‘School choice’ and public schools

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Here’s a little secret about school choice in Indiana: Public schools lose more students to other public school districts than to charter schools or private school vouchers.

According to the Indiana Department of Education’s fall 2020 Public School Corporation Transfer Report, 70,394 Hoosier students transferred from one public school district to another this year. That compares with 44,569 who attend charter schools and 35,150 who attend private schools using state-funded tuition vouchers, the options we think of as “school choice.”

Until a few years ago, Indiana didn’t see so many public-school transfers. School district operations were partially funded by local property taxes. Students could transfer from one district to another, but they were expected to pay “transfer tuition” to cover the costs.

Charter of transfers to public, charter and private schools.

But the state took over the funding of most school operations in 2009, relying largely on state sales and income taxes to pay for K-12 education. With that change, districts no longer needed to charge transfer students. In fact, it was in their interest to enroll out-of-district students – and get more money from the state – as long as they had room.

Gov. Mitch Daniels celebrated the change, arguing it would force schools to improve so they could compete for students. In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, he said it was “delightful” that school districts were using billboards and direct-mail advertising to lure students.

But there is little evidence that families rely on real measures of school quality in making the decision to transfer. And, as with any competition, the system created winners and losers.

Schools that lose a lot of students to public-school transfers tend to fall into one of two categories. Some are very small, rural school districts like Hamilton Community Schools in northeastern Indiana, with 300 students; Medora Community Schools in southern Indiana, with 154 students; and Tri-Township Schools in northwestern Indiana, with 354 students. Maybe students transfer from those districts to larger districts for more extensive academic or athletic offerings, or maybe because it’s convenient for their families. An argument could be made that those tiny districts should consolidate, but that’s for another day.

The other category of losers includes city districts like Muncie, Marion, Anderson and Kokomo, which are surrounded by nearby suburban or rural districts. Those four districts have seen their enrollment decline by one-fourth since 2009.

Charter of 2009 and 2021 enrollment in Muncie, Marion, Kokomo and  Anderson schools.

Not surprisingly, winners in the competition include districts that surround the districts that are losing the most students. Nearby districts enroll several thousand students whose legal settlement is in the Muncie, Marion, Anderson and Kokomo school districts.

Some urban Indiana districts, like Indianapolis and Gary, lose a lot of their students to charter schools. Fort Wayne loses many students to voucher-funded religious schools. But the Muncie, Marion, Anderson and Kokomo districts lose relatively few students to charters and vouchers. Most of their losses are from students transferring to other public school districts.

We don’t know what motivates families to leave one public district for another; that would be a good topic for social-science research. And the state doesn’t post demographic data for students who transfer, so it’s hard to know if inter-district transfers are changing the racial and socioeconomic make-up of school districts.

We do know that the districts that students transfer to are often less racially diverse and less poor than the districts that they transfer from. Is state policy making it easy for middle-class families to abandon urban districts, leaving those districts with less state funding and a higher concentration of needy students? That’s a question that calls for more study.

Where did all the students go?

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Chalkbeat Indiana reported that enrollment dropped by almost 15,000 students this fall in Indiana public schools. I wrote that the loss to school districts was over 17,000 students. It gets worse. Judging by recent state data, enrollment in local public schools fell by over 24,000 students.

Where did they go? Several thousand moved to online schools, either virtual charter schools or online programs operated by other school districts. Some families apparently opted out of enrolling their 5-year-olds in kindergarten. A majority of the missing students are probably home-schooling.

In terms of state funding, the loss of 24,000 students translates to a loss of nearly $150 million for public schools in the 2020-21 school year. It’s almost as much money as the schools lose to Indiana’s voucher program, which provides tuition funding for students who attend private schools.

All because of COVID-19, which prompted some families to keep their children home from school and others to enroll their kids in online programs rather than send them to school in a pandemic.

Where did I get 24,000? Using Indiana Department of Education data, I noted the difference between the total enrollment reported in fall 2019 and fall 2020. To eliminate the effect of online-only programs, I excluded them from the calculation in both years.

Overall, charter schools increased their enrollment this fall, according to state data. Some new charter schools opened, and others added grade levels. But the big factor was that virtual charter schools, in particular Indiana Connections Academy, grew by about 1,600 students.

