Category Archives: Indiana

Will Teachers Listen to Their Own Message?

A STATE THAT HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Last year around this time I listed a short (recent) history of the ways the Indiana Republican-dominated legislature and governors hated Indiana’s public schools.

In Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years I discussed how the legislature, under the leadership of Governors Daniels and Pence restricted collective bargaining for Indiana’s teachers, refused to acknowledge with economic support the value of experience and education among Indiana’s teachers, supported rules making it easier for unqualified non-professionals to teach in Indiana’s schools, withdrew due process from teachers’ rights as employees, and stalled funding.

At the end of 2019, Indiana teachers finally got the message and took it to the streets. On November 19th, 2019, fifteen to twenty thousand (depending on who’s writing the report) teachers and public education supporters marched on the Indiana Statehouse asking for more money for Indiana’s schools.

MORE MONEY FOR PRIVATIZATION

The legislature, under the leadership of Governors Daniels, Pence and Holcomb, has steadily increased economic support for vouchers since the first voucher plan became law in 2011. Similarly, support for charter schools has expanded since 2011. Meanwhile, support for public education has lost ground to economic downturns and to inflation.

The pro-privatization forces in the legislature decided to end the practice of electing a state Superintendent of Public Instruction. In the future, Indiana will be one of only a few states where the governor and the legislative majority have complete control over the state’s educational system from the Superintendent to the fully appointed State Board of Education. The people no longer have a direct voice in education policy in Indiana. (At this link to the Education Commission of the States note that Indiana will move from Model III to Model I with the exception that leaders of each legislative house will also appoint one member of the State Board of Education)

Indiana’s current Governor, Eric Holcomb, and the supermajority-based houses of the Indiana General Assembly have made it clear that the Red for Ed rally in November didn’t convince them that teachers actually mean business.

Teacher pay, according to the Governor, is still being studied, and according to the Republican leadership in the legislature, since 2020 isn’t a budget year, spending more money on public schools or teachers won’t happen. Teachers and public schools are going to have to wait for next year when the entire state budget is examined.

But they didn’t hesitate to dump more money-making deals on charter and voucher schools!

Today the Senate will discuss and vote on a bill that has an amendment that will allow charters to grab a share of public school money acquired through referenda. That same day last week that the Senate passed that amendment, they also ok’d a bill that refused to force the state audits of charters. Never mind that we, the taxpayers of Indiana, just lost more than $85 million on two fraudulent virtual charters.

Blogger Shane Phipps called the charter-school-sharing-referenda-cash bill villainous…

It’s hard to think of a more villainous move than the state stealing from the funds that desperate school corporations have to go begging for because the state is starving them of funding. If school districts were properly funded in the first place, there would be no need for any referendums. But in order to stay afloat, many districts have done the incredibly difficult work to get the extra money they need from their communities who are so generous to give a little extra for the cause of public education. And now you see your elected officials trying to rob public schools of even those funds. It makes me shiver to think what might be coming next.

In addition, the House has a plan to increase the taxpayer cost of vouchers by $6 to $12 million…because the increase to vouchers (which was several times larger than the increase to public schools) during last year’s budget isn’t apparently enough.

Both bills will be heard this morning, Monday, March 9.

WHERE ARE THE TEACHERS?

Where are the teachers in all of this?

Local teachers in Allen County are staging a Red for Ed day Walkin on Wednesday, March 11. This means that teachers will gather at the front door of their schools, wearing red, and walk into the building together.

Will the legislature hear that?

The proof will come in November. Will teachers hear the same message they sent to the legislature?

Will teachers and public school advocates join together to get rid of the privatizers in the legislature and work for those who support public education?

Will Republican public education supporters convince their Republican candidates that it’s time to support public schools and stop favoring charter schools and voucher accepting schools?

Or are the Governor and legislators correct in their assumption that the teachers who wore Red for Ed care more about the culture war issues that currently divide the nation than they do about their careers and students?

