"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

Monday, February 22, 2021

2021 Medley #4 - Indiana Still Hates Public Ed

School "reform" in Indiana

In April of 2019, I wrote,

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...
Sadly, nothing has changed and my fellow Hoosiers, including many of my former public school colleagues, continue to send the same anti-public education folks to Indy. In this year's session of the Indiana General Assembly the Republican supermajority, like Republican legislators across the country (see here, and here, for example) are doing everything they can to damage the public schools of the state.

They are attempting to divert more money for the state's already expansive voucher program...despite the studies that have shown that vouchers don't improve education. They will likely succeed. The state, of course, hasn't looked into the success or failure of the voucher program because it is no longer about "saving poor children from 'failing schools', the reason the program was begun in 2011. Now, it's just about "choice." This means that private schools get to choose which students they want, and once the new bill passes the Indiana Senate (which it likely will), those students will be more likely than not, white, and not-poor.

The objections from public education supporters have been loud and strong, but the supermajority doesn't care or need to listen.

Do the voters in Indiana (again, including many public school teachers) even know what the General Assembly is doing to our system of public education? Is Indiana so fiercely partisan that its citizens are willing to give up its public schools because their "tribe" wants it to? Ninety percent of the state's children attend public schools (94% if you include so-called "public charter schools"). Why do we keep electing the same anti-public school state legislators?


Indiana voucher plan could take 1/3 of school funding boost

The Speaker of the Indiana House said that the state should "fund students, not school systems." Unfortunately, he is ignorant of the Indiana Consitution which requires the legislature to fund a "uniform system of Common Schools."

From the Associated Press
More than one-third of the proposed state funding hike for Indiana schools could go toward the state’s private school voucher program under a Republican-backed plan that could boost the program’s cost by nearly 50% over the next two years.

The estimated $144 million cost for the voucher expansion and a new program allowing parents to directly spend state money on their child’s education expenses is included in legislative budget projections — but is more than double what House Republicans discussed in releasing their state budget plan last week.
How Indiana has cut funding for students in poverty, hurting urban schools

Over the past few years, the state has cut into any extra funding for high poverty school systems because...economic segregation, racism, greed, political expediency...choose one or more.

From Chalkbeat, Indiana
Even though the state boasts an increased education budget each year, Indianapolis Public Schools receives $15 less per student today in basic state funding than it did seven years ago.

That’s because IPS’ gains in funding for each student have been eaten up by a sharper decline in state support for students in poverty, district officials say.

In recent years, Indiana lawmakers have prioritized across-the-board increases for schools over support for disadvantaged students, favoring budget strategies that buoy more affluent districts while higher-poverty schools say they’re left without enough resources to serve disadvantaged students.
Commentary: Money, mouths and education reform

My local Senator told me (and a small group of public education advocates) a few years ago that the Senate was tired of all the "reform." He indicated that we needed to evaluate what we've done before we do more. That hasn't happened and he has gone along with the continuous increases for "reform."

From By John Krull in TheStatehouseFile.com
The self-proclaimed education reformers make it sound as if their efforts will have nothing less than a transformative effect on schools and students, improving scores and performance at an astounding rate.

The evidence suggests, though, that they just do not believe that.

If they did, they would be compiling evidence that students in voucher and charter schools were doing much, much better than their counterparts in traditional public schools. They would be testing the students receiving state funds to study in settings other than traditional public schools and the educators teaching them to build their case that choice works.

That the education reform movement works.

But they don’t do that.

At almost every stop, they take measures to make sure their plans and programs cannot be tested, cannot be assessed, cannot be held accountable.

And they do this while insisting traditional public educators and schools be held to rigid standards of accountability.
Former state superintendents united in their opposition to voucher expansion bills

For the last hundred and sixty-plus years, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has been elected by Indiana voters. The last two Superintendents (one Democrat and one Republican) have spoken out against education privatization. That was enough for the anti-public education legislature. They decided that they couldn't take a chance any more on the voters choosing someone who might disagree with them, so they changed the law and the new "Secretary of Education" is, along with all but two members of the State Board of Education, appointed by the (also Republican) governor. The other two state board members of appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate (also Republican).