Meanwhile, statewide online programs operated by two public school districts, Clarksville and Union School Corp., saw their enrollment grow by about 4,000 students. Most of those students left their local school districts to enroll in the Clarksville and Union online programs.

Another factor is that families probably delayed or skipped enrolling their 5-year-olds in kindergarten, which is not required in Indiana. Figures from the Indiana Department of Education show that statewide kindergarten enrollment in public and charter schools fell by 5,651 from fall 2019 to fall 2020, a decline of 7.2%.  Several large school districts started the year in August with online-only classes, which were sure to be challenging for young children learning their letters and numbers. You can imagine that parents would think, “What the heck, kindergarten isn’t required, let’s just wait a year.”

But transfers to online schools and the decrease in kindergarten students account for only about half of the overall decline in public school enrollment. Some students may have switched to private schools, but the evidence, so far, doesn’t support a public-to-private shift. The number of students who received state-funded vouchers for private school tuition declined from fall 2019, according to state data.

Where did the other students go? Chances are most are being homeschooled, which is largely unregulated and often unreported in Indiana. The question is, will they return to their local public schools when the pandemic is over, or is this a long-term shift in schooling?

1920s Klan fought to control schools

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Schools were a key battleground as the Ku Klux Klan fought to dominate Indiana’s political and cultural life in the 1920s. The Klan promoted Bible reading and prayer in schools and demonized the spread of parochial schools and an imagined Catholic influence in public education.

Klan members thought Catholics were taking over America, Indiana University historian James Madison writes, and “the first point of takeover was public schools. Like generations of American reformers before and since, the Klan saw education reform as necessary for the nation’s revival.”

Book cover of The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland

Madison’s new book, “The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland,” focuses on a shameful era in Indiana’s past, when the Klan gained remarkable power and controlled public offices from the Statehouse to local school boards. The organization largely died out within a decade, but its influence continued in racially segregated schools and other aspects of Hoosier life.

Importantly, the 1920s Klan saw itself as mainstream, not an outlier. It promoted patriotism, civic duty and “100% Americanism.” It held massive rallies and marches, complete with marching bands and women’s auxiliaries. It raised money for churches and sponsored musical groups and youth basketball and baseball leagues. Its cross-burnings were spectacles that wowed audiences.

It has been estimated that 30% of white, native-born, Protestant men joined the Klan in Indiana. These were not disaffected loners; they were not the Proud Boys of their day.

“Klansmen came from the middle ranks of white-collar and skilled workers who could afford the $10 initiation fee and the monthly dues,” Madison writes. “Some blue-collar workers joined, but more members were lawyers, physicians, government employees, and owners of small and medium-sized businesses.” Protestant clergy provided important support.

Contrary to popular belief, the 1920s Klan in Indiana did not practice lynching, although it did threaten and intimidate its foes. It saw African Americans and Jews as inferior, but its real enemies were Catholics and immigrants, many of whom had arrived to work in Indiana factories.

First-generation immigrants had reached almost 15% of the U.S. population in 1910, fueling a nationwide backlash. The bogus “race science” of eugenics gained tremendous influence, including among prominent intellectuals. Prohibitionists associated German, Italian and Irish immigrants with the evils of alcohol. The Klan seized on those trends, especially in Indiana.

Education was at the forefront of the Klan’s agenda, which centered on keeping the public schools as preserves of a white, Protestant version of Christianity. Klan publications spread wild claims that Catholic teachers were infiltrating public schools and indoctrinating children.

“A massive parade through downtown Indianapolis in late 1924 featured several floats with school themes and the words ‘One School, One Language, One Bible,’” Madison writes. “Often Klan parades featured a float with a ‘Little Red Schoolhouse’ representing the essence of public education and the rejection of parochial schools.”

State legislators elected with Klan support in 1924 introduced bills to require Bible reading and religious instruction in schools, limit teaching licenses to graduates of public schools and ban the wearing of “religious garb” in public schools; the latter was aimed at Catholic nuns who sometimes taught in public schools in areas with teacher shortages. The bills didn’t pass, but local measures gained more traction. While there had always been some racial segregation in Hoosier schools, Indianapolis, Gary, Evansville and Kokomo opened separate high schools for Black students in the 1920s. (The legislature outlawed school segregation in 1949, but it continued in practice for years after that).

