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.

 

Dear IPS,

A heartfelt letter to the district I love: an invitation to stand for what is right and not permanently close three of our high schools.

First of all, I love you, and I want you to be better, that is why I am writing this letter.  Truly, you have provided a decent education to me, generations of my family before me, and to my children.  We may have been privileged in ways that let us see a better side of you, because I know not every person that has tried IPS has liked it.  But for mine and my children’s experience, I am overall grateful.

So, about what is happening right now – I have questions.  So do others in the community -questions left unanswered by your recent listening tour.  It was overly structured to limit participant interaction with the decision-makers.  Not a good look.

I understand the intent is to close three of our high schools.  (I say “our” because you need to understand that these belong to the community and the people of this community.  I assume shared ownership, as do many others.)  This really is heart-wrenching news, never mind which three have been chosen.

We, the community, have been thinking.  What does it mean that IPS is closing three traditional public high schools, yet partnering with charter school entities to open other new high schools at the same time?  These actions MEAN something.  First of all, they mean that there are definitely high-school aged students within IPS boundaries looking to enroll somewhere.  If that weren’t true, then why would the charter schools be opening?  Secondly, why isn’t IPS working overtime to attract those kids to enroll in the traditional public high schools, instead of closing our schools and resigning those kids to attend the new charter schools?  We say ‘resigning’ cause, hey – we’re biased but – those schools have no history, no SOUL.  A hundred years from now, will our descendents proudly tell their kids that their grandparents graduated from Connections Academy?  From Carpe Diem?  The Excel Center?  There is no sense of place or space associated with these names…online?  A cubicle farm?  A strip mall?  No offense intended, but I’ll give somebody a dollar if these institutions survive the next decade or two.

But what of the legacy and history of Broad Ripple, Crispus Attucks, Arsenal Tech, George Washington, Shortridge, Northwest, Arlington, John Marshall?  We’ve seen it happen before – one of those spaces closes its doors and it rips a big hole in the fabric of our community.  It takes years and hundreds of needles and thread to heal that damage…and the spot still always looks and feels different.

We have established that the closures aren’t really due to a lack of students, since IPS is partnering with charter high schools as we speak.  So WHY is this happening?  Race wasn’t mentioned once in the initial report on the school closures, but it seems that every time IPS schools are shifted or closed, it is due to race.  (The creation of Attucks, strategic location of other schools historically, but I digress).  Right now, Indianapolis is in the beginning stages of gentrification, meaning that lots of white people are coming back to center township from previous iterations of white flight from the city core.  Is the racialized stigma of IPS so embedded in the collective white conscious that white students STILL cannot attend IPS?  [White students comprise 20% of the current IPS population].  If this is not it, then what is it?  What is the reason that since circa 1954 Brown v. Board, (well -really IPS dragged its feet until around 1980) – IPS has never been truly integrated?

IPS, you are positioned uniquely.  I know, for decades your superintendents and board members have been tasked with implementing the charges of the city’s power elite, but… You can break those chains!  Stop giving our public resources away to charter school money-makers, and stand as a true beacon of opportunity for all who choose to settle within the boundaries of IPS.  Instead of selling three of our community’s school buildings, seek alternative means of income or consolidation such as leasing or renting excess properties.   Develop strategies to attract all families to a school system of equitable offerings that reach all learning styles.  If you are successful in building a quality public education, you will not need to lease extra building space for long.  As the population of center township increases, so will the enrollment of IPS.

We know this is a big task.  Undoing decades of self-selected segregation is going to be hard.  But if you don’t step up now, the education inequity gaps already in place in Indy will become great crevasses, swallowing up black and brown communities all over our city.  We already see the most desirable magnet schools being heavily populated by white students.  If you continue down your current path, you’ll get the same apartheid results on a larger scale.  Don’t close our schools, and don’t allow magnets and charters to become additional layers in a caste system of schooling.  Do the right thing.  This is your last chance to prove us wrong.

 

Comments permitted on this thread.