Neither the Indiana Secretary of Education nor any members of the State Board of Education are elected. Apparently, Indiana's legislature doesn't want to give the voters a say in education matters. The state's voucher program, which currently costs the state more than $170 million each year, was instituted in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly without the benefit of voter approval.

The following letter from three retired State Superintendents speaks loudly, though the supermajority doesn't really care about what they have to say.

From Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz, and Jennifer McCormick in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Education Scholarship Accounts will divert adequate and equitable funding from public school students and open the door to unacceptable practices. Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.

In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child. Passing HB 1005, SB 412 or SB 413 would divert significant money away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana's teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency and well-being...
Vouchers undermine education for all kids

I disagree with this writer. I don't think that the supermajority hopes "no one notices" what they're doing to education. I think they don't care since they can do whatever they want.

The concept of "common good" is all but gone.

From Robert Stwalley in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly is attempting to quietly gut public education and hope no one notices...

School choice advocates would have you believe that money should follow the child because this platitude is simple and seems to make sense on the surface. However, this is completely untrue and detrimental to the overall concept of a tuition-free public school system.

Taxes are collected from everyone to support government activities. Public schools are government entities designed to improve society by providing a practical education for the young citizens of tomorrow. Everyone is better off with an educated populace.

If you need more evidence that the Republican majority hates Indiana's public education, here are some more. There's still a chance that the State Senate will reject the increase in vouchers and the development of Education Savings Accounts, but I don't think the odds are very good of that happening. I hope I'm wrong.

Our Opinion: Failing grades for Indiana voucher expansion bills

Viewpoint: Three bills would do harm to public schools, Indiana's economy

Lawmakers need to choose schools over 'school choice'

Teachers Singled Out in Indiana Union Membership Bill

An Opposition Letter from Public School Supporters to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Holcomb


Thursday, February 18, 2021

2021 Medley #3 - that Pesky State Constitution

HB 1005, Publicly Funded Discrimination

The Indiana House of Representatives passed HB 1005 which calls for increases in funding for voucher accepting parochial and private schools. Public schools get the leftovers.

Article 8 Section 1

Public schools are a Constitutional mandate in Indiana. Sending tax money to private schools is not, even if the money is laundered through the parents (parents designate a school and the state sends the school the money). The Indiana Constitution says...
Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.


'Hoosiers all lose': Former state superintendents come out against voucher expansion

Parochial and private schools in Indiana are not "open to all" as mandated by the Constitution. Yet the House of Representatives continues to divert more and more tax money away from public schools into the pockets of religious institutions (which is against the state Constitution -- see Article 1, Section 6) and private school operators.

This year, the House members will boast that they passed a huge increase for education, though they won't say that more than 1/3 of the increase went to schools serving fewer than 5% of the state's students.
While the fiscal analysis on House Bill 1005, one of the bills objected to by Reed Goddard and the other former superintendents, estimated its cost at $66 million, a new projection of education expenditures over the next two years puts the cost of those programs much higher – closer to $144 million over the two years of the proposed budget. The expansion of these publicly-funded private school programs, which educate fewer than 5% of Hoosier students, would receive more than one-third of the new K-12 education dollars in the House budget.

In their letter, the superintendents argue that HB1005 and similar proposals from the Senate (in Senate Bills 412 and 413) would divert significant dollars away from public schools. They also joined a chorus of individuals, including some lawmakers and other public school advocates, worried that the ESA program will open the door for fraud.

“Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated,” the letter said, “and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.”

House passes voucher expansion

The speaker of the Indiana House, Todd Huston, must not be familiar with the Indiana Constitution, which plainly states that the General Assembly is responsible for a "...SYSTEM of common schools..." [emphasis added] not individual students. While Betsy DeVos may agree with his take on privatization, his comments quoted in this article are Constitutionally wrong. According to the Constitution, the Indiana General Assembly does, indeed, fund systems. [emphasis added]
House Bill 1005 would increase the amount of money families can make to be eligible for vouchers and also increase the awards themselves.

And the measure creates new Education Scholarship Accounts in which state money would be deposited for families to choose how they want to educate their children. It is open only to special education students and children of active military.

The cost of the bill is more than $65 million over the biennium.

...House Speaker Todd Huston took to the floor to defend the bill – something he usually doesn't do since he presides over the chamber. He said “we fund students, not systems” and said opposition is just an attack on parents.

