Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #35– June 29, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

This November voters will decide whether to elect candidates who will allow public education to be dismantled in Indiana.

This fact must not get lost in the midst of an unprecedented presidential election and contentious state elections.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction chosen by the voters will play a crucial role in whether private school vouchers will be enormously expanded as envisioned in proposed bills filed last January in the 2016 legislative session.

The Republican Party at their June 11th convention has now chosen Jennifer McCormick to run for State Superintendent against the incumbent State Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Jennifer McCormick is the respected superintendent of the Yorktown Schools who was recruited to run by the leaders of the Institute for Quality Education and by the forces of Governor Pence in order to offer a candidate who would not oppose their plans to further expand vouchers and to further privatize our public schools. They have ambitious plans to do so, which are described below.

Whether to privatize and eventually dismantle our public schools is the biggest educational issue of our generation. A leader who stands silent and will not object as the privatization of public schools marches on is the wrong leader for Indiana schools.

I stand with State Superintendent Glenda Ritz in her bid for reelection. She opposes all efforts to privatize our public schools.

While consistently and fairly administering the voucher law that she inherited from State Superintendent Tony Bennett, she has also continued to advocate that public money should be focused on public schools and that any further expansion of vouchers is going in the wrong direction. She recently called for financing pre-kindergarten programs for all students whose parents choose it by shifting taxpayer money away from the private school voucher program.

I support her completely on these points.

The choice is clear on this crucial policy question. I endorse State Superintendent Ritz in this election and I urge all public school advocates to work for her reelection to halt the further expansion of private school vouchers that is on the drawing boards of those who are helping to bankroll the Jennifer McCormick campaign.


[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]


The Path to Dismantling Public Education in Indiana

A proposal to dismantle public education called “Education Savings Accounts” was introduced last January in the 2016 General Assembly. It will certainly be on the agenda in the 2017 session, depending on who prevails in the election. It goes far beyond vouchers in privatizing our schools.

The “Education Savings Accounts” plan is being pushed by The Institute for Quality Education, a wealthy group dedicated to funneling more and more public money into private schools following the philosophy of Milton Friedman, who advocated that public education should end and schooling in America should be privatized.

On January 25, 2016 in a Statehouse rally, the Institute for Quality Education rolled out their vision of “Education Savings Accounts” for Indiana in House Bill 1311 and Senate Bill 397. The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education said in testimony that Education Savings Accounts are “the future of school choice in Indiana.” The powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Dr. Tim Brown sponsored House Bill 1311 and was the featured speaker at the rally.

House Bill 1311 would give each parent that signs an agreement approximately $6000 on a debit card, instead of giving that amount to the school district as is done now. The parent can then spend your tax dollars on home school services as the parent may choose, reducing by $6000 the funding for public school students in the local school.

The parent must only agree to teach “reading, grammar, math, science and social studies.” With no art, no foreign language, and no vocational subjects, this would drastically narrow the curriculum and skew the education of the next generation. There is no oversight, no accountability and no public approval process for the way parents spend the taxpayer’s money. Fraud could become a huge problem.

This is a radical and harmful proposal that would seriously undermine public education. The plan deserves to be firmly denounced by all who support public education to all who will listen.

Jennifer McCormick: The Candidate of Pro-Voucher Advocates

After introducing the radical plan described above, the Institute for Quality Education took steps to get a leader in the Statehouse who would not object to this plan.

On January 28, 2016, just three days after their rally for Education Savings Accounts, leaders of the Institute for Quality Education stood next to their chosen candidate for State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick in a Statehouse announcement of her candidacy. The leaders of the pro-voucher movement and the forces of Governor Pence tapped an experienced superintendent to be their candidate who would be willing to support Governor’s Pence’s approach to vouchers and the Institute for Quality Education’s push for Education Savings Accounts.

