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Gov. Pence Eliminates CECI, Pushes For Appointed Board Of Education Chair

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The long running dispute between Indiana Governor Mike Pence and State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz seems to have switched battlegrounds.

Both won their respective offices on fundamentally opposing education policy platforms. Pence adheres to the nation-wide Republican promotion of what has been labelled “school choice”, which means the use of public funds to finance vouchers for private schools and turning under-performing public schools into privately controlled charter schools.

Ritz, a former school librarian, teacher’s union leader, and public education activist, ran on a platform of strengthening public schools and against the increasing emphasis on high stakes state-wide tests, the state-run school grading system, the shift to performance based teacher pay, and what she and her allies saw as the general devaluation of the teaching profession.

This ideological opposition was aggravated when e-mails were discovered showing that Ritz’s predecessor – Tony Bennett, a former gym teacher and the GOP candidate who Ritz defeated – had tried to manipulate the school grading system for the benefit of a favored charter school while he was in office. Republicans blamed Ritz for the e-mail release. Tensions mounted when, soon after Ritz took office, Pence created the Center for Education and Career Innovation, C.E.C.I., to reside within his office and staffed with his personal appointees. Ritz viewed Pence’s creation of a parallel education department as an attempt to usurp her policy making power.

Ritz sued Pence, charging a violation of her constitutional powers. The suit was dismissed on a technicality last fall. However, this issue became moot when Pence announced last week that he was dissolving his education center effective February 20th. He coupled this move with an announcement that he would be requesting the state assembly pass legislation allowing the state board of education to elect its chair. The superintendent is by law automatically chair of the board. However, the Governor appoints the other ten members of the board.

Mark Stoops, member of the state senate for district 40, which includes all of Bloomington and most of Monroe and Brown Counties, is a member of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee.

“I’d like to think Pence saw the writing on the wall and I think what this means is they’ve decided to go after Ritz and make her elected position an appointed position,” Stoops says. “That’s a real problem.”

Since the mid-19th century Indiana’s constitution has recognized the office of education superintendent as separate from all other branches of state government and it is unique under state law in being the only elected government department head. Consequently, Ritz and others have seen Pence’s efforts to usurp Ritz’s power as being in violation of the state constitution and the state code.

However, Senator Stoops does not hold to this view.

“I believe that the legislature votes and approves a measure to remove Superintendent of Public Instruction as automatic chair of the Board of Education, that would probably be legal,” Stoops says.

Since her election, Ritz has found support in the state assembly for many of her policies, in particular the senate supported maintaining federal Common Core standards.

However, Senator Stoops thinks that the majority of the members of the General Assembly will go along with Pence’s campaign against the current superintendent of education.

“Unfortunately I think the message from the past election is that the public doesn’t really care what they do and they’ll use that as an opportunity to push more privatized public education,” Stoops says.

Senator Stoops noted that several candidates running as democrats during the last election, some of them teachers and principals, and strong advocates of public schooling, were leading in the polls up to the election. However, they were defeated after a last minute mailing from the Republicans claiming support for public education, and promising to increase funding for the public system.

“I think we have to be wary because some schools are seriously close to being in a position of being taken over, and people need to understand that this is imminent,” Stoops says. “This is something we could see in Monroe County pretty soon.”

Indiana already leads the nation in the creation of charter schools. Governor Pence has promised to increase the pace of this process.

Interchange – Choctaw Academy: Educating the Vanquished

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Original Air Date: September 3, 2013: Choctaw Academy 

Host Doug Storm speaks with Christina Snyder, an associate professor in the Departments of American Studies and History at Indiana University. Snyder’s scholarship focuses on Native North America and on the histories of colonialism and slavery.  She is the author of Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America.  Snyder instructs us about Choctaw Academy, the first national Indian boarding school in the United States. Open from 1825 to 1848, the school was located on the plantation of prominent politician Richard Mentor Johnson. During Choctaw Academy’s lifespan, the United States transitioned from an east-coast nation to a continental power. The story of Choctaw Academy reveals how the emerging U.S. empire developed a tandem approach, violence and acculturation, to exert economic, political, and cultural influence far beyond even its extensive territory, and the complex ways in which colonized people met these challenges.