“Who's accountable? Families,” Huston said.

Leaky bucket: legislature diverts K-12 tuition support funding from public schools

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education posted an infographic (pdf version here) showing how money for parochial and private schools is drained from tax funds meant for public schools. Among the points on the infographic...
The more legislators siphon away money for pet projects, that’s less for public schools and teacher pay...

99% of the taxpayer money [for vouchers] goes to religious schools that can (and many do) discriminate...

They can choose to exclude any students for any reason, or for no reason at all...


David Berliner on the Travesty of Public Funds for Religious Schools

David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, understands why public tax dollars should not go to parochial schools.
  • They aren't required to accept all students. Instead of students choosing private or parochial schools, the schools choose which students they will accept.
  • They don't have to follow the same curriculum as public schools and can teach questionable topics.
  • Indiana parochial and private schools aren't accountable to the state for the money they receive.
  • They drain tax dollars from public school systems.
This quote is specific to a parochial school in North Carolina, but the same is true for many of the parochial schools getting tax dollars through vouchers in Indiana.
...So, despite the receipt of public money, the Fayetteville Christian School is really not open to the public at all! This school says, up front and clearly, that it doesn’t want and will not accept Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s, and many others. Further, although supported by public money, it will expel students for their family’s alleged “sins”. Is papa smoking pot? Expelled! Does your sibling have a homosexual relationship? Out! Has mama filed for divorce? You are gone! The admissions and dismissal policies of this school–receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per year–are scandalous. I’d not give them a penny! North Carolina legislators, and the public who elects them should all be embarrassed to ever say they are upholders of American democracy. They are not.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Educational Mansplaining

As an American male, I'm an experienced mansplainer. My former teacher colleagues (mostly female) would surely be able to give you an example or two of my tendency to "help them understand" something that they probably understood as well or better than I did. I remember once, at a meeting discussing psychometric testing of a student, I started explaining percentiles to another teacher. With a look of pity and loathing, she said to me, "I understand what percentiles are." What she likely left unsaid was, "I have an education degree, too, you obnoxious, insulting POS!" Out loud she added, "It's ok. I'm used to you."

Now that I have established my mansplaining credentials, I'd like to comment on a thread I read on Twitter this morning. The thread consisted of women giving examples of someone like me mansplaining something that they already knew.

I must admit...while reading the thread I felt the urge to add my own tweet explaining how Twitter threads work...

...but I digress.


The thread that I read included a tweet from Dr. Jessica McCarty, whose Miami University (Ohio) bio reads,
Dr. McCarty has a PhD in Geography from University of Maryland at College Park. Expertise in remote sensing, GIS, data mining, natural resources, agricultural & food security, land-use/land-cover change, fire, air quality, GHG emissions, black carbon, climate, app development, and UAVs. She is a PI and/or Co-I on NASA, EPA, NSF, USDA, and UN projects that focus on using remote sensing of food security, fire, emissions, & air quality. She has presented at NASA, AGU, IIASA , WMO & UN meetings.
I have no idea what most of that bio means, so I'll assume that Dr. McCarty is a fully qualified professional. Her tweet about mansplaining...
Dr. Jessica McCarty (‪@jmccarty_geo‬)

At a NASA Earth meeting 10 years ago, a white male post doc interrupted me to tell me that I didn’t understand human drivers of fire, that I def needed to read McCarty et al.

Looked him in the eye, pulled my long hair back so he could read my name tag. “I’m McCarty et al.”
At that point, I had a blinding flash of insight...

For the last few decades, politicians in the U.S. (mostly male) have been mansplaining education to American teachers (mostly female).

Think of politicians as the "white male post doc" and think of teachers as Dr. McCarty. For years they've been telling us "what's wrong with education" and "how to fix education" but the teachers are the real experts.


Let's see some examples...first, George W. Bush's "signature" education policy, No Child Left Behind.

Were there any teachers, anywhere in the country, who believed that it was possible to have all students score "proficient" on standardized tests within a dozen years?

Of course not. The politicians who wrote NCLB had absolutely no clue what proficient actually means. Nor did they realize that standardized testing was an excellent method of determining a student's family income, but not much else.

