Posted in Accountability, Charters, Election, IN Gen.Assembly, ISTEP, Privatization, Public Ed, SBOE, Testing, vouchers

Education is NOT an Expense

INVESTMENTS

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.

 

It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

It seems that Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) doesn’t agree. He is. apparently, against public schools as stated in this post on facebook from last week.

 

“What the hell are we doing, putting government in charge of educating our children?”— Jim Lucas, October 4, 2018

LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS SAY ISTEP IS WORTHLESS

Lucas was responding to this article on Fort Wayne’s WANE-TV about the low test scores on this year’s ISTEP – Less than half of Indiana’s students passed ISTEP. Perhaps he only read the title because if he had read the entire article (or had watched the embedded video) he would have read this…

Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel says he hasn’t looked at [ISTEP test scores] and doesn’t care to.

“ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed,” he said. It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them.”‘

We shared some of NACS’ results with him. With only 45 percent of his high school students passed both sections of the test, he says that doesn’t line up with the nearly 95 percent of his students passing the national college-readiness ACCUPLACER test.

“There’s a disconnect between the test scores which makes us believe there’s a flaw in the testing system Indiana’s using for the ISTEP,” he said.

And this…

Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs agrees, calling the ISTEP a waste of time and tax dollars.

“While Southwest Allen County Schools is legally obligated to take the ISTEP+ tests, SACS does not place much value in their results,” he said. “ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents.”

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION – WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

Lucas is a member of the Republican super-majority in the Indiana House and a member of the House Education Committee. As such, he is at least partly responsible for the condition and quality of public education in Indiana, and he, along with others in the legislature, must be held accountable.

  • He favors the privatization of education and supports vouchers and charter schools. He also supports expensive testing programs. As a consequence, the funding set aside for public schools has been less than what is needed because money for testing and for financial support of voucher and charter schools all come from the same pot of funds.
  • He and his ilk have supported the deprofessionalization of Indiana’s teaching force…the loss of collective bargaining, the lowering of requirements to become a teacher, the lack of autonomy in the classroom, and a 16% decrease (adjusted for inflation) in the salaries of Indiana’s teachers.

In other words, Lucas is a member of the group (the education privatizers in the Indiana House, the Indiana Senate, and the State Board of Education – mostly Republicans) which has removed incentives for teachers, made choices on how and what to teach, yet has held teachers accountable for the decisions of the legislature. Those decisions have caused the current teacher shortage and damaged our public schools. If he doesn’t like how Indiana’s public education is working, he has himself, and his cronies, to blame.

High stakes standardized tests are academically worthless and a waste of money. They measure family income, not achievement. Charter schools and vouchers are diverting funds from public schools. Legislators, like Lucas, who have tied the hands of actual educators, must take responsibility for the damage they have done to public education in Indiana.

Lucas and his fellow Republicans own 70% of the Indiana House of Representatives and 80% of the Indiana Senate.

We can change those percentages on November 6.

 

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Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, SchoolFunding, TeacherAppreciation, Teaching Career

Appreciation? Not From the Legislature…

Teacher appreciation week has ended for another year, so now politicians and privatizers can go back to trying to undermine the work and livelihood of our nation’s public school educators.

In my last post I quoted Corinne Driscoll of Syracuse who, in 2012 wrote about politicians statements during Teachers Appreciation Week,

All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these “leaders” have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation’s children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.

Not much has changed in the last 6 years since that was written except perhaps, that the role of public school educator has gotten more difficult, with more restrictions and barriers placed in our way by those who would destroy public education.

Despite the change in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2015 (ESSA), students are still forced to spend too much of their school career testing. Here in Indiana the legislative supermajority has taken the flexibility offered to the states by ESSA and doubled down on testing. Teachers and schools are still being punished for enrolling students of poverty. Teachers are still being evaluated by unreliable student test scores, and schools are still being closed, privatized through charters, or taken over by the state instead of being helped and supported.

POLITICIANS MAKE THE RULES…

Driscoll continued…

They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

Indiana’s public schools are trying to survive while sharing their funding with charters and voucher schools. Some are doing well, especially those in wealthier areas. Some, however, are losing the battle.