Interchange – The Best of Andy Mahler: A Poet Protecting Mountaintops

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This episode features award-winning poet and author Maurice Manning, a native of Danville, Kentucky. Manning’s work has appeared in The Green Mountains Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Sonora Review, and The New Yorker. His collection entitled “Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions” was the 2001 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. In the third segment of the interview Manning discusses his active efforts to put a stop to the coal industry’s destructive technique of “mountaintop removal” in his native Kentucky.

This is the third of four installments in our News Summit Special series “The Best of Andy Mahler” chosen from our deep archive of available podcasts. Mahler was a long-time host for Interchange who, in 2009, was presented with a WFHB Legacy Award for his service to the station. Mahler is active in Heartwood, a regional network founded in 1991 that protects forests and supports community activism in the Eastern United States through education, advocacy and citizen empowerment.

Maurice Manning

NEXT WEEK: PCBs in Bloomington.

The final installment in our WFHB News Summit “Best of Andy Mahler” series. Bloomington resident Mick Harrison, one of the nation’s foremost environmental and public interest attorneys, talks with Mahler about the PCB contamination left behind by Westinghouse and their decades-long efforts to avoid responsibility for cleaning it up.

Interchange – Subverting Democracy Through Education Reform

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Host Doug Storm is joined by prominent blogger and Purdue PhD candidate Freddie DeBoer. DeBoer’s blog, Interfaces of the Word, is often linked to and excerpted by such national bloggers and columnists like Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish and Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic Monthly. His essays have appeared in New Inquiry, Salon, and Jacobin.

DeBoer is currently writing a dissertation, on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) and its successor, the CLA+, developed by the Council for Aid to Education.

We look at  issues in the politics and economics of our education system tonight with a fair amount of focus on Bill Gates whose Foundation has been said to have enacted an educational coup with the recent overwhelming acceptance of Common Core State Standards. And, due to the way most education policy is implemented in the states, there didn’t even need to be any public discussion or consent.

Big Philanthropy in Education is as much a subversion of the democratic process as the  McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court to uncap the number of candidates to which an individual can give money.

 

Daily Local News – April 30, 2014

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By a vote of ten-to-one, the Indiana State Board of Education put an end to the current academic standards today, focusing on a new method they say will help students be more college and career ready; Members of boards and commissions in Bloomington will have to reveal financial information more regularly as a result of a new city policy; The nation’s largest solar farm built on top of a federal Superfund site became operational in Indianapolis last month; The Trashion Refashion 2014 Runway Show entertained Bloomington residents on Sunday at the Buskirk Chumley Theater with two runway segments, a “Trashion-off,” and performances by the Aerial Silks, Hudsucker Posse, and Jefferson Street Marching Band.

FEATURE
The group Grassroots Conservatives describes itself as a coalition of conservative Republicans, Tea Party Patriots, constitutionalists, independents, and libertarians who come together to pursue the American Dream. The group held a straw poll last night at the Monroe County Public Library, inviting members to select the Republican primary race candidates for Congress, County Council District 2, and County Council District 4 that best meet the Grassroots Conservatives’ principals of reducing federal government spending, low taxes and regulations, and a constitutionally limited government. Correspondent Casey Kuhn attended the polling last night and recorded candidate speeches, interviews with organization members, and the results for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

BLOOMINGTON BEWARE!
Authors — especially academics who need to publish — are being hit by fake publicists who promise all kinds of publicity and book-sales. Then they take the money and run!