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Filed under #RedforEd, Charters, Indiana, Politics, Privatization, SchoolFunding, vouchers

2020 Medley #4: Vouchers, choice, and the misuse of tax dollars

School choice fails, Students give up rights,
Tax dollars for discrimination,
Choice and segregation,
Pilot “choice” programs are a trap

“…to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical…” — Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

INDIANA’S VOUCHER PLAN

Indiana’s voucher program began as a plan for low-income students to “escape” their “failing schools” and go to the private schools that wealthier people have always been able to afford. In order to qualify, then-governor Mitch Daniels insisted, a student must have spent at least one year at a public school.

Since its inception in 2011, it has changed into a middle-class entitlement program. Most students who get Indiana “scholarships” are students who have never attended a public school. A third of students who get Indiana “scholarships” are students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches. Less than one percent of Indiana’s “scholarship” students are “escaping” from a “failing school.”

Since private schools aren’t better than public schools, vouchers don’t improve academic outcomes for students.

The purpose of Indiana’s vouchers has changed. Supporters in Indiana no longer talk about helping poor kids get a better education. Instead, taking DeVos talking points, it’s all about “choice.” Parents will choose the best school for their children.

Finally, Indiana schools that accept vouchers don’t have to be accountable for the tax money they are given. At an education forum last month, my local state senator said that this was intended. They don’t have to be accountable. They get the money with no strings attached. Perhaps they’ll use the money they get for their school to fix the church steeple…or pay for the new football field. It doesn’t matter. The taxpayers shouldn’t care about accountability for tax dollars paid to religious institutions.

See also: James Madison’s 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” was written in 1785 in opposition to a proposal by Patrick Henry that all Virginians be taxed to support “teachers of the Christian religion.”

To this day, the “Memorial and Remonstrance” remains one of the most powerful arguments against government-supported religion ever penned.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Constitution (Article 1, Section 6), which seems to agree with Presidents Jefferson and Madison, states,

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

SCHOOL CHOICE

The current administration, supported by Mike Pence as VP and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, hates public education. In the State of the Union Address on February 4, 2020, the President sneered about “failing government schools.” DeVos, who purchased her job with political contributions, has called public education “a dead end.” Neither the President, the Secretary, nor any of their children, ever attended a public school.

Despite the lack of evidence, the administration chooses privatization over public education.

School Choice Fails Students and Parents

Ultimately, the school choice debate is a distraction from a sobering fact: the U.S. has failed public education by never completely committing to high-quality education for every child in the country regardless of their ZIP code.

There is no mystery to what constitutes a great school, high academic quality, or challenging education, but there is solid proof that almost no one in the U.S. has the political will to choose to guarantee that for every child so that no one has to hope an Invisible Hand might offer a few crumbs here and there.

STUDENTS GIVE UP THEIR RIGHTS WHEN THEY LEAVE THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights

When students participate in a voucher program, the rights that they have in public school do not automatically transfer with them to their private school. Private schools may expel or deny admission to certain students without repercussion and with limited recourse for the aggrieved student. In light of Secretary DeVos’ push to create a federal voucher program, it is crucial that parents and policymakers alike understand the ways that private schools can discriminate against students, even while accepting public funding. Parents want the best education possible for their children, and voucher programs may seem like a path to a better education for children whose families have limited options. However, parents deserve clear and complete information about the risks of using voucher programs, including the loss of procedural safeguards available to students in public schools.

SHOULD TAX DOLLARS BE USED TO DISCRIMINATE?

Anti-LGBT Florida schools getting school vouchers

Suzanne Eckes, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University asks, “Hey citizens of the state of Florida … Do you want your taxpayer money used in this way?”

Do the citizens of Florida want private schools that receive state dollars to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? Do they want private schools to be able to refuse service to certain groups of people? The article authors don’t come out and say it, but the answer is, apparently, “yes.”

All of the schools the Sentinel found with anti-gay policies were Christian, with the largest group — about 45 percent — Baptist, not surprising given that the Southern Baptist Convention says Christians must “oppose” homosexuality.

Nearly 40 percent of the schools were non-denominational and a smattering were affiliated with Assemblies of God, Catholic, Lutheran, Nazarene, Pentecostal and Presbyterian Church in America denominations, among others.

There could be more campuses with discriminatory policies, as some private schools that take the scholarships do not publicly post their rules, and a small number don’t have websites.

