This guest post is from Pat Howey, a special education advocate in West Point, Indiana.
Indiana parents and advocates:
After December 1, it may be more difficult to get certain services for our students in special education. Thanks to the current Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, federal funding for special education to the Indiana Department of Education has been cut for 2018.
Remember the outcry for "full funding" of special education, as was anticipated when the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) was enacted? Congress at that time said it could fund up to 40% of the cost of special education. In reality, Congress has never funded even 10% of the cost. Now, it is balancing its budget on the backs of the poor, the disabled, and the disenfranchised, and it has cut funding for special education.
What this means: The small part of funding that comes from the federal government has been cut even further. Local school districts will now have to foot the bill for the services listed below. School districts that already are struggling to provide adequate services to all students will now have to stretch their budgets even further.
After December 1, 2017, the IDOE has stated that it will no longer be providing funding through Special Education Excess Cost funds for the following services to local schools:
(1) Extended School Year (ESY) in day programs;
(2) ABA services in centers and in schools;
(3) One-on-one services (paraprofessionals and aides) in centers and schools;
(4) Related services; and,
In addition, a cap on residential services and day services is being considered.
What we can expect: Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: "Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding."
Here is the link to the full memo:
Folks, I predict that this is only the beginning. Things will get much worse.
Response from Dr. Kathleen Hugo, MCCSC's Director of Special Education, 11/28/17
The main impact of this on local school corporations will be that certain school-funded services, those that are extremely unique and expensive for a few students, will become the sole responsibility of the local school, further diminishing the available funds for the remainder of students. Special education has never been "fully-funded" by federal or state special education dollars. Yet the needs of students are increasing everywhere which is why the Indiana DOE has seen an increase in the number of requests for additional state funds to pay these excess costs.
The IDOE was clear in pointing out that this does not relieve the local schools from their responsibility to provide these services, if necessary for the appropriate education of the student. Local schools will be required to pay these costs from their existing funds.
Indiana special education funding is allocated to school corporations as one amount. There is no specific funding for paraprofessionals, related services, or teachers. The exception to that is when a particular student has extraordinary needs that are so unique that they are beyond the capacity of the local school corporation. The clearest example of this is when a student requires residential placement. Indiana has had a special mechanism in place for many years by which school corporations can request that IDOE pay for this "excess cost", for one particular student at a time. The memo was referring to the fact that the funds approved in this category by the legislature are being used up and so they are telling school districts that many of these excess services will be the responsibility of the school corporation, specifically services in local ABA centers, unique services in the summer, and others. ###
The fight against private school vouchers is not just about the money diverted from public school students. It’s about the survival of our democracy.
The money is an important factor. Under the 2011 private school voucher law, $146 million in taxpayer dollars were diverted from public schools to private schools in the 2016-17 school year.
That’s $146 million in one year. The amount diverted has gone up each year during the six years private school vouchers have been funded by the state. No doubt that figure will continue to go up each year.
This amount has an obvious impact on public school students. Their schools are getting millions less.
The debate, however, about strengthening or privatizing our public schools is about far more than money.
The deeper debate is about whether our democracy will survive without strong public schools. When our public schools are privatized, will our democracy be able to continue?
Many observers have expressed concerns about the health of our democracy since the 2016 election campaign. It’s a genuine concern.
Private School Vouchers Will Undermine Our Democracy and Our Social Fabric in at Least Five Ways
If you analyze recent trends, you can see they have already done so.
1. Private school vouchers have shattered the separation of church and state observed in K-12 funding in Indiana since the 1851 Constitution.
In Indiana, 98% of private voucher schools are religious schools. Government and religion have now been entwined by giving millions in state tax funds to religious private schools, a practice that had been assumed to be wrong for 160 years after Indiana adopted the 1851 Constitution which said (Article 6) “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” State funds are now going to private religious schools that teach creationism in science class in place of evolution. State funds are now going to religious schools that can legally discriminate based on RFRA since they were exempted from the famous “fix” to the RFRA law. Government and religion are now entwined.