Madison rejects the story usually told about the 1920s Indiana Klan: that it collapsed with the arrest and conviction of its charismatic but vicious leader, D.C. Stephenson, for causing the death of a young woman. ““Blaming a wicked Grand Dragon absolves all others and makes the Klan a fluke occurrence that arrived and disappeared along with Stephenson,” he writes.

“The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland” also covers the resurgence of the Klan as a small, virulently racist group in the 1960s, but its focus is the large and influential Klan of the 1920s; and what’s striking about the story is its familiarity. The mass events, the celebration of “100% Americanism,” echo in today’s Make America Great Again rallies. The demonization of immigrants sounds a lot like President Donald Trump’s characterization of Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminals, rapists.” The demand for Bible reading in schools foreshadows today’s support of Christian education with state-funded vouchers.

It’s easy to point fingers, however, and this history should also remind us of some uncomfortable truths: One person’s “Hoosier values” can look like hate to someone else. “Us against them” divisions can quickly turn ugly. And the rhetoric of public education can be used to exclude as easily as to welcome.

The Klan era of the 1920s is a not-too-distant mirror reflecting a strange but recognizable image of our own time. What we see will depend on how critically – and how self-critically — we look.

Jenner appointment no surprise

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Gov. Eric Holcomb choosing his chief education adviser to be Indiana’s first secretary of education was about as surprising as night following day. The whole point of making this an appointed position, after all, was so the governor and secretary would be on the same page regarding education. Who better to hold the job than someone who has worked closely with Holcomb on K-12 policy?

That said, Katie Jenner looks to be a reasonable choice. She was a teacher, albeit briefly. She was an assistant principal and assistant superintendent at Madison Consolidated Schools. She worked at Ivy Tech Community College until Holcomb made her his senior education adviser. She has master’s and doctoral degrees in education, along with an MBA.

Katie Jenner (Office of the Governor)

She will take over the duties now carried out by Jennifer McCormick, Indiana’s last elected superintendent of public instruction. Legislators voted to change the name of the position to secretary of education and to make it appointed, not elected.

Jenner has mostly kept a low profile in state policy and politics, and it seems she hasn’t made any real enemies or clashed publicly with other officials. From what little I’ve heard, she is competent, well liked and committed to education. Advocacy groups from across the spectrum say they are eager to work with her (not that they have a choice). I also wish her well and hope she does a great job.

Jason Bearce, vice president of education and workforce development for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, reiterated the group’s support for having the governor appoint the chief education officer.

“What we are particularly excited about with Katie is in both her prior roles for the Madison Consolidated Schools and Ivy Tech Community College she worked closely with employers to better align K-12 education with workforce needs and opportunities,” Bearce said in a statement.

Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said it was “critical” that Jenner has experience in K-12 education as a teacher and administrator.

“We look forward to working with Dr. Jenner to bring leaders together to invest in public schools, support Hoosier educators and provide the highest quality public education for our students,” he said.

But, for better or worse, Jenner will answer to the governor, not to the voters. McCormick, elected in 2016 as a Republican, has been a fiercely independent state superintendent. She has been an outspoken advocate for public school districts, sometimes clashing with supporters of charter and private schools.

Jenner won’t play that role, but will she stand up to legislators and the State Board of Education if they push policies that aren’t good for schools and students? With the state facing tough decisions on school funding, accountability and other issues, we may find out soon.

A-to-F school grades to continue

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The Indiana State Board of Education is almost certain to continue the state’s unfortunate policy of using A-to-F grades to rate schools, judging by a framework that the board received this week.

The draft accountability framework was presented and briefly discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting. Board staff, who wrote the document, insisted it isn’t set in stone and that it will be up to the board – with input from stakeholders and the public – to decide how the system will work.

“We are trying to be transparent,” said Ron Sandlin, the board’s senior director of school performance. “The point of the framework is to spur conversations about these ideas.”

But the very first recommendation in the document is that A-to-F grades continue. The justification: “Issuing a fair and transparent summative rating ensures communities can quickly assess school performance and establishes effective incentives for schools.”