And then we had Race to the Top. Not to be outdone, the Democratic designed education plan begun eight years later included evaluating teachers using student test scores. Were there teachers anywhere in the country who didn't understand that those teachers who taught in wealthy schools would get better "evaluations" than teachers who taught in high-poverty schools?

Once again, the answer is no. Politicians didn't notice that "good" teachers (by their definition) seemed to congregate at schools with children from wealthy families while poor kids always seemed to have the "bad" teachers. They didn't understand that correlation is not causation. They didn't understand that there are out-of-school factors that have an impact on a child's school achievement and that test scores do not define quality schools or quality teachers. David Berliner explained this well in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. American schools are set up to reward students who come from wealthy families.


By now it should be no secret why teachers are "mansplained" about education -- aka treated with less respect than other professionals. Teaching is still seen as "women's work" and those who hold control of the funding in education are mostly men.
In a field so dominated by women, it's not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.

Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators, tends to lower the status of other teaching when compared to other professions.

In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.
Now, the next time you hear a politician talk to a teacher or a group of teachers (or the general public) about "...what's wrong with education in this country" you'll know what's really going on.

And to my former colleagues (mostly female)...Thanks for reading. I really needed to explain this.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Indiana Vouchers Set to Expand Again


Ten years ago the Indiana General Assembly established the state's voucher program to "provide children who attend failing schools grants to attend a school of choice." At that time, the state provided tuition help for low-income students to attend religious schools (it's actually "private" schools, but nearly all are religious). Families earning more than $60,000 were not included. The inflation rate over the last ten years has been about 16% so that $60,000 cap would be about $70,000 today. The General Assembly, however, wants to double that and the Indiana House will vote on the bill tomorrow (February 15).

We've spent more than half a billion dollars on vouchers since 2011. Has it helped poor students? Has it improved learning? Has it improved public schools as voucher proponents claimed it would? The state has yet to evaluate the program for anything other than political contributions. As with other voucher programs around the country, the voters have never directly chosen to spend all that money.

In 2011 the goal of the voucher program was to help poor students "escape" from "failing" [read: high-poverty] schools. Now the program goal is to provide "choice" for private and religious schools to accept middle-class families who would have sent their kids to their schools anyway.

The money for vouchers comes from the state's education budget, so the voucher students in one county are draining away public funds that could be used for public school students in other counties around the state. The money also goes to mostly religious schools despite the state constitution prohibition (Article 1, Section 6). How does that pass legal muster? The state Supreme Court agreed to allow the state to launder the money through parents. Parents choose the voucher recipient (assuming that the school accepts their child, of course), and the state sends the cash directly to the school -- state funds, directly from tax dollars to religious schools. It doesn't matter if the school discriminates against certain students, hires unqualified teachers, or teaches religious doctrine as scientific fact.

Meanwhile, funds for high poverty public schools are being capped, public school teacher salaries are ignored again, and charter schools are also getting a budget boost.

How does this keep happening? The Indiana electorate, including the parents and caretakers of the 90% of students who attend public schools, continue to vote for people who hate public schools.

Betsy would be proud.

Bill lavishes more money on favored private schools
Freshman state lawmaker Jake Teshka was incredulous. He had just listened to the president of the Indiana School Board Association criticize a sweeping expansion of the school voucher program as benefiting wealthy families.

“Do you believe, that in 2021, $140,000 in a family of four is considered wealthy?” the South Bend Republican asked Robert Stwalley during Feb. 3 testimony on House Bill 1005.

“I would certainly consider it to be wealthier than the original program was designed – for the low income. Absolutely,” the Purdue University engineering professor replied. “For a family of five, that brings you up to $160,000 a year in income. That's pretty wealthy, sir.”

Median household income in Indiana is $57,603, according to census data. For a family of four, it is $90,654.

Teshka isn't the only House Republican out of touch with Hoosier families. His colleagues on the House Education Committee, as well as all Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, voted unanimously to support HB 1005. The bill goes to the full House on Monday, where the super-majority caucus appears dead set on removing already-generous income limits on vouchers and adding education savings accounts, a costly program with an extensive record of abuse in other states.

Hoosiers should demand to know the justification for handing millions in tax dollars to high-income households and private and parochial schools. How many more ways can GOP lawmakers find to take money from the schools serving 90% of Indiana's students, including the neediest?