2. We will segregate into religious enclaves. Private religious schools are sectarian; Public schools are not.
Vouchers give an incentive for every religious group to use public tax money to set up their own religious enclave with their own school paid for by taxpayers, leaving communities fragmented. This will complicate the transmission of the skills of listening to other points of view and learning to give and take which are vital to maintaining a democracy. Experience with diversity will diminish and perspectives will narrow.
3. We will have greater partisanship. Public schools are politically non-partisan by law; Private schools, however, can be politically partisan.
Vouchers give public money to private schools that can indoctrinate partisan political attitudes into the minds of young children, unlike the non-partisan pro and con debate tradition that is fundamental to public education. Engrained partisanship will begin in the early formative years, complicating the work of democracy which depends on a willingness to compromise.
4. Marketing will rule. The competition for the approval of parents will put marketing above curriculum and instruction in the priorities of each school.
Vouchers force all public schools to put marketing as a new top priority. In the new world of school choice in a marketplace of schools, if parents do not know how good the school is, they won’t choose it. We all know that in any marketplace, marketing and advertising can make all the difference and that even poor choices can be made to seem good by clever marketing. Public schools must now push to the back burner their focus on sound curriculum and instruction while they put top priority on marketing and public images. The Hamilton Southeastern Schools, for example, is one of several districts focused on updating their brand. They recently initiated a marketing strategy update and branding makeover along with a website redesign costing several thousand dollars, paid not from tax money but from their Coke fund. Public schools across Indiana will have no choice but to take similar steps to maintain their enrollment in competition with virtual charter schools and many other competitive private schools that are recruiting for enrollment in Indiana’s school marketplace.
5. Civics will be neglected. The competition for the approval of parents will force enormous attention only on the subjects used to grade schools in the mandated testing program: math and language arts.
Vouchers force all schools to put math and language arts as first priorities because those subjects are the basis for accountability letter grades which are the most visible marks by which parents judge and choose a school. This has left citizen education, civics and non-partisan voter education as expendable items in the K-12 curriculum, a tragedy for our democracy which must teach every new generation the civic values and procedures of our democratic society. Less attention to civics and citizenship has been well documented in Indiana. This is perhaps the most damaging way that the voucher movement is undermining our democracy.
Consider the prophetic statement of the former Wisconsin State Superintendent Herbert Grover back in the 1990’s when Wisconsin passed the first private school voucher program:
"If you look closely, you can see the social fabric of America beginning to unravel. Private school vouchers permit us to fear one another, to surround ourselves with those who look and think like we do, and — in so doing — to abandon our commitment to pluralism and diversity."
Now consider the conclusion of a great article by Erica Christakos, who has written superbly on the vital importance of public schools in the October 2017 issue of the Atlantic entitled “Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake.” She closes her must-read article with this thought:
“The political theorist Benjamin Barber warned in 2004 that ‘America as a commercial society of individual consumers may survive the destruction of public schooling. American as a democratic republic cannot.’ In this era of growing fragmentation, we urgently need a renewed commitment to the idea that public education is a worthy investment, one that pays dividends not only to individual families but to our society as a whole.”
The public schools of the United States have been a bedrock for democracy for 180 years since Horace Mann led the way. For the reasons cited above, we could lose our democracy if public education is privatized.
Let your legislators know that you support strong and well funded public education because you believe we cannot maintain our democracy without it.
Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!
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!
Our lobbyist Joel Hand represented ICPE extremely well during the 2017 budget session and is preparing now for the 2018 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!
“We have school to support American democracy.” – Suellen Reed
The annual Indiana Coalition for Public Education meeting was held on Saturday, August 26, 2017, in Indianapolis. The panel discussion was the main focus of the meeting with a small update on the past and upcoming legislative sessions ending the meeting.
The panel included the current and two former state superintendents: Jennifer McCormick, Suellen Reed, and Glenda Ritz. Marilyn Shank, ICPE board member, was moderator.
Shank presented six questions to the panelists:
Takeaways from the Discussion
Overall there was strong agreement among the three superintendents on all of these topics.