Note that the school grading system is being developed by the State Board of Education, with most of its members appointed by the governor. Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, who heads the Indiana Department of Education, has favored a different approach to accountability.

Indiana started labeling schools with letter grades in 2011 and made the approach part of state law the following year. Indiana is one of 16 states that use letter grades for school accountability, according to the Education Commission of the States.

The draft framework does call for tweaking the grading metrics. That’ no surprise. The old system essentially collapsed under the weight of tougher state standards, new tests and the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana’s 2019-20 school grades were meaningless, even more so than usual.

For schools serving students in grades K-8, the system relies primarily on standardized tests and gives equal weight to students’ performance and growth on the tests. The draft framework says Indiana should continue that general approach, but with some changes.

It would cap the grading points that schools receive for test-score growth, trying to balance a system in which growth points are awarded more generously than performance points. And it would adopt variable weighting of growth vs. performance, making allowance for student mobility. It suggests the board consider adding accountability factors for K-8 school grades, possibly including third-grade literacy, science and social studies test scores and attendance.

For high schools, the framework suggests more rigorous measures of “college and career readiness” and a fairer system of calculating graduation rates. Standardized test measures will have to change, because Indiana is dropping its 10th-grade math and English tests in favor of using the SAT for accountability.

Another issue is that Indiana has two school accountability systems: a state system that uses A-to-F grades and a federal system that complies with the Every Student Succeeds Action. That’s confusing, to say the least. The framework touches on the problem but doesn’t spell out how to fix it.

“Indiana should design a state accountability system that prioritizes Hoosier values and strive to use the same indicators for the state and federal models as is allowable under law,” it says.

OK, I’ll just say this: I’ve lived in Indiana for seven decades and I have no idea “Hoosier values” means; and I don’t think the state board could define the term either, especially when it comes to evaluating schools. Yet those words appear six times in a 14-page document.

There’s a lot more to the framework, and you can read the framework or a shorter summary on the State Board of Education website. You can suggest changes by email or through online surveys. Board staff want to finalize the framework by January; then the board will use it to write a new rule spelling out how school grades will work in the future.

I’m glad there will be changes, but I worry they will provide a fig leaf of legitimacy to cover a flawed enterprise. A-to-F grades are a horrible way to measure something as complex as school quality. And we have seen time after time that high grades go to schools serving affluent families and that, with few exceptions, schools serving low-income families and students of color get the D’s and F’s.

A-to-F grades reinforce the illusion that schools are “good” or “bad” based on the populations of students that they serve. That’s not accountability.

Lost enrollment costs schools

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Indiana school districts stand to lose over $100 million in state funding this year because of reduced enrollment attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fall 2020 enrollment in traditional public schools declined by 17,300 students, according to data released last week by the Indiana Department of Education. Each of those students translates to over $6,200 in lost funding from the state.

It’s not yet clear what happened or where the students went. Some families may have opted to homeschool their children rather than send them to school during the pandemic. Some may have switched to private or charter schools.

A significant factor could be families with young children choosing to delay or skip kindergarten. Indiana does not require kindergarten attendance, and children are not required to start school until the academic year when they turn 7.

Over 80% of school districts lost enrollment, according to state data. They include some rural and urban districts that have been shedding students for years, but also suburban districts that have been growing. Hamilton Southeastern schools lost over 400 students; Carmel Clay schools lost over 200.

Indianapolis Public Schools lost the most students: nearly 2,000 according to the state data or approximately 1,200 according to the district’s own figures. (The discrepancy appears to reflect the state omitting from the district’s enrollment two KIPP charter schools that are part of the IPS innovation network; IPS includes the schools in its count).

Fort Wayne, Vigo County and Monroe County schools each lost more than 500 students. In Monroe County, the loss of 535 students will mean a financial hit of $3.3 million, the Herald-Times reported.

Some school districts started the academic year online, and that may have pushed some families to turn to charter or private schools that were offering face-to-face instruction. But it appears a bigger factor was families choosing online programs to avoid in-person instruction during the pandemic.

