Freestyle rant

Some days, I.just.can’t. Today is that day. Come along for the ride.

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Kudos to the IPS board for wanting to hear the community voice to guide and inform the search for a new superintendent.  However, from what I understand, the community voice is essentially being DROWNED OUT because the meetings are intentionally being JAM PACKED with Mind Trust and Stand for Children staffers and Innovation Network school staff/supporters.  I hope that the few conscientious board members that are there can see through this charade.  There is one meeting left: I urge you to attend the last forum at IPS #87, 2411 Indianapolis Avenue, WEDNESDAY MARCH 13th 6-8 pm in the Gym.

Our next superintendent choice is incredibly important.  While a radical departure from the current plan is unlikely (DISINVEST IN A DISTRICT SCHOOL UNTIL IT FAILS, INNOVATE-NETWORK THE SCHOOL, WASH, RINSE, REPEAT UNTIL ALL SCHOOLS ARE OPERATED BY CHARTERS) – I still hold out some slim hope that we might find someone who can see the long term destruction in this model.  Maybe this person will even have some modicum of restraint toward the idea.

But then, I wonder – will the new superintendent arrive in Indianapolis and become a sellout??  There are so many temptations and pressures to succumb to…money talks, and there is certainly money in the hands of school privatizers such as Mind Trust and Stand for Children.  There is also the allure of power, and those at the mayor’s office and certain legislators seem to have it out for IPS.  Perhaps our next superintendent will have really grand ideas and great intentions – and still end up paving the road to hell.  Or is that a bit of deja vu I’m having?

Next topic.  What the hell is going on with the IPS teacher’s union?   I know there are issues.  Some union teachers are pissed on multiple levels, and I know some who would be the first in line with their sharpies to make picket signs at the slightest hint of a walkout, as has happened in other states.  On the flip side of that, I know other union teachers who generally don’t want to rock the boat.  I’m also aware of the scandal that rocked the union recently.  But damn, y’all.  How have things gotten to the point where an “Indianapolis Teacher’s Society” is being floated at the board meeting?  What is even the purpose of this?  I’m skeptical, and you should be too.  At least to the point of investigating!  So…IPS is in the state that it’s in.  Teachers are being treated terribly.  And who is coming to “save the day”?  The Indianapolis Teacher Society!?  I’m sorry, but I smell something fishy here.  Look, IEA may leave a lot to be desired, and ISTA too.  I’ll give you that, no doubt.  But the Indianapolis Teacher Society does not align itself with any national organization.  How will they fight for you, dear IPS teacher?  What resources do they have (WHO IS FUNDING THIS??) What protections can they offer teachers?  What skills do they have at the bargaining table?  My overarching concern is that this is another piece that will further dismantle IPS and leave it laying wounded and open.  Ready for the kill.  Why?  Because at least with IEA, [or any other nationally-affiliated union] teachers have a little protection, there’s some chance of a fight left.  It’s just not clear to me how this group of folks is going to represent all IPS teachers, offer them protections, and bargain for their best interests in salaries and working conditions.  That’s best left to…A UNION, not a loose collective of interested (perhaps disgruntled) people.  The Indianapolis Teacher Society sounds like a group that meets for a book club discussion, and Emily brings the brownies.  No, thanks…I think IPS needs a mob.  An angry mob of teachers who are tired of the apparent inequity that is happening to themselves, their schools, and their kids.  What will make them angry enough to demand change?

 

 

 

Chalkbeat Indiana Distorts the Truth About IPS Board Election Campaign Funding – Dr. Jim Scheurich

 Originally posted 

November 3, 2016  

on

 Kheprw Institute 


Jim Scheurich, Indianapolis citizen & IUPUI university professor

On Friday, October 28th, the Recorder published an article by McCoy of Chalkbeat Indiana called, “Out-of-state money seems to be skipping the IPS board race.”