The Potential Loss of Federal Funding
McCormick was very concerned about Indiana schools losing federal title funding and Medicaid. She stated that Title II (Funding to increase the number of high-quality, effective teachers and principals) and Title III (Funding for English-language acquisition programs) were at greatest risk. Both total over $40 million. In addition, 140 school districts in Indiana—38 percent of all districts—receive Medicaid. Medicaid funds for support services from occupational therapists to nurses.
Ritz and Reed agreed with McCormick on the potential loss of federal funding. money. Money needs to be school based to help schools be more programmatic in their efforts.
School Programs and Services
Reed emphasized that the community must invest in our children. She asked us to consider all of the services that schools provide. We can't say to schools “Do it all”. There need to be community connections to get the variety of services the children need. Then the schools can use their money for education.
McCormick agreed but pointed out that many of the rural communities do not have the needed services available. She is working to reach out to those communities.
The Importance of Quality and Accountability in School Choice
McCormick was quick to admit that vouchers and charters are not going to go away. However, she then stated “if you take public dollars you should be under the same scrutiny as others that take public dollars.” It is a non-partisan idea that most Hoosiers could stand behind. She went on to say that Indiana has been a free for all with little monitoring of quality. She noted that the baseline of choice should be choice among quality alternatives. McCormick then drew on an analogy to the department of health’s role with restaurant safety and quality and how the state has the same responsibility with all schools—private, charter, and public. Quality and accountability should be expected from all schools that receive funding from the state.
McCormick also noted that many charter schools receive loans and when a school closes that loan is forgiven. She argued that there needs to be some responsibility for repayment of the loans and that the charter authorizer should bear some of that responsibility. Finally, she argued that if a school is taking public money that school should face the same accountability requirements as public schools. “We need to know where their money is going.”
Pre-K Funding and Mandatory Kindergarten
In a side note to the benefits of Pre-K in regards to closing achievement gaps, McCormick stated that she wants state legislators make Kindergarten mandatory. Currently the compulsory education statute in Indiana requires children to be in school from age 7 to 16. Mandatory kindergarten would reduce that to age 6.
Follow the Child Funding Does Not Work
Ritz strongly stressed the importance of the whole child and wraparound care and all the bits and pieces that go into providing an education for a child. She stated a couple of times during the discussion that “follow the child” funding does not work. “There are over one million students in Indiana and all have needs,” said Ritz. “It all boils down to money. The less you get, the less you can provide your students. And all schools are fighting for the same money to serve the same kids,” said Ritz. And yet, there isn’t enough money, which will lead to programmatic cuts. Programmatic cuts have and will continue occur primarily in rural and urban schools.
Are Muncie and Gary Outliers?
Muncie and Gary school corporations are being taken over by the State because of their financial problems. Both Reed and Ritz felt that Muncie and Gary are just the beginning. The financial problems will increase and more schools will be taken over.
Ritz explained the problem as follows. Districts are losing money, but if they cut programs then the schools will be less attractive to parents and enrollment will continue to fall. If they consolidate and close a school, a charter can come in and take over the building while not having to provide all the programs a public school provides. So, while districts might know they are in financial trouble, many don't see any way out. Reed agreed with Ritz, noting that even when she was superintendent, there were known financial problems in both districts.
In contrast, McCormick was adamant that Muncie and Gary were outlier school districts. She said that the schools had been in financial trouble for a long time but no one reached out to offer them guidance and support. One of her initiatives is to be proactive in working with districts. She wants to look at districts that are skirting the financial problems, see what lessons can be taken away, and then share those and provide others support as she sees a corporation getting into financial problems.
All three contributed a collective summation that the ISTEP is necessary for federal funding but it doesn’t have an impact on the child. ISTEP is a summative test while school-run tests measure growth. As of this school year, the districts and state are under a new federal accountability system that is unfortunately directly tied to assessment. The ISTEP was not created to rank school and grade teacher performance, however it has been used to do that. The ISTEP is too long and they hope that the ILEARN will be shorter.
McCormick noted that the new education act, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) allows for considerable flexibility in testing strategy—allowing districts to develop their own testing approach as long as it meets as long as it meets reliability and predictability standards. However, she noted that there has been little appetite for it at the state level.
McCormick also noted that much of the talk about testing strategy and content ignores the important links between what and how we test and the design and content of other parts of the education system.