For example, in two days (May 14, 2018) the state legislature will vote to take over two school systems because of fiscal mismanagement. The school systems obviously need some help, and already have the benefit of emergency managers. In the past, the state legislature has provided loans to charter schools and then forgiven those loans – to the tune of $90 million. But, instead of simply providing loans to these two distressed school systems along with the emergency managers, the one-party ruled state legislature is poised to allow a take-over of the schools, silencing the local school boards and by extension, the voters. The bill, HB1315, also eliminates transparency and excuses one of the two systems from following hundreds of regulations required of other public schools

…THEN BLAME THE TEACHERS

The bill rewards [sic] teachers for their hard work in the classroom with the loss of collective bargaining rights, and gives the emergency manager the right to lay off 5% of their numbers in the middle of the school year (the latter applies to any emergency manager, in any school system in the state). Teachers, then, are being held responsible for the condition of the school system’s finances!

And some of these same legislators wonder why young people don’t want to go into teaching!

In other words, policy makers have made the rules, restrictions, and requirements for education in this state, and then blame teachers when things don’t work.

So much for appreciation.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, IN Gen.Assembly, poverty, Public Ed, reform, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage

2018 Medley #5

Unqualified Teachers and the Teacher Shortage,
DPE for Dummies, School as a Business,
Closing Schools, Poverty,
School Shootings, Arming Teachers,
Legislators in the pay of the NRA

HIRING UNDER QUALIFIED PERSONNEL

Indiana lawmakers resurrect proposal to let districts hire more unlicensed teachers

[Not law as of this writing…]

In Indiana you can teach a high school subject if you have a degree in the subject you want to teach, a B average in your degree program, pass a test on the subject content, and have worked in the subject area field for 6000 hours. For example, if you have a college degree in English, in which you carried a B average, and worked in an English related field – let’s say journalism – and you can pass the state’s English test, you can teach high school English. You don’t have to know anything about child development or learning theory to start, though you do have to eventually learn something about pedagogy. In other words, you can walk into a high school classroom on the first day of a school year with no experience other than content knowledge.

Now, the Indiana legislature, in order to counteract the teacher shortage caused by its own punitive attack on public education and educators, is suggesting we expand that plan to all schools.

Now, we have such a shortage of teachers, that we need to relax the rules so that anyone can teach. Because, as I wrote in Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

…nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

The same people who made becoming and remaining a teacher so onerous and unattractive, and thereby created the current teacher shortage, are now telling us we need to make it easier for unqualified adults to teach our children…

Behning said he brought back the proposal because he thought it was a simpler fix to the bill’s original goal of addressing teacher licensure exams. The tests have been criticized recently for being too difficult and keeping potentially qualified teachers out of the classroom at a time when schools have struggled to hire in certain subjects such as math and special education.

DPE FOR DUMMIES

Destroy Public Education (DPE) for Dummies

Do you know what “education reformers” are trying to do? Do you know when the “ed reform” movement got started and what drives it?

Thomas Ultican, a retired teacher (in California, I think), gives a succinct history of DPE – Destroy Public Education – beginning in the early 80s with the publication of A Nation At Risk.

His DPE Movement False Taking Points are excellent, as is his list of billionaires working together to privatize public education.

It is unlikely that government spending on education will end any time soon. However, as schools are increasingly privatized, public spending on education will decrease.

Today, we have come to expect high quality public education. We expect trained certificated teachers and administrators to staff our schools. We expect reasonable class sizes and current well-resourced curriculum. It is those expectations that are being shattered.

Many forces are attacking public education for diverse reasons, but the fundamental reason is still rich people do not like paying taxes. Choice and the attack on public education, at its root, is about decreasing government spending and lowering taxes.

TRY RUNNING A BUSINESS AS A PUBLIC SCHOOL

Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

Stu Egan, a NC teacher, explains to business types why their ideas about “running a school as a business” is just so much B.S. As a thought experiment, he suggests that we consider what it would be like if we tried to run a business like a school, thereby showing how foolish it is to conflate the two. His main points underscore the fact that, since public schools are required to follow certain laws, they cannot, and should not, be run like businesses.

Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited…
Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM…
You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share…
Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business…
You will not get to choose your raw materials…
Be prepared to have everything open to the press…
You will not get to advertise or market yourself…
Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded…
Your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business… You will have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.

The Blueberry Story

CLOSING SCHOOLS

What research really says about closing schools — and why it’s a bad idea for kids

Nationally so-called “failing” public schools are being closed rather than improved. In places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis, school boards and mayors are deciding that helping schools with low test scores isn’t worth the time and the effort. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the “low-performing” closed public schools are replaced by equally “low-performing” charter or private schools. In other words, the only thing that changes is that privatization gets a boost from those policy makers charged with the success of public schools.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, low test scores are not usually the fault of the school. Years of economic neglect leaves schools in high poverty areas with fewer resources, fewer opportunities, and deteriorating facilities. Poor students need more resources to help them achieve, yet the United States is one of only a handful of advanced nations where more money is spent on wealthy students than poor students. This is especially important because the United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty among developed nations and poverty correlates with lowered achievement.

