Archives for category: Indianapolis

In this post, Tom Ultican takes a close look at the takeover and privatization of the Indianapolis school district, funded by billionaires and managed by a well-funded group called The Mind Trust (which, of course, claims to be deeply concerned about “civil rights,” while stripping parents of color of their right to elect a school board that represents them). By Ultican’s reckoning, nearly 64% of the students in Indianapolis now attend privately managed schools.

He writes:

With the introduction of Innovation schools in 2015, Indianapolis Public Schools quickly became the second most privatized taxpayer supported schools system in America. It has zoomed past Detroit and Washington DC in the privatization sweepstakes to only trail the poster child for disaster capitalism, New Orleans. The right wing billionaire funded organization, The Mind Trust, has played a major role in this outcome.

He provides a handy list of the major funders of this betrayal of the public trust. Leading the charge is the Lilly Endowment, with a donation of $22.7 million, followed by the City Fund (Reed Hastings and John Arnold) at $18 million. And there are other familiar names, well known in the disruption industry.

Ultican traces the history of the disruption/privatization industry in Indianapolis and finds that its origins can be traced to the far-right extremists of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers. You will not be surprised to learn that Teach for America and TNTP (the organization founded by Michelle Rhee) are integral to the privatization of Indianapolis’s schools. And Relay “Graduate School of Education” (the one with no real faculty or campuses or professors or researchers or library) is also in the mix.

Ultican reviews the sorry situation in Indianapolis, where disrupters have pulled the wool over the eyes of the public and the media with their dazzling sums of money, and he speculates about why billionaires are so devoted to undermining public schools and the teaching profession:

Why are billionaires spending so much to undermine professionalism in public education? It is probably not altruism. More likely, they want to reduce the biggest cost associated with education; teacher’s salaries. In the antebellum south, plantation owners preached anti-tax ideology because they owned the most and paid the most. Today’s billionaires aren’t much different. Most of them won’t put their children in public schools and really don’t value high quality public education. It seems the big motivation is to reduce tax burdens and simultaneously create new education industries.

This is an astonishing report about the destruction and privatization of public schools in Oakland, California, and the billionaires who facilitated the looting of that city. The article by Eugene Stovall appeared in “Black Agenda Report.” The audacity of this attack on public education is astonishing. The mechanism for the destroyers were graduates of the Broad Academy, known as Broadies. Since billionaire Eli Broad gave Yale University $100 million to take charge of his program, someone should warn Yale about its record.

Read it all. It will take your breath away.

Stovall writes:

Eli Broad (rhymes with “toad”) conconcted a scheme to privatize Oakland’s public schools and produce a revenue stream for his billionaire cronies.

Operating unethically and illegally, Broad managers used their training to cripple and plunder Oakland’s schools.”

Eli Broad is a liberal Democrat. He opposes Trump’s Muslim ban, immigration policies and withdrawal from the climate change treaty. In fact, like Democratic billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Blloomberg, Broad opposes Trump’s entire right wing agenda. However, just as the Trump Foundation created the Trump University scam, the Eli Broad Foundation created the Broad Superintendent Academy, an educational enterprise that has become so successful that it is now associated with the home of the Skull and Bones Society, Yale University. But despite its aura of respectability, the Broad Superintendent Academy is no less a scam than Trump University.

Billionaires Want More

Eli Broad created two Fortune 500  companies, Kaufmann-Broad Homes and SunAmerica Bank. With an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, Eli Broad ranks as Forbes  Magazine’s 78th wealthiest man in the United States. But like many billionaires who create mechanisms to increase their wealth, Broad created a “non-profit” academy as his entré into the private education market. The Broad Superintendent Academy attracts applicants who willingly pay exorbitant tuition fees for the chance to get placed in a top management public education position. Broad academy applicants do not need educational degrees or teaching certificates. Neither are they experienced teachers or successful school administrators. The Broad academy is uninterested in strategies for improving student achievement and does not teach its students about fundamental educational issues, pedagogies and methodologies. The Broad academy only indoctrinates and commits its students to the privatization of public education and the generation of revenues for private corporations. Broad Academy attendees are taught the disruptive management tactics needed to ignore “best educational practices.” They are taught how to overcome objections when mandating school closures and school property sell offs to the billionaire-owners of private schools. When Broad placed his academy graduates in management positions at the Oakland Unified School District, they left a trail of fiscal mismanagement, budget overruns and demoralized staff, students and teachers. Operating unethically and illegally, Broad managers used their training to cripple and plunder Oakland’s schools.

The Broadies Who Plundered Oakland’s Schools

In 1998, Eli Broad recruited Jerry Brown, the former Governor of California and a former presidential contender, to become mayor of Oakland. Broad needed someone with Brown’s political clout with the Democratic Party to implement his plan to privatize Oakland’s schools. Broad had been a close personal friend of Jerry Brown’s father, Pat Brown, and had financed all of Jerry Brown’s political campaigns. Now Broad realized California’s top Democrat and his control over the statewide Democratic Party machine gave him a unique opportunity to make money from private education.