Questions/comments?  Contact the author at grhynear@iupui.edu

 

IPS is closing 3 High Schools!

Jim Scheurich, IUPUI professor on the racial impact of the proposed closure of three IPS high schools.

A meeting was held on April 18 to announce the need to close three Indianapolis Public Schools high school buildings.  A facilities utilization taskforce report was presented, which discusses the costs involved, utilization of each school building, projections for enrollment, etc.  The three schools slated for closure were not identified at this meeting, and will likely not be revealed until June.  However, the community already has developed a compelling set of questions that must be addressed.  The elephant in the room, according to IUPUI Professor of Education Jim Scheurich, is the question of race.  See his comprehensive facebook post below for more information (reposted with permission):

IPS SCHOOL BOARD IS TRYING HARD TO “WHITEWASH” THE CLOSING OF IPS HIGH SCHOOLS

THEY PRESENTED A SCHOOL CLOSING REPORT WITHOUT ONCE EVEN USING THE WORD “RACE”

Last night I attended the IPS board meeting in which the facilities report on closing possibly three IPS high schools was presented.

However, they did not name the high schools to be closed. Over the next month or so, there will be four, maybe five, public meetings for the community to express its response to the closings. Where and when those will happen is at the bottom of this post.

In June, the IPS school board says it will make the decision on which high schools to close. Then, in July and Aug., there will be community meetings at each of the high schools that have been chosen to be closed. Finally, on Sept. 19th IPS board meet, they will vote on the high schools they will close.

While this may already be mostly a done deal for the school board, if the community is to have any impact, it will be at these upcoming community meetings listed below.

Again, our only opportunity to have impact is at these community meetings over the next month. Thus, if you want the community to have any voice at all, you will need to attend one or more of these meetings.

On the other hand, if we sit by in silence, they will do whatever they want without regard to what the community wants.

Remember, the Stand for Children-Mind Trust network spent over one million dollars over the past two elections to control who is on the school board. The money they used, which is hidden behind Stand for Children’s 501C4, has overwhelmingly come from wealthy conservative white people across the country and in Indy. (Why would wealthy conservative white folks who will likely never step foot in Indy want to commit thousands of dollars to IPS board elections?)

What all of this means, though, is that we cannot assume that this IPS board has the best interests of our children in mind with their decisions.

The only people we can really trust in this situation is ourselves. If we care, we must go to these community meetings and speak.

If you are interested in my critique of the facilities report, it is available on a prior post.

In addition, I was able to present last night at the board meeting. I raised the points I had covered in my post. Most importantly, the report did not address race at all, including how various closings would relate to re-segregating schools and undermining Black community areas. Indeed, they did not once use the word race anywhere in the report.

The board ignored everything I said, though I think the audience, which was largely Black, did support my statements. The board only focused on the “technical” issues of the potential closings. Clearly, they are trying very hard to ignore any of the hard issues. Some might call this a “whitewash.”

School Closing Community Meetings.

You may have to sign up to speak. You can probably find this out on Chalkbeat, Chalkbeat.org or on the school board’s website or on wfyi.org or keep an eye out for my posts.

ATTEND THESE MEETINGS!

Wednesday, April 26
Glendale Library
6101 N. Keystone Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46220
6:00 – 8:00 pm

Monday, May 1
Ivy Tech Culinary Center
2820 N. Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208
6:00 – 8:00 pm

Thursday, May 11
Zion Hope Baptist Church
5950 E 46th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46226
6:00 – 8:00 pm

Monday, May 15
Haughville Library
2121 W. Michigan St.
Indianapolis, IN 46222
6:00 – 8:00 pm

See WFYI’s coverage of the meeting here.

Black lives matter.

Disclaimer:  if the thought of having bold conversations about race issues is a turn-off, then read no further.  If you are sensitive or thin skinned, then this article may not be for you…because my intent is not to be offensive. The Indianapolis community needs to have broad, fearless conversations about race…and in order to figure out where to go – we first need to understand where we’ve been.  Here’s my attempt at an easily digestible history lesson, and food for thought about what is happening now.

