"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Indiana's Privatization Plan: Vouchers



"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams



On Tuesday I attended the ICPE Rally for Public Education in Indianapolis. Our goal was to persuade legislators to reject expanding Indiana's voucher program. Vic Smith, of ICPE, has done an excellent job of explaining what the drawbacks of expanding the voucher program are in clear, objective terms. It will be expensive, draining much needed funds from the public schools in our state. See his Statehouse notes.

Before the rally began members of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (myself included) visited with three of our local state Senators to discuss the issue. All three senators, David Long (R-16), Dennis Kruse (R-14) and Thomas Wyss (R-15) were very gracious, very welcoming, and willing to spend time talking with us. I have to admit that made me nervous.

All three indicated their support for Vouchers and "choice."

Long said that competition helped schools perform better. He also said that polls show that 70% of Indiana citizens support vouchers.

Wyss also supported vouchers. He was, however, more willing to wait to see what happens with the law we currently have than to rush into a new, more extensive voucher program. He emphasized his support for public schools and public school teachers and even let us know that he was dating a former public school teacher.

Kruse, who is my local senator, is also supportive of choice.

My guess is that all three will vote for the expanded voucher program. This is who we elected. "The people" knew what they were getting when they voted for them. "The people" will get what they voted for.

Poll Numbers - 70%?

The Hoosier Survey, an annual opinion poll by Ball State University, found that 70% of parents in Indiana are satisfied with their public schools. An even larger percentage (82%) of citizens who had children in the public schools were very or somewhat satisfied with their local public schools. This is consistent with national surveys as well...those people who know the schools and who are invested in them with their children are overwhelmingly supportive of them. The same poll reported that the people's number one choice for helping schools improve - was increased parental involvement...not vouchers, not charter schools, not more testing.

Perhaps it was support for public schools that Senator Long was referring to when he tossed out the number 70% because the same poll showed that only 28% of citizens supported the expansion of Indiana's voucher program (down from 34% last year). A slightly larger percentage of citizens are against expansion of the voucher plan...and the largest group, 39%, have no opinion. Clearly, the last group shows that expanding the voucher plan in our state is an answer without a question. It has no reason for being other than the political transfer of public funds into private hands.



Competition and Choice

The largest urban voucher program in the nation -- in Milwaukee Wisconsin -- has been studied during its 22 year history. The latest study confirms that there is no academic advantage achieved by using voucher programs. Competition, as most teachers will tell you, doesn't help improve public schools. Teachers are not holding back until there's competition down the road. Vouchers and competition take attention from the real problem facing public education, poverty.
...the data and the reports simply fail to demonstrate that voucher schools are associated with improved outcomes.
...our analysis finds little or no indication that pupils in those Milwaukee public schools that have more school choice possibilities nearby made significantly greater year-to-year gains in primary school tests than pupils in other Milwaukee public schools. The effect of other variables, such as staying in the same public school from year to year, seem to have a more consistent (albeit small) positive impact on student performance, particularly on language arts test score gains.
Decades of research confirm that poverty has a huge impact on student learning. Many studies show that more poverty means lower scores on all measures of school achievement. There are also many studies that show us just how poverty negatively impacts school performance.
Representative Behning (R-91) is also in favor of "choice" and "competition."
More school choice, he said, is good for all schools.

“It improves all when you have choice,” Behning said. “Everybody is going to be more competitive for children and try to meet their needs.”
The facts, however, don't seem to agree.

Welfare for Privatization

As of this writing there's a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current voucher program pending before the Indiana Supreme Court. Senator Long, during our conversation said that "everyone" expects the law to be upheld, so expanding it is not premature...

...which doesn't change the fact that, according to Vic Smith, more than $20 million will be diverted from public to private, mostly religious, schools.
If voucher expansion (HB 1003) is passed, at least $21 million of the $132 million next year – one- sixth! --would not go to the 1.04 million public school students who need it but instead would pay for vouchers for private school students who are already in private schools.
People have had enough. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, of the Monroe County affiliate of the ICPE, received cheers when she told the crowd in Indianapolis that, "...enough is enough."
We are here because we are sick to death of the constant draining of our funds to private interests...

We are here because we think it is wrong that our PTAs and PTOs have to hold bake sales and put pretty baskets up for auction while politicians redirect MILLIONS of our tax dollars to private schools with their talk of school choice.

The expansion of the voucher program is a welfare plan for private, mostly religious schools...a handout...a giveaway of public funds to corporations and churches. Add this to the "turnaround" plan which transfers public schools to private corporations and we can see a clear pattern of privatization. Despite their comforting words the senators we talked to on Tuesday don't seem to be interested in supporting public education at all. Based on their actions, their goal appears to be nothing less than the complete privatization of Indiana's education system.

This is who we voted for, Indiana. Is this what we want?

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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