Broad’s scheme to privatize Oakland’s public education resources required the support of other billionaires capitalizing on the private education market. Netflix founder, Reed Hastings, a Bay Area resident with a net worth of $3.7 billion, was associated with the multi-million dollar Rocketship Charter Schools. The late founder of The Gap, Don Fisher, with a net worth of $3.3 billion, was associated with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), one of the largest chains of charter schools in the country. With a net worth of $3.5 billion, John Doerr, partner in the investment firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, the firm that brought Google and Amazon to the market, cofounded the New Schools Venture Fund which sucks public school resources into for-profit K-12 corporations. Another critical partner in Broad’s clique of billionaires was the bishop of Oakland’s catholic diocese, a representative of the multi-billion dollar, worldwide Vatican empire. With its profound interest in co-opting public funds and real estate for its own network of parochial schools, Oakland’s catholic bishop gave Broad’s unholy coalition a solid block of votes that not only put Jerry Brown in City Hall, but changed Oakland’s charter into the ‘strong mayor” form of government, that gave “Boss” Brown the power function as Eli Broad’s “bag man.” In return for its electoral support, the diocese of Oakland received a multi-million dollar cathedral on the downtown shore of Lake Merritt.

Once “Boss” Brown controlled City Hall, Reed Hastings went into action. Hastings funded another charter amendment that gave the mayor the authority to pack the school board with his own unelected appointees. Greasing the wheels of the Democratic machine, Hastings financed the passage of a State Assembly bill that permitted charter schools to operate without  accreditation and to hire teachers without  teaching credentials. Then Hastings funded the Proposition 39 campaign to force local school districts to share revenues with charter schools. “Boss” Brown’s buddy, Democratic Governor Gray Davis, who later was recalled on corruption charges, put Reed Hastings on the State Board of Education. In the meantime, Don Fisher gave Jerry Brown’s wife, Gust Brown, the position of CEO over The Gap Corporation.

Getting Control Of The Schools … And The Money

In 2001, the Oakland Unified School District had a $37 million budget deficit. The district’s fiscal managers decided to resolve the shortfall by borrowing from its construction fund, a practice other California school districts in similar situations routinely used. But Brown and Broad saw the school deficit as an opportunity to advance their scheme.

Brown contacted Tom Henry, CEO of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT), a firm located in Sacramento and staffed by lobbyists and political hacks. Brown used Henry’s services, on occasion, when he was governor. FCMAT did “hit” jobs for anyone willing to pay. Brown paid Tom Henry to prevent Oakland from solving its fiscal problem. FCMAT lobbied the State Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, the former Democratic Assemblyman from Alameda, to rule that Oakland’s plan to borrow construction funds was a violation of state and local law. Then Henry worked with Don Perata, the State Senator for Alameda County, to lobby a bill through the state legislature that forced the Oakland school district to accept a $100 million loan to cover its $37 million shortfall. In addition, the bill put the Oakland school district under the control of a state administrator to be appointed by Jack O’Connell, the State Superintendent of Public Education. When Jack O’Connell campaigned for state superintendent, he received financial support from Eli Broad’s billionaire cabal. Reed Hastings contributed $250,000, John Doerr $205,000 and Eli Broad, himself, contributed $100,000 to O’Connell’s campaign. With the state takeover of Oakland’s schools, O’Connell agreed to appoint anyone “Boss” Brown wanted. Thus Eli Broad and his cronies got complete control over the $63 million slush fund  forced on the Alameda County tax payers. Jerry Brown described the state takeover as a “total win” for Oakland’s schools. In reality, the state takeover was a total win for Eli Broad and his billionaire cronies. For the tax payers forced to repay the loan and for the Oakland school children whose schools were plundered by malicious billionaires, the state takeover was a disaster.

The Table Was Set And The Feasting Began

The Democratic state superintendent of education, Jack O’Connell, appointed Randolph Ward, a graduate of Broad’s superintendent academy, as Oakland’s state administrator. Ward appointed Arnold Carter, another Broad academy graduate, to serve as his chief of staff. Both state administrators appointed a bevy of Broadies  to fill the Oakland school district’s top management positions. Then Ward implemented Broad’s privatization agenda. He closed public schools and opened charter schools. He created additional management positions for Broad academy graduates and issued multi-million dollar consultation and construction contracts to private corporations. Randolph Ward gave Broad’s billionaire cronies complete access to the $63 million slush fund created by top Democrats, Jerry Brown, Bill Lockyer, Don Perata, Jack O’Connell, Tom Henry as well as other members of “Boss” Brown’s Democratic machine.

When the state took over the Oakland schools in 2002, Randolph Ward fired the superintendent, Dennis Chaconas. When Ward resigned in 2006, Broadie Kimberly Statham replaced him. A year later, Statham left and her chief of staff, Vincent Matthews, another Broadie, took her place.

In 2008, Oakland Assemblyman Sandre Swanson broke with “Boss” Brown and introduced a bill to force the state to relinquish its control over Oakland schools. Eli Broad gave a Sacramento lobbyist $350,000 to oppose Swanson’s legislation, but Swanson’s bill passed and local control was returned to the Oakland School Board. In July 2009, the school board hired Anthony “Tony” Smith as the district’s superintendent.

Smith was not associated with Eli Broad. However, even though local school board resumed control over the schools, Eli Broad was not finished, He funded a front group, Greater Oakland [GO], which financed the election of five Broadies to the Oakland school board. In 2014, the Broadie school board forced school superintendent Tony Smith to resign and appointed another graduate from Broad’s academy, Antwan Wilson , Oakland’s next school superintendent, resuming Broad’s decade-long privatization scheme.