Public school advocates should know that Jennifer McCormick will not advocate against private school vouchers. Evidence of this is clear:
  • In an article about Jennifer McCormick’s candidacy on March 3, 2016, the Muncie Star Press wrote: “She also threw her support behind charter schools and vouchers, which Ritz has openly opposed in the past. ‘It’s here’ she said. ‘State Superintendent isn’t going to change that, so we have to coexist.’”
  • An article by Chelsea Schneider in the Indianapolis Star on May 29, 2016 said: “Although she is backed by party stalwarts, her support of private school vouchers and charter schools might be where McCormick finds herself most at odds with her peers in traditional public education. ‘I do agree with choice’, McCormick told Indystar.”
  • She has not spoken out in opposition to Education Savings Accounts as any public education leader should do.
  • She has accepted major donations and support from leaders of the Institute for Quality Education, the originators of the Education Savings Account proposal in Indiana.
Her lack of comment speaks volumes about what she will do regarding Education Savings Accounts, unveiled six months ago, the most damaging threat to public education in the 47 years since I started teaching in Indiana.

There is no question that Jennifer McCormick will tacitly support vouchers and the future expansion of vouchers being pushed by her prominent funders in the Institute for Quality Education.

The Institute for Quality Education and the Governor’s forces sought out a candidate to run for State Superintendent who would not stand in their way as they expand private school vouchers and Education Savings Accounts. They have found such a candidate in Jennifer McCormick.

Glenda Ritz: The Candidate Supporting Public Education and Opposing Education Savings Accounts

The incumbent candidate Glenda Ritz was under fire from day one after her 2012 election from Governor Pence’s forces who wanted to dominate the policy debate and undermine her authority over K-12 schools, especially regarding the generational goal of privatizing our public schools by supporting private and religious schools with public money.

I stand with Glenda Ritz in this election. In the year of Indiana’s bicentennial, we must not privatize and dismantle the public school system that has taken 200 years to build in Indiana and remains the bedrock of our democracy and the best hope for strong non-sectarian, non-partisan schools that can serve as the anchors of our local communities.

The voucher advocates have their candidate who will not mention vouchers, and their proposal to dismantle public education is ready to be filed again in the General Assembly.

Will the voters defend public education by reelecting Glenda Ritz or will they approve of the Institute for Quality Education’s candidate Jennifer McCormick to open the door for continuous voucher expansion and Education Savings Accounts?

I stand with Glenda Ritz in this crossroads.

The stakes are high. We need a State Superintendent who will oppose all efforts to privatize our public schools.

Thanks for advocating in support of public education!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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, June 2, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #34– June 2, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

Representative Christina Hale, a strong advocate for public education in the General Assembly, is an excellent choice by John Gregg to be our next Lieutenant Governor.

I am happy to endorse her candidacy and to recommend that all voters who put support of public education at the top of their priorities get behind the John Gregg/ Christina Hale ticket.


[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

Christina Hale and Public Education

I first met Christina Hale at a meeting during the fall of 2012 where I spoke about public education and she was introduced as a candidate for House District 87.

She was running for the House seat of Representative Cindy Noe, one of 56 Republicans who voted to pass the private school voucher law in the previous General Assembly over the objections of public school advocates across Indiana. Christina Hale challenged Representative Noe after that historic session and won a narrow victory in the November 2012 election.

Once in the General Assembly, Representative Hale has strongly supported public education. She opposed Governor Pence’s massive expansion of the private school voucher program in 2013, an expansion that cost taxpayers an added expense of $40 million in 2014-15 according to figures documented in the state’s annual financial report on the voucher program. She voted against the 2015 budget which raised the money going to K-8 private school vouchers and to private school tax credit scholarships by $10 million over two years. In 2016, she voted against the bill to expand vouchers by extending applications to begin spring semester.

Christina Hale has established a record that all advocates for public education can get behind.

Mike Pence vs. John Gregg

The tickets for the gubernatorial race in Indiana are now set.

