Archives for category: Mike Pence

 

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, explains here how Mike Pence expanded and deregulated Indiana’s voucher program, with substantial cash infusions from Betsy DeVos and Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com.

Despite state law, failing voucher schools were renewed. Failing charter schools converted to voucher schools to evade accountability. The voucher program has subsidized churches and paid tuition for students who never attended public schools and thus were not “escaping” to better schools. Many of the religious schools teach fraudulent science and history.

School choice is a big step backward for education in Indiana

The brilliant author Jane Mayer reviews the life and views of Vice President Pence here.

Mayer is the author of “Dark Money” and other exposes of the billionaires and zealots who imperil our democracy.

In this article, she interviews Pence’s mother and brother and visits his hometown to learn more about him.

He abandoned his Roman Catholic faith and became an evangelical Christian. His views on social issues are out of the mainstream.

President Trump “joked” the other day that Pence would like to “hang all the gays.”

Tolerance is not a term one associates with Mike Pence.

Thomas Toch and Phyllis W. Jordan write here about the failure of the D.C. voucher program, which has been hailed by the Trump administration as a great success. As they explain, it is not.

Mike Pence called it “a case study in school choice success.”

Far from it.

As the authors point out, significant numbers of families have turned down vouchers or abandoned their voucher school. Many students struggle academically.

“The theory behind the initiative is to give D.C.’s low-income families more and better educational opportunities by supplying them with tax dollars to send their children to private schools. Fine. But voucher enrollment in the nation’s capital dropped for four straight years, from 1,638 in the 2013-2014 school year to 1,154 in the 2016-2017 year. More striking, greater than half the new students offered vouchers last year didn’t use them…

“Low-income parents unfamiliar with the private school landscape must navigate each school’s admissions system separately. Students are awarded vouchers after many private schools have finished their admissions processes. And voucher winners must meet the admissions standards of the schools to which they apply. In this sense, the 47 schools participating in the program are choosing students, rather than the other way around…

“While federal law lacks accountability for schools, it calls for independent assessments of student progress. Between 2012 and 2014, federal researchers tested three sample cohorts of D.C. students in the year after receiving vouchers. Those who won vouchers did worse in math in their first year than students who competed in the voucher lottery but did not receive them.

“Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that nearly half the students in the program attend private schools that sprung up to serve voucher students, sometimes in storefronts, according to a 2013 report by the federal government. About 3 percent were enrolled in independent schools such as Sidwell Friends and Georgetown Day. Most of the rest attended Catholic schools, though few went to the most competitive Catholic schools, such as St. Anselm’s Abbey School.”

Toch and Jordan support charter schools, so believe that the voucher program pales in comparison to the charter and public sectors.

Some of us don’t believe that school choice is the solution to the problems of urban districts. It may in reality be a false solution, since both charters and vouchers choose their students and operate under laxer supervision than the public schools.

Nonetheless it is good to be reminded that the Trump administration’s education agenda of choice-choice-choice is a shell game.

Indiana has been taken over by the forces of corporate school reform, under a succession of Republican governors devoted to school choice: Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, now Eric Holcomb. The public schools got a brief respite when educator Glenda Ritz was elected State Commissioner in 2012, but Pence spent four years attacking her Office and taking away its powers. Indiana has the gamut of privatization reforms: charter schools, vouchers, cybercharters.

The epicenter of the privatization movement is Indianapolis, where an organization called The Mind Trust has led the effort to destroy public education.

A teacher in Indiana recently left a comment about what she encountered when she returned to teaching in the public schools: lessons learned from charters.

She writes:

“I believe this “hypernormalization” can be traced back to the use of TFA teachers in our public school system. I had to come out of retirement to go back to the classroom for economic reasons and found an Art teacher position in the Indianapolis Public Schools. I joined a staff of over 50 teachers in a K-6 school with mostly young teachers (less than 10 years experience), TFA teachers, administrators with NO teaching experience and no teacher’s license, and a building with a high needs student population that was in complete chaos. The principal and assistant principal were only concerned only with “creating classroom culture,” or making sure that all the students walked in straight lines with a bubble in their mouth, hands clasped behind their backs. Data collection and testing was the driving force behind everything and it was of utmost importance to point out to any staff member their “numbers” to make sure the customers (parents) would be happy. With all of the emphasis on the outcome and none on actual learning, the building was reduced to violent fights and constant behavior disruption as evidence by the 12 staff members that were dedicated to behavior remediation. When I made comments or brought up ideas about changing the way behavior was addressed, or looking into more emphasis on learning and less on data collection I was regarded as a horrible relic from the past that had no idea how to teach in today’s public schools. I was force fed TFA propaganda, pummeled with articles about data from pro-TFA researchers, and forced to watch videos on the TFA Youtube channel to bring my thinking into the same place as the inexperienced teachers and administrators that demonstrated they knew nothing about how public schools work. As a teacher of over 30 years, with all kinds of recognition and accolades for excellence, I am regarded as an out of step relic who can’t possibly know what I am doing.

“TFA is like a virus that has infected the teaching profession and is slowly killing education. The sad part is that TFA’s philosophy is solidly grounded in the IPS school system, and I don’t see it changing with our GOP led state legislature imposing their micro management of IPS and other large urban school systems in Indiana; and I see the same thing happening in Florida, Ohio and many of the other super-reformy states.

“If any of us have any hope of stopping the normalization of what isn’t normal for learning, then we need to identify the sources such as TFA and end their participation in public education.”