Community activists have repeatedly made the point that major money from wealthy individuals and organizations from outside Indiana has poured into the IPS board election.  These activists have suggested that this “outsider” money is being used to “buy” the election for the Stand for Children-Mind Trust supported candidates: Odle, Arnold, O’Connor, and Moore.  (For more indepth info on the Mind Trust-Stand for Children operation, see http://kheprw.org/ips-research-group-presentation-on-the-mind-trust/)

This criticism has made Stand for Children-Mind Trust and their candidates defensive and nervous.  Could they actually lose the election like the Stand for Children candidates in Nashville, Tennessee did because they were violating campaign finance laws by hiding the expenditure of school board campaign funds? (http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/08/04/stand-children-loses-big-nashville-state-races/88047446/)

In response, Indiana Chalkbeat’s article title indicates that out-of-state money is no longer a factor in the IPS election.

This is simply NOT true and is in fact a distortion.

Stand for Children, which claims to be a positive community organization, is both a 501C3 and a 501C4 organization.  Having the 501C4 means Stand for Children, remember, that friendly community organization, can HIDE where money is coming in from and where it is being spent.

Because of the criticism of the Stand for Children-Mind Trust candidates receiving outside the state money for the 2014 election, Stand for Children has substantially decreased outside funds going directly to the candidates.  Instead, it is passing the outsider money through its 501C4 so we the citizens of Indianapolis do not know what it is really up to.

While we cannot say exactly how much Stand for Children is spending on the 2016 election, we do have some reasonable estimates based on the number of mailings they are doing for each of their four candidate and what we know of the cost for such mailings.

In our best and most conservative estimates, we believe Stand for Children is spending around $600,000 on this election.  Around $600,000!!!

 Here’s how we arrived at this estimate.  In 2012, Stand for Children did about 10 mailings for each candidate for four districts.  Each of those mailings cost about $7,000, which means they spend about $70,000 on each of the three district level candidates for a total of $210,000.  We assume they are doing similar for this election.

However, the citywide candidate mailings are much more expensive, somewhere around $30,000 each.  This year they have done at least five completely different ones for Odle, and we expect at least one more prior to the election for a total of $180,000.

If we add all of this together, we get $390,000 just for the mailings.  However, they are also producing yard signs, using other media, etc. so we conservatively estimate they are spending around $600,000, and it could be much more.

Remember in 2010, a citizen of Indianapolis could successfully run for the school board for $3-4,000.  In addition, we doubt that ALL the candidates not supported by Stand for Children and the Mind Trust are spending collectively more than $50,000.

If Chalkbeat Indiana, the Recorder, or any local news outlet wants to prove us wrong, ask Stand for Children, that friendly community organization, to open its books to the public.

Indeed, we would suggest there is a general failure of the local news outlets—like the Star, the Recorder, Nuvo, the TV stations—to investigate this issue.  It would seem to us that the local news outlets have a community responsibility to do this unless they are afraid of the powerful people and organizations backing Stand for Children and the Mind Trust, or the news outlets are being complicit in the hiding of the funding.

Local news outlets, don’t you feel a responsibility to push Stand for Children to open its books, to be transparent about where its money is coming from and how much is being spent on each of its four candidates?

Odle, Arnold, O’Connor, and Moore, what about you all?  If you are as committed to IPS students as you say, let’s make the campaign financing public and transparent.  Tell Stand for Children to open its books.  If you don’t, your so-called commitment to the Indianapolis community and its children is highly questionable.

If no one pushes Stand for Children to open its books, it looks like a bought election.  It looks like democracy is being destroyed by big money kept in the dark.  Dark money for a bought election?

Jim Scheurich is a professor at the IUPUI School of Education.  You can read his bio here.  

Dear Prez.

President Obama,

I was proud to share the ballot with you in 2012 as an elected public school board member from Indianapolis, Indiana. Of course you were at the top of said ballot, and I was at the very bottom, but I digress. 🙂

Here’s my prediction: public education as we both have known and benefited from it will cease to exist. I am a product of the school system that I now serve. Public schooling enabled me to overcome and succeed despite an unstable home life and becoming a parent at the age of fifteen. I owe so much in return for the support and opportunities I’ve received. It pains me to bear witness to what is happening in my local school district currently.

During my four year tenure on the board of Indianapolis Public Schools, I have witnessed the gutting of our public school system, as many other cities have also experienced. It concerns me greatly that a market based approach is being implemented in our great American public school system. Privatizing our prisons was bad enough. Education is a human right. A profit motive diminishes the quality of opportunities we can offer our children in favor of increasing CEO salaries at the top – and it is being accomplished with our tax dollars. The very student populations that are most disenfranchised and vulnerable are the ones being targeted for these experiments in cashing in on our children. In Indianapolis, there are charter school CEO’s that operate one or two schools that make more money than our public school superintendent that oversees 60+ schools. It is our children that suffer.

