Focusing on key issues

Let’s talk about neoliberalism, gentrification and race instead of who-said-what at the last meeting.

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Dear Mrs. Sheila Kennedy,

In response to your blog dated 9/7/2017 “How Not To Win Friends and Influence People” :

You don’t know me, but I do seek to find commonalities before highlighting what divides us.  So first, I’ll say that I voted for Lugar in the primary the last time he ran.  I like him and I especially like his across the aisle political style.  A moderate.  But, as some of your commenters point out, desperate times call for desperate measures.  And many of the folks who pay close attention to IPS issues felt the ‘desperate measures’ threshold was crossed some time ago.   Please allow me to explain.

While your blog entry is focused squarely on civility in public discourse (some of which I do happen to agree with) – the time for us liberals to be burying our heads in the sand regarding what is truly happening with IPS has got to end, or there will be no IPS left.  Hence the strong language and attention-grabbing testimonials.

Based on what I have read of your blogs, I’m interested in your thoughts on the deeper issue here. When it comes to IPS, it seems that you have skirted the underlying issues while instead focusing squarely on superficial happenings such as the tone of one person’s delegation.  But, what about the underlying message?

Jim Scheurich (full professor of Education at IUPUI with decades of experience) and other concerned citizens of the IPS Community Coalition are speaking directly  to the effects of neoliberalism which are playing out in our own backyard with IPS.  Our free public school district is, piece by piece, becoming free market, privately owned, and our tax dollars a source of fine income for the owners.   If you require further explanation, please see my previous blogs on Phalen Academy, Innovation Network and their CEO Earl Martin Phalen, a Boston resident managing one Indianapolis charter and one IPS Innovation Network school.  Phalen’s salary rivals or exceeds that of IPS Superintendent Dr. Ferebee’s (who manages ~60 schools and is present in Indianapolis every day).  Don’t take my word for it – please follow the links in my blogs to explore the IPS Board Documents which ratified what I am describing.

Mrs. Kennedy, in your blog you state:

“…he has lectured the Board that it is “amateurish,” accused members of being “bought and paid for,” and characterized their elections as “undemocratic.”

As far as Dr. Scheurich’s comments regarding being bought and paid for, there is a large network of organizations that are supportive of this neoliberal agenda- organizations which give large campaign finance donations.  I was “bought and paid for” as well in my 2012 election, as are six of the seven current IPS Board members (excepting only Elizabeth Gore, elected in 2016, who was not supported by the ed-reform organizations).  Campaign finance documents tell the tale.  I would further agree that his characterization of the elections as “undemocratic” are spot on.  What average citizen can compete with millions of special interest campaign spending?

I bet that your comeback (if you amuse me with one) is going to point to the declining enrollments and declining quality of IPS due to the poor test scores.  You will justify your daughter and former student’s IPS board actions by saying that it is necessary to close schools (I’m not talking about closing schools) and you might even dare to propose on that basis that IPS is justified in handing over schools and resources to outside entities (who stand to profit, regardless of 501c3 status).

This is a divisive issue, especially among white liberals.  I’ll tell you why I think it is so – based on the lingering effects of racism and segregation.

There are some white people who have moved beyond the city limits who are simply tired of making that long drive everyday, or who live in elite enclaves of the IPS district.  They need a school that they feel *comfortable* sending their kids to.  These folks are generally supportive of anything that might create a school *just diverse enough* for their kids to attend.

Mrs. Kennedy, I bring this up because of your following comment:

” He topped it off by telling the white members of the Board they were racists. (He’s white.) He rarely looked at the Board during this extended diatribe; instead, he aimed his rhetoric at  the largely African-American attendees who were clearly his real audience.”

Race is a real issue for a school board making decisions in the throes of advancing neoliberal policies located within a city in the midst of gentrification.  There are white liberals (such as yourself, your daughter, and your former student) who tend to make the issues of race and segregation worse by assuming that racism is a problem solely for the black community to solve.  One of the facets of white privilege is obliviousness.  The black community isn’t the intended audience…black people have long been aware of racial issues in IPS and see it not as a new problem, but one that simply continues to exist.  Dr. Scheurich was not speaking to only the black people in the room because I’m sure he realizes that it will take ALL of us to tackle these seemingly insurmountable issues.  I say insurmountable because, the first step in solving them would be for our elected representatives to get beyond their white privilege and be engaged listeners.

Can we focus less on the mode of delivery for a group of people in the city who are feeling unheard, and focus more on the bigger issues mentioned above?  I’m on campus.  Let’s grab a coffee.