Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #224 – August 26, 2015

Dear Friends,

Glenda Ritz has accepted our invitation to speak at our first ICPE membership meeting on August 29th at 2pm.

It will be held in the Washington Township Community and Education Center at the corner of 86th Street and Woodfield Crossing in Indianapolis.

Can you join us to hear the latest update by Glenda Ritz on education issues in Indiana after an eventful summer?

Can you join us to hear the newest data on improvement in Indiana’s public schools as I unveil the new edition of “A 25 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools“?

I hope to see you on Saturday.

The Changing Landscape in the Race for Governor


Based on the crucial power of the Governor to lift or degrade public education in Indiana, the ICPE board instituted a plan to invite all candidates for Governor to discuss the future of public education in a series of seven meetings this fall. On July 20th, letters were mailed to all four candidates: Mike Pence, John Gregg, Glenda Ritz and Karen Tallian.

Much has happened since.

On August 7th, Glenda Ritz announced she is leaving the race for Governor and instead will run for reelection as State Superintendent. A few days later she endorsed John Gregg.

On August 17th, Karen Tallian announced she is leaving the race for Governor and endorsed John Gregg.

Mike Pence has not responded to our invitation.

John Gregg has said in a television interview that he and Glenda Ritz are running as a team and that she will be his “point person” on education policy. At our meeting on Saturday, Glenda Ritz presumably will be able to comment for herself and for John Gregg on our six questions regarding the future of public education:

1. As Governor, what priority would you give to public education in Indiana and what priority would you give to providing public funding to private schools?

2. As Governor, would you work to expand or to curtail the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers? What steps would you take to expand or reduce the program?

3. As Governor, would you work to expand or to reduce the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? Would you support or oppose an escalator clause giving higher state funding to SGO tax credits automatically if donation levels reach certain goals?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. How would you change the role of high stakes testing in Indiana to allow for more instructional time and to promote attention to subjects other than the tested subjects of language arts and math? What is your position on parents opting out of testing?

6. How would you address the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

Join us on August 29th and get involved in the battle to save and restore public education.

“A 25-Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools” – The New Report

Did you know that the graduation rate for the public schools of the state of Indiana leaped up to 89.8% for the Class of 2014, the most recent year reported?

That is up 1.5% above the Class of 2013.

That is only a fraction shy of the 90% goal that has been talked about for years.

That is nearly 14% higher than the 2006 figure using the new four years or less methodology when the first result was 76.1%.

That is way above the figure frequently shown this summer in advertisements for WFYI Channel 20’s American Graduate Project which claimed Indiana’s graduation rate to be 76% and listed all the benefits that would happen if we could lift our graduation rate to 90%.

Someone should tell Channel 20 the news is better than they think.

Through all the controversies and all the efforts to diminish the work of public school educators, the public schools of Indiana have continued to steadily and methodically improve over the past 25 years. The evidence is clear.

This and other points of improvement are found in the latest edition of my annual report entitled “A 25 Year Review: Improvement in Indiana’s Public Schools” which will be unveiled at the August 29th ICPE membership meeting at the Dean Evans Center.

This report as well as information about the important report critical of Indiana’s voucher program released by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability last April will follow the presentation by Glenda Ritz.

Saving public education and restoring it to a high priority will take all of us who are dedicated to the mission of an excellent public education available to all students.

I hope you will join us on Saturday, August 29th at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center. If you can’t come Saturday, please consider coming to one of the subsequent meetings in six other cities around Indiana.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

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 continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. 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.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Everyday Advocates - Randy Harrison



1. Why is public education advocacy important to you?

Public Education is the cornerstone of our Democratic way of life and it should not be sold to the highest corporate bidder.


2. As an advocate, what accomplishment have you found most satisfying?

As a Vice Pres., COPE Chair and now President of Anderson Federation of Teachers 519 it has been my honor and pleasure to lobby, walk in campaigns, host campaign functions and help elect pro-public education leaders like Glenda Ritz and Melanie Wright. It has also been very rewarding to negotiate policies that benefit our children, our school district and our entire teaching /support staffs.


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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Everyday Advocates - Gayle Cosby

1. Why is public education advocacy important to you?
Advocating for public education is important to me because education is the only thing I know that can somewhat level the playing field in terms of opportunities for kids regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Public education is dear to my heart because I attended Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Despite circumstances that could have served as roadblocks to opportunity (I gave birth to my oldest child at age 15) the public school education that I received prepared me well for college.

