"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

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Keep your nose on

Advice from my mother, "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face."


We've been told that to keep society running smoothly, people should work to earn money...to fuel the economy. That's why they are always so quick to fund (or advocate for) job providers (aka the business community) through tax breaks, tax rebates, tax refunds, and lower taxes (which are, btw, mostly unavailable to the average worker).

What happens, however, when people can't work? They have to go on welfare, which is apparently bad. We shouldn't have to pay for someone who won't work -- and there are too many people who are "gaming the system" by collecting welfare without working.

Our education system should teach students to be "contributing members of society." We need to raise our children so they can take their place in the workforce and not be a burden on the rest of us by going on the aforementioned welfare. Furthermore, we need to hire competent people to teach and care for our children.

What happens then, when schools and childcare facilities haven't got enough funding to function and can't find qualified people who will do the hard work of teaching or caring for children? The pay is too low. The hours are too long. The social cost is too great. Do we "let the market decide" about keeping schools and childcare facilities open? If we do that, what happens when those privately run churches and companies need more money to operate? Do they charge more? Or do they just close?

Is the profit motive sufficient to keep us teaching and caring for our children?

Living in a civilized country (and I know that I'm making an assumption here) means that we should ensure that parents can care for their children from the moment they take their first breath.

What happens, however, when the ability to earn money conflicts with the ability to educate and care for children? What happens when a family with two parents needs two workers and there is no one else to stay home to care for the kids? What happens when there is only one parent in a family, who must work to feed, clothe, and house her children, but there is no one to watch her kids when she's at work? We saw what happened when schools struggled to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Do we want that to continue?

Oh, would that we could return to the time when everyone lived in a two-parent family, with one worker (the father) and a "homemaker" (the mother) like in the "good old days."

Sadly, those "good old days" never really existed for many folks.


You'd think that the Indiana General Assembly would do its best to ensure that everything was in place so that people who are raising young children would be able to find jobs that paid enough to feed, clothe, and house their families and that they would be able to find an affordable place, with competent staff, where their children would be cared for and helped to grow while they were at work.

You'd think that...but unfortunately, you'd be wrong, because, Indiana, like so many other states, is a place that apparently really hates it's children. It's a place that apparently doesn't care whether workers can get to work and leave their children in a safe place. It's a place that apparently isn't interested in growing the economy by making sure people have enough money to fund services, businesses, and government.

Uncertain future for providers as child care crisis looms
One national think tank estimates that 3.2 million children may lose their child care as federal grant funding expires at the end of the month. Those dollars helped many centers keep their doors open during the economic tumult of the pandemic but Congress’ stalemate on spending might mean it’s too late for some providers.

“That (funding) helped stabilize the child care program to an extent and it made it possible for these programs to stay open,” Ailen Arreaza, the executive director of ParentsTogether, said. “But it was sort of like a Band-Aid on a big, open wound. And now that Band-Aid has been taken away.”

The stakes

Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, estimates that 70,000 child care programs nationwide would be impacted, roughly one-third of all the country’s providers. The organization predicts that nearly 49,000 Hoosier children will lose child care and just over 1,000 programs will close — triggering a $132 million loss in worker productivity and $120 million in lost wages for parents.
Ok, so it's not just Indiana...it's the whole damn country. That doesn't surprise me either. As a nation, the US doesn't seem to have the inclination or the foresight to provide for its children...or to plan for the future.
A 2023 survey from Arreaza’s organization found that 59% of parents reported cutting back on hours or leaving a job because they couldn’t find reliable, affordable child care. After losing that source of income, families often cut back on other expenses. Forty-four percent of families said they reduced food costs and over half, 55%, said they couldn’t save while shouldering the cost of child care, which rivals the cost of full-time, in-state college tuition in Indiana and elsewhere. [emphasis added]
What happens when people can't find or afford childcare? Do they give up their children so they can work? No, they ration their prescription drugs or stop taking them altogether, they cut back on food and health care, they juggle bills and risk legal problems, they go without and risk their lives and health, and they don't contribute to the economy. The economy slows...and stagnates...the need for welfare increases...which hurts us all.

...even people who make our laws about public funding of education and childcare!

Do we want to have a society that functions well or do we like having citizens living in economic crisis mode? Do we want a robust economy where everyone is well cared for and happy or do we like economic stagnation and desperate citizens? Do we want to prepare our children for the future or are we going to continue to shortchange them and then let them try to repair the damage as they get older?

Are we ever going to find the will to support our children through fully funded childcare and "a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all"?

Or are we going to continue to "cut off our nose to spite our face?"


Thursday, September 14, 2023

In Case You're Listening -- Annual Blogoversary Post

SEPTEMBER 14, 2006

I started this blog while I was still teaching, in 2006. I had just begun my 31st year as an educator.

Just like in previous years, however, I was stressed out and irritated about the standardized testing situation in Indiana. I needed to vent.