CREDITS
Anchors: Cathi Norton, Kelly Wherley
Today’s headlines were written by Ruben Solis, Linda Green, and Stephanie Stewart,
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, in partnership with Community Access Television services.
Bloomington Beware was produced by Anson Shupe,
Our feature was produced by Ilze Akerbergs.
Our engineer today is Jim Lang,
Editor is Drew Daudelin, Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Pre-K Voucher Programs

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Governor Mike Pence signed a new bill into law that will fund Pre-K voucher programs for low-income families in the state of Indiana. The bill, called House Enrolled Act-1004, will set aside a portion of Indiana’s annual budget to fund a pilot program that will go into effect for five Indiana counties to help lower-income families enroll their children in their choice of Pre-K education programs within the state. Now we bring you a few remarks from Governor Pence about the pilot program, for today’s WFHB feature report.

Fairview School adopts new plan to raise state-imposed ‘F’ grade

Fairview school has a new plan to address perceived deficiencies in the language abilities of its students, and parents seem to support it this time.

Listeners may recall when in January, parents raised complaints after their children were visibly upset over changes in their classes and teachers. Parents complained, and demonstrated outside schoolboard offices.

They learned that the unilateral changes had been adopted by the principal in response to Fairview school receiving a F grade from the state, its students’ low scores on the state mandated ISTEP tests, and studies showing the its graduates went on to do poorly at high school.

The parents demanded meetings and greater consultation with school and board administrators on how the school should respond to the performance problems. Several meetings were held with parents, including one last night where the new plan was presented.

Deborah Myerson, who has two children at Fairview, attended this meeting.

“The first meeting was an attempt to respond to the states’ mandates being imposed right after January with very little advanced notice to parents and teachers,” Myerson says, “That was roundly rejected by the parents. This meeting was an attempt to re-do that with input by teachers and parents, for a new plan that will be in place after spring break.”

Under the new plan, every student at Fairview will spend two hours a day on language arts, an increase from the previous 90 minute load. The lower grades will do this in the morning and the higher grades in the afternoon.

Students will be grouped in smaller classes and specialists will be assigned to help specific teachers and groups. Myerson is hopeful that this plan will work.

“There are definitely literacy needs at the school, no question,” Myerson says, “I think the teachers are working really hard. I think there are issues with how the state is imposing itself on local education processes. Some of it will be difficult to deal with because of the high poverty level at the school, which is routinely correlated with low test scores.”

She points out that the next grade assigned to the school by the state will come out before the new plan has even begun to be implemented.

“I think people need to contact their legislators and that people locally should be in control of how their children are being educated and not be at the constant whim of the state,” Myerson says.

Another meeting for parents, teachers and administrators has been scheduled for this Thursday at Fairview School.

MCCSC Board of Trustees open meeting to discuss local ‘F’ grade schools

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Members of the public will get to hear and comment on proposals to address the “F” grades given by the state to Fairview and Highland Park schools.

The opportunity will come this evening, when the Board of Trustees of the Monroe County Community School Corporation opens its regular meeting.

The principals of the two elementary schools will present their proposals for improvement, and then the public will be able to respond and offer suggestions to the Board.

Fairview School has been in the news over the last couple months, following initial changes proposed by interim principal Tammy Miller that resulted in an uproar from some pupils and their parents.

Parental pressure and the accompanying publicity prompted the board and the principal to hold several Focus Group meetings with parents, teachers, and administrators.

Amanda Nickey is a parent of a Fairview student, was involved in the initial protests, and attended one of these focus group meetings.

“The meetings are structured and led by a staff member,” Nickey says, “They led us through big picture questions with Fairview and the community and then getting more specific about programs important to us parents. We were able to share our perspectives and opinions.”

There were two other focus group sessions, and no more of these or other parent-staff meetings have been scheduled by the school or the board. Nickey says she is taking a wait-and-see position on Fairview’s response to the public’s concern.

“It’s not over yet, and I don’t know if I’m satisfied,” Nickey says.

