2021 Medley #4 – Indiana Still Hates Public Ed

School “reform” in Indiana
In April of 2019, I wrote,

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

Sadly, nothing has changed and my fellow Hoosiers, including many of my former public school colleagues, continue to send the same anti-public education folks to Indy. In this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly the Republican supermajority, like Republican legislators across the country (see here, and here, for example) are doing everything they can to damage the public schools of the state.

They are attempting to divert more money for the state’s already expansive voucher program…despite the studies that have shown that vouchers don’t improve education. They will likely succeed. The state, of course, hasn’t looked into the success or failure of the voucher program because it is no longer about “saving poor children from ‘failing schools’, the reason the program was begun in 2011. Now, it’s just about “choice.” This means that private schools get to choose which students they want, and once the new bill passes the Indiana Senate (which it likely will), those students will be more likely than not, white, and not-poor.

The objections from public education supporters have been loud and strong, but the supermajority doesn’t care or need to listen.

Do the voters in Indiana (again, including many public school teachers) even know what the General Assembly is doing to our system of public education? Is Indiana so fiercely partisan that its citizens are willing to give up its public schools because their “tribe” wants it to? Ninety percent of the state’s children attend public schools (94% if you include so-called “public charter schools”). Why do we keep electing the same anti-public school state legislators?

2021 INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON EDUCATION

Indiana voucher plan could take 1/3 of school funding boost

The Speaker of the Indiana House said that the state should “fund students, not school systems.” Unfortunately, he is ignorant of the Indiana Consitution which requires the legislature to fund a “uniform system of Common Schools.”

From the Associated Press

More than one-third of the proposed state funding hike for Indiana schools could go toward the state’s private school voucher program under a Republican-backed plan that could boost the program’s cost by nearly 50% over the next two years.

The estimated $144 million cost for the voucher expansion and a new program allowing parents to directly spend state money on their child’s education expenses is included in legislative budget projections — but is more than double what House Republicans discussed in releasing their state budget plan last week.

How Indiana has cut funding for students in poverty, hurting urban schools

Over the past few years, the state has cut into any extra funding for high poverty school systems because…economic segregation, racism, greed, political expediency…choose one or more.

From Chalkbeat, Indiana

Even though the state boasts an increased education budget each year, Indianapolis Public Schools receives $15 less per student today in basic state funding than it did seven years ago.

That’s because IPS’ gains in funding for each student have been eaten up by a sharper decline in state support for students in poverty, district officials say.

In recent years, Indiana lawmakers have prioritized across-the-board increases for schools over support for disadvantaged students, favoring budget strategies that buoy more affluent districts while higher-poverty schools say they’re left without enough resources to serve disadvantaged students.

Commentary: Money, mouths and education reform

My local Senator told me (and a small group of public education advocates) a few years ago that the Senate was tired of all the “reform.” He indicated that we needed to evaluate what we’ve done before we do more. That hasn’t happened and he has gone along with the continuous increases for “reform.”

From By John Krull in TheStatehouseFile.com

The self-proclaimed education reformers make it sound as if their efforts will have nothing less than a transformative effect on schools and students, improving scores and performance at an astounding rate.

The evidence suggests, though, that they just do not believe that.

If they did, they would be compiling evidence that students in voucher and charter schools were doing much, much better than their counterparts in traditional public schools. They would be testing the students receiving state funds to study in settings other than traditional public schools and the educators teaching them to build their case that choice works.

That the education reform movement works.

But they don’t do that.

At almost every stop, they take measures to make sure their plans and programs cannot be tested, cannot be assessed, cannot be held accountable.

And they do this while insisting traditional public educators and schools be held to rigid standards of accountability.

Former state superintendents united in their opposition to voucher expansion bills

For the last hundred and sixty-plus years, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has been elected by Indiana voters. The last two Superintendents (one Democrat and one Republican) have spoken out against education privatization. That was enough for the anti-public education legislature. They decided that they couldn’t take a chance any more on the voters choosing someone who might disagree with them, so they changed the law and the new “Secretary of Education” is, along with all but two members of the State Board of Education, appointed by the (also Republican) governor. The other two state board members of appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate (also Republican).

Neither the Indiana Secretary of Education nor any members of the State Board of Education are elected. Apparently, Indiana’s legislature doesn’t want to give the voters a say in education matters. The state’s voucher program, which currently costs the state more than $170 million each year, was instituted in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly without the benefit of voter approval.

The following letter from three retired State Superintendents speaks loudly, though the supermajority doesn’t really care about what they have to say.

From Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz, and Jennifer McCormick in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Education Scholarship Accounts will divert adequate and equitable funding from public school students and open the door to unacceptable practices. Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.

In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child. Passing HB 1005, SB 412 or SB 413 would divert significant money away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana’s teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency and well-being…

Vouchers undermine education for all kids

I disagree with this writer. I don’t think that the supermajority hopes “no one notices” what they’re doing to education. I think they don’t care since they can do whatever they want.