Policy makers who close schools because they are “failing” are themselves at fault for the high rate of poverty in their district or state. The school…the teachers…and the students get punished because of economic circumstances.

Closing schools doesn’t help.

In 2017, three of my colleagues at the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) examined the research on school closings. Many studies, they found, confirm that closing schools in the name of improving student achievement is a “high-risk/low-gain strategy” that fails to increase students’ achievement or their overall well-being.

Chicago Sticks to Portfolio School Reform Despite All the Evidence that It Isn’t Working

Chicago is one of the places where school closings/replacement with charters is a way of life. The mayor and his hand-picked school board have failed the most vulnerable children of the city. Now, instead of admitting that the process has been a failure, the city has doubled down and continues to do the same thing…perhaps expecting different results.

First, as Chicago has continued to launch new charter schools and specialty schools and selective schools, parents have been enticed by the advertising along with the idea that at least at the selective schools, their children will study with a more elite peer group. Parents have been willing to try out the choice schools and have their children travel long distances to elite schools and thereby abandon the neighborhood schools, whose funding drops as children leave. This process has hollowed out the comprehensive neighborhood high schools, which have been left serving a very vulnerable population with a higher percentage of students in special education. Last week’s Chicago Sun-Times reported that there has even been cheating on the lotteries, cheating in which school leaders have been able to find space for their children or relatives’ children in more elite schools, leaving behind students without powerful connections. This is a lifeboat strategy gone bad—a system that saves the privileged and leaves behind on the sinking ship the children who lack means or power or extreme talent.

SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

Much has been written about the Valentine’s Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in which 17 students and teachers were killed. Here are three articles which focus on the insane recent proposal to arm teachers because increasing the number of guns in a school will somehow make schools safer.

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

A radiologist explains why a bullet from an AR-15 is worse than a bullet from a handgun.

[Note: While both are unacceptable and both are horrible. One makes it much more difficult to survive.]

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

Have I Got This Straight?

Peter Greene describes the irony of giving “failing” teachers the responsibility of carrying guns and using them to protect students.

Teachers cannot be trusted with fragile young minds, because we will try to inculcate them with Very Naughty Ideas, like socialism…

But we can be trusted to use guns around those young minds.

…Teachers in public school are so terrible and have failed so badly that an entire new system of schools should be opened up so that students can escape those terrible public school teachers…

But we terrible teachers should be allowed to use guns in our schools. 

Despite Parkland’s opposition, Florida House panel votes to arm teachers

Follow the money. The NRA gets most of its money from “contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” It keeps the money flowing by buying legislators who do their bidding.

…just one more shameful aspect of American society…

The mother of slain geography teacher Scott Beigel, who gave his life to save his students, pleaded with lawmakers not to put loaded guns in the hands of teachers, even after a rigorous training and screening program.

“It could easily cause additional chaos and fatalities,” Linda Beigel Schulman told legislators. If another shooter attacks a school, she said, “with the ongoing chaos, law enforcement could unintentionally shoot at a teacher.”

Her voice breaking, Beigel Schulman said her son became a teacher to teach, “not to be a law enforcement officer.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, class size, IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, Testing, US DOE, vouchers, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2017 Medley #14

Class Size, Testing,
The Federal Role in Education, Privatization, Indiana General Assembly, Walmart

CLASS SIZE

Trump’s Education Budget Will Undermine Teaching and Schools

Thirty-five percent of America’s school districts – especially high-poverty districts – use federal money to reduce class sizes. The Trump budget will result in larger class sizes in exactly the locations where smaller class sizes are needed the most.

Once again, it is America’s high poverty students who are shouldering the burden so the wealthy can have a lower tax obligation.

Why is this important? Class size reduction is not only extremely popular among parents and teachers – it is one of the very few reforms proven to work through rigorous evidence, and to provide especially large benefits for children from low-income families and students of color, who see twice the academic gains from small classes. Indeed, it is only one of a handful of educational policies that has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap between economic and racial groups.

TESTING: PISA

Is PISA Data Useless?

Peter Greene asks some questions about the PISA test. Privatizers and “reformers” love to quote America’s “low scores” on the PISA and other international tests (see The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools), but new information about the PISA indicates that analyses of the results might not be accurate. What then?