1877 law stated that if no local school facility existed for black students, they could attend a school designated for whites.

An unintended consequence: by 1920, there were about 800 black students enrolled at Shortridge, Tech, and Manual High School – because there was no high school for black students at that time.  Apparently the 1877 law was based on the assumption that black students would attend to the 8th grade and then leave school.  When blacks sought a high school education and began to significantly populate these white institutions, some community members began to raise a fuss.  This fuss raising ultimately led to the creation of Crispus Attucks High School – where black children, for decades, attended…until desegregation.

At its peak, IPS enrollment reached over 100,000 students in the late 1960’s, with 11 high schools.  A federal court order mandated that desegregation of IPS schools be achieved by busing black students to townships to attend school.  After several years of appeals, busing finally began in the 1981-82 school year with 5,600 students being sent out of IPS to attend school in the townships.  It is notable that no students from the townships were bused into IPS to attend school.  It is also notable that the busing of black students to the townships likely spurred many disenfranchised black parents, with no means of engaging in their child’s school – inaccessible, way across town.  The loss of students caused the  closure of Shortridge and the conversion of Crispus Attucks to a middle school.  Desegregation of Indianapolis schools also undeniably caused a mass exodus of white folks who had the means and desire to flee the city to do so.  They left as fast and as far as their money would carry them – to places where the schools remained homogeneous.  The combination of busing and white flight over the decades has arrived at our current enrollment of around 30,000 students.

Why is this history important?  What is on my mind?

The fact that my husband came home shaken at the news of a former student murdered this past March.  He did not graduate.

The multitude of stories that have been confided in me by students over the years – the pre-teens who have mothered their younger siblings, the boys whose entire futures have hung, heavily suspended,  in the split-second space of a trigger pull, the 12 year old girl, robbed of her innocence, telling me about the miscarriage she had two years ago.

The 15 year old boy that the police killed over the weekend.  No dash cam.  No body cam.

Are our educational opportunities in Indianapolis still segregated, many decades after were we ordered to change?

In every school, do we not only see faces of every race represented – but do children with varying degrees of social capital and resources attend school together?  Do they not only learn from the same teachers, but maybe more importantly, learn from each other?

To take it a step further, what are the adults and the decision makers doing to create the conditions for this to take place?  Where are schools being intentionally designed to serve children of all races and economic means?  Give them equitable sets of “tools”?

If you see it, please let me know. Give me some examples.


Sidener (gifted and talented school) is 49% white, 26% black

CFI (school 2) downtown is 67% white, 14% black

CFI (school 84) Meridian-Kessler is 82% white, 7% black

CFI (school 27) King Park/Fall Creek is 35% white, 46% black

The entire district is 20% white, 50% black, 23% Hispanic

Source: IDOE Compass


Above I have illustrated the demographics of some of IPS’s more “in-demand” magnet programs.  If we were truly desegregated, ALL of IPS schools would roughly be microcosms of our overall demographics in the district.  Instead, we see pockets of white students concentrated in certain schools.  District policies, such as the sibling preference policy and the neighborhood/proximity boundary preference policy ensure that these demographics don’t change much.

All I see are the conditions being created for: the expansion of gentrification, and the perpetuation of a system which continues to impoverish and further disadvantage some… and we all know that those invisible lines of socioeconomic status – are usually marked with black and brown pens.

This society was built on oppression.  The U.S. was founded on inequity and inequality.  Need proof?  Women not being allowed to vote.  Blacks being considered three-fifths of a person.   It’s systemic.  Does our educational system continue to foster this oppression?  I think many of us would like to turn our cheeks and say, “No, this is just a part of our sordid past.  This is not happening – not here, not today.”

But it IS here, and IT IS TODAY.

What are we going to do??

Maybe my anguish won’t let me see the positive right now…too many traumatic endings for me to process.

My thoughts are my own and do not reflect any entity or any other person or sets of people.

Thoughts? Email me:

gayle_cosby@yahoo.com