A Decade of Corruption

Under Randolph Ward, Oakland Schools struggled with the overwhelming debt imposed by the Democratic Party machine. When Ward left Oakland, millions of dollars went missing with him. Though FCMAT received a multi-year contract to help manage the debt, Tom Henry provided little substantive support, financial or operational. In 2007, Jerry Brown left Oakland for his cattle ranch in Northern California. In its 2007-08 report, an Alameda County grand jury investigation found that the Oakland Unified School District had been looted.

Between 2003 and 2006, Ward shut down 14 public schools and opened 13 charter schools. He increased the district’s shortfall by nearly $15 million. Ward’s successor, Kimberly Statham, another Broadie, opened 4 charter schools and Broadie Vincent Matthews, who followed Stratham as state administrator, opened 9 charter schools. Under state control, the district’s debt ballooned from $37 million to $89 million while school enrollment, the district’s primary source of funding, dropped from 55,000 in 2002 to 38,000 in 2009. When Assemblyman Sandré Swanson forced the state to return local control, Oakland’s schools had $5.6 million less than what was reported and a total of $9 million unaccounted for and completely missing. But with the return of local control, the district’s fiscal mismanagement problems only worsened. Eli Broad now directed his Broadie school board to support his schemes. 

Antwan Wilson: The Most Corrupt Broadie Of Them All 

When the Broadie school board replaced Tony Smith with Antwan Wilson, it hired a thoroughly corrupt, incompetent and morally reprehensible superintendent to run the Oakland Unified School District. Ignoring all budgetary, ethical and legal constraints, Wilson zealously implemented Broad’sprivatization plan. Wilson overspent the school district budget by overpaying Broadie administrators and conniving with Broadie consultants. In 2015, though the school board authorized only $10.4 million, Wilson paid consultants $22.6 million. The board approved only $7.1 million for administrators and supervisors, but Wilson spent $22.3 million. From July 2014 to January 2015, Wilson spent $22.3 million on district office managers while Smith spent only $13.1 million the entire previous year. From 2013-2014, Tony Smith spent $10 million on classified managers, but in 2015-2016, Antwan Wilson spent $22.3 million. Under Wilson, the number of students shrunk, but spending for administrators and supervisors with teaching certificates grew from $13.9 million in 2013-2014 to $20 million in 2015-2016. Wilson increased spending on outside consultants from $22.7 million in 2013-2014 to $28.3 million in 2016-2017. In Wilson’s last year with Oakland schools, he exceeded the budget for consultants by 32 percent.

These revelations galvanized Tom Henry’s FCMAT into action. Henry immediately lobbied for another state take over even as he collaborated with the Broadie school board to close even more schools and make even more valuable real estate available to billionaire-owned charter schools. But without Boss Brown’s backing, Henry was unsuccessful in getting Governor Gavin Newson’s support for another state takeover.

Open the article and read the ending. It doesn’t get better for the students of Oakland. Eli Broad, Jerry Brown, and their allies used Oakland as their Petri dish. Oakland was raided and looted. Antwan Wilson left Oakland to become chancellor of the D.C.schools, where he was booted out after seeking preferential treatment for his own child. Upon Wilson’s abrupt departure, the mayor of D.C. replaced him with Lewis Ferebee, superintendent of Indianapolis, who is also a graduate of the Broad Academy.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has been accumulating case studies of what he calls “the Destroy Public Education Movement.” His latest case study centers on Indianapolis, but he observed that the nexus of so much advocacy for school privatization is the Harvard University Program on Educational Governance and Policy at the Kennedy School. This program was founded by tenured Professor Paul Peterson, one of the nation’s leading advocates for every kind of choice except public schools. Peterson trained many of the nation’s academic proponents of school choice (including vouchers), such as Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas “Department of Education Reform.” In addition to churning out “studies” that tout the glories of privatization, PEPG also sponsors the rightwing journal Education Next, whose editorial board is firmly in the privatization camp. (When I was a fellow at the rightwing Hoover Institution, I was on the editorial board of EdNext, which is a sounding board for rightwing academics and would-be academics who have no scholarly credentials but do have the “right” views).

Ultican writes:

It is not the kind of objective journal expected from an academic institution. Influenced by super-wealthy people like Bill Gates and the Walton family, Education Next’s reform ideology undermines democratic control of public schools. It promotes public school privatization with charter schools and vouchers. The contributors to their blog include Chester E. Finn, Jay P. Greene, Eric Hanushek, Paul Hill, Michael Horn, Robin J. Lake and Michael Petrilli. Robin Lake’s new article “The Hoosier Way; Good choices for all in Indianapolis” is an all too common example of Education Next’s biased publishing.

Ultican draws the ties among the EdNext gang, the portfolio model, Paul Hill, Robin Lake, and Lake’s celebratory treatment of the expansion of privatization in Indianapolis.

He writes:

The portfolio model directs closing schools that score in the bottom 5% on standardized testing and reopening them as charter schools or Innovation schools. In either case, the local community loses their right to hold elected leaders accountable, because the schools are removed from the school board’s portfolio. It is a plan that guarantees school churn in poor neighborhoods, venerates disruption and dismisses the value of stability and community history.