The Testocrats have been quietly assuming that taking a Big Standardized Test on a computer is exactly like taking it on paper. But what if that’s not true? What if taking a math test involves not only math skills, but test-taking skills. And what if computer test-taking skills are not the same set of skills as pencil-and-paper test-taking skills?

What if the Big Standardized Tests aren’t really measuring what they purport to measure at all, and the whole test-centered education model is built on a sham?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION

Don’t Trash the Department of Education. Fix It.

In education, just like other areas of our society, the federal government has an important role to play. In the current education atmosphere, the federal government needs to make sure that equitable funding exists for all schools.

The nation is slowly but surely moving back to segregated schools and as Earl Warren put it in 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It’s the job of the federal government to make sure that states don’t revert to the illusion of “separate but equal.”

…it’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.

The department has a vital and important role to play in making sure our system of public education serves everyone. Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.

Separate but equal?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION: VOUCHERS

Save Our Schools! Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is ignorant about public education. Like other Trump cabinet and administrative appointees, she has spent her life trying to do damage to the very aspect of society her department is charged with supporting. During her confirmation hearing she proved to America that she is woefully ignorant of how public schools work.

The last thing that America needs is for the nation’s schools to contribute to increased segregation by race, ethnic group, or economic status.

Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation who researches public policy to address educational inequality, examined DeVos’ comment during her Senate confirmation process that “empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”

To the contrary, Potter found that “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at the status quo.” Potter considered not only racial diversity, but religious diversity as well: “(D)ata suggest that there is a strong risk that voucher programs will be used by white families to leave more diverse public schools for predominantly white private schools and by religious families to move to parochial private schools, increasing the separation of students by race/ethnicity and religious background.”

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Latest D.C. Voucher Study: Program Harms Students’ Academic Achievement

When the Indiana General Assembly, along with then-Governor Mitch Daniels, demanded a voucher program for Indiana’s private schools, the argument was that children who live in poverty should have the same access to “high-quality” schools as wealthier students. The error in that logic is clear. A “high-quality” school is defined by higher test scores and greater support from economically affluent communities. When you segregate students economically, you’ll see schools with lower test scores in economically depressed areas.

Over the last few years we’ve learned that voucher accepting private schools and privately run charter schools are not guaranteed to give children a better education. So the reason for providing tax money to private and privately run schools has changed. No longer are we diverting tax dollars away from public education in order to help poor children “escape” from so-called “failing” schools. Now it’s for “choice.” Every parent should have the right to choose the best school for their children. This is reasonable, but private choices shouldn’t be tax supported.

People don’t get subsidies from the government for other “choices.” We don’t get a voucher to move into any neighborhood we want to move to. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” a private country club over public parks. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” books at a book store instead of the public library. Like other public benefits, public schools are, and should be, the tax supported option. The cost of other options are the responsibility of the tax payer.

Instead of underfunding and closing public schools filled with struggling students, we should improve the quality of the school and its teachers. We need to invest in our public schools, and we need to invest more where more support is needed.

The Department of Education just released a new study of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program. And the findings confirm what we’ve known for years: The program doesn’t improve students’ academic achievement. In fact, it has resulted in statistically significant negative impacts on student test scores.

The study found that students using a D.C. voucher performed 7.3 percentage points worse in math than their peers. The program especially hurts students in elementary schools, which comprise 68 percent of the voucher students in the study and are the largest demographic in the program. These students performed worse in math and reading: 14.7 percentage points lower in math and 9.3 percentage points lower in reading.

This conclusion isn’t a surprise considering similar results were reached in recent studies of voucher programs across the country. The studies have found negative impacts on student achievement for voucher students in Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana.

PRIVATISATION: CHARTERS

PolitiFact Florida: How not-for-profit are charter schools, really?

Are non-profit charter schools a better use of tax dollars? Not necessarily.

The management company does not manage the governing board; rather, it handles certain aspects of the operations of the school under a contract with the governing board.

The Miami Herald’s examination of South Florida’s charter school industry found several instances of for-profit management companies controlling charter schools’ day-to-day operations.

The Herald found examples of charter schools relinquishing total control of their staff and finances to for-profit management companies. In Miami-Dade County, the Life Skills Center paid 97 percent of its income to cover fees incurred by a management company.

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Quick takes on the 2017 legislative session

What did the Indiana General Assembly give us this year?