The schools with these anti-gay rules are found across Central Florida, in suburban DeLand (Stetson Baptist Christian School), near downtown Orlando (Victory Christian Academy) and in historic Mount Dora (Mount Dora Christian Academy). They are in Florida’s rural communities from Okeechobee to the Panhandle and its cities from Miami to St. Petersburg to Tallahassee.

The schools see the proposed legislation as an unconstitutional attack on their religious rights, and many likely wouldn’t change their policies, even if the scholarship law gets amended.

Subsidizing Bigotry

Columnist Sheila Kennedy points out the necessity of public schools.

As the country’s diversity and tribalism have grown, America’s public schools have become more necessary than ever. The public school is one of the last “street corners” where children of different backgrounds and beliefs come together to learn–ideally–not just “reading, writing and arithmetic” but the history and philosophy of the country they share.

Today’s Americans read different books and magazines, visit different websites, listen to different music, watch different television programs, and occupy different social media bubbles. In most communities, we’ve lost a shared daily newspaper. The experiences we do share continue to diminish.

Given this fragmentation, the assaults on public education are assaults on a shared America.

DESPITE BROWN v. BOARD, SEGREGATION CONTINUES UNDER “CHOICE”

Report: Where Parents Have More Choice, Schools Appear To Become More Segregated

Another not-so-hidden “feature” of school “choice” is economic and racial segregation.

…(families) are making judgments about school quality … but they’re basing those judgments often on poor data, on average test scores at a school, which is not a good indicator of school quality. And sometimes all kinds of biases can get in the way too. It looks like, from other research, that white advantaged parents often make decisions based on the number of other white advantaged parents at a school, not based on any real research about school safety or school quality or these kinds of important indicators.

DON’T GET FOOLED LIKE INDIANA

Don’t Be Fooled! Voucher ‘Pilot’ Programs Are A Trap

Legislators use “pilot” programs as ways of getting their pet projects started. Once a program is funded — even as a “pilot” — funding is easier to continue. Changes to the “pilot” program can come later, as in the all-inclusive changes to the Indiana voucher plan. It might begin as a restrictive plan, for certain students “in need.” Given the nature of political donations, however, it will undoubtedly expand…just as Indiana’s plan has expanded.

Last week a South Carolina Senate Education Subcommittee debated SB 556, which would create a new private school voucher program. Before the hearing, Americans United sent a letter to the committee telling its members to reject the bill because vouchers have been shown to harm students’ academic achievement, fail students with disabilities and violate religious freedom.

Sensing that a statewide voucher would be unpopular, some senators offered to make the program a temporary “pilot” or to limit its eligibility to a “narrow” population of students. Hopefully, South Carolina’s legislators won’t buy this false compromise.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Choice, Constitution, DeVos, Indiana, Jefferson, Madison, Privatization, Trump, vouchers

What’s in your water?

Many of America’s children continue to be poisoned by their local and state governments…because the Federal government won’t listen to its own agency.

Around the country, schools are fighting the effects of environmental toxins in their students’ drinking water. The most notorious example is in Flint Michigan, where the school system has seen a doubling of the number of students needing special services due to lead poisoning and the damage to the developing brain that it causes.

Other pollutants are damaging as well. Mercury, along with cancer-causing dioxins, are released from coal-fired power plants and municipal waste incinerators. The airborne toxins travel to the lungs of children or are absorbed into food and water supplies.

2019 was a bad year for lead…in Flint, Newark, Hammond IN, New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Thousands of our nation’s children have had their lives damaged by the toxicity of lead. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that even the smallest lead level in the blood of children is unsafe.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

Preventing childhood lead exposure is cost-effective.

According to a 2017 report from the Health Impact Project, a federal investment of $80 billion would prevent all U.S. children born in 2018 from having any detectable levels of lead in their blood. This investment has an estimated $83.9 billion in societal benefits, which represents a 5% return on investment. If it cost less than $80 billion to remove lead from the environment, then the cost-benefit ratio would be greater. Additionally, permanently removing lead hazards from the environment would benefit future birth cohorts, and savings would continue to grow over time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics echoes the CDC’s call to completely eliminate lead exposure in children.

