Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #304 – September 23, 2017

Dear Friends,

Now that the Indiana General Assembly is funding a pilot program for pre-kindergarten students, it’s time to make sure all students in Indiana take kindergarten. Kindergarten is still not required for Indiana students.

At the very successful ICPE meeting in Indianapolis on August 26th, State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick spoke up for mandatory kindergarten.

Before the biggest audience since the fall ICPE meetings began at the Dean Evans Center in 2011, over one hundred ICPE members and other friends of public education heard former State Superintendents Suellen Reed and Glenda Ritz agree with Dr. McCormick, since both had supported unsuccessful efforts to require kindergarten when they were in office.

Dr. McCormick has advocated mandatory kindergarten in public comments since the meeting, saying that the estimated number of students who enroll in first grade without having kindergarten first is around 7000.

That is far too many students who in most cases are already behind when they enter first grade.

Let your legislators know that you support guaranteeing that students go to kindergarten. You can share with them the insightful argument that Dr. McCormick used at the August 26th meeting: It is not right to allow students who have had a year of pre-kindergarten at taxpayer expense to take a sabbatical for a year before they take first grade.



Transparency for Spending Public Funds

All three speakers agreed on another key point for public education: There should be transparency in reporting to the state for any school that takes public funds, whether it is a public, charter or private school. Jennifer McCormick, calling for transparency, asked if school choice is made available, “shouldn’t it be a quality choice?” She called for a “safety baseline” based on state standards, and compared the situation to quality standards set for restaurants by the Department of Health. She said if choices are made available, we should have “quality, not a free-for-all.”

The ICPE audience applauded.

Suellen Reed quoted Mark Twain: “The greatness of our American democracy comes from our public schools.”

Glenda Ritz said the United States must invest in children holistically, including wrap-around services.

All in all, it was a great discussion in support of the future of public education. Mandatory kindergarten and greater transparency in spending public funds were two important topics out of several discussed. They are two that deserve your support and the support of your legislators in the short session starting in January.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Teaching the heart as well as the mind

This op-ed by NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the August 14 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Teaching the heart as well as the mind: Caring, kind adults can make all the difference
Monday, August 14, 2017 1:00 am
Back in the olden days, whenever I heard the cicadas or saw the lawn furniture in most retail stores being replaced by school supplies, I knew that the end of summer was around the corner, and I knew that it was time for me to take in the smell of freshly waxed floors at school, to get back into my classroom to hang new posters, to re-arrange the desks and to get new lesson plans ready.

While I always tried to mix things up with my lesson plans, I always started every school year the same way. If my room was large enough, I placed the desks in a circle or a semicircle, and I had the students introduce themselves with this:

My name is ---- and I like this. Then the next student introduced himself, repeating the intro from the previous student and so on. By the time we were finished with the exercise, not only had every student spoken, but the class had loosened up and had some little factoid to help identify everyone in the class.

The benefit of all of this was that it set the tone in my classroom and, by the end of the first day, I knew and remembered the names of about 99 percent of the 150 or so kids on my class lists. As I stood by my door the next day to welcome students each period, I greeted each of them by name. While this may not seem like a big deal, it helped establish a positive climate in my classroom.

The point of establishing a positive climate was pretty simple. Each of us wears an invisible sign that says I Am Lovable And Capable, and as we go through our daily lives, little pieces of our signs are slowly ripped away by the comments and actions of others. My goal each year was to get to know each of my kids and to find ways to instruct them without demeaning or tearing away at their signs. For example, if a student didn't understand a concept or an idea or whatever I was trying to teach, I would go to Plan B to see if I could find a better way to explain. Sometimes when I felt as though I was banging my head against a wall, I would ask if someone had a better way of explaining, and most often they did – and I would ask that student to come to the front of the room to help me.