The concept of “common good” is all but gone.

From Robert Stwalley in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly is attempting to quietly gut public education and hope no one notices…

School choice advocates would have you believe that money should follow the child because this platitude is simple and seems to make sense on the surface. However, this is completely untrue and detrimental to the overall concept of a tuition-free public school system.

Taxes are collected from everyone to support government activities. Public schools are government entities designed to improve society by providing a practical education for the young citizens of tomorrow. Everyone is better off with an educated populace.

If you need more evidence that the Republican majority hates Indiana’s public education, here are some more. There’s still a chance that the State Senate will reject the increase in vouchers and the development of Education Savings Accounts, but I don’t think the odds are very good of that happening. I hope I’m wrong.

Our Opinion: Failing grades for Indiana voucher expansion bills

Viewpoint: Three bills would do harm to public schools, Indiana’s economy

Lawmakers need to choose schools over ‘school choice’

Teachers Singled Out in Indiana Union Membership Bill

An Opposition Letter from Public School Supporters to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Holcomb

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Filed under Article Medleys, IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, vouchers

2021 Medley #3 – that Pesky State Constitution

HB 1005, Publicly Funded Discrimination

The Indiana House of Representatives passed HB 1005 which calls for increases in funding for voucher accepting parochial and private schools. Public schools get the leftovers.

THE INDIANA CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Article 8 Section 1

Public schools are a Constitutional mandate in Indiana. Sending tax money to private schools is not, even if the money is laundered through the parents (parents designate a school and the state sends the school the money). The Indiana Constitution says…

Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.

2021 VOUCHER EXPANSION PASSES THE HOUSE

‘Hoosiers all lose’: Former state superintendents come out against voucher expansion

Parochial and private schools in Indiana are not “open to all” as mandated by the Constitution. Yet the House of Representatives continues to divert more and more tax money away from public schools into the pockets of religious institutions (which is against the state Constitution — see Article 1, Section 6) and private school operators.

This year, the House members will boast that they passed a huge increase for education, though they won’t say that more than 1/3 of the increase went to schools serving fewer than 5% of the state’s students.

While the fiscal analysis on House Bill 1005, one of the bills objected to by Reed Goddard and the other former superintendents, estimated its cost at $66 million, a new projection of education expenditures over the next two years puts the cost of those programs much higher – closer to $144 million over the two years of the proposed budget. The expansion of these publicly-funded private school programs, which educate fewer than 5% of Hoosier students, would receive more than one-third of the new K-12 education dollars in the House budget.

In their letter, the superintendents argue that HB1005 and similar proposals from the Senate (in Senate Bills 412 and 413) would divert significant dollars away from public schools. They also joined a chorus of individuals, including some lawmakers and other public school advocates, worried that the ESA program will open the door for fraud.

“Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated,” the letter said, “and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.”

House passes voucher expansion

The speaker of the Indiana House, Todd Huston, must not be familiar with the Indiana Constitution, which plainly states that the General Assembly is responsible for a “…SYSTEM of common schools…” [emphasis added] not individual students. While Betsy DeVos may agree with his take on privatization, his comments quoted in this article are Constitutionally wrong. According to the Constitution, the Indiana General Assembly does, indeed, fund systems. [emphasis added]

House Bill 1005 would increase the amount of money families can make to be eligible for vouchers and also increase the awards themselves.

And the measure creates new Education Scholarship Accounts in which state money would be deposited for families to choose how they want to educate their children. It is open only to special education students and children of active military.

The cost of the bill is more than $65 million over the biennium.

…House Speaker Todd Huston took to the floor to defend the bill – something he usually doesn’t do since he presides over the chamber. He said “we fund students, not systems” and said opposition is just an attack on parents.

“Who’s accountable? Families,” Huston said.

Leaky bucket: legislature diverts K-12 tuition support funding from public schools

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education posted an infographic (pdf version here) showing how money for parochial and private schools is drained from tax funds meant for public schools. Among the points on the infographic…

The more legislators siphon away money for pet projects, that’s less for public schools and teacher pay…

99% of the taxpayer money [for vouchers] goes to religious schools that can (and many do) discriminate…

They can choose to exclude any students for any reason, or for no reason at all…

PUBLICLY FUNDED DISCRIMINATION

David Berliner on the Travesty of Public Funds for Religious Schools

David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, understands why public tax dollars should not go to parochial schools.

  • They aren’t required to accept all students. Instead of students choosing private or parochial schools, the schools choose which students they will accept.
  • They don’t have to follow the same curriculum as public schools and can teach questionable topics.
  • Indiana parochial and private schools aren’t accountable to the state for the money they receive.
  • They drain tax dollars from public school systems.

This quote is specific to a parochial school in North Carolina, but the same is true for many of the parochial schools getting tax dollars through vouchers in Indiana.

