HOW DARE SHE!
The Indiana General Assembly is conducting it’s annual “let’s-see-how-much-we-can-damage-public-education” campaign. This year they started with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. So much has been written about the problems that Superintendent Ritz has with the State Board of Education (SBOE) that it would be impossible for me to attempt to summarize it here. The following, however, expresses the gist of the conflict…
The Indiana GOP has been trying to separate Ritz from any power. They cite any number of complaints about her work style and competence (the GOP president of the Senate famously commented “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?”) and most of the complaints smell like nothing but political posturing. [emphasis and link added]
…and the most perceptive quote from the entire article…
…This is a state that really hates its public schools.
All three branches of the state government have been working together to privatize public education well before Ritz took office in 2012. She was elected — the lone Democrat winning a state-wide office in a blood-red state — because voters, Republicans and Democrats alike, were tired of the “reformist” education policies of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett.
This was too much for the Republicans in the governor’s office and the legislature to take…so Ritz became the target. How dare she defeat well-funded, “reform”-backed, Tony Bennett. How dare she disagree with the governor and all the “reformist” legislators (and lest I be called partisan, Pence’s opponent in the race for governor was John Gregg…a Democratic “reformer.” I know that the Democrats in the legislature are fighting against the Republican-led “reforms” now, but is it because they really support public education or is it simply that they don’t like Republican-led anything?).
REVERSING THE 2012 ELECTION
The Republicans in the governor’s office and the legislature have finally gotten their way — or at least they will after Governor Pence signs the bill stripping Superintendent Ritz of her chairmanship of the SBOE. Here’s a report about the vote in the House.
If you’re one of the 1.3 million Hoosiers who voted for Glenda Ritz, congratulations — you’ve potentially been disenfranchised by 58 members of the Indiana General Assembly.
You elected Ritz as superintendent of public instruction and chairwoman of the State Board of Education.
They — 58 Republicans — decided to throw out your vote. After a single hour of debate, they approved a bill Monday removing Ritz as board chairwoman.
You elected a Democrat as a counterbalance to Republican educationpolicies. They said your vote doesn’t matter.
The Senate followed suit…
The Republican-dominated Indiana Senate has advanced a bill that would remove Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz from automatically chairing the State Board of Education.
Senate members voted 33-17 Tuesday to advance the proposal that would allow board members to elect their own chairman, most likely removing Ritz from the position.
So the precedent has been made and the legislature can now change the job description of a member of the executive department, elected by the people, in the middle of a term of office. Would a Republican legislature dare to change the job description of a Democratic governor (or secretary of state or auditor, or any other state-wide elected office) in the middle of a term? This sets that precedent. Checks and Balances anyone?
The truth is that Glenda Ritz will be stripped of her chairmanship of the SBOE for two simple reasons. First, she defeated Tony Bennett and the Republicans in the state have, from day one, sought to overturn that election. Even Senator Long admitted (in this video starting at about minute 11:00) that some of the moves against the superintendent appear
…like the Republicans are trying to take away her job. And I think it does appear that way right now.
He was talking specifically about the move to make the job of Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position. The fact is, however, that the appearance of partisanship is pervasive.
The second and more immediate reason, is because Glenda Ritz ran against the Republican-led “reform” movement in Indiana — and won. The establishment of CECI, the conflict with the SBOE, the successful move to end her chairmanship over the SBOE, and other bills now before the legislature, are simply the governor and his followers on the SBOE and in the legislature doing everything they can to stifle any dissent over their move to privatize education in Indiana.
EQUALITY IS NOT EQUITY
Not satisfied with taking power away from the superintendent and effectively disenfranchising 1.3 million voters, the legislators then turned their attention to the fact that schools with higher needs received higher levels of support. We certainly can’t have that, so the next step was to introduce a bill which would make everything “equal.”
Do they realize that it takes more resources to educate students who live in poverty than wealthy students? Probably…but poor and even middle class constituents don’t donate as much money to political campaigns as do the wealthy and, in Indiana, as in the rest of the nation, money talks.
The shift pushed by conservatives is intended to move toward a “money following the student” plan that helps growing suburban districts but hits urban districts like Indianapolis Public Schools [IPS] hardest. As a result:
•IPS would lose roughly $18 million over the next two years as it continues to lose students.
•Hamilton Southeastern, one of the state’s largest suburban districts, will receive $24 million more.
•Northwest Hendricks Schools Corp, a more rural district, will see an overall increase of close to $1.3 million.
Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said the changes would reduce the gap in per pupil funding among the highest and lowest funded school districts from $2,934 to $1,618 by 2017.
Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, would see a 6 percent reduction in total state tuition aid by 2017 despite being one of the state’s poorest districts, with more than 75 percent of children coming from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Some of the state’s other poorest cities also would face basic tuition aid cuts: 19 percent for Gary, 10.5 percent for East Chicago and 3 percent for Hammond by 2017.