Those who want to fix teachers and kids seem to forget that all of the testing and all of the online learning and all of the latest technology and all of the moronic plans of those who have no idea about what is instructionally or developmentally appropriate have little to do with children. While it may seem quaint now, teaching the whole child works. Children come from all kinds of backgrounds and conditions, and teachers need to be mindful that until we figure out who that child is and what he/she really needs, all of the technology in the world will do little to change that. Regardless of how tough or world-wise kids may act, they are still children. As a case in point, my classes always had weekly SAT and Words of Power vocabulary quizzes. After we graded the quizzes, I told the students that anyone who got 100 percent could have a sticker. While that seems pretty juvenile, most kids were eager to get their stickers, especially the AP students.

All of this goes to the point of what is currently being done to students in the name of reform. Do we really need to make our children college and career ready for jobs that will probably be obsolete by the time they are out of school? Perhaps we need to teach students to learn how to learn and to learn how to think critically rather than robotically.

I am profoundly saddened by a world that is all too ready to tell our children where they fall short. All of the technology in the world will not fix a broken child, but kind and caring adults are a good place to start.
Phyllis Bush taught English at South Side High School before her retirement. She is a founder of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and a board member of the Network for Public Education.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Letters: Scrutiny welcome as school funds depleted

NEIFPE member Kathy Candioto sent this letter to the editor. In it she discusses the cost of Indiana's voucher program.

Scrutiny welcome as school funds depleted

Published: July 22, 2017

I am writing to comment on the July 10 letter “JG's anti-voucher bias is getting tiresome” from Bill Dotterweich.

Dotterweich makes this comment at the end of his letter: “... the JG is just a mouthpiece of the teachers' union.”

Rather than a mouthpiece for any union, the JG is a strong supporter of Indiana's public schools. For this support, I am very grateful. While private schools are welcome and needed in our state, public schools, open to all, are the very cornerstone of our democracy. But public schools are being harmed by the school choice program, and the JG is making readers aware of this damage.

Between 2013 and 2016, Indiana's Education Fund has awarded $330,548,811 to private schools across the state through the school choice program or vouchers. In Allen County, during the same time period, $55,787,467 was given to 36 private (all parochial) schools.

This school choice money was diverted from the state's education pot. This is funding that should have gone to public schools if not for vouchers or school choice.

Indiana has the largest voucher expansion program in the country. While the program continues to grow, many of us, including editors at The Journal Gazette, want the public to understand the loss of funds to public schools. Perhaps we should step back and assess the school choice program. Do we want to continue on this path without careful analysis of what the program is doing to public education in Indiana?

Kathy Candioto

Fort Wayne

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #300 – July 8, 2017

Dear Friends,

School funding from the new state budget which kicked in on July 1st is inadequate for our public school students.

The Indiana General Assembly’s final budget gave a meager increase for K-12 funding by historical standards: 1.6% in the first year (2017-18) and 1.7% in the second year (2018-2019).

In the past twenty years, only five years had lower increases. These five included the four years of the Great Recession (FY 2010 through FY 2013) along with FY 2015. This conclusion can readily be confirmed by reviewing the Total Funding column of the attachment showing Indiana’s history of K-12 funding increases for the past 20 years.

The small increases in the new budget will not allow public schools to keep up with inflation, which the most recent federal data reported to be 1.9% for the twelve months ending May 2017, down from 2.2% the previous month.

With an average increase this small, many districts with static enrollment will not be able to maintain their current level of programs or provide a much needed boost to teacher pay to combat the teacher shortage. This will produce program cuts in the curriculum areas not related to English and math testing, such as music, art, physical education, foreign language, social studies and vocational programs. It will raise class sizes.

Public school administrators in Indiana are skilled and experienced at cutting budgets in ways that don’t make headlines. Nevertheless, the programs available for our public school students are being cut while $146 million was diverted last school year (2016-17) to pay for private school tuition, of which $78 million paid the tuition for the 54% of voucher students who had never attended public schools at all.

Meanwhile, Indiana projects a $2 billion dollar surplus.

A review of the attached table will give you the full picture of school funding increases for the past 20 years.