Mike Pence and his running mate Eric Holcomb strongly support the continuous annual expansion of private school vouchers. They clearly favor private schools and using taxpayer money to privatize education in Indiana.

Governor Pence has thrown Governor Mitch Daniels’ advice to “try public school first” under the bus. In his first legislative session in 2013, Governor Pence’s expansion law added four paths to eligibility for vouchers which allowed thousands of students who had never tried public schools to get a taxpayer funded voucher to go to the private or religious school that they had always attended. There was no new choice made, but they still got a Choice Scholarship. This was done without telling the taxpayers that it would cost $40 million per year, a figure documented for 2014-15 in the state report on Choice Scholarships issued in June, 2015.

John Gregg and his running mate Christina Hale strongly support public education and oppose the expansion of private school vouchers. They clearly support public schools and focusing taxpayer money on public schools.

John Gregg has made it clear in a 2015 speech that I heard that when he is elected “the war on public schools will end.” He said he is “100% against vouchers.” He said he would oppose any expansion of vouchers with a veto if necessary. He said we should separate voucher expenses as an independent line item in the budget for transparency, a step that Governor Pence has refused to take.

The record is clear and the choice is clear about which ticket will best support public education.

All voters who give a high priority to supporting public education in Indiana should note the stark difference in the candidates in the way they support public schools and get behind the Gregg/Hale ticket.

The future of public education in Indiana is riding on this election. The stakes are high in our bicentennial year.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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Sunday, May 15, 2016

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

7. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”
Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.


It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3
25. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.
Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Testing madness needs to stop

The following op-ed by NEIFPE's Co-founder Phyllis Bush appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on May 4, and the Fort Wayne News Sentinel on May 6.

May 4
'Testing madness needs to stop': Pressure on students warps learning experience

May 6
We must find an alternative to high-stakes testing

by Phyllis Bush

O, brave new world, that has such tests in it, that cause so much angst for children, teachers, families, and schools, and that is so quickly forgotten once the testing trauma is over. Haven’t we all grown weary of hearing about the latest ISTEP+ debacles?

In many respects, it is heartening news that five local education and business leaders have been appointed to the new statewide ISTEP+ review panel; however, doesn’t this beg the question of what is at the heart of the testing issue? Our education policymakers seem to believe that if we replace ISTEP+ with another test, all will be right in the world.

During the past week I have heard from area teachers that the problems in this year’s tests have been a nightmare thanks to technology glitches and because of the distress of children. Recognizing that there are serious problems is the first step that the ISTEP+ review panel should address, but perhaps the more pertinent issue that really needs to be examined is the very idea of high-stakes testing.

Since the state has handcuffed school districts, teachers and parents from opting out of the test, have our policymakers seriously considered the damaging effects on children that have been caused by the consequences of all of the technological failures when computer screens say fail?

Educators understand that there are only two instructionally sound reasons for testing: diagnostic and evaluative purposes. Here in Indiana, we are using these tests for neither of those reasons. Whether tests are standardized or teacher-generated, testing that is punitive in nature is both damaging and wrong. Is this what we want for our children? Do we want children to be learners and thinkers, or do we want them to be expert test takers?

Is it fair to punish schools with closings or less funding and teachers with poor evaluations for the consequence of test scores? Is it fair to punish a child because he is who he is or because he performed how he performed?

Besides the inherent damage to schools and children being caused by high-stakes testing for dubious accountability purposes, we need to consider the fiscal damage to our state. When the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education first began researching the cost of testing in 2012, we found that ISTEP+ testing in Indiana was costing taxpayers $48 million. Last fall, we were surprised to find that the total cost of testing is much more elusive. From all of our research, the estimates for testing in this state range wildly from $56 million to $130 million.

Ever since 2008, when $300 million was slashed from school funding and then followed up by tax caps, public schools have been struggling financially. Class sizes have ballooned, and resources, including transportation, have been cut. Setting aside the fiscal irresponsibility of our state legislature, couldn’t this money be better spent on providing resources to our schools?