2. As an advocate, what accomplishment have you found most satisfying?
I was very excited when I was able to facilitate a partnership between IPS and Teacher's Treasures, a local nonprofit which gives teachers school supplies on a monthly basis for a small membership fee. All IPS teachers are now able to shop monthly at Teacher's Treasures, at no cost to them. During my tenure, IPS has also begun giving universal free lunch to every student in the district, regardless of family income. I believe this eliminates a potentially stigmatizing situation for many of our students - as a kid I always had to hand over my blue lunch card, and everyone knew I got "free lunch."

3. What are some of your frustrations or obstacles that you have met or overcome?
Admittedly, it is difficult to be in a position where you are in a minority of one. Your voice alone is offering dissenting views, and while it is incredibly important for the public to hear ideas other than the mainstream, it can be frustrating to passionately believe something, share your opinions at public meetings, but have to watch those ideas constantly being voted down by a pro-"reform" board majority. It is also frustrating to constantly use your one vote to take a stand against privatization measures, but knowing that ultimately your one vote will not affect the overall course of events.

4. What keeps you going?
I'm inspired by the fact that more residents of Indianapolis are catching on to what is happening, and they seem ready to insist their voices be heard. I am also motivated by the fact that my four year old son is entering the IPS district this year. I want public education to remain strong for his generation and more to come.

5. What do you want parents to know about public education issues?
Public schools have taken a beating in the media, but if you look closely at what public schools have to offer, you will probably find a school that fits your child's individual learning style, needs, and interests. Don't believe the hype.

6. How can parents get involved in advocating of public schools?
Seek out relationships with the school, the parents, parent groups...attend board meetings, read and educate yourself about what happens at the decision-making levels of your district - because it ultimately will affect the classroom.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Everyday Advocates - Stephen Eric Bryden

1. Why is public education advocacy important to you?
I was raised to stand up for what I believe in. I am a teacher who happens to be an optimist in denial of the status of public education. In spite of constant reminders to the contrary, I need to lie to myself that things will change. People in positions of power (and, more importantly, the dollars of those who influence and back them) could care less about what is best for children. The rage and frustration I often feel would eat me from the inside if I were not to use it as fuel for external actions. I refuse to stand by as developmentally appropriate education gets chipped further and further away by a system of global businesses whose interests lie in mining children for data in the name of profit, gutting the livelihood of public schools with vouchers, and brazenly wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on charter schools. This is David trying to fight a Goliath who owns not only the ever-shrinking battlefield, but also the slingshot store. Until we can play by rules not instituted to destroy what we do, educators will keep spending more disheartening time concerning themselves with compliance over learning.

2. What do you want parents to know about public education issues?
School reform is a hoax presented to reap profits. Standardized tests are a great measure...of socioeconomic status. The people telling us how and what to teach send their kids to private schools with none of those expectations. Follow the money. Inform yourselves. Vote.

3. Why are public schools important to everyone in a community?
Unlike charter schools, we accept everyone. Unlike voucher schools, we don't take taxpayer money and use it to rebuild churches. We teach children.
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Friday, August 7, 2015

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #223 – August 6, 2015

Dear Friends,

We have learned definitively in the past four years that whoever holds the office of Governor – not the State Superintendent but the Governor -- carries the most weight in deciding whether Indiana’s public schools get support and funding and whether public education flourishes or recedes in Indiana.

Four candidates have declared that they want to run for Governor in 2016. The campaign is on.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education has invited all four candidates in a letter mailed on July 20th to discuss six questions about public education with ICPE members and prospective members at a series of seven ICPE membership meetings throughout Indiana.

Please check out the list of meetings below and plan to come to one or more. Bring along a friend who supports public education! Membership meetings are open to all ICPE members and those who are considering membership.

Seven ICPE Meetings


All who support public education are welcome to come to one or more of the fall meetings:

Saturday, August 29 – Indianapolis Dean Evans Center, 8550 Woodfield Crossing Blvd., 2 pm (E.D.T.)

Thursday, September 10 – Lowell Lowell High School Auditorium, 2051 East Commercial Ave., 6:30 pm (C.D.T .)

Thursday, September 17 – West Lafayette West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 1105 N. Grant Street, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Saturday, October 3 – Fort Wayne Ivy Tech Coliseum Campus Auditorium, 3800 N. Anthony Blvd., 2 pm (E.D.T.)

Tuesday, October 13 –Bloomington City Hall, 401 North Morton, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Tuesday, October 20 – Evansville Central Library, 200 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 6:30 (C.D.T.)

Wednesday, October 21 – New Albany Location TBA, 7 pm (E.D.T.)

Please note the northwest Indiana meeting (Sept. 10th) and the southwest Indiana meeting (Oct. 20) are on Central time.