Robin Lake was one of Hill’s first hires at CRPE. She became his closest confederate and when he decided to reduce his work load in 2012, Lake took his place as the Director of CRPE. Lake and Hill co-wrote dozens of papers almost all of which deal with improving and promoting charter schools. Since the mid-1990s Lake has been publishing non-stop to promote the portfolio model of school management and charter schools. Lake’s new article up on Education Next is her latest in praise of the portfolio agenda for wresting school control from local voters.

Like a large number of the contributors to Education Next, neither Robin Lake nor her mentor Paul Hill have practiced or formally studied education. None-the-less, they have been successful at selling their brand of education reform; which is privatization. They describe their organization, CRPE, as engaging in “independent research and policy analysis.” However, Media and Democracy’s Source Watch tagged the group an “industry-funded research center that . . . receives funding from corporate and billionaire philanthropists as well as the U.S. Department of Education.”

Ultican traces the bipartisan nature of the privatization movement in Indianapolis, which centered on a neoliberal group called The Mind Trust:

Today, charter schools which are not accountable to local residents of Indianapolis are serving nearly 50% of the city’s students. Plus, 10,000 of the 32,000 Indianapolis Public School (IPS) students are in Innovation schools which are also not accountable to local voters. The organization most responsible for the loss of democratic control over publicly financed schools in Indianapolis is The Mind Trust….

Tony Bennett served as Superintendent of public schools in Indiana during the administration of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. Bennett was“widely known as a hard-charging Republican reformer associated with Jeb Bush’s prescriptions for fixing public schools: charter schools, private school vouchers, tying teacher pay to student test scores and grading schools on a A through F scale.” He left Indiana to become Florida’s Education Commissioner in 2013, but soon resigned over an Indiana scandal involving fixing the ratings of the Crystal House charter schoolwhich was owned by a republican donor.

In 2011 before leaving, Bennett was threatening to take action against Indianapolis schools. The Mind Trust responded to Bennett with a paper called “Creating Opportunity Schools.” Lake writes,

“In response to a request from Bennett, The Mind Trust put out a report in December 2011 calling for the elimination of elected school boards and the empowerment of educators at the local level. … At the same time, Stand for Children, an education advocacy nonprofit, was raising money to get reform-friendly school-board members elected, and much of the public debate centered on The Mind Trust’s proposal. … A new board was elected in 2012 (the same year Mike Pence became governor) and the board quickly recruited a young new superintendent, Lewis Ferebee, to start in September 2013.” (Emphasis added)

Lewis Ferebee was a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. He was selected to continue the Jeb Bush theory of education reform. It is the theory Bush developed while serving on the board of the Heritage Foundation in the 1990s.

The dark-money group Stand for Children soon joined the fray and helped to direct philanthropic money to the privatization program, which was premised on removing democratic control of the schools.

Lewis Ferebee, a key figure in the anti-democratic private takeover of the public schools of Indianapolis, is now chancellor of the schools of the District of Columbia.

 

 

Professor Jim Scheurich read a recent article in the rightwing, anti-public school journal “Education Next” about Indianapolis, which he thought was fundamentally flawed.

He sent the following analysis of what’s really happening in Indianapolis:

 

A RECENT ARTICLE IN EDUCATION NEXT

COMPLETELY MISREPRESENTS

THE RECENT HISTORY OF INDIANAPOLIS K12 EDUCATION

Dr. Jim Scheurich

Urban Education Studies Doctoral Program

Indiana University – Indianapolis (IUPUI) Professor

President, IPS Community Coalition

 

Unfortunately, a recent article in the pro-charter, pro-neoliberal “magazine,” called Education Next, is a thorough misrepresentation of the recent history of Indianapolis K12 education (see https://www.educationnext.org/hoosier-way-good-choices-for-all-indianapolis/).  I know because, as a university professor and a community activist, I have spent the last seven years working against the pro-charter, pro-neoliberal efforts in Indianapolis, mainly through the IPS Community Coalition, a citywide grassroots organization, and through anactivist research group of doctoral students, community members, and university faculty.  Below, I am going to point out eight ways this Education Next “story” is distorted and deceptive.  

1. The real cause of the “schooling crisis” in Indianapolis was racism and desegregation as many whites who could afford to do so moved out of the city, as did much business and capital, along with the ongoing effects of local, long-term racist policies and practices.  

In the Education Next (EN) article, there is not a single reference to race, desegregation, and racism.  Indeed, these words are never used (except as labels in one chart) even though the history of Indianapolis schooling cannot be accurately and fairly storied without these. In addition, there is no mention of the ongoing racism in law enforcement and imprisonment, housing, education, medicine, employment, banking, and the media, which exists in all cities and is well documented in social science research. These exclusions are a loud absence that is unquestionably remarkable and certainly a mark of weak and/or distorted scholarship.  Why would anyone who wanted to tell an honest “Hoosier” education story leave these out?  At a minimum, it certainly makes one wonder about the real nature and agenda of this EN story.

2. No mention of the pro-charter neoliberal movement that has “Mind Trust” and “Stand for Children” like organizations in every major city and several smaller ones in the U.S.