Here’s How Public School Programs are Being Dismantled in a Climate of Inadequate Funding

Ask any local school leader and you can hear numerous examples of how inadequate funding hurts the education of public school students in Indiana. Here are two:
1) The Indianapolis Public Schools fared poorly in the budget battles of the 2017 session. The House budget passed in February projected a cut of $8 million from the previous year and an actual cut in per pupil funding of $90 or 1.2%. The Senate budget passed in late March gave IPS more hope, projecting a gain of $4 million from the previous year and a small gain in per pupil funding of $29 or 0.4%. The final budget negotiated in April dashed hopes for budget relief, giving IPS a projected cut of $100,000 from the previous year and an actual cut in per pupil funding of $7 per student or 0.1%.

Contrast this with state totals which increased per pupil funding by $74 per student or 1.1%.

If the Senate budget funding had prevailed, IPS would be getting $1.1 million more in 2017-18, after enrollment projections are equalized. This last minute loss of $1.1 million in the budget negotiations now looks big when considering the current community agony of closing three of seven IPS high schools for the stated goal of saving $4 million per year in general fund money. In retrospect, the Senate budget, if the House had agreed to it, would have given major help to the students and families of IPS.

The Senate budget funded public education at a higher level than the House budget. Public education advocates should thank the Senate for giving public education funding a higher priority than did the House. Senator Luke Kenley, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, played a powerful role in taking this stance. He has now announced his retirement on September 30th after 25 years in the Senate. His influence in prioritizing funding for public education will be missed.

2) Brown County Schools lost 27 students to private school vouchers in 2016-17, a diversion of $186,000 which put the budget in a precarious position. When the French teacher took a job in another district for 2017-18, the French language program which had been offered in Brown County for decades was ended to save the cost of one teacher. Hopes of an infusion from the new state budget to keep up current programs were dashed. The new state budget for Brown County projected a 3% cut from last year based on the projection that enrollment would drop by 72 students to 1801 in 2017-18. Dollars per student in the new budget climbed by $64, less than 1% (0.9%) and not enough to maintain programs. Once again, the inadequate state budget means fewer options for public school students.
When such cuts are made, local administrators get the blame when in most cases state legislators who write the state budget are actually the ones responsible for forcing such cuts to be made in some program by local leaders.

Previous budgets in earlier years, as the attachment shows, have given public school students a better opportunity for stable programs. Cuts in programs, larger class sizes and meager or non-existent teacher salary increases will be common stories for the public schools of Indiana during the two year budget which started July 1st.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Education wake-up call

This op-ed by NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the June 26 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
DeVos' dangerous incompetence reinforces the threat to public education

No matter what the education issue is that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is addressing and no matter where the venue, she manages to show how ill-prepared she is to lead the U.S. Department of Education with her vacuous and insensitive remarks. She has shown herself to be completely tone-deaf about what is instructionally appropriate or what is best for children. Through all of her malaprops and her sense of entitlement, she has managed to do what pro-public education folks like me have been unable to do – she has managed to get people to pay attention.

As a founding board member of the Network for Public Education, I have watched as our NPE membership has grown from 22,000 before the DeVos appointment to 350,000 since she was nominated. For those of us who have been calling attention to the corporate reform assault on public schools, this is welcome news. I can only hope that this spontaneous growth is due to more people waking up to the possibility of what is at stake if public education, the bedrock of our society, is further decimated by those who wish to “reform” it.

Education should be about kids and about learning, and it never should have become a political football, and yet politicians and pundits of all political stripes have done precious little to help support policies that will create equity among schools. In fact, in recent years state legislatures have worked to underfund, to overregulate and to privatize public schools. Those of us across Indiana and across the country who have been fighting to save public education have done nearly everything we can think of to bring the plight of education to the attention of our fellow citizens. No matter how many forums and conferences we have hosted, no matter how many opeds we have written, no matter how many times we have testified at our statehouses, we have found it difficult to engage those who are not closely involved in education.

Arne Duncan's tenure over the Department of Education ushered us into the Race to the Top era of test and punish. While Race to the Top has been an unmitigated failure, at least Duncan had some marginal qualifications. DeVos is unqualified to hold any Cabinet position, let alone one which will affect all of the nation's children. Now that she has made a gaffe-filled entrance into the political landscape, more people seem to be aware of her lack of qualifications. While taking notice is a start, it is up to all of us to actively stand in support of our public schools, our kids, our teachers and our communities.