Mr. President, I have exhausted every avenue and tool at my disposal to raise awareness of this issue. The continued privatization of our public school systems will do nothing but expand the divide between the haves and have nots in this country. Please do what you can to reinforce our American educational system as the great equalizer that it once was. Education can be the key to unlocking opportunity for children regardless of color or creed, if it remains a taxpayer funded, respected public institution. It will not achieve this lofty goal if it is completely transformed to another potentially lucrative opportunity for investors. Educators, children, the future state of public education is dependent upon your intervention.

Thank you for your consideration.

Most respectfully and humbly submitted,

Gayle Cosby

(My thoughts expressed here are entirely my own, and do not reflect those of any other entity or group).

Marianette

Dear Reader,

Did you know that Marian University now owns a lot more land than it used to?

That’s right.  Indianapolis Public Schools transferred several acres of land surrounding Cold Spring School last week to Marian University.  This acreage included lots of natural habitat along the river as well as three buildings, one of which is the beautiful Sommers Mansion:

Marian Property

I bet you’re wondering why a struggling public school district would do such a thing, especially when the potential revenue that could have been generated from selling the property sure would come in handy right about now.

Apparently most folks at IPS are satisfied with Marian University simply assuming all maintenance costs associated with the property.  In fact, the amount of money that Marian spends each year to maintain the property will ultimately purchase the Cold Spring School building itself, after 13 years of upkeep costs.  (I think aggressively marketing and renting the Mansion could probably cover most/all of that, but I digress.)  Essentially, if IPS decides to no longer operate a school at this location after 13 years, Marian assumes ownership of that property also.  You can read the term sheet for yourself here.

It really comes as no surprise.  Marian University essentially gained control of the school back in April 2016 when Cold Spring converted to Innovation School status.  This was unprecedented because, under IPS’s operation, Cold Spring School was rated an A.

I certainly hope that the A rating remains, although Marian has announched plans to make Cold Spring School a lab school for its School of Education, which may or may not shift its curricular focus away from the current Environmental Studies curriculum that has been so successful.   I’ve heard rumors that Tony Bennett has been contracted to evaluate and revamp Marian’s teacher education programs, which, if it’s true, will likely result in the strengthening of the already prominent Teach For America (TFA) and The New Teacher Project (TNTP) transition-to-teaching programs…just a little prediction for ya.

 

My thoughts are my own, and do not reflect any other entity.

Comments?  Email me: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

 

ALEC’s influence in Indiana education

Did you know that Indiana is so hell bent on corporate education reform models that ALEC has named a 2016 legislation package in our honor called the (drumroll please…)

Indiana Education Reform Package“:

“Indiana Education Reform Package creates a voucher program, using taxpayer funds to subsidize private for-profit and religious schools and limits teachers’ rights to collective bargaining. One of its key components–the “Charter School Act”–automatically converts low-scoring public schools into charter schools”.  (Source: Center for Media and Democracy PR Watch)

If ALEC has their way with legislators, the Indiana models of ed reform will be replicated in more states across the country – and in new, more shrouded language than ever before!

Since vouchers now have a negative connotation, ALEC will begin calling them the “Great Schools Tax Credit Program” or the “Parental Choice Scholarship Program”.

Additionally, charter schools can get exempted from accountability with the “Next Generation Charter Schools” Act which allows for unelected statewide charter authorizers – and the “Charter Schools” Act allows low performing public schools to automatically convert to a charter school.

ALEC was the group responsible for writing and promoting the “Innovation Network Schools” Act (also known commonly as 1321) which was SPECIFIC ONLY TO IPS and signed into Indiana law in March 2014:

ALEC

HEA1321

According to a legislative overview by the Mind Trust, the bill was authored by Behning, co-authored by Rep. Huston, and co-sponsored by Senators Miller, Kenley, Kruse, Grooms, Schneider and Taylor.  Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that ALEC and the legislators also had support from some individuals at IPS.

At least now we know who the true author of this bill was.