The Mind Trust and Stand for Children in Indianapolis like to keep their “story” local so those who work for them and the Indianapolis public remain ignorant about their true nature. The Mind Trust and Stand for Children never discuss that they are part of a national neoliberal movement largely funded by conservative and rightwing individuals, organizations, and corporations.  They never discuss the wider agenda of this movement, which includes low taxes for the wealthy, decreased funding for social supports, the privatization of and profiteering off of public services (like public education), efforts to decrease the voting power of people of color, the end of unions (esp. teachers unions) and the benefits unions have developed, among other ways that decrease the quality of life for everyone but the 1% and those who serve them.  Also, Mind Trust and Stand for Children never discuss the strongly anti-democratic nature of the neoliberal movement.  To begin to educate yourself on this national movement, read these highly respected books, in this order, MacLean’s ”Democracy in Chains,” Mayer’s “Dark Money,“ and Lipman’s “The New Political Economy of Urban Education.”  

3. No mention of the key role of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the Mind Trust/Stand for Children story.

ALEC is a conservative-rightwing organization that creates model state-level neoliberal legislation to assist in institutionalizing the state-level neoliberal agenda discussed above in #2.  ALEC considers Indiana to be one of its favorite states, as Indiana Republicans and some Democrats have implemented so much ALEC developed legislation.  The result has been that Indiana consistently ranks high in business-friendly policies and effects and among the lowest in quality of life policies and effects.  Lengthy discussions and critiques of ALEC and its agenda are widely available, but there is no doubt ALEC is pushing a radical agenda that would not be supported if voted on by the general public.  

4. No mention of the “dark money” funding of Mind Trust/Stand for Children supported school board members.  

Since the 2012 board election in Indianapolis, the Mind Trust and Stand for Children have covertly used a Stand for Children 501c4 headquartered in Oregon to funnel national money into the Indianapolis school board race.  Before this, any everyday citizen who could put together funding of $3-5,000 had a chance to win election to the school board.  Starting in 2012, we know that the Mind Trust and Stand for Children started providing around $65,000 to each of their chosen candidates with all of them winning as no one was expecting or prepared for this infusion of such large amounts.  In the next election, 2014, they did the same and took majority control of the board, even though one of their chosen candidates, Gayle Cosby, turned against them once she realized what their real agenda was.  We call this “dark money” because a 501c4 does not have to report where the funds came from or how they were spent and not one of their candidates have publicly admitted this support.  In fact, it took the IPS Community Coalition shouting loudly about this for some time before the local news media paid any attention and still do not sufficiently attend to this, especially since in the last election, our best guess is that they spent over $500,000 on a district wide seat (more on this below).  Recently, the head of Stand for Children, who is widely praised in the EN article, said on social media that the Indianapolis Stand for Children has no relationship to the 501c4 in Oregon, leaving us puzzled as to how the Oregon folks know whom to support.  

5. Even though the “Innovation” schools (stealth charters inside the district) are widely praised, there is no discussion of constant reports to the IPS Community Coalition that the district leadership uses deception, misrepresentations (to put it politely), and threats to stop resistance and garner parent and teacher support for converting a traditional school to an innovation school.  

Either lots of teachers and parents are lying to the IPS Community Coalition, or the districts is using strong arm tactics to institute “innovation” schools.  Indeed, many teachers report to us that they feel afraid of the district leadership, given the district’s rough shod ways of getting what the district wants.  Also, there is no mention of the fact that for their first three years, the “innovation” schools are under easier state accountability rules.  Thus, the Mind Trust and Stand for Children often brag that the “innovation” schools are doing “better” even though traditional schools, which are under the full accountability rules, are actually doing better.  Might we call this dissembling?

6. No mention of the utter failure to successfully  educate Black children, who are the majority of IPS students, and no mention of the use of home schooling and high discipline rates to push out Black children.

Despite that we know that testing experts say we cannot use state accountability exams in the way we do, it is a harsh fact that less than 6% of Black 10th graders recently passed both the state’s language arts exam and the math exam.  If any business (the favorite neoliberal model) had this terrible outcome, that business would be shut down or all the leadership fired.  This is totally appalling—and never mentioned.  In addition, an intrepid local Chalkbeat reporter found compelling evidence that some schools have been counseling the parents of primarily Black students to choose to home school instead of facing a discipline incident result, a move that takes this student off the school’s roles and improves the school’s standing.  That this has the high potential to negatively impact the entire life of these Black students does not seem important to the decision makers, even though local Black activists, like Diane Daniels, have been pointing this out for years.  Furthermore, other schools, sometime called “no excuses” schools, use really high levels of discipline to push out primarily Black students that they see as potentially hurting their schools’ state grade, even though local education activists, like John Harris Loflin, have been making this point for years.  That all of this is totally disastrous for Black students, their families, their communities, and all of Indianapolis does not seem important enough to mention in the EN story.

7. Substantial problems with the CREDO and Indiana University (IU) research cited in the EN article are not addressed.

There is no mention of the deep critique of the CREDO report and its methodology, even though the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center (neps.colorado.edu) has published more than one critique of the CREDO methodology and their reports.  Also, no mention that the CREDO reports are done by a center that receives large pro-charter funding.  Furthermore, the IU research has been cited locally and nationally but never publicly released, as far as I have been able to determine.  I was able to get a copy of it, but since others have ownership, I cannot release it.  I did a thorough, indepth critique of it, showing it to be flawed in multiple ways but cannot publish since the research continues not to be public.  I mentioned that publicizing but not publishing results was against social science practice and ethics. I even asked that it be released, but they have stopped communicating with me even though I am part of the same university system.  