She says she is waiting to see if parental input gathered at the focus groups sessions will be incorporated in any plans addressing Fairview’s academic performance problems. Nickey also says there was another private meeting, called by the school board, in which a State Department of Education official was in attendance.

However, she has not seen nor heard what was addressed or proposed. Some leaders of the Fairview Parent-Teacher Organization also organized a more open meeting at Crestmont. One of the main topics was the lack of official communication with parents. This shortcoming, and a perceived lack of consultation with parents, provided the initial impetus for the protests back in January.

Nevertheless, Nickey doesn’t think that school and board communication with parents has significantly improved.

“I just got an email and phone call today about the meeting today,” Nickey says, “For a lot of parents, that’s just not enough time to know about something like that.”

The open portion of tonight’s board meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Aside from academic performance issues at Fairview and Highland Park elementary schools, the agenda also includes proposals for next year’s class pupil-to-teacher ratios, and a board resolution opposing the Indiana government’s proposal to eliminate Indiana Business Personal Property Tax. The class ratio proposal will offer a range of sizes from kindergarten through to grade 12 for the various schools.

The resolution on the business tax arises from the potential negative impact on the MCCSC budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, if the tax is eliminated.

Fairvew Elementary School To Reorganize Classes Due To Parents’ Protests

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The proposed restructuring of classes at Fairview School that brought angry parents to school board offices has been stopped, according to Beverly Smith, Director of School and Community Services at the Monroe County Community School Corporation.

“Our Director of Elementary Education Tammy Miller is serving as the interim principal at Fairview School through the end of this year,” Smith said, “She, in her wisdom as the director and a former principal, projected, suggested, and put in place some changes that would have taken place on Monday. Through some further input from staff and parents, Mrs. Miller made the suggestion to the superintendent that we not go forward with those changes. She is going to work with parents in the future to craft plans that will allow folks to work together and come up with what is best for Fairview.”

Smith confirmed reports that the proposed changes were to create smaller classes of students with below standard literacy skills.

This determination was based on a variety of performance evaluations of students including, in particular, those from the Northwest Literacy Evaluation reports.

Beyond the now suspended restructuring of classes, there was also concern expressed by parents that these changes might impact Fairview’s adoption and development of the Artful Learning program, and associated changes in teaching, curriculum and enrollment.

“At this point what we are most focused on is that, as of today, students will be returning to their original classroom assignments that they enjoyed during the first semester. School will go on as normal and Mrs. Miller will work with teachers and parents to return students to the classrooms and work together for the advancement of Fairview.”

The original and strongest complaint voiced by Fairview parents was the lack of consultation with parents by the school or district administration, or even of direct notice beforehand of the proposals prior to their adoption.

However, the parental protests brought about an immediate meeting with school board officials, including District Superintendent Judith Demuth, yesterday morning.

This was followed up with the announcement of the scheduling of Fairview Family Meetings Monday, January 13, and next Monday, January 21 at 6:30 p.m, at Fairview School.

Smith acknowledged that the parents’ protests, as well as comments from teaching staff, helped prompt the reversal of the class restructuring plans.

“It’s always wise to have as much input from all of your stakeholders as possible,” Smith said, “I believe that this situation just underscored that this practice is something we enjoy and continue.”

Smith says that consultation with Fairview parents and teachers will continue, to decide how best to address the immediate issue of students literacy, the evaluation of students’ performance, and the best means to address any perceived deficiencies.

Best of 2013 #2 – The Board vs. the State: Scandals in Public Education

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2013 was a volatile year for education in Indiana. Education leaders made national headlines with their highly visible dysfunction and disputes, most stemming from a rocky relationship between newly-elected State Board of Education Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education.

CREDITS
The Best of 2013 is a production of the WFHB News Department.
Today’s episode was produced by Drew Daudelin.
Correspondents Stephen Brown and Casey Kuhn contributed to today’s reports.
Our theme music is provided by Legs.
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

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