  • Large budget increases for charters and vouchers, not so much for public schools
  • No voter input for state education policy making
  • Continued emphasis on expensive and wasteful testing policies
  • Another voucher expansion, this time it’s attached to a minimal pre-K increase
  • Lower professional requirements needed to teach in charter schools

This is a state that (still) really hates its public schools.

A session of the Indiana General Assembly is kind of like a tornado. When it’s over, you crawl out of your shelter, look around and assess the damage.

Lawmakers finished their business and left the Statehouse on Saturday morning. Here’s a quick look at some of the wreckage they left on the education front.

Voucher program gets outsized share of K-12 funding increase

Students who receive tuition vouchers to attend private religious schools will get nearly 10 percent of the K-12 education funding increase that Indiana lawmakers included in the 2017-19 state budget.

That’s an outsized share given that voucher students make up only about 3.5 percent of the students who receive funding from the state.

WALMART

The Walmart Tax

I’m tired of subsidizing Walmart employees so the Waltons can retain their position as America’s richest family. With a family net worth of $130 billion, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage so the public doesn’t have to fork over $6.2 billion in welfare…

In essence, when a Walmart employee must rely on food stamps or other safety-net benefits, taxpayers are paying a portion of that employee’s wages.

Walmart (including its Sam’s Club operation) is currently the largest private employer in the country–and one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. Walmart employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year. Money not paid out in salary goes directly to the shareholders’ bottom line.

Not only is this greedy and despicable, it is bad business. For one thing, as awareness of this subsidy grows, the numbers of people shopping at Walmart declines. But there are other costs incurred.

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Posted in 1000 Words, Baseball, IN Gen.Assembly, Politics, Public Ed, Testing, Trump, vouchers

Food for Thought

A collection of memes and cartoons from around the internet about public education.

BASEBALL

The national metaphor for hope…a new season.

MARCH MADNESS

No, not basketball – the Indiana General Assembly.

We’re in the midst of the annual attempt by “reformers” in Indiana to

  • extend the misuse and overuse standardized testing
  • expand the voucher program
  • increase funds to charter schools
  • decrease funds to public schools
  • deprofessionalize teachers
  • bust the teachers union

Winners: private and privately run schools, corporate donors, Republican campaign war chests.

Losers: Indiana public school students and their teachers, public school corporations, the future of Indiana.

IMPROVE THE GARDEN, DON’T PLOW IT OVER

Repair our public schools and the neighborhoods they occupy. Don’t close them.

STANDARDIZATION

Teachers are required to differentiate curriculum because all children are different, but give a standardized test which all children have to pass.

FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?

If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.

TESTING

Now that we know better can we just stop the overuse and misuse of standardized tests? How many instructional hours are wasted for teachers, support staff, and students?

POLITICS

Nothing new for Indiana…

VOUCHERS

A voucher vs. public school comparison.

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, IN Gen.Assembly, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, vouchers

2017 Medley #6

Poverty, Privatization: Vouchers and Choice, Public Education 101 for Betsy DeVos

POVERTY

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Public education in America is not failing. What is failing is our inability or unwillingness to relieve poverty. Children who live in poverty have lower achievement. This isn’t new information. Jonathan Kozol has been sounding the alarm since 1967. We should be ashamed that so many American children live in poverty.

It’s time for politicians to focus on reducing poverty and let the teachers who work with actual students help decide what is best for their students.

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

Politics, not education, got us into this mess, and it is politics that must get us out of it.

We must not go further down this rabbit hole. The future of our educational system, and the future of our children, is at stake. No one who has not worked in the sector of public education should be making decisions about our school system without careful consideration of the insights of those who will be directly impacted by those decisions.

When we adjust for poverty, American students score high on international tests. Here we see how American students who are educated in schools with less than 10% students in poverty, compare to countries with less than 10% of their students who live in poverty.

Report: School Funding Increases Lag For Low-Income Students

Somehow we have forgotten that children who come to school from high poverty homes need more resources to help them learn, not fewer. They need counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. They need well trained teachers, and support staff trained in remediation techniques. They need health care and an environment free from toxins like lead. They need pre-schools and summer programs.

It’s time we stop providing more for wealthy students than poor students. All our children need a fully funded, well staffed, and well resourced school.

Recent changes to Indiana’s school funding formula increased per-pupil funding across the state. At the same time it slashed special funding formerly given to students deemed at-risk, including students living in poverty, English-language learners and those who qualified for textbook assistance.

So, in certain districts with low populations of at-risk students, Sugimoto found, that although enrollment declined, the districts received an overall bump in funding per student. He says, in some cases, districts with fewer students saw their overall still increase.