…So, despite the receipt of public money, the Fayetteville Christian School is really not open to the public at all! This school says, up front and clearly, that it doesn’t want and will not accept Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s, and many others. Further, although supported by public money, it will expel students for their family’s alleged “sins”. Is papa smoking pot? Expelled! Does your sibling have a homosexual relationship? Out! Has mama filed for divorce? You are gone! The admissions and dismissal policies of this school–receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per year–are scandalous. I’d not give them a penny! North Carolina legislators, and the public who elects them should all be embarrassed to ever say they are upholders of American democracy. They are not.

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Filed under Article Medleys, David Berliner, IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, vouchers

Educational Mansplaining

As an American male, I’m an experienced mansplainer. My former teacher colleagues (mostly female) would surely be able to give you an example or two of my tendency to “help them understand” something that they probably understood as well or better than I did. I remember once, at a meeting discussing psychometric testing of a student, I started explaining percentiles to another teacher. With a look of pity and loathing, she said to me, “I understand what percentiles are.” What she likely left unsaid was, “I have an education degree, too, you obnoxious, insulting POS!” Out loud she added, “It’s ok. I’m used to you.”

Now that I have established my mansplaining credentials, I’d like to comment on a thread I read on Twitter this morning. The thread consisted of women giving examples of someone like me mansplaining something that they already knew.

I must admit…while reading the thread I felt the urge to add my own tweet explaining how Twitter threads work…

…but I digress.

A FLASH OF INSIGHT

The thread that I read included a tweet from Dr. Jessica McCarty, whose Miami University (Ohio) bio reads,

Dr. McCarty has a PhD in Geography from University of Maryland at College Park. Expertise in remote sensing, GIS, data mining, natural resources, agricultural & food security, land-use/land-cover change, fire, air quality, GHG emissions, black carbon, climate, app development, and UAVs. She is a PI and/or Co-I on NASA, EPA, NSF, USDA, and UN projects that focus on using remote sensing of food security, fire, emissions, & air quality. She has presented at NASA, AGU, IIASA , WMO & UN meetings.

I have no idea what most of that bio means, so I’ll assume that Dr. McCarty is a fully qualified professional. Her tweet about mansplaining…

Dr. Jessica McCarty (‪@jmccarty_geo‬)

At a NASA Earth meeting 10 years ago, a white male post doc interrupted me to tell me that I didn’t understand human drivers of fire, that I def needed to read McCarty et al.

Looked him in the eye, pulled my long hair back so he could read my name tag. “I’m McCarty et al.”

At that point, I had a blinding flash of insight…

For the last few decades, politicians in the U.S. (mostly male) have been mansplaining education to American teachers (mostly female).

Think of politicians as the “white male post doc” and think of teachers as Dr. McCarty. For years they’ve been telling us “what’s wrong with education” and “how to fix education” but the teachers are the real experts.

MANSPLAINING EDUCATION

Let’s see some examples…first, George W. Bush’s “signature” education policy, No Child Left Behind.

Were there any teachers, anywhere in the country, who believed that it was possible to have all students score “proficient” on standardized tests within a dozen years?

Of course not. The politicians who wrote NCLB had absolutely no clue what proficient actually means. Nor did they realize that standardized testing was an excellent method of determining a student’s family income, but not much else.

And then we had Race to the Top. Not to be outdone, the Democratic designed education plan begun eight years later included evaluating teachers using student test scores. Were there teachers anywhere in the country who didn’t understand that those teachers who taught in wealthy schools would get better “evaluations” than teachers who taught in high-poverty schools?

Once again, the answer is no. Politicians didn’t notice that “good” teachers (by their definition) seemed to congregate at schools with children from wealthy families while poor kids always seemed to have the “bad” teachers. They didn’t understand that correlation is not causation. They didn’t understand that there are out-of-school factors that have an impact on a child’s school achievement and that test scores do not define quality schools or quality teachers. David Berliner explained this well in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. American schools are set up to reward students who come from wealthy families.

THE STATUS OF TEACHERS

By now it should be no secret why teachers are “mansplained” about education — aka treated with less respect than other professionals. Teaching is still seen as “women’s work” and those who hold control of the funding in education are mostly men.

In a field so dominated by women, it’s not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.

Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators, tends to lower the status of other teaching when compared to other professions.

In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.

Now, the next time you hear a politician talk to a teacher or a group of teachers (or the general public) about “…what’s wrong with education in this country” you’ll know what’s really going on.

And to my former colleagues (mostly female)…Thanks for reading. I really needed to explain this.

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Indiana Vouchers Set to Expand Again

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DANIELS, BENNETT, AND PENCE

Ten years ago the Indiana General Assembly established the state’s voucher program to “provide children who attend failing schools grants to attend a school of choice.” At that time, the state provided tuition help for low-income students to attend religious schools (it’s actually “private” schools, but nearly all are religious). Families earning more than $60,000 were not included. The inflation rate over the last ten years has been about 16% so that $60,000 cap would be about $70,000 today. The General Assembly, however, wants to double that and the Indiana House will vote on the bill tomorrow (February 15).