A link to all current 2016 ALEC education issues and model policies can be found here.

At the link provided above, there is an explanation of numerous other initiatives that ALEC is pushing in 2016 – including: opposing the Clean Power plan which ensures reduction of carbon pollution; expanding their sponsored “Right to Work” Act in other states (it’s already here in Indiana) which further destroys unions and workers’ rights; and working to ensure that the minimum wage is not set higher by state or local governments through bills like the “Starting (Minimum) Wage Repeal Act,” “Resolution in Opposition to any Increase in the Starting (Minimum) Wage,” and “Resolution Opposing Increases in the Minimum Wage Linked to the CPI.”

All of this information is from the following source:  http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/05/13099/alec%27s-2016-agenda-snapshot#sthash.bD3aOXW3.dpuf (From the Center for Media and Democracy PR Watch – I highly encourage you to read the full article).

Here’s the best part – ALEC is holding their 43rd Annual Meeting  from July 27-29 right here in Indianapolis!  See the IBJ article and this 2014 Indy Star Letter to the Editor, which calls out several Indiana ALEC members, reportedly including Governor Mike Pence, Chris Atkins, David Frizzell, and the state chairs for ALEC: Senator Jim Buck and Representative David A. Wolkins.

I don’t know about you, but I get absolutely no feelings of “hoosier hospitality” when I think about this group coming to visit.  As far as I’m concerned, their Indiana bills have already done enough damage.

My views expressed here are my own personal views and do not reflect those of any other institution or entity.

Questions or comments: email gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

February 2016 Agenda

What’s happening in IPS this month.

What’s on the agenda this month:

  • There is a potential contract for substitute teachers which would outsource that entirely to Parallel Employment Group.  Current IPS subs will be “grandfathered in” at their current pay rate but new subs will be paid substantially less than what IPS had paid.
  • The IDOE’s new “student-centered” accountability model is explained HERE.
  • There is an UPDATE on the performance of Emma Donnan, now operated by Charter Schools USA through an Innovation Partnership.
  • The budget for the 2016-2017 school year will be discussed.  I found this particular line item shocking:  innpayments
  • If proposed policy changes are approved, the board will no longer hear appeals from families with students facing expulsion from IPS.
  • The terms for new Innovation Network Schools at both RIVERSIDE #44 and KILMER #69 are discussed. Both want to start as a K-2 and grow, yet manage the 3-6 grades during the growth process.  Odd.
  • Teacher performance grants are coming: Highly effective teachers receive $208 and Effective Teachers receive $190.perfpay
  • Finally, the superintendent’s contract (which expires JUNE 2017) is being re-negotiated.  The proposed contract details are as follows: supcontract

Are you interested in any of these topics?  The board will meet to discuss them on Tuesday, 2/23, at 6pm.  The meeting is held in the board room at 120 E. Walnut, Indianapolis.  Voting on these issues will take place Thursday, 2/25, 6pm at the same location.  You can also view Thursday’s voting session via live stream at www.myips.org

This is my own personal blog – not intended to represent IPS, any other entity or body and reflect my own thoughts only.

 

The purpose of education: the three E’s

 

I have heard it said that the purpose of education in IPS should ultimately result in one of the three E’s:

Enrollment

Enlistment

Employment

I want to offer three alternative E’s for your consideration:

Emancipation

Enlightenment

Empowerment

Let us consider the differences between education in different settings.  The elite private schools of Indianapolis certainly don’t offer up “enrollment, enlistment, and employment” as the purposes for the education that they are offering their students.  In fact, one website I visited  included three C’s in their vision: curiosity, compassion, and courage.  It is just me, or are there radically different connotations to each of those lists of words?  Yep.  Enrollment, enlistment, and employment should not be the end game here.  Being enrolled, enlisted, or employed should be natural byproducts of an education that honors and inspires the whole child…a child who is:

EMANCIPATED:  has realized that his current socioeconomic status and/or identity is not predictive of or limiting his future possibilities.

ENLIGHTENED: has been exposed to a wide variety of curricula, activities, and interests, can apply that information to her current circumstance, and is inspired to pursue further learning on topics of her choosing.

EMPOWERED: has realized that his locus of control lies within himself, takes his resources into account and knows when to use them, demonstrates responsibility and self-determination.