With No Amount of Lead Exposure Safe for Children, American Academy of Pediatrics Calls For Stricter Regulations

The AAP calls for stricter regulations, expanded federal resources and joint action by government officials and pediatricians in the policy statement, “Prevention of Childhood Lead Toxicity,” published in July 2016 Pediatrics. Identifying and eliminating sources before exposure occurs is the only reliable way to protect kids from lead poisoning.

“We now know that there is no safe level of blood lead concentration for children, and the best ‘treatment’ for lead poisoning is to prevent any exposure before it happens,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, MD, FAACT, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and an author of the policy statement. “Most existing lead standards fail to protect children. They provide only an illusion of safety. Instead, we need to expand the funding and technical guidance for local and state governments to remove lead hazards from children’s homes, and we need federal standards that will truly protect children.”

Despite what the CDC says, the Federal government recklessly sets the safe level of lead exposure to 15 parts per billion. This gives state governments the excuse to ignore the damage done to America’s children.

How is your state doing?

INDIANA

GET THE LEAD OUT: Ensuring safe drinking water for our children at school

The United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has joined with the Environment America Research & Policy Center to release a state by state report on lead in drinking water. Each state is graded on its lead eradication policies.

Unfortunately, Indiana’s grade is a big fat F.

This stems from the fact that Indiana uses the Federal 15 ppb standard. In other words, while no amount of lead is safe for human consumption, Indiana won’t address any lead levels in drinking water until it passes fifteen parts per billion. In addition, participation in the lead sampling program does not automatically apply to all schools and child care centers. The state program is voluntary and only K-12 schools can opt-in. Our pre-schools, apparently, are not worth the money.

The report says…

…most states are failing to protect children from lead in schools’ drinking water. Our review of 32 states’ laws and regulations finds:

• Several states have no requirements for schools and pre-schools to address the threat of lead in drinking water; and

• Of the few states with applicable laws, most follow flaws in the federal rules — relying on testing instead of prevention and using standards that allow health-threatening levels of lead to persist in our children’s water at school.

Testing shows elevated lead levels in 7 Hammond schools

Hammond city schools discovered they were above the 15 ppb standard.

A new round of testing has found lead levels in the drinking water at seven northwestern Indiana schools that exceed the federal action level for the toxic metal.

The School City of Hammond’s board heard from a consulting firm Tuesday that drinking water in seven Hammond schools and two other district buildings tested above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead action level of 15 parts per billion.

Too many states, like Indiana, don’t have a mandatory program to check for lead in the water.

Report: If you think dangerous lead in schools is a limited problem, think again

The report, released recently by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, highlighted how many school districts — 72 percent — are not even inspecting their buildings for lead-based paint hazards. The Government Accountability Office restricted its analysis to school districts that had at least one school built before 1978, and those that obtained drinking water from a public water system.

Among the 12 percent that do inspect for lead hazards, more than half found them. That raises questions about what amount could be found in the remaining 88 percent of schools that aren’t looking.

FLINT, MICHIGAN

Flint’s Children Suffer in Class After Years of Drinking the Lead-Poisoned Water

It’s been five years since the state of Michigan switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The damage done to nearly 30,000 children has now hit the city schools.

The result is enraging. The futures of Flint’s children have been sacrificed to greed. The school system, already overburdened by the effects of poverty in the city, now has to add the impact of increased numbers of children with special needs.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on testing, but apparently can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color.

The city of Flint is suffering from the effects of environmental racism.

Five years after Michigan switched Flint’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River from Lake Huron, the city’s lead crisis has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems — real or feared — among students are threatening to overwhelm the education system.

The contamination of this long-struggling city’s water exposed nearly 30,000 schoolchildren to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Requests for special education or behavioral interventions began rising four years ago, when the water contamination became public, bolstering a class-action lawsuit that demanded more resources for Flint’s children.

That lawsuit forced the state to establish the $3 million Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, which began screening students. The screenings then confirmed a range of disabilities, which have prompted still more requests for intervention.