We are becoming desensitized to lies told by our president and vice-president.

Here is a whopper. Mike Pence went to Kentucky and said that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had failed in Kentucky. He was either misinformed or lied. Our nation’s leaders have access to accurate information, so I think it likely he lied.

Because of ACA, the number of uninsured people in Kentucky dropped dramatically. How can this be a failure?

Half a million Kentuckians gained insurance because of ACA:

In 2013, 20.4 percent of Kentucky residents were uninsured. In 2016, that number had fallen to 7.8 percent.

Remember, this is a blog about education. When families are uninsured, their children are less likely to get the health care they need, and more likely to be sick, and to be absent from school, and to have lower motivation because of illness and stress.

When listening to Pence or Trump, it is safe to assume that whatever they say is not true. David Corn of Mother Jones tweeted the other day, “You can’t fact-check crazy.” But in this instance, you can fact-check Pence’s claim that Kentucky is worse off because of ACA. It is not.

Indiana has one of the most expansive voucher programs in the nation, even though the state constitution explicitly forbids spending public money for religious schools. The state courts decided that the constitution doesn’t mean what it says. Former Governor Mitch Daniels initiated the voucher program and Mike Pence expanded it. Although born a Catholic, Pence is now an evangelical Christian.

 

Mother Jones investigated the Indiana voucher program and found that it has been a boon for religious schools, including many that teach creationism. Student performance in the voucher schools is poor; maybe someday the state will realize that it has to save kids who are failing to learn in mediocre voucher schools.

 

“One of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s pet projects as governor of Indiana was expanding school choice vouchers, which allow public money to pay for private school tuition. President-elect Donald Trump has said he’d like to expand such vouchers in the rest of the country, but what happened in Indiana should serve as a cautionary tale for Trump and his administration.

 

“Pence’s voucher program ballooned into a $135 million annual bonanza almost exclusively benefiting private religious schools—ranging from those teaching the Koran to Christian schools teaching creationism and the Bible as literal truth—at the expense of regular and usually better-performing public schools. Indeed, one of the schools was a madrasa, an Islamic religious school, briefly attended by a young man arrested this summer for trying to join ISIS—just the kind of place Trump’s coalition would find abhorrent.

 

“In Indiana, Pence created one of the largest publicly funded voucher programs in the country. Initially launched in 2011 under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, it was sold as a way to give poor, minority children trapped in bad public schools a way out. “Social justice has come to Indiana education,” Daniels declared after the voucher legislation passed. It was supposed to be a small program, initially capped at 7,500 vouchers. Full vouchers, worth 90 percent of the per-pupil spending in a school district, were reserved for families with incomes up to 100 percent of the cutoff for free or reduced-price school lunch, about $45,000 a year for a family of four.

 

“But in 2013, Pence and the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature raised the income limits on the program so that a family of four with up to $90,000 in annual income became eligible for vouchers covering half their private school tuition. They also removed most requirements that students come from a public school to access the vouchers, making families already attending private school eligible for tuition subsidies, thus removing any pretense that the vouchers were a tool to help poor children escape failing schools.

 

“Pence’s school choice experiment demonstrates that vouchers can create a host of thorny political problems and potential church- and-state issues.

 
“By the 2015-16 school year, the number of students using state-funded vouchers had shot up to more than 32,000 in 316 private schools. But Pence’s school choice experiment demonstrates that vouchers can create a host of thorny political problems and potential church-and-state issues. Almost every single one of these voucher schools is religious. The state Department of Education can’t tell parents which or even whether any of the voucher schools are secular. (A state spokeswoman told me Indiana doesn’t collect data on the school’s religious affiliation.) Out of the list of more than 300 schools, I could find only four that weren’t overtly religious and, of those, one was solely for students with Asperger’s syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders, and the other is an alternative school for at-risk students.

 

“Opponents, including public school teachers and local clergy, sued the state to try to block the voucher program in 2011, arguing that it clearly violated the state constitutional provisions that protect taxpayers from having to support religion. They were also concerned that the money going to the religious schools was coming directly from local public school systems, draining them of critical funding in violation of the state constitution. But the Indiana state Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the voucher program was constitutional because public money was going to the students and not to religious institutions directly….

 

“Perhaps not surprisingly, the kids in these schools aren’t performing very well on the state’s standardized tests, putting voucher schools among the state’s worst-performing schools. The three campuses of Horizon Christian Academy rank near the bottom. Two of its schools were once for-profit charter schools that lost their charters because they were badly underperforming. They reconstituted as private religious schools and now take taxpayer-funded vouchers. In 2015, less than 9 percent of the students at one of the Horizon campuses passed the state standardized tests in math and English, a rate worse than most of the state’s public schools from which the vouchers were supposed to provide an escape.

 

“A study by researchers at Notre Dame University published last year shows that in the first three years of the program, Indiana kids who left public schools to attend voucher schools saw their math scores decline in comparison with their peers who remained in regular public schools. The public school students saw improvements in their English skills, but the voucher kids’ results stayed flat. The voucher schools can’t necessarily blame low test scores on poverty, either. According to data from the state, today more than 60 percent of the voucher students in Indiana are white, and more than half of them have never even attended any public school, much less a failing one. Some of the fastest growth in voucher use has occurred in some of the state’s most affluent suburbs. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based think tank, recently concluded that because white children’s participation in the voucher program dwarfed the next largest racial group by 44 points, the vouchers were effectively helping to resegregate public schools.”

 

This is what is in store for the nation in the Trump-Pence era.