On Monday, Monroe County's Herald-Times ran a guest editorial from Justin Ohlemiller, the executive director of Stand for Children Indiana. Mr. Ohlemiller told readers that this past year's ISTEP accurately portrayed Indiana students' readiness for college and careers, and that parents and others should welcome its harsh information.
Just to review, Mr. Ohlemiller was talking about the new ISTEP that was based on new standards which were released to teachers late in the summer before they were supposed to teach them. Designed by McGraw-Hill, its length generated protests by parents last spring, and Governor Pence summarily insisted that it be shortened, with the result that different groups of students took different tests. Add to that the computer problems that accompanied its administration, and you have a potent brew of invalidity, frustration, and expense. In fact, the Indiana legislature deemed the 2015 ISTEP such a volatile and potentially damaging subject in an election year that this January they passed bills to hold teachers and schools "harmless" from its scores. But Mr. Ohlemiller didn't seem to want to pay attention to any of the actual messiness and consequences of the test in action.
The byline in the Herald-Times identified Stand for Children Indiana as a nonprofit education advocacy group. I was curious and tried looking up that organization’s 990’s (tax forms which nonprofits must file). To my surprise, I could not find any. Unless they have registered as a nonprofit in Indiana very recently, I do not believe that Stand for Children Indiana is its own nonprofit entity. There is, however, a Stand for Children Indiana PAC which has funneled a lot of money to legislative races. Interestingly, the Indiana PAC’s address is more frequently listed as Portland, OR, than Indianapolis, IN, based on a “Stand for Children” contribution search of the Indiana campaign finance web site.
According to the Economic Research Institute, Stand for Children, Inc., is a nonprofit based in Portland, OR, that in 2013 had about $5 million each in revenue, assets, and contributions. Stand for Children Leadership Center, also based in Portland, had revenue, assets, and contributions of $18.5 million, $15.8 million, and $22 million, respectively, in 2013. It was the Portland Stand for Children PAC which gave Bob Behning, chair of the Indiana House Education Committee, $12,000 in 2014. The campaign contribution web site shows donations to the Stand for Children Indiana PAC that come directly from the Stand for Children, Inc., in Portland.
A lot of Stand for Children’s principles sound quite good, for instance, the goal of having “high-quality teachers” in schools that serve low-income students. It took me a great deal of time on their web site to discover the place where they make it clear that they advocate for “school choice.” To me, the phrase “school choice” is a code phrase for privatization—taking public money out of public schools and sending it to charters or private schools through vouchers.
How is it, then, that Indianapolis Public Schools allows Stand for Children into its schools to train parents for advocacy, though the “Stand University for Parents (Stand UP)”? Situations like this become more plausible when Stand for Children is a major supporter of victorious IPS school board candidates who support “school choice.” Here’s the late Amos Brown on Stand for Children’s involvement in the 2014 elections:
"...Stand’s refusal to be open and honest about their campaign spending, reminds me of the worst excesses of the 'white man’s burden' concept. No one knows if Stand for Children’s spending $1,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000 on the IPS race. But political experts tell me Stand’s spending could approach $500,000! Stand’s silence is more indicative of Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers or even Nixonian secretive power politics than acting with the best intentions for IPS students, parents, and residents.”
None of the school board spending is visible on the Indiana campaign finance web site. Mr. Ohlemiller refused to release financial details of IPS campaign-related spending, since money was funneled through the national organization rather than the Indiana PAC.
Money from outside Indiana is not just being channeled to campaign funding through the PAC; it's also paying for the salaries of the Stand for Children Indiana staff and their communications efforts.
I have a lot of interest in hearing from parents, educators, and others who are seriously engaged in the health of our community schools. After all the revisions, reservations, and mishaps of last year's ISTEP, Mr. Ohlemiller, a former communications officer at ad agency TrendyMinds, exhorts us to accept its legitimacy and accuracy. For whom does he speak?
P.S. Thanks to Steve Hinnefeld for referring me to Hayleigh Colombo's Chalkbeat Indiana article on the spending in the 2014 IPS race. I've amended this post to reflect information from that article.