The percentage of the city’s students who qualify for special education services has nearly doubled, to 28 percent, from 15 percent the year the lead crisis began, and the city’s screening center has received more than 1,300 referrals since December 2018. The results: About 70 percent of the students evaluated have required school accommodations for issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as A.D.H.D.; dyslexia; or mild intellectual impairment, said Katherine Burrell, the associate director of the center.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE COUNTRY

How many thousands of children have been poisoned? How many more will be before we clean things up?

Various Cities

A hidden scandal: America’s school students exposed to water tainted by toxic lead

More than half of public schools in Atlanta were found to have high levels of lead, in some cases 15 times above the federal limit for water systems. Schools in Baltimore, Portland and Chicago were all found to have significant amounts of lead in drinking water.

New York City

Still High Levels of Lead in Drinking Water in NYC Schools

The numbers continue to point to a significant health risk because there is no safe level of lead in drinking water for children. Simply stated, New York’s action level of 15 ppb is way too high—even test results below 15 ppb present a significant risk for our kids.

California

Lead Found in Drinking Fountains at 17% of California Public Schools

The state, however, only requires schools to take action – including notifying parents, shutting down dangerous fountains and conducting more testing – if lead levels exceed 15 ppb. Schools that do detect levels of lead above 15 ppb must take follow-up samples from the place at which the school’s plumbing connects to the community water supply to identify whether tainted water is reaching the school from the outside. As of mid June, 268 California schools reported lead levels above 15 ppb, according to the Water Resources Control Board.

Detroit

Detroit schools to use bottled water due to lead, copper concerns

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti sent a letter to staff to announce that he was ordering drinking fountains at all 106 district campuses turned off after tests found 16 schools with “higher than acceptable” levels of copper or lead in their tap water.

…The shut down of water fountains doesn’t apply to charter schools, but Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, intends to initiate “the same level of” water quality testing at those campuses, Vitta said.

Newark

Newark Officials Said There Was No Lead In Schools’ Water, Data Shows Otherwise

Seven of 22 Newark schools tested this year had levels of lead in some drinking water sources that surpassed federal standards according to data obtained by WNYC/Gothamist. That runs counter to repeated assurances given by school board officials and City Hall that there was no lead in any drinking water at any of the city’s public schools.

As recently as last week, Water Department Director Kareem Adeem reiterated this to a crowd of more than a hundred Newark residents attending a “State of Our Water” town hall event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

“The schools [do] independent testing and they post that testing on their website,” Adeem told the audience. “They don’t have lead in the schools.”

But that’s not the case.

Philadelphia

Philly school knew about toxic lead in drinking water but kept parents in the dark

In 2016 — while headlines blared about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan — [Frederick Douglass Elementary School teacher Alison] Marcus’ North Philadelphia charter school raised money to buy bottled water for residents of the distressed Midwestern city. But as she watched students at the charter, run by Mastery, toss change into a large plastic bucket, she felt a pang of guilt.

“I just remember thinking, ‘We should definitely be testing the water here,’” she said in an interview this month.

That’s because Marcus says she and other teachers feared the drinking water at the school wasn’t much better than Flint’s. That same year, for roughly a week, some hallway fountains and sinks spurted a brown liquid that looked more like apple cider than water, according to nine former and current staffers.

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Filed under California, David Berliner, Detroit, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, New York, NewJersey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, special education

Thoughts on #Red for Ed

RED FOR ED RALLY IN INDIANAPOLIS – NOW WHAT?

Thousands of teachers, parents, and public education advocates rally in Indianapolis
November 19, 2019 

How many of the 15,000 – 20,000 Indiana teachers, ESPs, parents, and supporters of public education who rallied at the Capitol on Nov. 19, and the additional thousands who “wore Red for Ed” in their local communities, will fall back into the pattern of voting for the supermajority candidates who brought public school teachers, and public schools…

  • the loss of seniority and lessening the value of experience or advanced degrees on salary schedules
  • declining salaries (when adjusted for inflation)
  • the loss of the right to collective bargain things like class size, prep time, and supervision
  • the loss of due process
  • the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
  • the diversion of public education funds to charter and voucher schools
  • teacher evaluations and school grades based on test scores
  • and, beginning in 2020, Governor-appointed majority (8 out of 10) on the state school board as well as a Governor-appointed state superintendent of public instruction.