8. Nothing on the persistent incompetency of the Ferebee administration.  (Ferebee left last year to go to Washington, DC.  Fight hard, everyday DC folks!)

The examples of incompetency are many and large.  First, closing of high schools is almost always a fraught endeavor.  Nonetheless, there are good superintendents around the country who have figured out how to have authentic, transparent conversations with their communities and arrive at collaborative decisions.  I have met and talked to some of these folks.  It is never easy, and some community people are not happy in the end, but overall the community can feel it was done fairly and transparently.  That was not the case in Indianapolis.  Second, without consulting even with their friends and natural allies, like the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Realtors, Ferebee went public with little time left before the vote with a nearly one billiondollar bond proposal.  Even their friends and allies said, “NO!”  After an inappropriate Chamber study of cost cutting for the district, the district cut to around a quarter of the original amount to get Chamber and other elite support.  In addition, good superintendents know that it takes one to one and a half years of hard work to prepare for a successful bond election, and even that is no guarantee.  Ferebee seemed not to know this.  He did though get his quarter million because he committed most of it to raising teacher salaries, which even his critics supported.  Third, the district’s public budget document was opaque and confusing, even after having been critiqued by a non-political national organization that examines such documents nationwide.  After two years of pushing, we got some improvements.  Fourth, busing has consistently been a mess, which they now think they are solving by privatizing it. Fifth, teachers districtwide have become very afraid of raising any issues because they believe they will be fired.  Sixth, even though there is a large amount of research nationally as to what it takes to create successful urban schools for all children, regardless of race and ethnicity, family income, sexuality, disability status, and immigration status (some of which I have published), the Ferebee administration did not seem to know any of this.  Instead, initiating “innovation” schools and supporting charter schools that replaced district schools seemed to be his only choices.  

The neoliberal so-called education “reform” movement is weaker than they seem despite their millions of dollars and their PR machine.  

The IPS Community Coalition is a multi-race, multi-class citywide coalition of everyday Indianapolis folks and local organizations (see us on Facebook) who started a little over three years ago.  We began with less than eight people sitting in a room together, and now we have over 250 members.  We are very active on Facebook and sometimes have over 6,000 eyes on our posts.  We have no money, and many of our members have little. We do support teachers’ unions and work with the local teachers’ union.  In the 2018 school board election, we defeated two of the Mind Trust and Stand for Children incumbents.  The only race they won was due to the candidate being a non-incumbent.  In our best understanding, they spent over a half million dollars on their districtwide candidate, while the person we supported defeated their candidate on less than $10,000.  Because of their losses in the last election, now they are bringing back some of the most well-known local founders of their movement and trying to fake the community engagement that we authentically do.  They do have millions of dollars, many fulltime and part-time employees, and a large PR machine that falsely uses civil rights language, but they can be defeated.  

Study what neoliberalism is in education and other areas of your community.  

An activated people can defeat money and power.

Indiana is a swamp of school choice corruption.

If you read this post, your hair might catch on fire if  you are sensitive to things like ethics, honesty, and responsible stewardship of public money.

Seven years ago, the state superintendent of Indiana was a school choice firebrand named Tony Bennett. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to transfer public money from public schools to charter operators or religious schools. He was briefly riding high–the Thomas B. Fordham Institute named him the “reformiest of all reformers.” But then he came a cropper. An AP reporter unearthed the fact that he raised the grade of a charter school owned by one of his campaign donors. That was too much, even for the corrupt swamp overseen by Indiana Republicans. Bennett was defeated when he ran for re-election.  Bennett promptly became State Commissioner of Florida. That gig lasted only weeks, and he had to resign because of the ethics problem he left behind in Indiana.

One of his decisions during his tenure in Indiana was to hand over three low-performing schools in Indianapolis to the for-profit chain called Charter Schools USA, which is owned by a pal of Jeb Bush. The chain was supposed to “turn” those schools around.

As Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld writes, the schools continued to struggle. An extraordinary number of their students decided to homeschool, which boosted the graduation rate of the schools.

Lewis Ferebee, then the superintendent of Indianapolis, now the superintendent in D.C., was happy to work with Charter Schools USA.

Hinnefeld writes:

Charter Schools USA is a for-profit Florida company that operates over 80 schools in six states, according to its website. Its founder and long-time CEO, Jonathan Hage, has played influential roles in Florida Republican politics, including serving on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education transition team.

Sherry Hage, who is married to Jonathan Hage, is founder and CEO of Noble Education Initiative, the nonprofit that would operate the three Indianapolis schools under a charter issued to ReThink Forward Indiana. There’s also ReThink Forward, a CSUSA arm that’s active in Tennessee; its vice chair is Tony Bennett, the former Indiana superintendent of public instruction.

Noble Education Initiative’s director of educational development and partnerships, Byron Ernest, is on the Indiana State Board of Education. Ernest worked for CSUSA as principal of Emmerich Manual for two years after the state took it over. (He has recused himself from state board decisions about CSUSA).

‘Turnaround academies’

Schools taken over by the state and turned over to managers like CSUSA are called turnaround academies. But they haven’t turned around quickly. T.C. Howe earned six more consecutive F’s under Indiana’s grading system after being taken over. Emma Donnan earned five F’s, then a C.