“Those would have been districts that had very modest enrollment declines,” says Suigimoto, in an interview. “The increase in funding would have certainly made up for that.

Yet, overall funding across the state still lags behind pre-2009 rates, when adjusted for inflation.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Voucher programs currently in force in the U.S. have not helped children’s achievement, but they have reduced funds for an already cash strapped (not “flush with cash”) public schools. The “status quo” in 2117 America is the reduction of funds for public schools, increased test and punish policies, and a growing trend towards charter schools and vouchers for religious and private schools.

Instead of letting “the money follow the child” we ought to be “following the money” to see who is benefiting from the expansion of privatization schemes.

Study confirms voucher programs discriminate

Research led by an Indiana University professor confirms what school voucher critics have long argued: Voucher programs receive public funding yet discriminate on the basis of religion, disability status, sexual orientation and possibly other factors.

The finding is especially timely as President Donald Trump and his designee to serve as secretary of education, Michigan school-choice activist Betsy DeVos, have indicated they will use federal clout and money to push states to expand voucher programs.

Voucher programs go beyond what court approved

[Voucher programs] arguably run afoul of the establishment clause – what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the wall of separation between church and state. If not that, the widespread religious discrimination should raise concerns about the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. And some voucher schools appear to discriminate against special-needs students, which could raise issues with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS–INDIANA

The Indiana General Assembly, not satisfied with one of the largest voucher programs in the nation, continues to come up with new ways to divert funds from public education to private pockets.

Note that Indiana’s voucher plan has not helped Indiana’s school achievement. Competition hasn’t resulted in better education for everyone…just inadequately funded public schools which still seem to out-perform privatized education options.

Turn off the tap: Privatization effort too big a drain on schools

Broad and costly expansions of the so-called Choice Scholarship program are found in multiple bills, including Senate Bill 534, which will be heard by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee this afternoon.

SB 534 carries a price tag of as much as $206 million a year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. Repackaged from last year’s unsuccessful “Educational Savings Accounts” to “Special Education Scholarship Accounts,” the intent is the same: Give parents an allotment of tax dollars to spend however they might choose. A companion bill in the House, HB 1591, carries an even more audacious price tag of as much as $366 million a year.

Latest voucher gimmick: Education Savings Accounts

Give Indiana Republican legislators points for resourcefulness. They keep finding new ways to undermine public schools by expanding the state’s school voucher program. The latest, and arguably the most egregious, is the creation of Education Savings Accounts, state-funded accounts to pay for private schooling and other expenses.

Senate Bill 534, scheduled to be considered today by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, would create ESAs for the families of special-needs students who choose not to attend public school and don’t receive a private-school voucher.

The state would fund the ESAs with money that would otherwise go to the public schools where the students would be eligible to enroll — typically about $6,000 per student but potentially quite a bit more for some special-needs students. Then the students’ families could decide where to spend the money: private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, and other services from providers approved by the State Board of Education.

How Can Schools Be Voucherized? Let Us Count the Ways… and the Consequences

Here is Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, in a recent column commenting on what vouchers do to public school funding. This time the example is Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana: “Vouchers drain state tax dollars, creating deficits, or the need for tax increases. When Indiana started its voucher program, it claimed it would save taxpayers money. Not only did that not happen, the state’s education budget is now in deficit, and the millions shelled out for vouchers grows each year. Last year, vouchers cost the taxpayers of Indiana $131.5 million as caps and income levels were raised. Indiana now gives vouchers to families with incomes as high as $90,000 and to students who never attended a public school.” Burris adds that while the program was passed, “promising that it would help poor and lower-middle class families find schools they like for their children… as it turned out, five years after it began, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools and many vouchers are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.”

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: A Visit to the For-Profit Edu-Mall

PUBLIC EDUCATION 101 FOR BETSY DEVOS

Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education for the United States, has assumed control over the office charged with overseeing America’s system of public education. She has no experience in public schools: not as a teacher or educator, parent, or even a student. She is arguably the least qualified person to ever hold the office, with the possible exception of Bill Bennett (who also had minimal encounters with public education, but he at least earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from a public university).

As a public service, here are a couple of things which could serve to educate Secretary DeVos about public schools…including an excerpt from the Michigan Constitution about public education.

