pundits have been wringing their hands over the “learning loss” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed the largest decline in decades.

But if people care about what kids are and aren’t learning, they should be every bit as alarmed by the private school voucher programs that are spreading across the country.

That’s according to Joshua Cowen, a Michigan State University education policy professor. He’s been studying vouchers and following the research for two decades, and he says the evidence is crystal clear that voucher programs don’t work when it comes to helping students learn.

In a recent episode of “Have You Heard,”an education podcast, he said thorough evaluations of large-scale voucher programs – in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C. – found overwhelmingly negative effects on learning as measured by test scores.

“We’ve seen some of the biggest drops in test scores that we’ve ever seen in the research community for people who take vouchers and go to private schools,” he said.

The impact on math scores, in some cases, was twice as large as the test-score decline associated with the pandemic, he said. It was on the scale of what New Orleans students lost when Hurricane Katrina shut down schools and forced families from their homes.

“They suffered that badly, in terms of their test scores,” he said. “We’re talking about nine or 10 months loss of learning. It’s massive….”

Cowen said he naively thought the conclusive research findings would put a nail in the coffin for state voucher programs. In fact, the opposite has happened. There are now 29 voucher programs in 16 states enrolling over 300,000 students, according to the pro-voucher group EdChoice. Arizona recently adopted a “universal voucher” program. Some states have adopted Education Savings Accounts, private-school tax credits and other neo-voucher programs.

Indiana expanded its already large voucher program in 2021. The program grew last year to over 44,000 students at a cost to the public of nearly a quarter billion dollars. Nearly all participating private schools are religious, and some discriminate by religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. A 2018 evaluation of the effects of Indiana’s program – cited by Cowen and conducted by professors at Notre Dame and the University of Kentucky – found significant test-score declines in math.

Why haven’t voucher programs disappeared if they don’t work? The title of the “Have You Heard” episode sums it up: “Moving the Goalposts.”

Parents have the right to send their children to low-performing religious schools or to homeschool them. But why should taxpayers subsidize their personal choices?