A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

This is a piece that myself, Jim Scheurich (IUPUI Professor) and Nate Williams (Knox College Professor) wrote for Diane Ravitch’s blog: https://dianeravitch.net/.   Please share, and let us know what is happening in your area if you are reading from outside Indianapolis.

Diane Ravitch's blog

This very important post was written for this blog by Jim Scheurich on behalf of himself, Gayle Cosby, and Nathanial Williams, who are identified in the text. They are experienced in the school politics of Indianapolis, a city whose school system is being systematically dismantled and privatized. They have been active in the fight against what they call the DPE (Destroy Public Education) model in their city. Their experience and insights are extremely informative, especially their recognition that the DPE movement is not limited to Indianapolis; it has gone national. Indianapolis is only one of its targets. The business community, civic leaders, political leaders, DFER, the Mind Trust, and Stand for Children have joined together to Destroy Public Education. As they attack democratic institutions, they falsely claim that “it is all about the kids” and they claim they are advancing civil rights. Instead, it is about money and power and…

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The Sam’s Club of Schooling: IPS’s Innovation Network

This month’s IPS agenda is rife with Innovation Network agreements, which are partnerships between IPS and charter school operators.  There is one presentation scheduled for a proposed partnership with Herron High School (both downtown and Riverside locations).  The other three slated Innovation Network schools have the documents already drawn up: Avondale Meadows Middle School, Elder Diggs Elementary #42, and Thomas Gregg Elementary #15.

The details of each arrangement vary from school to school.  A partnership with Herron High School came as a surprise to many. A short announcement of the intended partnership was buried in the Herron High School newsletter – with no public announcement or any solicitation of feedback from Herron families.  Community members are left wondering what’s in it for each party.  IPS will benefit by being able to count Herron High School students in their enrollment numbers and are surely seeking a boost from counting Herron student’s test scores and graduation rates as part of their own.  It appears that Herron may benefit from receiving IPS’s higher per-pupil student expenditure amount.  This is an atypical partnership because typically IPS owns the building of the Innovation Network school, but this is not the case with Herron.

Similarly, Avondale Meadows Middle School owns their property, and thus their partnership will reap similar benefits to Herron’s.  Avondale Meadows and Herron have been freestanding charter schools before pursuing a partnership with IPS.  The difference is that they now will receive more funding (at the higher IPS student rate).

In the case of schools #42 and #15, these are historically traditional IPS schools that are being converted to an Innovation Network school status.  In plain language, this means that IPS is contracting with a charter school operator company to run the school.

IPS Innovation Network partnerships are becoming the Sam’s Club of the charter school world. Small, independent charter schools operation costs are much higher than a large district like IPS.  If a prospective charter school seeks membership in the IPS Sam’s Club, they either receive services like transportation, food service, special education and ELL teachers for free, OR their membership gets them the power of buying in bulk.

Rather than “innovate” with IPS, why don’t these charter schools use their authorizers (the Mayor’s Office or the Indiana Charter School Board) as a lever for buying in bulk with other similar schools?

If IPS continues ‘innovation’ at this pace, it will become a shell corporation, an umbrella simply offering some shelter and benefits to a slew of smaller charter school operators.

IPS truly needs to reinvent itself.  Not by giving away precious resources to charter operators, but by investing in their teachers, giving true autonomy to educators with ideas, and revamping their ideas about curriculum.  Sadly, instead IPS is innovating itself out of the business of providing a free, appropriate public education for all students.


Guest Blog: IPS and Alternative Ed

Is our IPS “dumping” certain students into alternative programs to increase its grad rate?


     This is a possibility for any district according to “Hidden Dropouts: how high schools game the system by dumping underachievers into alternative programs.”


      Except for the recent scandal at IPS #28, we don‘t hear much from the IPS Alt Ed Division. You’d think we’d constantly hear about how students were “turned around” and put “back on track” and returned to the mainstream where they were successful, and all due to our district’s alternative programs.  