Will Betsy DeVos be the lightning rod who might awaken us to the potential destruction of public education? I have no idea whether this focus on DeVos will be more than another example of our short attention span with ever-breaking news stories. My hope is that people are finally getting fed up with this anti-public education push and will choose to fight back to save our schools for the nation's most precious resource, our children.
Phyllis Bush, a retired English teacher and Fort Wayne resident, is a member of NEIFPE and treasurer of the Network for Public Education.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

ISTEP+RESCORE INFORMATION

The Spring 2017 ISTEP+ Rescore window will be open June 19, 2017 through July 7, 2017.

The opportunity for parents and schools to seek a rescore is an important element when open ended items are a component of assessment.

For more information about ISTEP+Rescore, contact your child's school or click the link to the Indiana DOE, below.

http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/spring-2017-istep-rescore-window.pdf

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NEIFPE Talks With Jennifer McCormick

McCormick: “irresponsible” not to review voucher program
“You know, we’re spending roughly $146 million on a program and not really reviewing it. That is irresponsible,” said McCormick, a Republican who took office in January.
Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, has been in the news lately since she was interviewed by National Public Radio for an article titled, The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers.

Earlier this month NEIFPE sat down with Superintendent McCormick to discuss the education policies in Indiana and what we could do to help support public education. Our discussion was very cordial and we were happy to discover that Dr. McCormick agrees with us on several important issues. She is convinced that there are some things we cannot change, like vouchers and charters. Our goal, instead, should be to prevent them from draining more resources from public schools. This goes along with her public comment about the irresponsibility of spending millions on vouchers without any review of the program.

Dr. McCormick emphasized the need for public accountability for every school receiving tax dollars. Transparency, she said, is an important part of the Republicans' political message. We should remind our Republican legislators of the need for transparency in education when we contact them.

Some other topics we discussed...
  • The Legislature may not let the change to the appointment of the State Superintendent wait till 2025. She thinks they'll move up the date during an upcoming legislative sessions. If (and when) that happens our focus should be on publicizing what the Gubernatorial candidate's education platform has been/will be.
  • We suggested that, since the Superintendent will become an appointed position, we should lobby for an elected State Board Of Education. While she didn't disagree with the idea, she doesn't think it will happen.
  • She said that the Indiana Association of School Business Officials seems to be the only group that has the ear of Indiana legislators – more than principals, school boards, superintendents, and, of course, teachers. This group would include school system business managers and chief financial officers. Lobbying them could be helpful.
  • The Superintendent's office will be sending people to legislative conferences including ALEC. She was very clear about her distaste for ALEC, but is sending someone to find out what the legislators are hearing. She will also be sending representatives from her office to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a more middle-of-the-road legislative conference. The people she is sending will include educators. Her goal is to be able to combat the information coming to legislators with the truth about public education in Indiana.
  • She accepts that vouchers and charters are here to stay. Her goal in the IDOE and in discussions with legislators is to try to minimize the damage the funding drain for those programs does to public schools. For example, she said she worked hard to get voucher money separated from the education budget. She succeeded in the Senate version, but the House stripped it out.
  • We discussed Indiana state legislators. She said that Senator Dennis Kruse is very willing to listen to what she has to say and, while they disagree on some things, she will continue to talk to him. She indicated that she is also in contact with Senators Luke Kenley and David Long. Her feeling seems to be that the Senate has had enough of "education reform."
  • Testing: Dr. McCormick came from a school district where there wasn't a lot of mobility among the families, but she understands how unfair it is that schools are being judged when their student population is transient. In addition, she understands the effect of poverty on student test scores. She said she is still hoping to get an "off the shelf" test for K-8. She is also concerned with the problems associated with testing at the secondary level.
  • She and her team are coming up with policy points for the next legislative session. They intend to disperse the points throughout the state for citizens to use when contacting legislators so that they hear the same information over and over again...to give us a united focus.
Read more about Dr. McCormick's views on Indiana's voucher plan. See Steve Hinnefeld's blog, School Matters.

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