We’ve spent more than half a billion dollars on vouchers since 2011. Has it helped poor students? Has it improved learning? Has it improved public schools as voucher proponents claimed it would? The state has yet to evaluate the program for anything other than political contributions. As with other voucher programs around the country, the voters have never directly chosen to spend all that money.

In 2011 the goal of the voucher program was to help poor students “escape” from “failing” [read: high-poverty] schools. Now the program goal is to provide “choice” for private and religious schools to accept middle-class families who would have sent their kids to their schools anyway.

The money for vouchers comes from the state’s education budget, so the voucher students in one county are draining away public funds that could be used for public school students in other counties around the state. The money also goes to mostly religious schools despite the state constitution prohibition (Article 1, Section 6). How does that pass legal muster? The state Supreme Court agreed to allow the state to launder the money through parents. Parents choose the voucher recipient (assuming that the school accepts their child, of course), and the state sends the cash directly to the school — state funds, directly from tax dollars to religious schools. It doesn’t matter if the school discriminates against certain students, hires unqualified teachers, or teaches religious doctrine as scientific fact.

Meanwhile, funds for high poverty public schools are being capped, public school teacher salaries are ignored again, and charter schools are also getting a budget boost.

How does this keep happening? The Indiana electorate, including the parents and caretakers of the 90% of students who attend public schools, continue to vote for people who hate public schools.

Betsy would be proud.

Bill lavishes more money on favored private schools

Freshman state lawmaker Jake Teshka was incredulous. He had just listened to the president of the Indiana School Board Association criticize a sweeping expansion of the school voucher program as benefiting wealthy families.

“Do you believe, that in 2021, $140,000 in a family of four is considered wealthy?” the South Bend Republican asked Robert Stwalley during Feb. 3 testimony on House Bill 1005.

“I would certainly consider it to be wealthier than the original program was designed – for the low income. Absolutely,” the Purdue University engineering professor replied. “For a family of five, that brings you up to $160,000 a year in income. That’s pretty wealthy, sir.”

Median household income in Indiana is $57,603, according to census data. For a family of four, it is $90,654.

Teshka isn’t the only House Republican out of touch with Hoosier families. His colleagues on the House Education Committee, as well as all Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, voted unanimously to support HB 1005. The bill goes to the full House on Monday, where the super-majority caucus appears dead set on removing already-generous income limits on vouchers and adding education savings accounts, a costly program with an extensive record of abuse in other states.

Hoosiers should demand to know the justification for handing millions in tax dollars to high-income households and private and parochial schools. How many more ways can GOP lawmakers find to take money from the schools serving 90% of Indiana’s students, including the neediest?

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It’s not enough!

“OPEN THIS SCHOOL!”

MASKS WORK…

I feel like we’re living in an Idiocracy.

Wisconsin’s Republican legislature is fighting the mask mandate ordered by the Democratic governor…because, of course they are.

Wisconsin’s Legislature repealed Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate. He issued a new one.

Fearing more deaths statewide, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers reissued a mask mandate Thursday, standing up to a Republican Legislature that had repealed his previous mask order earlier in the day.

“We know that wearing face coverings can save lives and prevent death. We know it’s supported by science,” Evers, a Democrat, said in a two-minute video.

He said repealing his previous mandate to wear face coverings in public places put at risk about $50 million a month in federal funds to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents.

Experts, i.e. those who are educated and actually know things, understand that masks, along with other mitigation measures, help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (See here, here, and here. The idiocrats in the Wisconsin legislature aren’t experts.

…BUT MASKS ARE NOT ENOUGH FOR SCHOOLS TO OPEN

So what do experts say about opening schools during a pandemic? Teachers are worried about their own safety, as well as the safety of their students, co-workers, and families. Some teachers are refusing to return to school until they can get vaccinated. In Indiana, the governor has decided to forego vaccinations for teachers even though the CDC recommended that teachers be vaccinated at the same time as other “essential” workers. Our governor is not alone. Others are saying that teachers should just go back to work and quit whining.

So, do teachers need to be vaccinated before schools can open?

If you have seen or read any news recently, you might think that the new director of the CDC believes they don’t.

CDC director says schools can safely reopen without vaccinating teachers

Teachers do not need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before schools can safely reopen, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House news briefing on Covid-19.

“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” she added.

This is the extent of the reporting that most folks see on Facebook, cable news stations, or the headline in the newspaper. The article above even has “Key Points” of the article bulleted at the top which further discourage readers from reading any further…

That’s it. Case closed. The science has spoken. Right?

Wrong!

Notice what’s left out of the “Key Points.” There isn’t anything about what needs to be done before schools can open other than teachers have been worried, and they don’t need to be vaccinated.

If you keep reading, however, you get to this paragraph…

A study from the CDC published late last month found little evidence of the virus spreading at schools in the U.S. and abroad when precautions were taken, such as wearing masks, social distancing and ventilating rooms.

Did you see that?

…when precautions were taken, such as wearing masks, social distancing and ventilating rooms.