This was a place where I could express my frustration about the condition of public education in Indiana and the US. I didn’t care who read it…if anyone. I just wanted to put my thoughts down and complain. I suppose I should have titled the blog “The Complaint Department” or something like that since that’s what it mostly consisted (and consists) of...complaints about how public education, and education in general, is treated in the US.

I focused the blog on testing. 2006 was in the middle of the “No Child Left Behind” unpleasantness when schools were labeled good if they catered to wealthy, upper-middle, or middle-class students and bad if they were filled with children living in poverty. This is simply because, then as now, test scores mirror a family's economic status. Rich kids, with educated parents and well-staffed and well-supplied schools score high. Poor kids, with parents who work two or three minimum-wage jobs and understaffed and underfunded schools score low. Adding injury to insult, NCLB made punishment of the so-called bad schools part of the plan.


Things have gone from bad to worse in the last seventeen years. I’ve complained less, only because I’ve written less due to personal health problems (only 10 posts in 2022 and just one this year).

Testing is still misused and overused. The NAEP is regularly misinterpreted by folks who know nothing about education and testing and who conflate the terms “proficiency” and “grade level.” States still force schools to test for ranking purposes...in ignorance of the real purposes of educational testing.

Politicians, Indiana's included, still use every excuse to whine about the sad state of our public schools, how awful teachers (and their unions) are, and how our children are being shortchanged. All that public school bashing has led to a crisis of teacher shortages around the country. It turns out that it's hard to convince young people to enter a profession where they are insulted, their expertise questioned by people who don't know anything about education, underpaid, overworked, called names like "groomer," and blamed for all the ills of society.

Never mind that those same politicians are the main cause of most of the problems facing our public schools.

Never mind that the growth of vouchers and charters has sucked funding from real public schools.

Never mind that money is still inequitably spent so that the rich get richer and the poor still don't get enough.

Testing is still a problem. Teachers and schools are still judged by their test scores despite the fact that poverty is the real problem.

Vouchers and charter schools drain money from public schools at increasing rates despite the fact that their test scores also reflect the income of their students’ families.

Teachers are still undervalued and underpaid. My anecdotal reasons for this are 1) teaching is a predominantly female career and women don't get paid as well as men and 2) because we, as a nation, talk a good game but we really just don't give a damn about our children and their future.

It's almost like they (politicians, pundits, and privatizers) want to destroy public education...


I still regularly badger my local representatives about public education, but, being Republicans, they either are too afraid of their leadership to speak out in favor of public schools or, as I suspect is true, don’t really care about public schools. In their mind it’s “socialism” and we can’t have that, now, can we? I sometimes feel like they don't hear me either. My state representative is (or was, I can't recall) a board member for our local Lutheran schools (voucher recipients -- no conflict of interest there!), and my state senator is a doctor who introduced a bill (currently on hold pending litigation) forbidding parents from providing gender-affirming care for their children. So much for "parental rights."

Physically, I’m doing better so I’ll try to post more (I hope). And I’m not giving up. I’m hopeful that the young people of the nation take charge, insist that schools are fully funded, and insist that teachers are given the credit and pay they deserve.

With any luck, I’ll celebrate the successes of our nation’s support for public education over the next few years. In the meantime here are a couple of good posts to get your blood flowing...

Raising the Bar on Kindergartners: A Nation at Risk Lives On
Kindergarten has never been so high pressured, even after Covid, and it has been this way for years despite little proof children are born with evolved brains requiring faster instruction so they can grow up and beat their peers in other countries.

How must children feel while being made to carry the weight of the future economy, and if they don’t enter first grade learner ready, they could be marked for life!

And corporate remaking of kindergarten thus far, over forty years, with all its pressure, hasn’t produced a good enough child, or adult, for those who still worship A Nation at Risk.

Local Parents, Educators Face ‘Attack’ on Public Schools from Indiana Lawmakers - Limestone Post Magazine in Bloomington, Indiana
Republican legislators came to embrace the concept that state education funding should “follow the student.” If parents sent their child to a public school, a private school, or a privately operated charter school, that’s where the money would go.

This year, they expanded the private-school voucher program to families that make up to 400 percent of the limit for reduced-price school meals, $220,000 for a family of four; and they eliminated pathways that students had to follow to qualify. That makes it essentially a universal program, open to an estimated 97 percent of students.

“I’m excited to see Indiana once again stand behind our Hoosier families who want the ability to choose the best school that meets their child’s needs regardless of their zip code,” House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said in a news release. “We’re now on our way to having the best school choice program in the country.”

As students leave public schools for private schools, however, state funding follows, leaving public schools with fewer resources. Instead of the “general and uniform system of common schools” prescribed by the state constitution, Indiana now funds three K-12 systems: traditional public schools; over 100 charter schools, most of them privately operated; and private schools that rely on vouchers.

