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,
(My thoughts expressed here are entirely my own, and do not reflect those of any other entity or group).
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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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 email@example.com
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:
- 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.
- Finally, the superintendent’s contract (which expires JUNE 2017) is being re-negotiated. The proposed contract details are as follows:
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.
I have heard it said that the purpose of education in IPS should ultimately result in one of the three E’s:
I want to offer three alternative E’s for your consideration:
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.
- 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)?
I don’t care what a lot of people think (especially those who perceive themselves to be in power).
However, I do care deeply about my community.
For this reason, I have decided to announce early my decision to not seek re-election to the IPS school board. I want to give my community as much lead time as possible to prepare viable, strong candidate(s) ready to compete for the district 2 seat this November.
Some of you might be wondering why I have chosen this path.
In an attempt to further understand some of the crazy political maneuvering I’ve seen thus far in education, last year I began the journey to obtain a Ph.D. in Urban Education Studies. This degree will further enable my advocacy work toward education for liberation.
I’ve always been an ambitious person, but folks, I am human. It’s been a delicate balancing act to juggle the roles of mother, wife, doctoral student, employee, and commissioner. I cannot reasonably expect myself to be able to devote adequate time and energy to all of these demanding and highly important roles for the duration of another 4 year term. Not to mention the short-term trajectory of my doctoral work will include writing a dissertation and the eventual possibility of relocation as I settle into the profession. Therefore, it’s time for someone else from district 2 to prepare to represent us.
I fully intend to complete the final year of my elected term by continuing to advocate for my community.
I have a few things on my mind as I move into the last year of my elected term.
- Increase the presence of student voice in policy making.
Other school boards hold regular meetings with the student government bodies from their high schools, or they implement a process for forming *some* type of student advisory council, and a regular meeting schedule. Student voice is incredibly important. It teaches students to think critically about their education, and forces them to employ different skill sets to achieve their desired outcome. It can lay the foundation for future civic engagement. Aren’t students the reason why we’re here? Don’t we need to figure out what they want? Would it be so much to give them some of what they want? A little happiness at school can go a long way toward keeping our students invested and engaged in their education.
- Parents, families and the community deserve autonomy also.
It makes me cringe every time a school community is informed of something that has been imposed on them: a school closing or relocation, a new model, so on and so forth. In my opinion this should never, ever be the case. Why? Because parents, families and the school community should be given the opportunity to engage in driving those decisions before they are made. I’m not talking about forced last-minute choices, either. I’m talking about real community education and informed dialogue. If the school community is involved to this degree, proactively, then there are no surprises. In 2013 a policy was enacted that allowed for a diverse group of school stakeholders (parents, teachers, community members) to serve as a principal selection committee. Are stakeholder groups still invited to the table to weigh in on these decisions?
- Innovation partnerships merit more careful consideration.
Did I ever share with you that my oldest graduated from a charter school and my middle child currently attends one? They are both locally owned charters. I don’t have anything against local charter schools, per se. [CAVEATS: In a perfect world traditional public schools would be well funded and freed from the destructive patterns caused by standardized testing. If that were the case, there would be no reason or opportunity for charter school competition. However, charter schools do exist – I therefore prefer homegrown charter schools that don’t seem to have profit motive at the forefront.] There are also some charter school “chains” that have promising ideals, located in cities outside Indy. Our communities need to be educated on differing types of charters and be involved in the decision making for potential partnerships. Since it is school performance that everyone is judging, then it would make complete sense for us to judge a potential charter school partner by its past performance. Also, demand to see the number$. A precedent has been established that appears to favor the charter school partner – see the details HERE. Can this type of investment in outside partnerships be sustained year after year? For how many years? How will these expenditures affect the school budgets of children in traditional schools as innovation schools expand? How will potential outsourcing of many Indianapolis residents’ jobs (transportation, custodial, food service) affect our communities?
I don’t think that I am the only person who thinks that (at least some of) these are priorities or concerns. As evidence of this, the Core Commitments reflect some of this language. Anyhow, whether I think they are important or not is pretty irrelevant. I am just one lone dissenter on a board with an established supermajority. If anything at all takes place, you won’t see me taking credit for any of it. I’m not in a position to DO anything at all…which brings me to my last question. Being that I am only one vote, and have absolutely no chances of affecting the future course of anything, why does my dissenting voice bother anyone? In the interest of democracy, why is there such a fuss when I simply want to speak to my convictions? Why is diversity of thought viewed as a hindrance rather than a strength? Why is it so desirable to have 100% total agreement on a publicly elected board?
My thoughts represented on this site are my own free speech. This blog is a personal publication. I don’t represent anyone or anything other than myself.
You can email me by clicking this link: firstname.lastname@example.org