In Indiana, our idiocratic governor, aside from postponing teachers vaccinations, now says that students and staff only need to keep a “social” distance of three feet instead of six. And now that there are more contagious variants of the disease, the governor, in his (lack of) wisdom has decided that schools are

…no longer required to quarantine if someone is exposed in the classroom, if they kept three feet socially distant and wore a mask.

According to the CDC, social distancing is still six feet. Even if it wasn’t, how am I going to fit 25 (or 30 or 35) kids in my classroom and keep them even three feet apart?

PROVIDE AND EMPHASIZE MORE INFORMATION

Since many citizens in our idiocracy (including some legislators and, apparently, our governor) don’t necessarily read entire articles, or only get their news in small bites from the TV, more information about what schools need to open must be emphasized! The director of the CDC should emphasize that teachers don’t need to get a vaccine before schools open if and only if

1. all staff members and students have masks
2. strict social distancing (of six feet) is followed and
3. school buildings and classrooms are properly ventilated

If a school can’t do those things, and if the state or federal governments can’t provide funds to allow them to do those things, then it’s not safe for schools to open.

Think about the special education teacher or special education paraprofessional who can’t social distance from their high-need students, whose students have trouble keeping masks on, and are working in an old school building with poor ventilation. It’s February. Opening windows is not an option in some parts of the country.

Think about the preschool teacher who has a room full of two, three, or four year olds. Can she keep a social distance between them? Can she make sure that they all keep their masks on? How about snack or lunch time? How about diaper changes? What if the classroom is in an old building with poor ventilation?

Not every educational group or age group of students are able to follow the guidelines from the CDC. Not all school buildings are equiped to keep students socially distanced or to provide adequate ventilation.

When someone makes a blanket statement that “it’s ok to open school buildings even if teachers aren’t vaccinated”…

…it sounds like an idiocracy to me.

You might also like this post by Nancy Flanagan.
The 12 Point Covid-19 DISCONNECT Between Teachers and Those Who Want Schools Open Now!

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Vaccine for Teachers, Shortages, and The Shock Doctrine

VACCINATE TEACHERS

Anthony Fauci: ‘Get Teachers Vaccinated as Quickly as We Possibly Can’

Teachers were acclaimed as heroes when the pandemic lockdowns occurred in March. They adapted quickly to new technologies and new circumstances. That changed quickly, however, when people (and the media) realized that not everyone could stay home with their children and help them learn. Getting the “kids back in school” was a high priority. Teachers, apparently, are essential workers after all.

The CDC has guidelines for reopening schools which include making sure that everyone has sufficient PPE, that the school is well ventilated, and that no one, staff or students, should come to school if they test positive or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID. That means, if a school can’t follow those guidelines (and others) it’s not safe to reopen.

Meanwhile, teachers unions are fighting for the health and safety of their members and their members’ students. Our public school infrastructure is not the best and many schools don’t have adequate ventilation, especially older buildings. Most schools don’t have the resources to make sure that all their students are COVID free before they enter the classroom…nor do they all have extra money to spend on PPE for their teachers and staff members.

So teachers unions are getting blamed for “insisting that those lazy teachers stay home and get paid for not working.” Meanwhile, teachers and students continue to test positive for COVID.

And in Indiana, teachers, noted by the CDC as essential workers needing vaccines ASAP, were skipped when health professionals and first responders were vaccinated.

If we really want schools to open shouldn’t we be willing to pay to make them safe for students and teachers?

From Anthony Fauci, quoted in Education Week

“We’re not going to get back to normal until we get children back into school, both for the good of the children, for the good of the parents, and for the good of the community,” he said. “We want to make sure we do that by giving the teachers and the teams associated with teachers the resources that they need to do that. The idea of, ‘Go do it on your own’—that doesn’t work.”

Making sure schools can reopen safely is a personal issue for him, Fauci added: His daughter is a 3rd grade science teacher in New Orleans.

 

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

27% of teachers are considering quitting because of Covid, survey finds

This is from December 2020. The teacher shortage isn’t going away.

We were already losing teachers at an alarming rate before the pandemic hit. Now, with uncertainty about school funding and uncertainty about classroom safety, many teachers are calling it quits.

From CNBC Make It

The coronavirus pandemic has put significant pressure on America’s teachers. Some have been asked to weigh risks to their personal health and teach in person. Some have been asked to teach from behind computer screens and perfect distance learning. Many have been asked to do both.

These pressures are taking a toll on teachers across the country.

According to a new report, 77% of educators are working more today than a year ago, 60% enjoy their job less and 59% do not feel secure in their school district’s health and safety precautions. Roughly 27% say they are considering leaving their job, retiring early or taking a leave of absence because of the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, large numbers of U.S. educators were already leaving the profession due to the financial pressure the job puts on their lives,” reads the report. “Then COVID-19 came along.”

 

THE SHOCK DOCTRINE COMES TO YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOL

Americans United Gears Up To Oppose Private School Voucher Bills

The pandemic has the country in an economic as well as a medical uproar. Social unrest related to political upheaval has added to the chaos. In this atmosphere, it should come as no surprise that “edupreneurs” want to get their hands on the billions of dollars spent each year on public education.

