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.  

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State of the “Maverick” Address

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.

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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?

 

  1. 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: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com