THIS STATE REALLY HATES PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

The current make-up of the state government is blatantly disrespectful of public education and public school teachers.

That is why the Governor’s teacher-pay task force has no active educator on its panel.

That is why public schools, which educate 90% of Indiana’s children, will get a 2% increase in both 2020 and 2021 while charter schools (10.3% and 10.47%), virtual schools (5.25% and 9.14%) and private/parochial school vouchers (9.28% and 5.6%) will get much higher increases. Those percentages certainly show where the state’s priorities lie.

That’s why Indiana teachers, of all the nation’s teachers, have seen the lowest amount of money in teacher raises since 2002.

That’s why you can become a teacher in a public high school in Indiana without a degree in education or pedagogical training.

That’s why you can become a teacher in a charter school in Indiana without a degree in education or pedagogical training.

That’s why Indiana’s testing programs, which seem to change yearly, continue to label students, schools, and school districts as failures because they have high populations of children in need. The assumption is that schools must cure the problems caused by poverty, not the legislature, even though out of school factors have a powerful impact on student achievement.

That’s why Indiana has singled out teachers as the only group of professionals in the state who need to donate some of their time to local businesses in order to learn how the “real world” works. Every Hoosier teacher is aware that neither the Governor nor members of the legislature are required to donate some of their time to public schools in order to learn how they work.

That’s why the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the person who is responsible for all the public schools in Indiana, will henceforth be a position appointed by the Governor instead of being an elected official. Some states with appointed State Superintendents have elected State Board of Education members. Some states with appointed State Board of Education members have elected State Superintendents. Indiana now has neither. They are all appointed.

HOW ARE YOU SUPPORTING OUR KIDS?

How many of the “Red for Ed” supporters will disregard Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson’s words,

The presidential campaign may receive the most attention, but on this issue, it is not the most important. Take a look at how your state representatives have voted when it comes to funding public education and supporting teachers. You might be surprised at how the people you voted for may say the right things in mailers or commercials or even to your face but vote the other way.

When educators band together for a cause, they can make a difference. Look at the 2012 election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction: A change was made because educators and friends of educators banded together. It can happen again, but only if you carry on what you start on Nov. 19.

Educators, parents, and supporters of public education in Indiana cannot continue to elect the enemies of public education to the state legislature.

If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten.

‘Great day’ for teachers

As the rally wrapped up, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick posted the following to her Twitter account:

“Great day today, Indiana. Now … it’s about the tomorrows.”

Alison Schwartz, a senior elementary education major from Ball State University, said of the Red for Ed Rally,

This is important because our teachers are important, and our kids are important. If you can’t fully fund your teachers and your schools and support them, then how are you supporting your kids?

We need to support our kids…at the ballot box in November of 2020.

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Filed under #RedforEd, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, REPA, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

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

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Teachers Unions, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

Thinking Strike

TEACHER STRIKES

They went on strike in West Virginia and Oklahoma. They went on strike in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland…in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Arizona.

All over the country teachers are standing up and walking out. Sure, it’s about salaries, but it’s also about class size, wrap-around services, and pensions. It’s also about teachers’ students and their own children.

The strikes are in response to years of neglect. Teachers are tired of being disrespected. They’re tired of seeing their students left behind by shrinking budgets. Teachers are tired of seeing funds meant for their schools and their students being used for private, religious, and privately run charter schools. Scores of teachers are leaving their profession in frustration. Those who have stayed are standing up and fighting back.

INDIANA

States aren’t able — or willing — to invest the money needed to fully fund their public education systems. Indiana, for example, has yet to see its school funding reach the level it was at before the 2008 recession. Indiana teachers earn almost 16 percent less than they did in the 1999-2000 school year when adjusted for inflation. The state’s Republican majority began the 2019 legislative year calling for teacher raises, but the Republican-dominated Indiana House sent a budget bill to the (also Republican-dominated) Senate which offers schools a scant 2.1% increase…only slightly more than 2018’s inflation rate of 1.9%. At that rate, it will take decades for teachers to reach salaries equivalent to those in 1999-2000. There seems to be, on the other hand, plenty of money for the privatization of education. Hoosier legislators have had no trouble increasing the amount of money for charter and voucher schools each year.