Meanwhile, the two wealthiest school districts in the state for family income — Zionsville and Carmel — would see large increases in total state basic tuition aid: 10.6 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively, over the two-year budget period. Neither district has more than 10 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.
At the same time, the proposed budget also would provide more money for public charter schools and private schools receiving publicly funded tuition vouchers.
Notice where the big increase in school funding is going, then…to the wealthy, to charter schools, and to vouchers for private and parochial schools.
The U.S. is one of the three “advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students.” So much for our dedication to eliminating the achievement gap.
SBOE VS. IDOE
Members of the SBOE have, since Ritz was elected, argued that the SBOE is the education policy making body and the job of the Department of Education is to carry out that policy. That’s about to change…
Here’s a bill which would give the SBOE more power to micromanage education and the state’s Department of Education and lessen local control of education.
But a series of changes the amendment lays out would address state board concerns over recent months. It requires the department to share data with the state board and consult with its members on testing contracts. House Bill 1072 also would let the board set minimum requirements for student test score gains. That’s a decision local schools get to make under current law.
Thompson and other Republicans on the committee said the bill would not shift any authority from Ritz to the state board. Democrats weren’t buying that the changes would have no influence.
Walker said she found the new rules in House Bill 1072 baffling. The department already consults with the state board, she said, and the bill would only require a duplication of efforts.
“It’s that they don’t trust you,” Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, suggested.
Need more? If passed House Bill 1639 would give the SBOE more micromanaging access…this time to student data, and they’ll spend more tax dollars in the process.
There is, however, no let up in the Statehouse battles over public education…
…House Bill 1639…would put control of a new system to expand access to student records in the hands of the State Board, not the Indiana Department of Education. For the first time, it would make the State Board an administrative agency, handling student data functions that have always been controlled by the Indiana Department of Education. The expanded data access through this data warehouse will cost $4.1 million as projected by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, requiring an independent computer staff for the State Board with a new stand alone computer system. The duplication of services is obvious.
The $4.1 million price tag is more than the current entire annual budget for the State Board of $3 million and of course far more than the annual budget for professional development, which stands at zero.
This is a major salvo in the battle to move functions out of the Indiana Department of Education under the control of State Superintendent Ritz and into the domain of the State Board controlled by Governor Pence.
EXTRA PERKS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS
How much worse can it get?
If you’re not yet convinced that the Republican leaders in Indiana hate public schools…how about a bill which would allow private and parochial schools, most of which, receive state money in the form of vouchers, to forego the state mandated testing program. The bill would allow them to “choose their own test.” The budget proposed by the governor gives a higher increase to charter and voucher accepting private schools than to public schools. This is just another plus for private schools…the obvious “choice” of the governor. Public schools don’t get this “choice.”
Today, February 12, the Senate Education Committee voted to exempt voucher schools receiving public money from ISTEP, the state testing program. It was a straight party-line vote, 7-3. The voucher schools may take a test of their own choosing.
ANYONE CAN TEACH
Ok, one more just for show…
Among the many bills before the legislature there are those which would further the demoralization, and deprofessionalization of teachers by stripping them of what little employee rights they have left, lower qualifications to let Joe Nobody from off the street step into a classroom and teach, and other insane and educationally unsound ideas.
It’s bad enough that teachers’ evaluations are based on student test scores, a practice which is invalid at worse and unreliable at best. The idea behind this bill is to have a popularity contest included in a teacher’s evaluation.
Someone came up with the bright idea of having parents and students share in the evaluation of teachers…because we know that students are mature and experienced enough to recognize excellence in teaching.
Provides that, before July 1, 2016, the state board shall develop a survey to be used by a school corporation to allow parents and grade appropriate students to evaluate certificated employees.
REAL PROBLEMS EXIST
The governor thinks that Indiana is doing just swell…and it’s true we had a $2 billion at the end of the last fiscal year. Maybe it’s time to spend that money…maybe it’s time to remind the leaders of the state that the reason we collect taxes is so that we can use it to help improve the lot of our citizens.
Instead of wasting time and money fighting against public schools perhaps they could work on some more pressing problems…
While the economy has shown a rebound, it doesn’t seemed to be changing the trajectory of several indicators related to poverty. About 22.3 percent of Indiana children live in poverty, but Lake County has a higher percentage than the state — 27.7 percent in 2013. The poverty rate for children is lower in Porter County — 15 percent — but it has seen a steady increase from 9.9 percent in 2004.
…Suicide…According to a nationwide survey, Indiana has the highest rate in the nation of teens who have considered suicide in the past 12 months — 19 percent — and the second highest rate in the nation of teens who have attempted suicide — 11 percent.
…Stress and Violence…Nineteen percent of Indiana children living in poverty have witnessed domestic violence.
…Substance abuse…Abuse of prescription drugs among teens has increased by more than 95 percent from 2003 to 2014.
…Infant Mortality…In 2012, the state saw 6.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, but the number was much higher in Lake County at 9.9, among minority groups, rural residents and those who are low-income.
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.