Across the country, state legislatures are starting their legislative year with bills focusing on transferring public funds to private and privately owned (aka charter) schools.

To add to the trouble, public schools are hemorrhaging teachers as the normal stresses of being a teacher in the 21st century are compounded by the stresses of the pandemic, virtual teaching, combination teaching, and teaching without proper equipment.

The loss of professional teachers is a plus for the privatizers. As states come to the conclusion that there aren’t enough professional teachers for their students, they’ll weaken certification requirements allowing untrained or poorly trained people to take charge of classrooms — because of course, anyone can teach. This weakening of teacher professionalism will lead to lower pay for those in the classroom and weakened teachers unions – a definite plus for those who want to profit from the economic challenges faced by the country.

Enter “Disaster Capitalists” as described by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine. The crisis in education can only be solved by the private sector. Hence the pressure on legislatures to give public dollars to private schools and CMOs.

From Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

We know that private school voucher programs are bad public policy for so many reasons, including that they funnel desperately needed funds away from public schools to private, mostly religious, schools. And public schools face unprecedented financial difficulties right now because of COVID-19. There are increased costs to offer virtual learning and make sure in-person classes are safe for teachers and students. At the same time, states are cutting public school budgets because of decreased revenue. The Learning Policy Institute estimated that COVID-19 has cost public schools between $199 billion and $246 billion. Lawmakers should not drain additional money away from public schools – which 90 percent of our students attend – in the middle of a pandemic.

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Musical Interlude: 265 years of Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. Today is his 265th birthday.

Mozart had composed over 600 works by the time he died at the early age of 35. He wrote his first piano piece at the age of 5, his first symphony at age 8, and his first opera when he was 11.

Aside from being precocious, he was also versatile. Mozart wrote more than two dozen piano concertos, five violin concertos, four horn concertos, as well as concertos for bassoon, flute, clarinet, trumpet, cello, and various combinations of instruments. He wrote more than four dozen symphonies and eighty-four string quartets. For a complete list of the music Mozart composed in his short life, click here.

The first three pieces (below) were written over a period of 6 years – from age 5 to 11 – and show an amazing growth and maturity for someone so young.

The Allegro in C, written by a five year old

…and an entire symphony, albeit a short one, written by an eight year old

I’m not a big fan of opera, but this short piece about the recording of Mozart’s first opera, Apollo and Hyacinth (written when he was eleven), gives some interesting facts and displays the beauty of Mozart’s music.

The following is a video of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 1 in D major. It’s a live performance so enjoy watching the musicians – soloist, orchestra members, and conductor – dance in their own special ways to the music. Most are “head dancers” but quite a few of them move their upper bodies as they play. Very few, if any, keep still.

To listen to all four of Mozart’s horn concertos, click here.

Further reading and listening

Postscript

  • I wonder if Indiana would have forced Mozart to take the state achievement test…
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2021 Medley #2 – Privatization, the Free Market, and Propaganda

Privatization and the Free Market
Truth, Lies, and Propaganda

PRIVATIZATION, AND THE FREE MARKET

Betsy DeVos might be gone from our federal government, but she and those who support her privatization schemes for public education are still around.

It’s “School Choice Week” & I Choose…

Stu Egan, who blogs at Caffeinated Rage wrote this about school choice week. In it, he reminds us that “Our public schools are better than many lawmakers and ‘pro-choice’ advocates portray them to be – many of whom have never spent time as educators.” The privatizers define the parameters in order to place public schools in a poor light…and then claim that public schools are “failing.”

Supporters of public schools must change the narrative.

With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable.

And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

Betsy DeVos’s March, 2018 assertion on 60 Minutes that America’s schools have seen no improvement despite the billions and billions of dollars thrown at them was a nearsighted, close minded, and rather uneducated assessment of public schools because she was displaying two particular characteristics of lawmakers and politicians who are bent on delivering a message that public schools are not actually working.

The first is the insistence that “they” know education better than those who actually work in education. DeVos has no background in statistical analysis, administration, or teaching. The second is the calculated spin of evidence and/or the squashing of actual truth.

The premise of DeVos’s argument was the performance of US students on the PISA exam. She was trying to control how the public saw the results. She framed the context to promote a narrative that her “reforms” were the only solutions.

Legislators propose expanded vouchers, ESA’s

What is the purpose of America’s public schools?

Privatizers believe that education is an individual choice. They claim that all parents must be “in it for themselves” to get the best education for their child. Education, looked at this way, is a consumer good…something that one must shop for. If that’s true, then there will be winners and losers. As a society, we can’t afford to maintain an education system in which a large portion of our children end up as losers.

In the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said [emphasis added], “…I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford…” What about those who can’t afford any education? Will we, as a society, have to support them if they’re unhireable? It’s in society’s interest to make sure everyone is educated.