Why haven’t Indiana teachers walked out? Former state senator Tim Skinner thinks they ought to.

Former Senator: Teachers should think strike

[Skinner] believes that public education has been the target of the Republican Party for the past 15 years and refers to “senseless budget cuts, expansion of vouchers and crippling regulations.”

Furthermore, he doesn’t believe the Indiana State Teachers Association is taking a strong enough stand in response.

In an interview with the Tribune-Star on Feb. 22, ISTA president Teresa Meredith noted that many teachers across the state are calling for a walkout to raise awareness about the need to improve public school funding and teacher pay.

But she also stated, “I really want to avoid that.” She believes other options must be used first, including a rally at the Statehouse March 9.

Skinner believes Meredith “is exactly wrong about what teachers should be doing. Teachers have been turning the other cheek for the last 15 years, and the ISTA still doesn’t realize that they are getting the hell beat out of them,” he wrote in an email to the Tribune-Star.

PDK-GALLUP POLL

According to the 2018 PDK-Gallup poll the public supports teachers and their right to strike. Two-thirds of Americans agree that teachers deserve a raise. Nearly four of five Americans would support their local teachers in a strike for higher pay.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, American parents would prefer that their children not become teachers. Why not? Because of the pay, mostly. Also, I think, because of the lack of respect given to teachers, lack of job security, and the lack of support when on the job. Those are the reasons there is a serious teacher shortage in Indiana and around the country.

Indiana’s (and America’s) children need enthusiastic, well-trained teachers more than ever, but the number of college students going into education has continued to drop. Who will teach tomorrow’s students? Will the state further lower the qualifications for teaching so more people who aren’t actually qualified will teach? Lower qualifications will help fill classrooms with adult bodies, but how will that help student achievement?

Starting in 2011 Indiana teachers lost their seniority rights and most of their collective bargaining options. Most importantly, the legislature, filled with adults who only remember education from the point of view of a student, decided what and how teachers are supposed to teach but blamed teachers when student achievement didn’t soar.

TEACHING ATTRACTIVENESS

How does Indiana compare to other states?

Understanding Teacher Shortages: 2018 Update

The Learning Policy Institute has an interactive…

…map [which] highlights a number of key factors that reflect and influence teacher supply and attrition and signal whether states are likely to have an adequate supply of qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. Based on these data—which treat compensation, teacher turnover, working conditions, and qualifications—each state is assigned a “teaching attractiveness rating,” indicating how supportive it appears to be of teacher recruitment and retention and a “teacher equity rating,” indicating the extent to which students, in particular students of color, are assigned uncertified or inexperienced teachers.

Each state gets a “teaching attractiveness rating” — a number between 1 and 5 with 1 being the least attractive.

Indiana’s teaching attractiveness rating is 1.9. Arizona, at 1.3, is the only state with a “teaching attractiveness rating” that is lower than Indiana’s. Three states where teachers went on strike in 2018 are all higher…

  • Kentucky: 4.05
  • West Virginia: 2.73
  • Oklahoma: 3

Will Indiana’s teachers stand up for themselves and their students? Will they decide that turning the other cheek…and…getting the hell beat out of them is not helping them or the students in their classrooms.

Maybe Tim Skinner is right.

“They need to stop promoting vouchers and stop promoting every single form of education in Indiana except public education,” he said. “Stop for awhile and evaluate to see what good this 15-year reform movement has done for public schools … and recognize it’s damaged public schools.”

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Filed under Indiana, PDK, TeacherStrikes, Teaching Career, vouchers

2018 Medley #13: Investing in Children

Retention-in-grade, Early Childhood Education,
Poverty in America,
Poisoning our Children

The anti-tax atmosphere in the U.S. is taking its toll. Every one of the articles listed below deals with a problem that the U.S. refuses, or is unable to pay for…fully funding schools based on the needs of children, lack of investment in early childhood education, the high rate of child poverty, and most disturbing, the lack of funding, ability, or will, to keep our children safe from lead poisoning.