We have been told that standards and accountability are what are important in making our schools better. Common sense tells us there are much better ways of holding schools accountable. By trusting our principals and administrators and allowing them to do their jobs as educational and building leaders, we might find that all of these spurious accountability measures would be unnecessary.

Maybe it is time to consider another method of accountability besides high-stakes testing. Tests like ISTEP+ or whatever its replacement may be have shown to be detrimental to children’s health, well-being and real academic progress and have been used as an excuse to divert much-needed resources from schools to hand over to for-profit companies – and to waste our tax dollars.

This testing madness needs to stop.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

by Phyllis Bush

(Originally published on Facebook)

Many politicians are beholden to their base in order to be re-elected. Because so few people have traditionally voted, especially in off years, unhappy voters are hugely influential in setting the political agenda for the rest of us. Since those unhappy folks are mad about nearly everything, they choose candidates and instruct them to cut taxes and to obstruct governance. Then when nothing gets done, we are all angry, and we blame it on everyone but ourselves, because those who voted, voted for obstructionists and hard liners, and the rest of us stayed home and complained about our votes not counting. We should hardly be shocked since this is what we get from our apathy.

Instead of looking for solutions to deal with the serious issues facing us, we get distracted by non-issue threats like transgender bathrooms rather than real issue threats like repairing our infrastructure or dealing with inadequate funding of our social services. This vicious cycle continues because rather than telling their constituents the truth about issues and about choices that need to be made to solve these issues, politicians appeal to our baser selves by sowing seeds of discontent and by concentrating on wedge issues rather than on the compromises needed for governance.

The bottom line is that it is our own fault because we want easy answers to the complexities of life. We are willing to believe what we are told without questioning anyone who reinforces our pre-conceived notions. We are willing to rant and to complain and to blame. So, we sit at our keyboards and angrily click on the latest topic that annoys us, and we periodically rant about the latest slight that angers us--whether it is personal or political.

If anything is ever to change, we need to get off our asses to do the hard work of living in a democracy. We need to get informed, to get engaged, to get involved, to think, and to hold our elected officials to the same standard as we would hold our friends and families.

Rather than waiting for superman, we need to channel our own inner strength and roll up our sleeves to do what is necessary to change the world.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Vic’s Election Notes on Education #33– May 2, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
_____

In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

The architect of Indiana’s damaging shift to privatizing Indiana’s public schools has a challenger in tomorrow’s primary election.

Representative Behning has done more than any other member of the House to dismantle public education and send public tax money to private and religious schools.

Because of the law he sponsored in 2011, Indiana is now paying public money for religious education for the first time in 160 years. Public money paid to private and religious schools totaled over $134 million in 2015-16 according to state financial reports.

Now he is being challenged in House District 91 by Jim Grimes, a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

All who believe Indiana education policy has gone in the wrong direction in the past five years should hold Representative Behning accountable and support Jim Grimes in District 91.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
House District 91

House District 91 includes the southwest corner of Marion County and the southeast corner of Hendricks County, including portions of Plainfield.

Representative Behning’s Goal: Public Money to Pay for All Private and Religious Education and a Privatized Education System in Indiana