That’s despite approximately $22.3 million in federal School Improvement Grants that the State Board of Education has awarded to CSUSA for the schools. In recent years, the board has rejected recommendations from the Indiana Department of Education and its leader, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, to give a bigger share to district-run public schools that were struggling.

Charter Schools USA asked the Indiana charter board to turn the three Indianapolis schools into charters that it could add to its chain.

Shockingly, the charter board voted 4-3 NOT to give the schools to Charter Schools USA. 

As Chalkbeat reports,

Indiana Charter School Board denied charters Friday for three Indianapolis turnaround schools — a stunning move that could spell the end to the Florida-based Charter Schools USA’s operations in Indianapolis.

As a result, the three Indianapolis schools — Howe High School, Manual High School, and Emma Donnan Middle School — face the prospect of another rocky transition to new management, or even possible closure.

But the board’s 4-3 votes against the charters, which elicited gasps from the audience, marked a major victory for Indianapolis Public Schools, which could win back the three schools that have been under state takeover since 2011. (Two members of the charter board were not present for the vote.)

IPS could reclaim the three schools or close them.

But Charter Schools USA, despite its money and political influence, lost three juicy plums.

(Hint: the state schools’ chief Jennifer McCormick is secretly a friend to genuine public schools. Don’t tell the governor or the legislature.)

 

 

Valerie Jablow, parent activist and blogger in D.C., wrote a scathing indictment of the leadership of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

She is sure that the districts leaders are actively undermining public schools–a policy of benign neglect– and promoting charter expansion.

A few weeks ago, the D.C. Public Charter School Board [sic] approved five new charter schools, despite the large number of empty seats in both public and private charter schools.  Only one of the new charters will locate in Anacostia, the city’s highest poverty district.

Many of the public schools enrolling students with high needs are suffering devastating budget cuts. At the same time, the Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn testified that the city was “over investing” in these same schools. She notes that the Deputy Mayor sends his own child to an expensive private school where it is just fine to “overinvest” in education.

Chancellor Lewis Ferebee was hired away from Indianapolis, where he was actively collaborating with those who supported the privatization of public education. Now he oversees the harsh budget cuts inflicted on D.C.’s public schools, while declaring that more seats are needed for charter schools. Conditions are so bad in many of the district’s public schools that students are literally being pushed out of public schools and forced to seek “choices” other than their neighborhood public schools.

Chancellor Ferebee is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which actively promotes vouchers, charter schools, and high-stakes testing.

And here is a voice in the D.C. wilderness, a teacher and Vice Chair of the Ward 7 Education Council, calling for a moratorium on charters in D.C., because they open and close at will and have no allegiance to their community, nor do they fill any need. Venola M. Rolle wrote in a letter to the Washington Post:

Stories regarding sudden closures and substandard performance justify a moratorium on establishing charter schools in this city. I do not know what information could be more damning. It’s time to have an open discussion about how to cease the proliferation of charter schools in the city and, instead, devise approaches to strengthening the schools we already have and that are the anchors of our communities.

With the current leadership of D.C., its mayor, its deputy mayor for education, and its chancellor, that discussion is not likely to happen.

 

Jim Scheurich is a professor at Indiana University and a public education activist. He writes here about how School Choice is intended to destroy community.

 

Folks, the philosophy that charter and innovation schools are built on is that your children’s school should be individualized parental choice.  This means parents individually search across the Indy area as to where to send their children, which often means leaving their neighborhood community.  Each family or individual parent is thus on her, his, or their own and not engaged with their neighborhood community.  Also, each family or individual parent is pitted against or in competition with other similar families and parents for the so-called “better” schools.

This individualistic orientation of charters and innovation schools undermines neighborhood communities and even the possibility of neighborhood communities.   Undermining neighborhood communities, according to sociological research, increases violence, including murder.  Other research shows that building community decreases violence, including murder.

This, therefore, means that charter and innovation schools are likely one of the causes of our high murder rate in Indianapolis as the individualized school choice model is broadly undermining neighborhood communities across our city. 

Of course, building community in low income areas is not easy, but not impossible.  However, many such communities have created positive community spaces.  Given the difficulty of creating such communities, we certainly do not need more policies, like charter and innovation schools, that are threats to community and community building.

If you study the neoliberal political and economic “philosophy” behind the choice school movement, you will find a strong focus on individualism over community.  If you want to understand this movement, which is driving the creation of individualistic “choice” schools, read Democracy in chains by Nancy MacLean, a Duke historian, and then read the award winningDark money by Jane Mayer, which analyzes who the Koch brothers are as they are primary supporters of neoliberalism.  Indeed, overwhelmingly, the financial supporters of neoliberalism, the people behind the curtain, the people funding Stand for Children and the Mind Trust, are conservative to rightwing billionaires.

If you don’t believe me or think I am just some conspiracy nut, I dare you to read Democracy in chainsby the highly respected Duke historian, Nancy MacLean. I dare you.

My point is that charter and innovation schools help destroy community, which according to sociological research can lead to increased violence.

 

Jim Scheurich, Indianapolis Public Schools Community Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-class, citywide group of Indianapolis citizens working to reverse the takeover of our school district by those funded by white, conservative or rightwing, billionaire neoliberals. Also, an activist professor of Urban Education Studies at Indiana University – Indianapolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, wrote a moving tribute to our dear friend Phyllis Bush. She called Phyllis “a lifelong teacher.” She taught for 32 years. When she retired, however, she never stopped teaching.