Educating Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos does not understand what it is like to teach in any school let alone poor public schools. She does not understand what the lives of real teachers and students are like…

Here’s what’s hard. I have added a few new points:

  • Watching your school district throw money at unproven technology when basic needs are your students not met.
  • Being dismissed as a teacher, when you are the only professional in the room who understands children and how they learn.
  • Being dismissed as a parent, when you understand your child best.
  • Being an over tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
  • Coming to school hungry and/or sick, or having an untreated toothache.
  • Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
  • Working on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty, who face all the terrible problems that come with that.
  • Not having a home.
  • Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
  • Having such a large class with so many diverse students you know it will be difficult to teach.
  • Not having enough resources and materials to teach effectively.

Why We Still Need Public Schools

We still need public schools…

The mission of public education is sixfold.

1. To provide universal access to free education
2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children
3. To unify a diverse population
4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society
5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient
6. To improve social conditions

That mission has been accepted by the states and most have provisions for public schools in their constitutions. The constitution of Michigan, for example, provides for free, universal, public education.

§ 2 Free public elementary and secondary schools; discrimination.
Sec. 2. The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

The constitution also provides for universities, public libraries, and a popularly elected state board of education. In 1970 the state decided to prohibit private schools and private school students from using public tax money.

No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Public Ed, reform, Segregation, Testing

2016 Medley #5: Indiana Republicans (still) Hate Public Education

Indiana’s “reformist” Politics

Indiana’s legislature is run by a supermajority of Republicans. The Hoosier state is nearly all “red” and has only gone for a Democratic presidential candidate twice in the last 75 years (1964 and 2008).

The supermajority legislature and the Republican appointed State Board of Education has been attacking public education, public school teachers, and teachers unions regularly and in 2011, passed laws to eliminate teacher seniority rights, do away with tenure (due process) for teachers, stop paying teachers for extra education, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and restrict collective bargaining rights to money issues (salary, insurance).

The General Assembly is so solidly and heavily Republican that when they talk about “compromise” they’re talking about the House Republicans compromising with the Senate Republicans. Democrats are apparently only there to delay the inevitable through objections and speeches. Rational discourse between parties is met with Republicans figuratively putting their hands over their ears and mumbling, “I can’t hear you.”

It won’t get any better either. The governor and his lackeys in the legislature have been bought and sealed by the Koch Brothers and ALEC. Is there hope that enough people might cross party lines and vote some of the rascals out” Not likely. Most of the citizenry, outside of a couple of major cities, are life-long, “my-daddy-was-a-Republican-so-I’m-a-Republican-too” Republicans.

[There are some who are more thoughtful, of course. But they continue to vote Republican even if they disagree on education issues, because of traditional Republican issues like abortion and GLBT rights.]

Indiana Democrats try their best, but the odds are not in their favor. As long as Republicans keep getting elected then the leadership (Bob Behning and Brian Bosma in the House, and David Long and Dennis Kruse in the Senate) will continue to do what they can to keep the campaign dollars coming from “reformers.”

THE MISUSE OF TESTING

Guest column: Schools should be about children

This excerpt from a behind-a-pay-wall article was written by a Bloomington, IN mom. In it she calls out the state testing program for all the damage it has done. Grading schools, labeling children, and evaluating teachers is a waste of time and just one more piece of the ALEC plan to completely privatize public education.

(Bloomington area readers, the author suggests you subscribe to your local newspaper.)

At one time, testing was only part of the overall assessment for how kids and schools were doing. We relied on teachers to tell us the rest. After all, teachers are with our kids every day and are professionals who know where students fall on the continuum of development and learning. We trusted teachers.

Now, thanks to the state Legislature and governor, the test has become the focus of our kids’ education. It is no longer a temperature check for how kids are learning; it is the (state’s) objective…

[…]

Does slapping an “F” on a school and stigmatizing the teachers and children within, help those kids? Does a threat of takeover and privatization by the state ameliorate the effects of poverty? No. It creates a pressure cooker for children and teachers.

High-stakes testing provides fertile ground for the profit-making idea of “school choice.” Prove public schools are failing and offer alternatives. Charters, voucher schools and public schools compete for tax dollars in a game that is rigged. Test companies grow richer.

The laws that created this marketplace of education all come from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s goal is to create more competition in education and to privatize it. There is even an Indiana Reform Package of model legislation on their website. Our governor has written the introduction to the ALEC report card.
The A-F grading of schools, tying teachers’ pay to test scores, the pass-a-40-question-reading-test-or-fail third grade law — these are all from ALEC. They were not backed by research of what are best practices in teaching. Most reflect the opposite.