Finally Reed pointed out that tests should only be used for the purposes they were designed for. We need different tests and testing strategies to evaluate students, schools, and teachers. Ritz returned to the freedom ESSA gives states in designing tests but, in agreeing with McCormick, she notes the state has been unwilling to provide that freedom.
All three stressed how important it is to be engaged in your local schools. It is important to be an informed voter, even run for school board, and to volunteer at your local schools. Only then through volunteering will you see the good things that are happening in your local schools.
Joel Hand provided the legislative update, which was incredibly brief due to the time remaining in the meeting. 2018 is a short session as there is no state budget to pass. Things to keep an eye on include voucher expansion efforts such educational savings accounts. The summer study committees are beginning to meet. That will give a view into what bills might appear during the upcoming session.
Hand closed the meeting with the following statement:
“ICPE is funded by individual members.
Without you, we don’t exist.
We are the reflection of you.
Please join ICPE and help us support public schools ”
We, ICPE-Monroe County, couldn't agree more! Please join us and maintain your membership.
Join us donorbox.org/join-icpe-monroe-countyhere.
— Tom Duffy and Keri Miksza
Photos taken by Tom Duffy.
Happy summer to everyone!
We are issuing a call to action. Between now and Thursday, July 20 at 11:59 pm, please reach out to the Indiana Department of Education per their first draft of the Indiana plan for adhering to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
ESSA was signed into law in December 2015 as the update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. ESSA replaces the previous update to the law, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
If you have the time, please read the sections and take the survey for each section.
The sections and surveys are here.
If you don't have that much time, please call or email the director of policy, Patrick McAlister: (317) 232-7794/ email@example.com or just the State Board of Education in general and demand that the newly created graduation pathways task force include a broad array of public school teachers (special education teachers especially) and have among its goals to address explicitly ways to support graduation rates for students with IEPs.
Indiana State Board of Education
143 W. Market St., Suite 500
Indianapolis, IN 46204
The Fate of the Indiana General Diploma
Did you know that Indiana offers five different high school diplomas (if you count all three versions of the Core 40) in addition to the GED and the certificate of completion?
According to Chalkbeat: "Special education advocates fought for years to make Indiana’s general diploma a viable option for students who need it. Now, the credential is being sidelined again—this time by the federal government.
The general diploma is a pared-down option typically earned by students who struggle academically or those with special needs. The state has discouraged schools from relying on the general diploma, but advocates say it offers opportunities to students who otherwise might not be able to earn the more rigorous default option, the Core 40 diploma."
However, as soon as fall 2018, the general diploma may not count in the graduation rate the state is required to report to the federal government because it is below the diploma the majority of students receive (Core 40). It could possibly cause rates to drop and school A-F grades to suffer because students earning the general diploma won't be counted as graduates by the federal government.
In 2016, 8,600 young adults in Indiana graduated with a general diploma out of 70,490 total. That's 12 percent of Indiana graduates that received a general diploma. If this change had taken effect for the 2016 school year, the state's graduation rate as federally reported would have been 78 percent, rather than the 89 percent that was reported. (Sources: 1, 2)
Indiana already tried to eliminate the general diploma, pushing kids in that category either up to Core 40 or down to certificate of completion.
It was just last year that legislation passed to compel every school to offer the general diploma—previously it was optional since the Core 40 was made the standard-bearer for diplomas. Some high schools had stopped even offering general diplomas.
At last week's Indiana state board of education meeting, members voted to create a task force to establish new pathways to graduation in consultation with the Department of Workforce Development and the Commission for Higher Education. Unfortunately, few educators are designated to participate. (But Indiana education legislation architects Kruse and Behning are on the board.)
The problem is that Indiana is likely to revisit eliminating the general diploma altogether (as it did in 2015), which would be a problem for many students with IEPs and other students that benefit from that option.
ICPE members and other fellow education advocates should make the case for a graduation pathways task force that includes a broad array of public school teachers and has among its goals to address explicitly ways to support graduation rates for students with IEPs.
If you are looking for additional changes to be brought by ESSA, read this article which highlights more measures that may be added to schools in Indiana by the SBOE.