Six Questions

You are probably familiar with the four declared gubernatorial candidates, listed alphabetically:
  • John Gregg
  • Mike Pence
  • Glenda Ritz
  • Karen Tallian
Since ICPE is a bipartisan nonprofit advocacy group in support of public education, all four candidates were invited in exactly the same way to speak or to send a spokesperson empowered to speak on their behalf to address six key questions:

1. As Governor, what priority would you give to public education in Indiana and what priority would you give to providing public funding to private schools?

2. As Governor, would you work to expand or to curtail the choice scholarship voucher program, now using public money to pay for 29,000 private school vouchers? What steps would you take to expand or reduce the program?

3. As Governor, would you work to expand or to reduce the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit program? Would you support or oppose an escalator clause giving higher state funding to SGO tax credits automatically if donation levels reach certain goals?

4. What role do you see for public schools in holding communities together and supporting the civic participation of young citizens in our democracy? How is that role changing as our public school system in Indiana is increasingly privatized?

5. How would you change the role of high stakes testing in Indiana to allow for more instructional time and to promote attention to subjects other than the tested subjects of language arts and math? What is your position on parents opting out of testing?

6. How would you address the current duplication of services between the State Board of Education staff and the Indiana Department of Education staff?

To date, we have not had a response from any of the four candidates, but we are confident that at least some of the candidates will want to address Indiana citizens who support public education in these fall ICPE meetings.

We will keep you updated on how the candidates respond. If you know the candidates, let them know you are eager to have them participate in these meetings.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars and make plans to attend one or more of the fall meetings.

Thanks for your advocacy for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

vic790@aol.com

“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 continues to represent ICPE during the interim study committee meetings in August and September. Our work in support of public education in the Statehouse goes on. 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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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Another One Bites the Dust

by Stephanie Keiles

I am sitting her in my lovely little backyard on a beautiful Michigan summer day, drinking a Fat Tire Amber Ale, and crying. I am in tears because today I made one of the hardest decisions of my life; I resigned from my job as a public school teacher. A job I didn't want to leave — but I had to.

A little background. I didn't figure out that I wanted to be a math teacher until I was 28. As a kid I was always told I was "too smart" to be a teacher, so I went to business school instead. I lasted one year in the financial world before I knew it was not for me. I read a quote from Millicent Fenwick, the (moderate) Republican Congresswoman from my home state of New Jersey, where she said that the secret to happiness was doing something you enjoyed so much that what was in your pay envelope was incidental. I quit my job as an analyst at a large accounting firm determined to find my passion. I floundered for a while, and then I eventually got married and decided I would be a stay-at-home mom, but only until my kids were in school. Then I would need to find that passion.

I was pregnant with my oldest child, sitting on a sofa in Stockholm, Sweden, when I had my epiphany — I would be a math teacher. A middle school math teacher! I thought about it and it fit my criteria perfectly. No, I wasn't thinking about the pension, or the "part-time" schedule, or any of the other gold-plated benefits that ignorant people think we go into the profession for. Two criteria: I would enjoy it, and I would be good at it. Nine years and four kids later, I enrolled in Eastern Michigan University's Post-Baccalaureate teacher certification program and first stepped into my own classroom at the age of 40. I was teaching high school, because that's where I had my first offer, and I was given five classes of kids who were below grade-level in math. And I still loved it. I knew I had found my calling. After three years I switched districts to be closer to home and to teach middle school, where I belonged. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven! I was hired to teach in my district's Talented and Gifted program, so I had two classes of 8th graders who were taking Honors Geometry and three classes of general 8th grade math. This coming year I was scheduled to have five sections of Honors Geometry — all my students would be two, and sometimes three, years advanced in math. I was also scheduled to have my beloved first hour planning period, and I was excited to work with a new group of kids on Student Council. It was looking to be a great year — and I'm still walking away.

My friends, in real life and on Facebook, know what a huge supporter of public schools I am. I am a product of public schools, and my children are the products of public schools. Public education is the backbone of democracy, and we all know there is a corporatization and privatization movement trying to undermine it. I became an activist after Gov. Rick Snyder and his Republican goons took over Michigan and declared war on teachers. I am part of a group called Save Michigan's Public Schools; two years ago we put on a rally for public education at the Capitol steps that drew over 1,000 people from all over the state with just three weeks' notice and during summer break. I have testified in front of the Michigan House Education Committee against lifting the cap on charter schools, and also against Common Core. I attended both NPE conferences to meet with other activists and bring back ideas to my compadres in Michigan. I have been fighting for public education for five years now, and I will continue to do so.

