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

✏️✏️✏️

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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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #299 – May 20, 2017

Dear Friends,

News reports say that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will announce her tax credit plan to fund private school tuition with federal money at a meeting in Indianapolis this Monday, May 22nd.

This is the first nationwide step in the Trump Administration plan to take to cut federal funding for public schools and start using federal funds to support private school tuition scholarships.

A bill to fund tax credits to help private schools has already been filed in Congress.

It is not surprising that Betsy DeVos wants to announce her plan in Indiana. She has been the most influential funder behind Indiana’s historic and damaging switch to giving public tax money to private and religious schools and the relentless deconstruction of public schools in Indiana.

According to reporters Stephanie Wang and Chelsea Schneider (Indianapolis Star, Jan. 15, 2017, p. 21A) DeVos has provided $2.5 million since 2004 to provide campaign funds for Indiana politicians who support vouchers. That paved the way to historic votes in 2009, 2011, 2013 and now 2017 which step by step have advanced the privatization of the public school system in Indiana.


The Deconstruction of Public Education

As the dust settles after adjournment of the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, it is clear that the deconstruction of public schools in Indiana has continued.

The third pillar of Indiana public education fell in this session. We will no longer have a Superintendent of Public Education but rather a secretary of education which will no longer be elected by the public after the 2020 election (House Bill 1005).

The deconstruction of public education is led by the followers of the policies of the late Milton Friedman and funded by Betsy DeVos. They have developed a strong power base in the Indiana General Assembly which has prevailed on this issue for nine years.


Previous Pillars

If the third pillar fell in 2017, what were the previous two pillars to fall?

1) The first pillar fell in 2009, when for the first time public money was budgeted for private school tuition through tax credits for donors to Scholarship Granting Organizations. The 2009 budget gave $5 million over two years for tax credits that would refund 50% of each donor’s gift toward private school scholarships. In the new 2017 budget funding for such tax credits, once $5 million, now stands at $26.5 million over the next two years.

This is the program that Betsy DeVos wants to begin nationwide to use federal money to pay for private school tuition.

The Indiana program passed in 2009 is the most generous tax credit available in Indiana. Donors giving to private school scholarship organizations get 50% back when they file state income tax forms, and there is no limit per taxpayer! A million dollar donation would produce a $500,000 tax credit, ideal for high income earners who want to support private schools. The only limit is the total annual appropriation, so taxpayers have to make their claim before others take the credits.

2) The second pillar fell in 2011 when the historic voucher law passed, giving public money directly to private school parents and schools for private school tuition. Funding for private school vouchers cost taxpayers $146 million in the current 2016-17 school year, up from $15 million in the first year of the program, 2011-12.

For those who would like to see the details of annual voucher costs, please see the attached six-year overview.

Sadly, the policies of the current leadership in the General Assembly have sent the message that more pillars will be attacked each new session in pursuit of Milton Friedman’s goal to end public education and provide universal vouchers.
Will the General Assembly’s Priority on Helping Private Schools Be Reversed?

The plan to diminish support and funding for public education is proceeding apace. Besides ending the independent voice of the elected State Superintendent, this legislative session:
1) created an eighth pathway for eligibility for a private school voucher. Seven pathways established in 2011 and 2013 have produced 34,299 students eligible for a voucher, 54.6% of whom have never enrolled previously in a public school. The eighth pathway is to attend a private preschool with a state pre-K grant and then stay on in the same private school for kindergarten and beyond at taxpayer’s expense (House Bill 1004).

2) made it possible to keep getting new voucher students when private schools get low school letter grades. HB 1384 was amended to allow a loophole for voucher schools making a D or F to continue to enroll new voucher students by filing an appeal to the State Board of Education. Currently, voucher schools making a D or F for two years can keep enrolling their current voucher students but can’t enroll new voucher students until their school grades improve.

