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

Affording charter schools the opportunity to “buy in bulk” comes at a cost to IPS.

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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.

 

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.

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

STAND for something, fall for anything??

I came across this little gem in the Indy Star:
STANDletter
I suppose that I am the one cautious board member that is named in this letter.  So, allow me to address your concerns.  For the record, as a former IPS teacher, I have seen firsthand the “failure” that you speak of, and share some of your frustration. I am also currently an IPS parent. My child attends a school which will likely be rated a D or an F this year (if you care about that sort of thing, given the current state of standardized testing/ISTEP).  However, the devil of “innovation” is in the details. The dissent that I offer on the board in regard to innovation schools is because: I believe in equitable access to a free public education, and I do not believe that parceling out our public school system to become a loosely associated chain of charter organizations that have contracts with IPS is in the best interests of children.  Do you realize that when Phalen Academy was given a contract to run school 103, they got upwards of $3 million dollars to do so?  That money has to come from somewhere…and as we create more and more of these “innovation partnerships”, we are siphoning valuable and extremely limited resources from the very D and F schools that you speak of. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the money – understand that these partnerships are with corporations (non-profit or otherwise) – so when you have a concern, you do not have an elected official (such as myself) to represent the people.  You will be taking your chances with a privately appointed board who is tasked with running the day to day operations of the school.  Good luck signing up to delegate there.
Reason #456 on my list is because: people will undoubtedly lose their jobs. As private organizations take over, they do have the right to hire their own teachers.  Frequently at lower pay.  There will be layoffs of teachers.  These organizations also have the right to contract out any services they desire – including janitorial (bye bye, IPS custodians), food services, bus drivers – you name it, it will no longer be a secure source of employment for our community members with stable pay and benefits.  It will be McBusDrivers Incorporated sending folks from out of town that don’t know how to navigate Indianapolis that will be driving your kids around for minimum wage and no health insurance.
Reason #992: Have you checked the performance of most Indianapolis charter schools lately?  They fare no better than IPS.
Don’t believe the hype – innovation is possible without privatizing our public school system.  Look at Project Restore, which is a model in place at schools 99, 88, and 93.  It is a homegrown IPS concept that has been very successful – and it doesn’t need a contract, millions being given to an outside organization/board of directors in order to make it happen.  Those schools are given the latitude needed to increase student achievement, and it works.  Let’s think critically about how to really improve our school system without fragmenting and reducing it to a binder full of  $$ contracts.  I applaud your advocacy for your children, but you need to ask some hard questions.  What is the real agenda of Stand for Children?  Why have they thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars into getting IPS board members elected, including myself?  Why aren’t they putting that money toward helping IPS develop more innovative homegrown programs like Project Restore, and making them available to other schools, MINUS the middlemen with their hands out?? Are you getting the whole story?
My thoughts are, obviously, my own.
Email me if you’d like: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

“Conversion to Innovation”

Next month, in October, we will get further information and have discussion on the biggest steps toward school ‘autonomy’ yet.  District schools, next year, will be encouraged to move into an Autonomous status (principals will control their own budgets) and then to move toward Innovation School status.  As an “Innovation” school the school will have obtained a 501 C-3 (non-profit) status.  This means that they will operate entirely independently from the district, have their own board, employ ther own teachers.  Once innovation status is obtained, the Mind Trust will give the school $50k.
Here are screenshots, showing the details:
auto3

This is a three-tiered system:

auto1

Schools will be able to move from Traditional > Autonomous > Innovation status in the following manner:

auto2
More information on the timeline and process:
auto4
The community is largely unaware of this plan at this point in time.  
Help spread the word: the above are slides from public documents concerning this plan, obtained from IPS board docs, from meeting held September 16, 2015 at Broad Ripple High School: http://www.boarddocs.com/in/indps/Board.nsf/Public  Share this blog, or share the link…but the community should be informed of this process so that they can engage.
**UPDATE** I made corrections to some of the language in the original blog.  I was mistakenly under the impression that this would be voted on by the board next month.  I was informed that this would not require a board vote…because it is borne out of the strategic plan.
These views are my own and are not affiliated with the IPS district or board in any way.

How Sweet It IS…to be Phalen Leadership Academy

2015-4-28 IPS_PLA_1321 Agreement

I just had to make you all aware of the sweetest deal in the history of sweet deals.  Next week IPS will be briefed (Tuesday night at 6pm) and vote (Thursday night at 6pm) on a contract with Phalen Academy to take over the operations of school 103, on Indy’s far east side.

For more history on how this deceptive deal came to pass, please see my previous blog post on the Innovation Network Process.

Let’s dissect this agreement, shall we?

What IPS provides: A free building, complete with water, sewer, electricity, heating and cooling, snow removal and lawn maintenance, factilities maintenance, security services, transportation.

IPS even throws in a few copier machines for good measure.

IPS also will provide the staffing and oversight for ALL SPECIAL EDUCATION and ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER programs.