Allow me to offer a couple of scenarios for your consideration:

School A students wait outside or on the bus until the bell rings.  Once allowed inside, they walk with bubbles in their mouths and their arms crossed in hallway hugs on the right side of the hallway, using the red tape line as a guide, with absolutely no talking.  They arrive at their classroom, and are greeted by an under-appreciated, underpaid and overworked teacher, who (in some cases) loves them anyway, and are doing the absolute best they can despite the current conditions.  School A student sits at their desk, quietly doing bell work.  Their day consists of a math block, a reading block (typically with basal readers and pre-made worksheets), and Science or Social Studies if it’s in a grade where it’s tested on ISTEP, and when there is time in the day for it.  The Indiana Academic Standards are posted on the wall so we always know which ones we are currently working on, and because there will be a test soon.  There is always an upcoming test; quizzes, benchmarks, I-READS, I-STEPS.  Student A gets gym twice a week, Music twice a week, and Art on a cart or library once a week.  She gets the same lunch as everyone else, whether kindergarten or high school athlete.  She sits down at the long cafeteria table, next to the kid in line according to alphabetical order.  Sometimes she has to sit in silence with the lights out at lunch, while a stressed out adult yells at them through a microphone to be quiet.  If she talks, she get after school detention.

A student from school B arrives at school early to go and speak with his favorite teacher before class starts.  There are no bells, but student B knows when it’s time to head to homeroom because he can hear the happy chatter of students in the halls.  Teachers throughout the halls are standing at their doors, smiling, and greeting students.  Student B enters the classroom and gets ready for his discussion in circle time.  He knows he will have to plan his day of learning, and his teacher guides him in planning to make choices throughout the day, such as where to sit, how to see the best in his (sometimes annoying) classmates, which books to read, which topics to write about, which centers to visit during math workshop.  When his friend helps him to discover grouping pumpkin seeds by ten to count rather than counting by ones, his teacher notes his success and celebrates by asking the class to stop and watch his demonstration.  At lunch, he sits outside in the spring air with a chosen group of friends but plans to visit the library during lunch tomorrow. In the afternoon, he has a disagreement with a peer that wouldn’t leave him alone.  He had to set aside time to attend a peace mediation session with his teacher, and everything is back to normal now – which is great, because the best part of his day is going to the Environmental Club after school.

As you think about the differences in the vignettes from school A vs. school B, please consider the following:
  • What organizational differences in these two settings are creating such a vast gap in the learning experiences of students?  What is the “work” culture of these two districts?  What policies are in place to set these conditions?  What role might standardized testing play?  How might the concept of accountability be experienced differently in school A vs. school B?
  • What do you think the adults in school A are doing differently than the adults in school B?
  • Trick question: which school has the highest paid outside consultants? (Hint: it’s not the one you might think.)
  • Which school offers more individual freedom?  What are the consequences of allowing students to make authentic choices, both negative and positive? (dare I say it, student AUTONOMY?)
  • How might the opportunity to make decisions in school affect a student’s learning…after all, isn’t LIFE about the ability for people to make sound decisions for themselves?
  • Over 12 years of schooling, what cumulative effects can we expect on human lives?  In other words, which set of three E’s is school A preparing students for?  School B?
  • Which school is designed to produce leaders and innovators?  Which school is designed to produce worker bees?  Does either school encourage the questioning of authority, or the status quo? Is this by design?
  • Does student A DESERVE different treatment than student B, based on an ability to pay for a private school education?  To what extent (if any) can a public school offer a private school education (or a semblance of it)?
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For the first time ever, I am allowing comments on this blog thread.  Responses are moderated, and idiocy of any kind is not tolerated.  Let’s discuss the questions above, and the general idea of the PURPOSE of education, public, charter, and private.  If your comments do not get posted, it’s because you did not give input to the questions.  Or you were inappropriate. Don’t take it personal…
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Do you want to share the story of what is going on in your Indianapolis school?  I am inviting teachers, school staff and students to write about their experiences, good and bad, to be shared anonymously (or not, you choose) on my blog.  Please email submissions to: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com
These thoughts are my own and do not reflect IPS or any other entity.  I assume no responsibility for the comments of others on this blog or in any other format.