     (FYI Here’s the link to IPS alternatives http://www.myips.org/Page/34369)

    One reason for this lack of public information may be that IPS alternatives simply warehouse students in “soft jails” in the underbelly of the system. This goes along with the history of punitive alternatives which are actually created for the school adults who don’t know what else to with the chronically disruptive. Here alternative schools act as “safety valves” for teachers and not “safety nets” for those students underserved by the district. In some cases then, IPS programs are neither alternative nor educational.

     Here’s the real question: If IPS alternatives do “work,” why can’t any student attend?

    Thus, the issues here are: 1) How would we know if IPS doesn’t game the system to increase its grad rates; and, 2) are IPS alternatives the first step for some students into the pipeline to prison? We won’t know unless we see the data–but does IPS keep data on its alternative programs and students?


John Harris Loflin is an IPS graduate and retired IPS teacher. He has a graduate degree in Alternative Ed from IU. John’s ideas are published locally, in the state and the U.S., and internationally. He’s also presented at conferences regarding alternative and democratic education on 6 contents.  See his work here:




A nail in the coffin

I’m back.  Well, I never really left.

But someone else has returned.

This month the brand new IPS board saw it fit to appoint Patrick Herrel to be the Director of Student Enrollment and Options.

Who is Patrick Herrel?

He was the right hand man to David Harris, CEO of the Mind Trust.  The Mind Trust is a nonprofit organization that works to place IPS schools in privately owned hands by converting them to Innovation Network, or charter-operated, schools.

Patrick left the Mind Trust and Indianapolis to be the Director of the Mind Trust #2 in Cincinnati.  Now he is back to run Student Enrollment and Options at IPS.  And he doesn’t come cheap:

  Combine this with the fact that Enroll Indy, another privatizing nonprofit focused on jointly enrolling students into both IPS and charter schools, moved into a prominent space on the first floor of the IPS Education center – and we have a recipe for disaster of EPIC money grubbing proportions.

The Mind Trust’s prodigal son and its daughter company Enroll Indy are now perfectly poised to seize even more public school $tudent$, propertie$, building$, and tax dollar$ intended to provide a free public education.

How many more nails will this board and administration drive into the coffin of public education in Indianapolis?  

Maybe this is the final one necessary.

Closing Comments

Tonight marked my last board meeting as an Indianapolis Public Schools commissioner.  I have included a video of my closing comments below.

This was but one chapter in my journey.  I plan to continue advocacy for not only IPS, but the strengthening of public schools in general.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in this journey, and who fought the good fight alongside me.  

Here is a link to the video:


Dark money clouds IPS election

More information on Stand for Children’s bankrolling of the IPS board election – this time from Steve Hinnefeld.

School Matters

Stand for Children is at it again. The Oregon-based education advocacy group is spending big money to determine who gets elected to the Indianapolis Public Schools board.

That in itself could be cause for concern. But what’s really troubling is that the amount Stand for Children is spending and the source of its money are being kept secret.

If you or I give more than $200 to a candidate for school board or any other public office, the contribution is made public. And candidates have to report how they spend campaign money. But Stand for Children is carrying out a so-called independent campaign in support of the slate of IPS candidates endorsed by its Indianapolis branch. So under the law, it doesn’t have to tell us anything.

It is sending glossy mailers to residences in the IPS district, an expensive undertaking that you might expect in a race for…

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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).

On being silenced


I don’t know Larry Vaughn on a personal level, and I’m not inside his mind, so I don’t intend to speak for him.  What I do intend to do, though, is check some rampant white privilege gone awry on facebook.

First of all, for those that do not know Larry, he is a political activist.  He has probably been to almost as many IPS board meetings as I have in the past four years – and I’m sure his appearances there predate mine.  He usually offers a delegation, a speech to the school board that is capped at three minutes.  Larry typically wears a paper bag hat, a shirt with the word “slave” on it, and a ring of white makeup around his mouth.

