Even though Glenda Ritz, supported by 1.3 million voters, took over the reins of the State Department of Education, Tony Bennett and his allies are running the show. They couldn't win the office with the votes of the people, so they're doing their work using the supermajority (which, I must admit, they did win handily) in the state General Assembly.
Bennett's former chief of staff, Todd Huston, a freshman Representative from Fishers, is contributing to the dirty work by pushing the so-called Parent Trigger bill through the legislature. The bill allows 51% of parents of a public school to give away the school to a private corporation...overruling the democratically elected school board and any public oversight. In August, I wrote,
The parent trigger bills don't give parents more control. They give parents less control. They allow 51% of current school parents to give away the public school to a charter operator. What happens in two years if 51% of the parents want to take the school back for the public schools? The parent trigger bills don't allow for that. Once the schools have been converted they're stuck with what they get. No parental rights. No public oversight.Diane Ravitch put it this way in an entry of Bridging Differences from 2011. She wrote
To me, a public school is a public trust. It doesn't belong to the students who are currently enrolled in it or their parents or to the teachers who currently teach in it. All of them are part of the school community, and that community needs to collaborate to make the school better for everyone. Together, they should be able to redesign or create or discontinue programs and services. But collaboration is not the same as ownership. The school belongs to the public, to the commonwealth. It belongs to everyone who ever attended it (and their parents) and to future generations. It is part of the public patrimony, not an asset that can be closed or privatized by its current constituents.The idea of a public trust means nothing to the elitist Huston...no more than it did to his handler, Bennett. And it's not just Huston who's doing Bennett's work in his absence. The legislature has mounted an all out attack on the public schools (and their teachers) in Indiana.
A SPATE OF LEGISLATION
Writing about Huston and his ties to Bennett (and to the College Board, the "the nonprofit but still immensely lucrative standardized testing empire"), Dan Carpenter at Indystar.com wrote
The aptly named "parent trigger" bill is of a piece with a spate of "reform" legislation -- expansion of vouchers for private schools, dropping licensing requirements for local school superintendents, diminishing the role of the state superintendent on state panels -- aimed at two basic prizes: consolidation of GOP control over the multibillion-dollar public education system, and diversion of those dollars to private entities unencumbered by professional credentialing and collective bargaining.I would also add, reducing the influence of the Superintendent of Public Instruction...since she's a member of the opposition party.
Carpenter calls the parent trigger "aptly named", since it allows 51% of parents to kill a school. Trouble is...it's rarely parents who start the parent trigger. More often it's the charter edupreneurs who want the money who get it going.
Take a look at that list from Carpenter again...not one of the items being pushed by the supermajority in the state legislature has a proven record of helping students. Why are they doing what they're doing then?
Do they really believe that vouchers improve the public as well as the private schools? Have they taken a look at the research from Milwaukee? Apparently not.
Do they actually believe that reducing the qualifications for professionals (in essence "de-professionalizing the profession") will improve student learning? Apparently so.
Or maybe they JUST DON'T CARE...
...AND CORPORATE CHARTERS*
Another Bennett legacy, the state Charter School Board, makes it easier for charters to get start ups -- or as the "reformers" call them, "Turnarounds." In Fort Wayne, for example, Ball State University decided to pull the charters on three schools...since their results were worse than the public schools from which they were intended to rescue children [sarcasm intended]. The state Charter School Board, in answer to absolutely no request from the citizens of Fort Wayne, finds it necessary to hold a hearing for a new charter to come to the city...with ties to...you guessed it...Tony Bennett.
Carpe Diem: Seize the tax dollars by Karen Francisco, Ft Wayne Journal Gazette
Carpe Diem's [an Arizona-based charter company] ties to Indiana are through former state Superintendent Tony Bennett. He traveled to Arizona to visit the charter schools and apparently invited them to come to Indiana. Rather than seek a charter through Ball State or the Indianapolis Mayor's Office, Carpe Diem won its charter from the newly established Indiana Charter School Board, created as an easier path for charter expansion.[Re: "pardon the pun" -- Imagine Schools are the charter holders for two of the Fort Wayne charters being revoked by Ball State U. See Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette article, Both Imagine schools plan to appeal loss of charters.]
Another name on the Fort Wayne Carpe Diem application is Robert Sommers, identified as the company's CEO. But Sommers' name surfaced Tuesday in this Education Week article, about the intriguing web of foundation and corporate interests linking Oklahoma, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education and Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi. Sommers apparently has been hired by Barresi as director of the state's new CareerTech board.
Barresi's a member of Chiefs for Change, which is headed by – wait for it, wait for it – Tony Bennett. A watchdog group, In the Public Interest, recently released public records detailing communications among education officials in six states, Bush's foundation and corporate backers. The records, obtained through freedom of information requests, did not include Indiana, but numerous email records among the documents were addressed to Bennett and other top Indiana DOE officials.
It's a fascinating tangle of past and present GOP officials, corporate CEOs, education reform foundations and more. Now, it appears to be seeking a toehold in a south Fort Wayne neighborhood. Imagine that, if you'll pardon the pun.
So what's the purpose here? Is this just politics?
My cynical response is...yes. Politics and money.
The politicians of the supermajority (legislators and the governor) are doing everything they can to build more private and privately run schools using public dollars, and destroy the public schools because
- they are still angry at Glenda Ritz (read: 1.3 million voters) for defeating Tony and are too small to let it go.
- they are continuing the work of destroying the teachers unions in the state since unions are a) supportive of public school supporting politicians and b) the unions are made up of the people who actually work with students.
- they are in the pockets of the people making money off privatization (or, alternatively, they are those people).
- they are pandering to those who just want to simply do away with "gummint schools" because it's "socialism."
- they are pandering to those religious groups who think that all public schools teach secular humanism, devil worship, and (gasp) sex education.
- they are scared of their party's leadership in the legislature so they blindly do whatever they're told.
Before anyone accuses me of political party bashing...it's not just Republicans. It might be that way in Indiana, but 1) in Illinois, for example, the Chicago Democrats have made it a point to abandon the struggling students in their city for privatization (see blogs of The Brothers Klonsky, Mike and Fred) and 2) the US Department of Education (and the executive branch of the US government) are among the strongest allies of the Gates/Broad/Rhee method of privatization (see HERE -- all my posts about the damage done by Arne Duncan et al).
Below are a couple of things to look at...the first, another editorial comment about the bipartisan nature of privatization...and the second, the real crisis in the public schools in America.
Mr. Fitz comments on the election...
Melissa Harris-Perry makes it clear where the difficulties in America's education really is. Let's hold politicians, pundits and policy makers accountable for their failure to reduce the nation's child poverty rate.
~~~*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.
Stop the Testing Insanity!