Friday, August 25, 2023

2023 Medley #1 - Shortages, Textbooks and Names

Teacher Shortage, Free Textbooks,
Student Names

NATIONAL: Our first two articles cover the national teacher shortage. How are schools coping? What are states doing to make it easier to become a teacher? Are those plans producing well-trained teachers?

Sadly, nowhere to be found is a discussion of why there is a national teacher shortage. Why are teachers leaving the profession in large numbers?
The result is that schools are struggling to find qualified educators...and states are coming up with ways to lower standards for teachers.

Teacher shortages have gotten worse. Here’s how schools are coping.
Evidence suggests that more teachers are leaving the profession. In the suburbs of Washington, many large suburban districts in Maryland and Virginia saw teacher turnover above pre-pandemic levels. An analysis of teacher retention data by the education news outlet Chalkbeat found that turnover rates were the highest they had been in at least five years in eight different states. Nguyen’s team, examining teacher turnover data from 34 states with the help of the National Center on Teacher Quality, found that it rose to a historic 14 percent during the 2021-2022 school year.

Nearly a quarter of teachers surveyed by the RAND Corporation in January said they planned to leave by the end of last school year, citing stress, low pay and long hours. The survey also showed that their well-being had improved from 2021 and 2022 levels.

Plagued by Teacher Shortages, Some States Turn to Fast-Track Credentialing
The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s largest teachers union, in a 2022 report called for more rigor in teacher training, not less, criticizing state efforts to lower the qualifications needed to be a teacher.

“[T]here are more alternative and nontraditional ways to become a teacher in the U.S. than ever before, and unfortunately many of them are low quality,” the report said.

The teachers union stressed methods that are reflected in traditional training, saying aspiring teachers should get “extensive” classroom experiences “alongside a skilled practitioner over a significant period,” and “a strong foundation in subject-area content.”

“We cannot put a bandage on the teacher and school staff shortage by cutting corners and lowering the bar for entry,” the report said.


No more school textbook bills for Indiana parents — but what other fees can still be charged?

INDIANA: A well-thought-out piece of legislation should contain details and cover all situations. This one doesn't.

The law in Indiana now provides for school districts to cover textbook costs, something that parents used to pay for. This is a good idea, but the Republicans, in their stupidity lack of foresight, have neglected to fully fund the program so schools are scrambling to find money to cover books, supplies, and all the other things they need to continue to function.

Will the legislature fully fund public schools? Not likely considering that nearly everyone in the state is now eligible for a private school voucher...and the fact that at least one candidate for Governor has called for cutting Indiana's income tax.

Indiana hasn't been all that generous with tax dollars for public education, passing a huge increase for private school vouchers (72% increase) and a smaller, but large increase for charter schools (16% increase), while actual public schools were lucky enough to garner a 5% increase. Where will the state get the money to fund three school systems (only one of which -- the public schools -- is mandated in the state constitution) without an income tax?
While the new law was championed by state officials, school districts are left trying to figure out what they have to cover and what they don’t — especially when it comes to advanced classes and career development courses.

There’s no consensus yet for what types of fees are still being charged by individual Indiana schools and districts. Some contacted by the Indiana Capital Chronicle said they had totally eliminated all education-related fees — at least for the current school year.

Other district officials said they interpreted the new curriculum law differently and will continue to bill parents for certain college-level course materials and school management software...

The law itself is somewhat vague...


Indiana law on student names and pronouns leaves tough decisions to families and schools

INDIANA: The law (as of July 1) now requires schools to get parental permission to address students by a name other than what appears on their birth certificate. Does this mean that Andrew can't be called Andy? Or Susan can't be called Susie? Sadly, the law is vague and schools are confused about what can and cannot be allowed.

The idea behind the law, according to Todd Rokita (Indiana Attorney General) is that parents have the right to be involved in the upbringing of their children. This law would prohibit a child from deciding on a name (or pronoun) that doesn't traditionally identify with their birth gender. It's all about parental rights...or perhaps it's about making it harder for trans kids to be recognized in the classroom.

The same group of legislators (the super-majority of Republicans) also voted to usurp parental rights by banning gender-affirming care for children under 18, even if parents want it.

Is the legislature interested in "fighting for the right of parents to handle the upbringing of their children," or are they interested in making life difficult for trans kids and their families? The answer is obvious.
HEA 1608 was one of several laws Indiana legislators passed this year aimed at restricting how and when transgender youth could transition socially and medically. Proponents say it gives parents more information about their children at school — part of an argument for increased parental oversight in education that has swept conservative states.

“We’re going to fight for the right of parents to handle the upbringing of their children,” said Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita at a recent press conference in reference to such laws.

But opponents of the new law said outing transgender students to their parents could put some at risk of physical harm or homelessness if their families aren’t supportive. (The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana challenged HEA 1608 in court by focusing on another aspect of the law that prohibits teaching human sexuality in grades K-3.)