Some school board members have begun to circulate pictures of Larry while at IPS, and made the following comments:


So, let me direct you to the definition of blackface:


Larry cannot be engaging in definition #1 above.  Larry is a black man and therefore is not “a nonblack performer playing a black role”.  I have listened to the same delegations that Larry has offered – seen IPS officials make him leave his signs outside the room, get his microphone cut off and kicked out of the board room – I have seen the same things as my fellow commissioners.  What I see and hear though, beyond Larry’s superficial appearances, is a man trying to convey IPS’s role in the SECOND definition of blackface above – that IPS as an institution is insincerely and ineffectively nonracist, and patronizing to the black community – and therefore attempts have been made to silence him.

In my four years on the board, I can recall several instances in which IPS initiatives were viewed as racist.  You can see those articles here – from the late Amos Brown on the move of school 70, the “soft bigotry of low expectations“,  or the ousting of 706 Shortridge students to make way for Gambold students.  Other journalists such as Stephanie Wang have more recently highlighted racial inequities within the district.  My point here is that Larry Vaughn’s underlying message is not off base – nor was Amos’s or Stephanie’s.  IPS needs to open itself up to that kind of critique if it is to progress forward.

What is really bothering me is the repeated attacks on this man’s character.  I’ll be the first to admit that Larry has some unorthodox attention-grabbing theatrics to accompany his public political activist persona.  He has made some equally attention-grabbing statements in the boardroom.  However, it is not okay to impose white-centric views of what is deemed “appropriate” dress, appearance, and behavior onto others – and when they don’t conform to your norms – call them crazy:




Lisa Delpit, a well-known Education scholar defined a “culture of power” that serves to inhibit black people from speaking their truths on the education of Black youth.  In her 1988 article The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children, Delpit explains five mechanisms of the culture of power.  One is particularly poignant in Larry’s case:


So because Larry does not ascribe to the tenets of the white-centric culture of power, elected officials have taken to social media to attempt to further diminish him and call him crazy.

This is not intended to speak for Larry, because I know he is capable of doing that for himself.  This is not an endorsement of Larry as a political candidate.

What this is: a defense of Larry’s personhood.  His right to exist, think, and act OUTSIDE of the dominant ideology and norms inherent in the culture of power – without being ‘diagnosed’ and belittled for his differences.  What this is, is a reminder of the fact that everyone has a democratic right to exercise free speech, even people we might disagree with.  Kudos to Larry for persevering in the pursuit of his rights, and for his bravery in continuing to speak his unique truth in spaces where the culture of power would much rather render him silent.


My thoughts are my own, and do not represent those of any other entity, corporation, or group…and I stand with Larry in exercising my right to free speech!  Questions or comments: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Community Food Box Project

This isn’t on my usual topic of education, but this is a blog post from my daughter who has started the Community Food Box Project in Indianapolis. If you are interested in this project, you can find out more about it on the Community Food Box Project Facebook page.

Desmond Tutu Center Youth Fellows

The Desmond Tutu Youth Fellows trip to South Africa inspired me to start working on my social justice project immediately after I returned to Indianapolis. I have developed the “Community Food Box Project,” and my constant work on the project is the reason for my absence in blog writing (sorry!).

After meeting Desmond Tutu and hearing his kind and wise words, “Reach for the stars, you can dream,” my life changed. Something sparked in me, it was passion and a new sense of self-confidence I had never experienced before. I started to think about what I can do instead of everything I can’t do. So I brought this new attitude back to Indianapolis in order to start my social justice project. The Community Food Box Project was born soon after my mom showed me a Huffington Post article about a “little free pantry” movement in Arkansas. A woman built small structures similar to…

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This just in from Chicago- Dear Mayor Emanuel: I resign my position as principal of the #1 rated neighborhood school

Dear Mayor Emanuel: In 2010 Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary School as the 16th best elementary school in Chicago, and the 6th best neighborhood school.  After being hired to lead Bla…

Source: Dear Mayor Emanuel: I resign my position as principal of the #1 rated neighborhood school in Chicago