WHAT IPS PAYS:  This is where the contract gets a little murky for me.  If you are a mathmetician or a lawyer, and I’ve made a mistake reading the contract, please let me know.  Here is what I gathered from the document:

$635.91 PER MONTH, per student, payable on the first business day of each month (CONTRACT DOES NOT SPECIFY DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR, SO I’M ASSUMING 12 MONTHS PER YEAR)  $7630.92 per student.  That is equivalent or more than the entire financial allotment per student that IPS would be receiving based on the funding formula.

PLUS:

A “FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT FEE” Which Begins at 10% of the Monthly Payment amount, then decreases by 1% each year following… So add $63.51 per student per month…

In case you didn’t think the deal could get any sweeter than that…

PLUS:

$175,000 “PREOPERATIONAL FUNDS” TO GET STARTED WITH!!

I’m beside myself. If we poured this many resources into ANY OF OUR schools, we’d all be passing the stupid tests.  What are we doing that mirrors this for our own teachers in our own buildings??

As always, if you have comments or questions – email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Thoughts are my own, not reflective of official district viewpoints…obviously.

If you’re as pissed as I am, come to the board meeting.  Sign up to be a delegate by calling 226-4418 (although we might have missed the deadline on this one, folks).

Innovation Network, 1321, Phalen Leadership Academy

SO… Here it is, after much prompting from others, and admittedly, some procrastination on my part.  A blog.  From your local school board member.  🙂

Why?  Let’s suffice it to say that if I felt that you were getting the whole truth and nothing but – well, then…this blog wouldn’t be neccesary, would it?

My grandmother used to say that sunshine is the best disinfectant.  To me, that means:  Transparency.  People are empowered by knowledge.  When there are not multiple layers (like an onion) that have to be peeled away before you get to the core, people are provided with true rationales and can make their own judgements.  The public school system of Indianapolis is just that: public, in every sense of the word.  It is free and open to all, and it is funded by public dollars.  Therefore, all of the doings of the governance team are public information and can be found on Board Docs by following this link: http://www.boarddocs.com/in/indps/Board.nsf/Public

During my tenure, I have come to the realization that not many are informed, even myself at times.  My hope is that this blog is informative, and the information provided here is EMPOWERING.

I need you to feel empowered.  I need you to speak up, show out, stand up.  Our kids need you to be empowered to do all of these things and more.

Let’s go.

The first topic I want you to be informed about is timely… just recently it was announced that school 103 will be operated next year by Phalen Leadership Academy.  Y’all really need to know how this deal evolved:

Last year, The Mind Trust was successful in establishing the Innovation School Network.  The board reluctantly agreed to it because the purpose of it was to take applications from individuals who had a school idea and give them a year to incubate their idea before launching a school.

The board vice president (myself) and president were a member of the selection committee.  Which meant that we were able to look at four candidates ( after the ~80 initial applications were screened) and choose three out of the four.  Yes, you heard that right, we got to see about 5% of the applicant pool.

One of the four applications we saw didn’t fit the mold.  It was an already established charter school organization – not an individual with an idea.  It was Phalen Leadership Academy.

We expressed our concerns about the intent of the Innovation School Network program.

We said we would not support it.

Phalen Leadership Academy is new to Indianapolis and does not have accountability grades from the state yet, because they did not have any students in ISTEP grades (3-8).  THE PURPOSE of the Innovation Network is to raise the school’s state accountability grade.  How can we expect to raise our state grade by putting a charter school operator in charge WHO HAS NEVER BEEN GIVEN A STATE ACCOUNTABILITY GRADE?

We voiced our concerns about the lack of available data to suggest that Phalen Leadership Academy would be capable of turning around a failing school.  We said we would not support it.

Phalen was chosen by The Mind Trust anyway (not the selection committee that the IPS Prez & VP sat on, but the corporation) and the principal awarded $100,000 salary plus benefits.  He was given a year incubation period to grow a school model which was already in existence.  Everything proceeded as if the school board had no say in the matter.

When it came time to vote in December 2014, we did exactly what we said we were going to do all along.  WE DID NOT SUPPORT IT. The motion for the partnership failed for lack of a majority, with myself, Annie Roof, and Samantha Adair White voting no.  Mike Brown was absent.  The other three voted yes.

Then a board election resulted in a change of three board members effective January 2015.  Mike Brown, Samantha Adair White and Annie Roof lost re-election campaigns.  The three who supported it stayed.

No time was wasted before the Phalen partnership was put back on the agenda for a second time and subsequently approved.

Even more disappointing than the chain of events I just described is the process by which school 103 was chosen to be the recipient of this trojan horse bestowed upon the district.

PL 1321 allows for these type of charter partnerships to take place within any failing IPS school…so there are several to choose from.  When the board was informed that school 103 was the choice, I immediately questioned the selection process.

Was any work done to determine best fit?  Were students, parents, staff, or the community at large asked to weigh in on this decision?

No, no, no.  They were not, and will not.

How’s that for autonomy?

EMPOWER, people.  Please share, and stay tuned for more enlightening tales from your local school board, at work.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Comments, questions, ideas?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com