If you or people you know believe Indiana’s school reforms in the past five years have hurt our schools, no one is more responsible for the General Assembly’s education policies that have brought us to where we are than Representative Behning. Here is a brief list of misguided laws he has sponsored:
  • He sponsored the 2011 voucher law which, after an historic legislative battle including a 9-hour House hearing over 2 days, allowed public tuition money to go to private and religious schools for the first time in 160 years since the 1851 Constitution.
  • He sponsored the massive 2013 voucher expansion law which rewrote eligibility rules allowing thousands of students who had always been in private schools to get public voucher tuition. This created a new fiscal cost paying for private school students who had never before been in the public count, hidden at the time of passage, of $40 million dollars according to the most recent state financial reports for 2014-15.
  • He sponsored the 2011 charter expansion law that has allowed private colleges to authorize public charter schools using public money voted on in private trustee meetings, as Grace College and Seminary from northern Indiana has now done over the strong objections of Monroe County leaders in southern Indiana. A charter school turned down by the Indiana Charter Board went authorizer-shopping and found Grace College willing to approve a Monroe County school 160 miles away. That is not right!
  • He sponsored the 2013 partisan rewrite of Indiana’s landmark bipartisan 1999 accountability law, forcing the A-F letter grade system based on high stakes testing into law for the first time. He has thus led the creation of a system in which all students and all teachers now give first priority to the high stakes test, narrowing the curriculum to what is tested and thereby slowly dismantling the balanced curriculum of the arts, civics and foreign language that Indiana once had.
  • He has been the dominant force in making Indiana an experimental marketplace of school choice in which all schools, public and private, compete based on high stakes testing for the hearts and minds of parents. His policies have forced all schools to give a higher priority to marketing their school to build enrollment needed to survive than to building a strong and creative curriculum.
Jim Grimes, according to the Indianapolis Star (May 1, page 4A), is concerned about the impact of these policies and is worried these new policies “will leave children in public schools behind.”

Based on the long record of Representative Behning’s effort to diminish public education, it is clear that Jim Grimes deserves the support of all public school advocates over Representative Behning in this primary election, especially those in House District 91.

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year. Will public education survive the political attacks?

Contact your friends in House District 91 about supporting Jim Grimes in tomorrow’s primary election.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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Vic’s Election Notes on Education #32– May 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

Note: There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization.
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In Indiana’s bicentennial year, will Hoosier voters elect candidates who will vote to dismantle public education in Indiana?

In House District 17, an open seat after the retirement of Representative Tim Harman, two candidates are running in the Republican primary election in a district that is normally a safe Republican seat.

The two candidates are Jesse Bohannon and Jack Jordan.

Of the two candidates, Jack Jordan deserves the support of public school advocates in the House District 17 race in the May 3rd primary election.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]

House District 17

House District 17 includes all of Marshall County and a large portion of Fulton County, including Bremen, Bourbon, La Paz, Plymouth, Argos and Rochester.

Key Points for Supporting Public Education

My recommendation to support Jack Jordan in District 17 is based on these key points:
  • Jesse Bohannon has long been an advocate for more private school vouchers. He ran for a House seat in 2014 in a different district (House District 48), losing narrowly in the primary to Douglas Miller. At the time he was a teacher at a private alternative school called the Crossing, and he ran for the seat in 2014 saying he would make voucher expansion a priority. “Bohannon identified school vouchers as the big issue for him. He favors expanding the program for the K-12 school system, allowing more state funding earmarked for education to follow students, whether they attend public or private schools or are home-schooled.” (posted April 22, 2014 by Tim Vandenack of the Elkhart Truth)
  • Paying taxpayer-funded tuition for home-schooling would be a huge new expensive expansion. The concept was introduced in 2016 in the General Assembly in bills establishing “Education Savings Accounts”, a proposal that I call “Reduced Learning No Accountability Accounts” that I have described in previous notes. The bills filed to implement this concept have not advanced, but if more voucher advocates like Jesse Bohannon favoring voucher expansion are elected, these damaging bills may advance. Any move to enact this voucher expansion would further decimate funding for public schools.
  • Jack Jordan has been a leader in public education in his local community. He was elected and served for eight years on the Bremen School Board. During that span he served as Bremen School Board President. His background gives him strong experience to understand the needs and issues of public schools.

Based on these differences, it is clear that Jack Jordan deserves the support of all public school advocates over Jesse Bohannon, especially those in House District 17.

The stakes are high in our bicentennial year. Will public education survive the political attacks?

Contact your friends in House District 17 about supporting Jack Jordan.

Thanks for standing up in support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at vic790@aol.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.

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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