Public school advocates believe that public education is a common good. Let’s change “in it for themselves” to “we’re all in this together.” As the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Under HB 1005, families that make up to three times the limit to qualify for reduced-price school meals – which is over five times the federal poverty level — would become eligible for vouchers in 2022-23. For a family of five, that’s $170,274 a year, more than three times the median household income in Indiana.

Families would also receive more generous voucher funding under the legislation. Currently, only the lowest-income families receive a full voucher, worth 90% of the per-pupil funding that their local school district gets from the state. Higher-income recipients get 50% or 70% of that amount.

Under HB 1005, all families with vouchers would receive 90% of local per-pupil state funding. In effect, families that make several times as much as the average Hoosier household could get about $5,500 per child from the state to pay private school tuition.

Constitutionally enshrined schools deserve our ongoing protection

The Indiana Constitution, Article 8, Section 1, states that,

…it shall be the duty of the General Assembly…to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.

The only tuition-free schools, open to every child in the state, are the public schools. Private/Parochial schools can refuse students for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, gender identification, sexual preference (as well as the sexual preference of the parents), and religious beliefs.

Charter schools can, and sometimes do, choose their students based on socio-economic status, academic achievement, physical/academic disability, and the ability to provide their own transportation.

Until charter schools and private/parochial schools accept all students regardless of academic ability, economic status, or any other limiting factor, they should not receive state support. Public education dollars should go to public schools.

I have no problem with parents choosing which school their children attend. They have the right to send their children to the school of their choice, be that public or private. I willingly pay taxes to support public school education.

However, I vehemently object that my taxes also are providing vouchers to pay for non-public schools. Every dime that goes to the non-public schools takes money away from education for public schools. At the expense of public schools, taxpayers are paying for a multi-education system instead of the one system, open to all, established by our Indiana Constitution.

These Textbooks In Thousands Of K-12 Schools Echo Trump’s Talking Points

In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote,

…to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal[ry] rewards…

So why are our tax dollars going to support schools which teach a “skewed version of history” and religion as science?

Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.

The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well.

 

Free Market Facts And School Choice

“…the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing.”

…the last two months of U.S. history are more than sufficient to demonstrate why allowing citizens to make a free market selection of their own preferred facts is bad for us as a country. Free market fans like to argue that only the best products win in the marketplace. But the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing. And in the free market of ideas, sometimes the most effective marketing is simply, “Wouldn’t you rather believe this?”

There is no benefit to society in encouraging parents to choose post-truth fact-impaired education for their children, certainly not enough benefit to justify spending taxpayer dollars to pay for it. Choosing your own preferred facts from a wide open marketplace simply enables willful ignorance, and that is never good for society as a whole.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Our founders were not perfect. The US Constitution excused slavery. The Civil War ended the legal practice of slavery, but was followed by a failed “reconstruction” which ushered in an era of Jim Crow laws, punishment, and death for former slaves. The “second reconstruction” yielded some relief, but law and social pressures still worked against the advancement of political, economic, and social equality.

The first century and a half of the country’s existence were also dedicated to the subjugation, through lies and deceit, of the people native to the land. The so-called treaties made in the name of the United States were ignored. The payment for the land taken was often reneged upon. Entire communities were uprooted and moved, often at the cost of human lives.

Now, nearly 250 years after our founding, we’re still grappling with racism, inequality, and white supremacy. Should we lie to our students and tell them that nothing has ever been wrong with the nation or should we tell them the truth?

The following three articles from Kappan deal with teaching students the truth, how to differentiate the truth from lies, and how to protect themselves from propaganda.

The silence of the ellipses: Why history can’t be about telling our children lies

In September 2020, President Donald Trump stood in the great hall of the National Archives to denounce what he called a leftist assault on American history: “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms,” he said, and teach our children a kind of history that will make them “love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.”

Love built on a lie is false love. It achieves its mirage by making truth its victim. The goal of historical study is to cultivate neither love nor hate. Its goal must be to acquaint us with the dizzying spectrum of our humanity: lofty moments of nobility mixed in with ignominious descents into knavery. When history’s mirror intones a single phrase — that we’re the fairest of them all — it freezes us in childhood and stunts our growth. History that impels us to look at the past, unflinchingly and clear-eyed, does not diminish us or make us less patriotic. The opposite, in fact, is true: It makes us grow up. Understanding who we were allows us to understand who we are now. Only then can we commit to doing something about it.

That should be the goal of history education. Our children deserve nothing less.

Taking a reasoned stance against misinformation

In this time of widespread dissemination of alternative facts and misinformation, teachers have a responsibility to turn classrooms into spaces where reason and inquiry trump ignorance and hyperbole. But doing so often requires teachers to take a stance regarding what issues are worthy of deliberation and what information warrants consideration, and the decisions teachers make may be risky, as teachers are generally expected to be politically neutral, and expressions of their political beliefs can expose them to accusations of bias (Journell, 2016). That’s why it’s important for teachers to follow established criteria for making pedagogical decisions.