Francisco quotes some of Phyllis’s former students, who describe how Phyllis Bush changed their lives.

The editorial includes a photograph that catches the only moment when Phyllis was ever speechless. That moment occurred at the last annual conference of the Network for Public Education, held in Indianapolis, when the winner of the first annual Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism was announced. As one, the audience jumped to its feet and gave Phyllis a standing ovation.

That was a precious moment, filled with love, respect, and admiration for a woman who never stopped teaching and never lost her sparkling sense of humor.

John Thompson here writes about his reaction to the annual conference of the Network for Public Education, where the implicit theme was that David is beating Goliath, but Goliath just keeps stumbling forward, crushing public schools and advancing privatization, with no evidence of success. I argued, in the opening address of the conference, that the Reformers are akin to Goliath, and that Goliath has failed and failed again but is so powerful that he continues to wreak destruction on communities. He is among the Walking Dead. He is, in fact, a zombie.

Thompson was a teacher in Oklahoma; he recently retired. He lives in the belly of the beast, a state where Goliathians control the legislature and the governorship. At least they don’t pretend to be “progressives.” They are DeVos-Trump extremists, with links to ALEC and the Koch brothers.

Thompson admits that he was slow in realizing that the Reformers are intent on undermining public schools and that they were acting in concert. But he is convinced now, not only that they are doing so, but that their promises have not been kept and that, in fact, they have failed wherever they set their sights.

He ends with this:

Knowing that Indianapolis is at the heart of the dying, but still dangerous corporate reform movement, I expected that Chalkbeat would choose its words carefully and make sure that its reporting didn’t threaten its donations from Goliath. Chalkbeat Indianapolis didn’t cover the NPE conference but Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat New York has been covering Indiana’s Mind Trust and its successor, the City Fund. (Chalkbeat Indiana has since linked to WFYI Indianapolis’s report on one of the city’s 20 “innovation schools” which is receiving $1.3 million in management fees.)

This leads to the biggest question that I brought to the NPE. We Oklahomans have failed to communicate with our state’s edu-philanthropists on how their science-based, holistic early education and trauma-informed instruction programs and the Indianapolis Goliath are inherently incompatible. We know that the City Fund seems to have its eye on Deborah Gist’s Tulsa Public schools. We could use some help from NPE conference participants in explaining to Tulsa philanthropists why their “portfolio model” is likely to undermine their contributions to high quality pre-k, just like it did in New Orleans.

As a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood and a board member for the ACLU/OK, I developed great respect for the Kaiser and Schusterman foundations and other Tulsa philanthropists. I still struggle to understand how those leaders could not see how their humane, evidence-based programs are threatened by Goliath’s data-driven, reward and punish corporate reforms. But one of the first people I saw in Indianapolis was Tom Ultican, and he gave me information on the $200,000 Schusterman donated to California privatizers such as Antonio Villaraigosa and Marshall Tuck. If nothing else, I would like to explain to the philanthropists why educators can’t lower our guard and stop defending ourselves against their scorched earth tactics. I’d appreciate any help the NPE can provide in explaining why we will fight Goliath to the end.

Imagine that. Chalkbeat has an outpost in Indianapolis, but did not think it was worth its time to send a reporter to cover a conference of 500 educators from across the country that took place in Indianapolis! Is that media bias? Would their funders (Walton, Gates, etc.) have objected if they sent a reporter to write about a major event in their city?

Indianapolis has been a major target for the privatization movement. A group called The Mind Trust, funded by billionaire foundations, has led the effort to destroy public education, while presenting its motives as benign and admirable.

The corporate reform attack on Indianapolis was described vividly in this post by Jim Scheurich and Gayle Crosby.

Tom Ultican wrote about the destructive role of The Mind Trust in Indianapolis, which claims to be allied with the Democratic Party.

Locals, lacking the resources of the privatizes, have fought to save their public schools.

Here is a report on the recent elections from Dountonia Batts, an active member of the Network for Public Education:

Sending a clear message that the community is fed up with corporate reform, voters in Indianapolis ousted two incumbents on the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) Board, replacing them with opponents of the district’s corporate reform agenda.

First-time candidates Taria Slack and Susan Collins were backed by the IPS Community Coalition (the Indianapolis AROS Chapter) and the local teachers union and ran against incumbents backed by Stand for Children and the Mind Trust, a corporate reform institute. Slack and Collins are vowing to pressure the IPS administration to improve transparency, genuine community collaboration and engagement, and hold the administration accountable.

Indianapolis schools have been under persistent attack by corporate reformers over the past decade, with increasing numbers of charters and public school closings. The district—under the tutelage of the Mind Trust—has also created so-called “Innovation Schools,” which are IPS schools that are handed over to a charter management organization. Innovation Schools have complete autonomy, a school board that is not elected by the public, and receive public funds. Additionally, this structure allows charters under the IPS umbrella to take advantage of district-provided services such as transportation and special education services at no cost. This victory is proof that ordinary citizens can defeat big money. People power trumps money power. IPS Community Coalition is organized, prepared, and ready to reclaim our schools

Sincerely,

Dountonia S. Batts, J.D., M.B.A., N.S.A.