"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reform Rolls Through Indiana

[UPDATE: A quick update on HB 1486. It was recommitted back to education committee to continue to work on it. Apparently the original bill has been changed and is still being worked on to address many of these concerns. Keep an eye on that one...I know I am.]


In early December Governor Pence decided that CECI had to go. CECI is the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a controversial agency he created last year to quietly take become the Indiana Department of "Reformist" Education. The actual Indiana Department of Education (DOE), for those of you who are not from Indiana, is run by Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who won a surprise victory over Reformist favorite, and cheater, Tony Bennett.

With Ritz at the helm of the DOE "reformers" could no longer change the rules for favored charter schools or ignore the rules about politicking.

Ritz also ran on a platform which called for stopping the reform steamroller crushing Indiana's public education system. The Governor and the Republicans in the state's General Assembly are in favor of the expansion of Indiana's already expansive voucher program. They're for the expansion of Indiana's charter industry. In other words, the Governor and the Republicans in the General Assembly are in favor of privatizing education in Indiana. Ritz ran on a pro-public education platform against privatization and she won the election handily over the reformist, Bennett.

Once elected, Superintendent Ritz and Governor Pence were in conflict. Most of the conflict was between Ritz and the Governor's proxy, the State Board of Education (SBOE).

The Governor, to make things easier for himself, created CECI in order to give full time help to the members of the SBOE who were charged with carrying out his agenda. Then, in December, Pence claimed the high road by disbanding CECI (which, as of this writing, hasn't happened), because it was too controversial.


The Indiana House of Representatives has a supermajority of Republicans. The first education bill this year (HB1609), which passed just yesterday, February 9, 2015, removes the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, as chair of the SBOE. Ritz is the only elected member of the SBOE; all other members of the board are appointed by the Governor. The bill allows the board to choose its own chair.

Now that the only voice of the voters on the SBOE has been reduced to "a member" (assuming the Senate's version of the bill passes as well) the way is clear for Pence and Co. to continue their assault on public education.

Unfortunately, the DOE still has control of much of the public education process in the state. So, the next bill in the privatization steamroller is HB1486, which would transfer important Department of Education functions to the SBOE. It would also allow them to hire an executive director and staff to run things.

The summary of House Bill 1486 from the General Assembly web site...
Education issues. Requires the state board of education (state board) to adopt voluntary prekindergarten standards that align with the kindergarten through grade 12 standards. Provides that records of the state board shall be kept by the state board. (Current law provides that the records are kept by the state superintendent of public instruction.) Provides that the state board oversees the operation of turnaround academies. Provides that the state board shall appoint an executive director of the state board. Provides that the state board may employ third party experts and consultants to assist the state board in carrying out the state board's functions. Provides that the state board is considered a state educational authority within the meaning of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Provides that the department of education (department) shall provide any data necessary to conduct an audit or evaluation of any federal or state supported program principally engaged in the provision of education. Provides that the state board may adopt rules relating to performance qualified schools. Provides that a model teacher evaluation plan developed by the department must be approved by the state board. Authorizes the state board to establish academic standards in subject areas determined appropriate by the state board. Provides that the update of academic standards must be revised on a schedule determined by the state board. Makes changes to who may be appointed to the academic standards committee. Provides that the state board may obtain assistance from the legislative services agency with the approval of the legislative council or another entity to ensure the validity and reliability of the performance category or designation placements calculated by the department. Makes various changes to the administration of the ISTEP program. Makes various changes to provisions relating to the assessment of school performance. Requires the state board to require IREAD-3 as a statewide assessment to assess reading skills in grade 3.
In a (rather large) nutshell, HB1486...
  • Moves the records of the SBOE from the DOE to SBOE
  • Gives the SBOE control of the operation of "Turnaround Academies"
  • Allows the SBOE to appoint an executive director (Claire Fiddian-Green, perhaps?)
  • Employ third party "experts and consultants" to assist the SBOE (CECI staff? Tony Bennett?)
  • Makes the SBOE a state educational authority (FERPA)
  • Provides that the Indiana DOE give the SBOE data so the SBOE can conduct an audit or evaluation of any federal (like CECI tried to do with the state's NCLB waiver) or state program
  • Authorizes the SBOE to establish academic standards in subject areas determined appropriate by themselves
  • Provides that the update of academic standards must be revised on a schedule determined by the SBOE
  • Makes changes to who may be appointed to the academic standards committee. The bill includes higher education representatives with subject matter expertise, and "industry representatives" in addition to subject area teachers and parents
  • Allows the SBOE to obtain assistance from "another entity" to determine A-F categories with the DOE providing data.
  • Gives the SBOE authority to develop and implement ISTEP including but not limited to, content, format, and cut scores
  • Gives the SBOE the option to "check" the DOE school performance ratings
  • Gives SBOE Control over IREAD-3
No wonder Governor Pence was so willing to let CECI go...he knew the legislature would create another, more "reform" friendly Department of Education and attach it to the State Board of Education.

HB1609 now goes to the Senate...which also has a supermajority of Republicans. HB 1486 will likely pass as well. I'll follow them both...

It looks like the CECI staff members might be able to keep their jobs after all.


I have to add one more thing. In Indiana it's the Republicans who are working hard to destroy public education. But it isn't necessarily so everywhere...and it might not have been so in Indiana had Mike Pence not become Governor.

Governor Pence's opponent in the last election was DFER June 2012 Reformer of the Month, John Gregg. I have no doubt that he would have been an only slightly better Indiana Governor for the public schools of the state.

There are also some Democrats on the Indiana State Board of Education, though it would be hard to identify them by their votes.

My point is that Democrats, by definition, are not necessarily friendly to public education. Take a look at the Illinois legislature and the Governor of New York, for example. Even worse is the President and his US Education Department tool, Arne Duncan.

Reformists all.

The only way this is going to change is if parents and teachers stand up and make a lot of noise...


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!




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