Vic’s Statehouse Notes #246 – February 13, 2016
Senate Bill 334, expanding private school vouchers to allow them to start in the spring semester, has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Education Committee on Tuesday, February 16th at 8:30am in Statehouse Room 156-C.
I urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee or any House member to express your opposition to expanding private school vouchers in this way or in any way. If you can contact legislators via email or phone before Tuesday’s meeting, please do so.
Talking Points: Why SB 334 Should be Rewritten
Contact Your Legislators!
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz had it right this week when she called for a pause on school voucher expansion. She urged the General Assembly to set up a thorough study of the impact of the voucher program, a study that is clearly needed but has never been authorized in the five years since the voucher program was established.
Please contact members of the House Education Committee with your concerns about Senate Bill 334 and the expansion of vouchers into the spring semester:
Republicans on the committee include Representative Behning, chair; Representative Rhoads, vice-chair; and Representatives Braun, Burton, Cook, DeVon, Fine, Lucas and Thompson.
Democrats on the committee include Representative Vernon Smith, ranking member; and Representatives Austin, Errington and Moed.
Then contact your own member of the House or others about your opposition to expanding vouchers.
The participation of many voices from the ranks of public education advocates makes all the difference in the minds of legislators. Thanks for your support of public education!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.
Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!
Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!
Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:
I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.
The numbers for virtual schools must be grim when a major supporter of charter schools, the Walton Family Foundation, calls for a divestment in online charter schools. In a piece that ran in EdWeek a week ago, Marc Sternberg and Marc Holley of the Walton Family Foundation wrote that three research studies funded by Walton found "...stark evidence that most online charters have a negative impact on students' academic achievement. The results are particularly significant because of the reach and scope of online charters: They currently enroll some 200,000 children in 200 schools operating across 26 states. If virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing."
How might this bear on Indiana, where the number of students in online charter schools has grown exponentially since 2010?
Some of the virtual charters in Indiana draining students and funds from brick-and-mortar districts include the Indiana Virtual School with 1,318 students (parent company: Business Consulting Incorporated), authorized by Daleville Community Schools; Indiana Connections Academy with 3,705 students (Pearson), authorized by Ball State; and Hoosier Academies with 3,861 students (K12 Inc.), authorized by Ball State.
The groundwork for the diversion of public school funds to online charters was laid by ALEC and its model virtual public schools act (SourceWatch). According to SourceWatch, Indiana virtual school operators K12, Inc, and Connections Academy were involved in the writing of that bill.
Virtual charter schools receive tuition-based funding at 90% of brick-and-mortar funding. If brick-and-mortar funding averages about $5000 per pupil--probably a low estimate--virtual charter schools are receiving about $40 million in Indiana public school funding this year. Their authorizers (Ball State and Daleville Community Schools) will receive about $1.2 million of that through the 3% administrative fee that authorizers can charge.
Since 2006, the parent company for Hoosier Academies schools, K12 Inc., has donated over $81,000 to some influential people in state government: Mitch Daniels, Bob Behning, Dennis Kruse, Brian Bosma, Teresa Lubbers, the House Republican Campaign Committee, the Senate Majority Campaign Committee, Carlin Yoder, Tim Brown, Jeff Thompson, Ed Clere, Tony Bennett, and Mike Pence. Of that $81,000, a token $500 went to the Indiana Democratic Caucus and another $500 to Democrat Pat Bauer--but both of those contributions were back in 2006. After that, it must have been clear that K12, Inc., didn't need the Democrats.
Virtual schools have representation on our State Board of Education in the form of board member Dr. Byron Ernest, head of schools for Hoosier Academies, appointed by House Speaker Brian Bosma. Hoosier Academies' income from state grants in the period from 2011 through 2013 was $53.5 million (a small fraction of Hoosier Academy students attend a brick-and-mortar school in Indianapolis).
How long will it take our supermajority to pay attention to the evidence of subpar performance of virtual charters? Anyone who looks up their data on the IDOE compass site will discover confirmation of the high turnover and extremely low scores and graduation rates found by the studies financed by Walton. These studies discovered that online charter students fell "a full year behind their peers in math and nearly half a school year in reading, annually." Will legislators shift taxpayer education dollars back into brick-and-mortar schools? Or will $80,000 in campaign donations from K12, Inc., since 2006 slow that process down?