But I just can't work in public education anymore. Coming from the Republicans at the state level and the Democrats at the national level, I have been forced to comply with mandates that are NOT in the best interest of kids. I am tired of having to perform what I consider to be educational malpractice in the name of "accountability." The amount of time lost to standardized tests that are of no use to me as a classroom teacher is mind-boggling. And when you add in mandatory quarterly district-wide tests, which are used to collect data that nothing is ever done with, it's beyond ridiculous. Sometimes I feel like I live in a Kafka novel. Number one on my district's list of how to close the achievement gap and increase learning? Making sure that all teachers have their learning goals posted every day in the form of an "I Can" statement. I don't know how we ever got to be successful adults when we had no "I Can" statements on the wall.

In addition, due to a chronic, purposeful underfunding of public schools here in Michigan, my take-home pay has been frozen or decreased for the past five years, and I don’t see the situation getting any better in the near future. No, I did not go into teaching for the money, but I also did not go into teaching to barely scrape by, either. As a tenth-year teacher in my district, I would be making 16% less than a tenth-year was when I was hired in 2006. Plus I now have to pay for medical benefits, and 3% of my pay is taken out to fund current retiree health care, which has been found unconstitutional for all state employees except teachers. And I’m being asked to contribute more to my pension. Financial decisions were made based on anticipated future income that never materialized, for me and for thousands and thousands of other public school teachers. The thought of ANY teacher having to take a second job to support him/herself at ANY point in his/her career is disgusting to me, yet that’s what I was contemplating doing. At 53, with a master’s degree and twelve years of experience.

If I were poorly compensated but didn’t have to comply with asinine mandates and a lack of respect, that would be one thing. And if I were continuing my way up the pay scale but had to deal with asinine mandates, that would be one thing. But having to comply with asinine mandates AND watching my income, in the form of real dollars, decline every year? When I have the choice to teach where I will be better compensated and all educational decisions will be made by experienced educators? And I will be treated with respect? Bring it on.

So as of today I have officially resigned from my district, effective August 31st, which is when I will start my new job as a middle school math teacher at an independent school. I am looking forward to being treated like a professional, instead of a child, and I'm pretty sure I will never hear the words, "We can't afford to give you a raise", or worse (as in the past two years), "You're going to have to take a pay cut." I am looking forward to not having to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on classroom supplies. And the free lunch, catered by a local upscale market, will be pretty sweet, too.

I will miss my colleagues more than you could ever know, especially my math girls and my Green Hall buddies. It really breaks my heart to leave such a wonderful group of people. In fact, it's pretty devastating. But I have to do what's best for me in the long run, and the thought of making more money and teaching classes of 15 instead of 34, and especially not having to deal with all the BS, was too much to refuse.

I will always be there to fight for public education. I just can't teach in it.


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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Everyday Advocates - Sharon Adams

1. What do you want parents to know about public education issues?
Most importantly, I want parents to be aware of what their politicians are doing to education in Indiana. If they are like me, they always vote for people based on moral issues. As a teacher I discovered that the single most important moral issue facing us right now is public education. We have to take a good look at who our politicians really are. When they vote to expand vouchers and grade our schools based on unfair data, they are doing great harm to public education. Their catch-phrase is "choice." We have to ask ourselves whose choice is it really? Do public schools and their students have a choice when their budgets are deeply cut? Do they have a choice when their class sizes are large? Do they have a choice when their arts, counselors, aides, and teachers are cut? Do they have a choice when they are under constant stress and forced to be taught to a test? Do they have a choice when their teachers are stressed because their jobs are the line with these unfair test scores? Do parents understand that every child regardless of any disability in a public school is required to take these high-stakes exams because of their school grade? Our politicians have created a recipe for disaster. Publicly funded private schools are a complete contradiction to equity for all. The "haves" have more and the "have-nots" have less.

2. How can parents get involved in advocating for public schools?
Parents can get involved by talking to their friends, neighbors, and families. The world needs to know that this is not a one-party issue.

I've voted Republican almost my entire life but in Indiana many in my own party are responsible for the harm done to public schools. I had to wake up to the reality that this is not about the party anymore but about the person and their integrity. I worked very hard to help get Superintendent Ritz elected because I knew she was best for our children and our schools. Parents should not be afraid to get involved and speak up and defend their public schools. They can form advocate groups, write letters, make phone calls, and so much more. Social media is another great avenue. Share the truth because so many people are sheltered from the real issues. They only know what they see on the news and read in their local paper. That is why grassroots building and word-of-mouth communication is so incredibly important!! We have to unite as one big team for this harmful legislation to be reversed. Together we can move mountains!

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