SHUTTING DOWN UNIONS

Schooling lawmakers: Education bills have predictable consequences

The editorial writer in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette seems to think that this year’s anti-teacher, anti-public schools legislation will mobilize teachers around the state to fight back. Turnout is always largest during a presidential election year, which, I hope will favor those who are against further damaging public education.

One of this year’s bills, which the House wrested from the (slightly) less-hateful-of-teachers Senate, takes us back to the day where nepotism and corruption ruled the hiring and firing of teachers. The Republican leaders in the Senate claimed the law was part of a solution to the teacher shortage and that it was “misunderstood.” They killed the House version because of all the outcry from teachers and their supporters.

The House leaders, on the other hand, led by a florist-turned-self-declared-education-expert, are in the process of pushing the Senate version through to the Governor’s desk. If the Governor should sign it (and it’s an election year, so he might listen to the outcry against it) it will become law and the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and school boards can be overruled by back-room conversations and deals with no public input or accountability.

[Hoosier voters, write to your House legislators today and tell them to reject SB10 (which eliminates more collective bargaining rights) and SB334 (which expands the nation’s most expansive giveaway of public funds to private schools through vouchers)]

There’s little Indiana lawmakers could do to further marginalize teacher unions, although some believe they’ve found a tool.

But Senate Bill 10 might be just what the struggling associations need to remind teachers of the value of collective bargaining. It gives superintendents the authority to pay some educators more than others, as they did in the days when some school chiefs paid male teachers more than their female colleagues or when a board member could insist on extra pay for a daughter-in-law. There’s no provision to limit the extra pay to teachers in hard-to-fill disciplines like math or special education.

Arbitrary compensation systems and other unfair management practices gave rise to Indiana’s collective bargaining law in 1973. A return to those practices will mobilize teachers in numbers the bill’s supporters can’t imagine.

Zombie teacher-pay bill rises from the dead

That should have been that. But Rep. Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, picked up the supposedly dead SB 10 and waltzed it through the committee by a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday, the final day for committee action. It now goes to the full House.

Expect Behning to block any attempt to amend the bill. Any change would send the bill back to the Senate, which has said it won’t pass the measure again.

DAMAGE TO TEACHERS

The big trouble in Indiana public schools, as explained by a troubled educator

What do teachers think about all this? Here’s a sample.

The looming teacher shortage in Indiana is the same as in other parts of the nation. Fewer people are going into teaching because of stagnant salaries, lack of professional autonomy, and general disrespect of educators.

Yes, the mess in education isn’t just affecting those of us who are in education. First, legislators thought we weren’t doing our job, so they legislated the pay scale so good teachers would get paid more for their efforts. In reality, the legislature has capped teacher salaries, not allowing years of experience or education to fiscally matter. Being a highly effective or effective teacher results in a minuscule stipend, maybe enough to get the brakes fixed on your car.

Salaries for teachers statewide are stagnant. Your income does not rise over time. Families cannot be supported on a teacher’s salary over time, and yet college costs the same for them as it does to be an engineer.

I wonder why there’s a teacher shortage.

DAMAGE TO STUDENTS

In 1954, for those old enough to remember, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education, that “separate educational facilities [for black and white children] are inherently unequal.”

In a second ruling, PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ET AL. in 2007, the Court essentially stripped Brown v. Board of Ed of all it’s power. It told (emphasis added)

…local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits.

The Justices who passed PARENTS, would argue that it didn’t overturn Brown, but in the meantime, school districts around the nation were suddenly free to ignore segregation and close their eyes to continued separate facilities.

Study finds Indy charter schools increased segregation

Charters have added another level to the continued segregation of children in public schools. The charter school movement has increased segregation all over the country. The cure to the so-called “bigotry of low expectations” has made things worse.

The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University education professor Marc Stein and published last summer in the American Journal of Education, found that charter-school choice in Indy led to “higher degrees of racial isolation and less diversity” than in the public schools the students were leaving.

African-American students were more likely to enroll in charter schools with a higher concentration of black students than the neighborhood schools they left; and white students more likely to enroll in schools with a higher percentage of white enrollment.

The average white student in the analytic sample chose a charter school that enrolled 13.9 percentage points more white students and 13.1 percentage points fewer black students than their previously enrolled school. Concomitantly, black students chose to enroll in charters with enrollments that were 9.2 percent more black and 5.6 percent less white than their former schools.

As a result, charter schools were becoming more racially isolated. In 2008-09, only one charter school in the study met the city desegregation target of having its enrollment of black students within 15 percentage points of Indianapolis Public Schools. When the charter schools opened, five met the target.

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