3) made it possible for the first time for a new private school to get vouchers in the first year of operation (HB 1384). Previously, operation for at least one year was required while the school was reviewed for accreditation.
In Summary

All in all, it was a good legislative session for the privatizers. Public education remains on the ropes and now it is being attacked nationally through the work of Betsy DeVos.

Public education will remain in jeopardy until candidates and voters in election campaigns make it clear that the deconstruction our system of public education in Indiana and in the nation is unacceptable and is damaging to our democracy.

I urge you to write members of Congress that you oppose the DeVos plan to take federal money away from public schools and give it instead to private schools via federal tax credit scholarships.

I urge you to write members of the Indiana General Assembly that you are disappointed that they sent the message again in this session that public education is a low priority and that expanding public dollars for private schools continues to get priority attention from the leaders of the General Assembly.

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


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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Friday, May 5, 2017

NEIFPE Presentation at the People for the Common Good Forum

On May 2, 2017, the People for the Common Good held a forum at the Allen County Public Library.

Members of the coalition and other interested groups had a few minutes to present information about their group and their plans. NEIFPE member, and People for the Common Good board member, Meg Bloom, spoke on behalf of NEIFPE. Here are her remarks.
Remarks to People for the Common Good Forum, May 2, 2017 from NEIFPE ~ Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

We know that public education is one of the cornerstones of democracy, so we formed in 2011 in response to attacks on public education. We are tired of hearing the harsh statements. I am sure you have heard that public schools are failing. That is a blanket statement and too broad to be of any help in a discussion. Public schools are not failing. We hear that our test scores are lower than other countries. That particular sound bite is too simplistic to give you the whole picture. It doesn’t tell you that many countries only test select students while here in the U.S., we test everyone. Even more important, it doesn’t tell you that there is a high correlation between poverty and low test scores. The US poverty rate at almost 22% is much higher than most of the other industrialized countries who are part of that comparison. Our higher poverty rate lowers our average test scores.

Besides the effect of the negative propaganda, we have six other current concerns.

1. We are always worried when the Indiana legislature is in session because our state legislators are gullible and have made rash decisions that have had ill effects for our students.

2. Donald Trump is president and Betsy Devos, who has no public education experience, is Education Secretary. You have to be concerned about what they might have up their sleeves.

3. We are concerned about the voucher system. With vouchers, public education money goes to private schools and these are often religious schools. I want to emphasize that NEIFPE is not against parochial schools or religious education. Some of our members attended parochial schools and some have taught in parochial schools. What we are against is public funding for private schools.

4. Charter schools concern us. With charter schools, public education money goes to a private, often for profit, company with little oversight of how our tax dollars are being spent. The charter company then has the right to open a “public” school and make a profit on the education of the children.

5. We are concerned about the resegregation of our schools. Vouchers do not cover 100% of the tuition bill for private schools. This leaves out children from low-income homes. Not only that, voucher schools and sometimes charter schools can select their students and can refuse to accept students who are difficult to educate. With this, we are seeing a resegregation of American schools.

6. We are concerned about the emphasis on testing, on the expense of testing, on the amount of time spent testing and preparing for testing, and on the incorrect and punitive use of testing data.

Our current efforts are the same as our past efforts. We work to stay informed about education issues. We regularly contact our legislators with our concerns. We recognize the importance of explaining the situation to the public and so we write letters to the editor and op ed pieces for the paper. We give presentations to churches, civic organizations and college classes. Contact us if you would like us to speak to your group. This summer we will be cohosting a multistate meeting of public education activists.

How can fellow progressives support us? Follow us on Facebook and our blog to inform yourself about education issues. Support your public schools and help us elect candidates who support public schools. It would be helpful if we could organize ourselves and have an email list of others who are interested in public education issues. With this, we could send a quick email when legislation is in the works and people on the list could email or call their legislators with concerns about the effect the proposed legislation could have on public education. Many voices have a greater effect.

Thank you!

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