Friday, February 5, 2021

It's not enough!


I feel like we're living in an Idiocracy.

Wisconsin's Republican legislature is fighting the mask mandate ordered by the Democratic governor...because, of course they are.

Wisconsin's Legislature repealed Gov. Tony Evers' mask mandate. He issued a new one.
Fearing more deaths statewide, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers reissued a mask mandate Thursday, standing up to a Republican Legislature that had repealed his previous mask order earlier in the day.

"We know that wearing face coverings can save lives and prevent death. We know it's supported by science," Evers, a Democrat, said in a two-minute video.

He said repealing his previous mandate to wear face coverings in public places put at risk about $50 million a month in federal funds to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents.
Experts, i.e. those who are educated and actually know things, understand that masks, along with other mitigation measures, help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (See here, here, and here. The idiocrats in the Wisconsin legislature aren't experts.


So what do experts say about opening schools during a pandemic? Teachers are worried about their own safety, as well as the safety of their students, co-workers, and families. Some teachers are refusing to return to school until they can get vaccinated. In Indiana, the governor has decided to forego vaccinations for teachers even though the CDC recommended that teachers be vaccinated at the same time as other "essential" workers. Our governor is not alone. Others are saying that teachers should just go back to work and quit whining.

So, do teachers need to be vaccinated before schools can open?

If you have seen or read any news recently, you might think that the new director of the CDC believes they don't.

CDC director says schools can safely reopen without vaccinating teachers
Teachers do not need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before schools can safely reopen, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House news briefing on Covid-19.

“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” she added.
This is the extent of the reporting that most folks see on Facebook, cable news stations, or the headline in the newspaper. The article above even has "Key Points" of the article bulleted at the top which further discourage readers from reading any further...
That's it. Case closed. The science has spoken. Right?


Notice what's left out of the "Key Points." There isn't anything about what needs to be done before schools can open other than teachers have been worried, and they don't need to be vaccinated.

If you keep reading, however, you get to this paragraph...
A study from the CDC published late last month found little evidence of the virus spreading at schools in the U.S. and abroad when precautions were taken, such as wearing masks, social distancing and ventilating rooms.
Did you see that?
...when precautions were taken, such as wearing masks, social distancing and ventilating rooms.
In Indiana, our idiocratic governor, aside from postponing teachers vaccinations, now says that students and staff only need to keep a "social" distance of three feet instead of six. And now that there are more contagious variants of the disease, the governor, in his (lack of) wisdom has decided that schools are...
...no longer required to quarantine if someone is exposed in the classroom, if they kept three feet socially distant and wore a mask.
According to the CDC, social distancing is still six feet. Even if it wasn't, how am I going to fit 25 (or 30 or 35) kids in my classroom and keep them even three feet apart?


Since many citizens in our idiocracy (including some legislators and, apparently, our governor) don't necessarily read entire articles, or only get their news in small bites from the TV, more information about what schools need to open must be emphasized! The director of the CDC should emphasize that teachers don't need to get a vaccine before schools open if and only if...
1. all staff members and students have masks
2. strict social distancing (of six feet) is followed and
3. school buildings and classrooms are properly ventilated
If a school can't do those things, and if the state or federal governments can't provide funds to allow them to do those things, then it's not safe for schools to open.

Think about the special education teacher or special education paraprofessional who can't social distance from their high-need students, whose students have trouble keeping masks on, and are working in an old school building with poor ventilation. It's February. Opening windows is not an option in some parts of the country.

Think about the preschool teacher who has a room full of two, three, or four year olds. Can she keep a social distance between them? Can she make sure that they all keep their masks on? How about snack or lunch time? How about diaper changes? What if the classroom is in an old building with poor ventilation?

Not every educational group or age group of students are able to follow the guidelines from the CDC. Not all school buildings are equiped to keep students socially distanced or to provide adequate ventilation.

When someone makes a blanket statement that "it's ok to open school buildings even if teachers aren't vaccinated"...

...it sounds like an idiocracy to me.

You might also like this post by Nancy Flanagan.
The 12 Point Covid-19 DISCONNECT Between Teachers and Those Who Want Schools Open Now!