The recent tax plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy, will make it even more difficult for states, especially poor states, to fund their public schools.

PUNISHING CHILDREN WHO NEED HELP

Don’t punish schools because Johnny can’t read. Invest in them instead.

Instead of throwing money at vouchers and charter schools we need to fully fund public schools and give kids the support services that they need. When children struggle with learning to read the tendency is to blame the child and make him or her repeat a grade. This. does. not. work.

Some children need additional help beyond their classroom. Instead of closing their schools because of low achievement test scores, their schools should receive the funds to hire specialists and support staff so students can get the extra help they need. Retention doesn’t help, and the research shows it.

Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We’re not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:
“It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental.”

See also
Thoughts on Michigan’s New Mandatory Retention Law

Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back

INVEST IN OUR FUTURE. INVEST IN OUR CHILDREN

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

We know that investment in early childhood education pays off, but we’re still lagging behind the rest of the world.

The US is a global laggard in investing in early childhood programs. Even though more parents are working, enrollment in early schooling (before kindergarten) at the age of 3 in the US is 30 percentage points below the OECD average. The gap is just as stark for 4-year-olds: 87% are enrolled in pre-primary and primary education, on average, across OECD countries. In the US that figure is 66%.

THE U.N. IS TAKING NOTE OF AMERICA’S POVERTY PROBLEM

America’s poor becoming more destitute under Trump: U.N. expert

If you’ve had the feeling that America’s poor aren’t getting the help they need, you’re not alone. A report from a U.N. investigator brings to light the fact that the U.S., with the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world, is working hard to increase economic inequity.

Poverty in the United States is extensive and deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor people, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

…the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship…

A COUNTRY THAT POISONS ITS CHILDREN

Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Michigan…every one of those states, as per the articles below, have problems with their children being exposed to lead. Every one of those states ought to make sure that public schools are fully staffed to handle children with the special needs caused by lead exposure.

Unfortunately, this is just a small sampling of lead exposure in the United States. A large number of our children are being poisoned and are going untreated. Public schools are tasked with having to deal with children who are living with the effects of lead poisoning…and need to be funded accordingly.

Indiana

EPA Finds More Lead Contamination in Northwestern Indiana

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered more lead contamination in northwestern Indiana.

Soil samples collected since October have revealed more than two dozen contaminated yards in Hammond and Whiting, The Chicago Tribune reported .

Tests found 25 yards with soil lead levels exceeding the federal cleanup standard of 400 parts per million. One home’s soil tested as high as 2,760 parts per million of lead.

Illinois, Chicago

Chicago Residents Use Kits to Test for Lead Contamination

…lead was detected in nearly 70 percent of the almost 2,800 homes tested over the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

New Jersey

Lead in NJ’s children: Fixing it is a billion-dollar problem

No safe level of lead in a child’s blood has been identified, but county health departments generally take action when testing shows 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. About 4,800 children in New Jersey surpass that threshold, according to the latest figures.

Michigan, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids parent fighting lead poisoning wins environmental award

Tests for lead levels in young children living in the 49507 ZIP code, which includes much of southeast Grand Rapids, revealed the area had the most children in the state with elevated lead levels, according to a 2016 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible damage to many organs and is also linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike Flint, where the water supply was to blame for increased lead exposure, Grand Rapids’ problem is primarily tied to the lead paint found in many older homes. Four out of five homes in Grand Rapids – and nearly three out of five countywide – were built prior to 1978, the year lead was banned in paint.

Michigan, Flint

Sh-h-h. Snyder state update left out 75% drop in reading proficiency in Flint

Snyder and his administration didn’t cut it either, apparently ignoring the reading mission the same way they ignored the Flint water crisis: Third-grade reading proficiency in Flint, where Snyder allowed the water — and children — to be poisoned by lead, dropped from 41.8% in 2014 to 10.7% last year.

That’s a nearly three-quarters drop.

Read it again: That’s nearly a three-quarters drop in third-grade reading proficiency among children whose lives were affected by lead poisoned water during the Flint water crisis.

A Slow Death for Our Children.
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Filed under Article Medleys, Chicago, Early Childhood, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, retention