Having a clear framework that enables them to justify their decisions to students, parents, and administrators will hopefully mitigate the risks that come with opening the floor to discussion of controversial topics. More important, modeling thoughtful discernment and being transparent about which topics are open for deliberation and what information is acceptable to bring to a discussion is a valuable lesson unto itself, one that students can use outside the classroom and into their adult lives.

Understanding propaganda: A conversation with Renee Hobbs

Renee Hobbs is professor of communication studies at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island…

…when I started offering college courses about propaganda, many years ago, a lot of students thought this meant I’d be teaching history classes. In most secondary schools, the only time anybody talks about propaganda is in the context of the Second World War, so students tend to associate it with the Nazi era. I often have to explain that propaganda isn’t some bygone issue from long ago and far away. Actually, it’s something we’re all swimming in every day…

In 2019, for instance, the National Council of Teachers of English passed a resolution calling for a renewed emphasis on teaching ”civic and critical literacy,” including efforts to “enable students to analyze and evaluate sophisticated persuasive techniques in all texts, genres, and types of media” and to “support classroom practices that examine and question uses of language in order to discern inhumane, misinformative, or dishonest discourse and arguments.” Well, that sounds like propaganda analysis to me.

Plus, I think we’re seeing a lot of young people becoming more eager than they have in years to embrace civic life — whether they’re interested in politics, racial justice, the environment, you name it. And to participate in civic life effectively, they need to be able to speak persuasively, activate emotions, simplify information, appeal to people’s deepest values, respond to attacks from opponents, and so on. In short, they need to learn about rhetoric and propaganda. So, our students are certainly ready for this kind of instruction, and they may begin to demand it, too.

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Traitors or Heroes: Ben Franklin

Today is birthday number 315 for Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706.

Franklin is the only founding father to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Most people know about Franklin, the statesman and philosopher. Here are some relevant Franklin quotes for today…

THE NEWS MEDIA

Apology for Printers

If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

ON COMPROMISE

Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania

Has not the famous political Fable of the Snake, with two Heads and one Body, some useful Instruction contained in it? She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her Way was to pass thro’ a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct Course; one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on the left, so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the Decision was completed, the poor Snake died with thirst.

THE EMPIRE DIMINISHED

Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One

[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.

HEALTH CARE

Referring to private hospital funding alone:

That won’t work, it will never be enough, good health care costs a lot of money, remembering ‘the distant parts of this province’ in which ‘assistance cannot be procured, but at an expense that neither [the sick-poor] nor their townships can afford.’ … ‘[This] seems essential to the true spirit of Christianity, and should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our power reaches.’

LIBERTY

Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor
Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), pp. 19-21. [November 11, 1755]

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

WAR

Letter to Mary Hewson

All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting and destroying each other.

TRAITORS OR HEROES

Letter to Thomas Jefferson (March 16th, 1775).

In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes? That is the question we must ask.

Franklin was one of the most well known and well-respected scientists and inventors of his day. We have him to thank for (among other things)…

FURTHER EXPLORATION

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

VIDEO (30 minutes): Walter Isaacson: “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier post celebrating Franklin’s birthday. I’ve added some quotes and information and corrected some links.

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DeVos Still Haunts Indiana

ADVANCEMENT OF GOD’S KINGDOM

Betsy DeVos is gone…and her boss will be gone in less than a week, but that doesn’t mean that the party of low taxes for the wealthy has forgotten what Princess Betsy stood for…the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the battleground of “educational reform.”

The Indiana General Assembly for the 2021 session already has thirty-seven bills dealing with “school.” Most notable among them is House Education Committee chair, Bob Behning’s HB 1005 which would

…create state-funded Education Savings Accounts that certain K-12 students could use for various educational services, including private school tuition.

Just a reminder…in Indiana “private school tuition” means parochial schools more than 99% of the time. Advancing God’s Kingdom, indeed.

Remember when Governor Mitch Daniels told us that it was important for anyone using vouchers to attend a public school for at least a year? Remember when Governor Mitch Daniels told us that vouchers were for poor kids to “escape” from “failing schools?

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that fewer than half of 2019-2020 voucher recipients ever attended a public school.

And that thing about kids in poverty escaping “failing schools?” That was never the actual intent.

…the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes.

This year, the “advancers of God’s Kingdom” in our legislature want to offer more voucher money to more, and wealthier, people. Steve Hinnefeld in his School Matters blog, explains…

Legislators propose expanded vouchers, ESA’s

Under HB 1005, families that make up to three times the limit to qualify for reduced-price school meals – which is over five times the federal poverty level — would become eligible for vouchers in 2022-23. For a family of five, that’s $170,274 a year, more than three times the median household income in Indiana.

Meanwhile, the legislature will likely neglect schools filled with poor kids who need extra help.

And will standardized tests, which are good for only one thing — identifying which schools enroll children of poverty — still be given this year of the pandemic? After all, that’s how schools are labeled “failing.”

Betsy DeVos still haunts Indiana!

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