Charter schools increased their enrollment by about 2,500, but most of the sector’s growth came from a gain over nearly 2,000 students by Connections Academy, an online charter school. Similarly, two school districts that offer statewide online programs in partnership with for-profit K12 Inc. also saw significant growth, presumably because of those online programs. Union School Corp. reported its enrollment grew from 4,396 to 6,468. Clarksville Community Schools grew from 1,635 to 2,987.

The loss of funding comes as schools are facing cost increases related to the pandemic: expenses for online programs, computers and internet connections, protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other needs. Federal funding via the CARES Act helped pay some of those costs, but not all of them.

The big question is whether Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Republican-dominated state legislature will prioritize school funding in the two-year budget they approve in the spring. When it comes to school funding, there’s likely to be more bad news ahead.

McCormick would protect funding, oppose discrimination

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Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick is calling on the state legislature to protect public schools from funding cuts and to protect students and school staff from discrimination.

Her proposals come in a 24-page document targeted to the Indiana General Assembly, which will begin its 2021 session in January. McCormick, Indiana’s last elected state superintendent, will leave office at the end of this year – unless Dr. Woody Myers pulls an upset in the governor’s race and reappoints her.

Jennifer McCormick

“I leave this document to outline the critical policy actions that must be taken, regardless of who fills the seat of Indiana’s top education leader,” McCormick writes. “Our students deserve it, educators demand it, and our communities need it to ensure Indiana’s future success.”

McCormick also urges the legislature to move Indiana to a single system of school accountability, expand internet connectivity for students and take steps to level the regulatory playing field between traditional public schools and charter and private schools. It’s a gutsy agenda, especially considering that McCormick often has crossed swords with Republicans who control the Statehouse and has recently distanced herself from them by endorsing Myers and other Democrats.

In the document, titled EducationFIRST, McCormick notes that the pandemic-caused recession has greatly reduced state tax revenue, which means legislators will be under pressure to cut spending. She says the state should “at a minimum” maintain its current level of support for schools, and it should do its best to protect funding for summer school, textbooks for low-income families and other services.

She proposes a two-year moratorium on opening new charter schools and adding more private schools to Indiana’s voucher system. Continuing to add more state-funded charter and voucher schools, she argues, would mean existing schools will get a smaller and smaller share of the funding pie.

And she would roll back state facilities grants for charter schools from $750 to $500 per pupil, the level where they were two years ago. The grants are intended to help charter schools pay for buildings and some operating costs; unlike public schools, charter schools can’t levy property taxes for those needs.

Probably the boldest parts of her agenda deal with inclusivity and protections for LGBTQ students and staff. This is a legislature, after all, that didn’t adopt a hate-crimes law until 2019 and then refused to say explicitly that gay and transgender Hoosiers were protected.

McCormick points out that one-fourth of Hoosier high school students report feeling unsafe at school, LGBTQ youth are at high risk of being threatened and attacked, and Black students are four times as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as their white classmates. Her policy proposals would expand anti-discrimination protections for charter schools and voucher-accepting private schools to include gender identity, sexual orientation and marital status.

“Indiana legislators must be committed to creating laws that provide a safe learning and work environment where all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or marital status,” she writes.

The Republican leadership in the Indiana House and Senate may not welcome McCormick’s policy proposals, but legislators should push to have them considered.

Former Democratic mayor raises big money for GOP

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A political action committee chaired by a former Democratic mayor of Indianapolis is one of the top contributors to the Indiana House Republican Campaign Committee.

The PAC, Hoosiers for Great Public Schools, was created in April and is chaired by Bart Peterson. He was mayor of Indianapolis from 1999 to 2007 and is now president and CEO of Christel House International, a nonprofit that operates three charter schools in Indianapolis. The PAC’s treasurer is Caryl Auslander, former vice president of education for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The PAC has contributed $150,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee and another $50,000 to the campaign of Republican House Speaker Todd Huston, according to campaign finance reports. That’s more than almost any other donor with a couple of exceptions.

It has also given $20,000 to the Indiana Senate Republican campaign committee and $17,000 to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s political action committee. It gave $200,000 to RISE Indy, a PAC that supports Indianapolis school board candidates who favor charter-like “innovation” schools.

While the group calls itself Hoosiers for Great Public Schools, none of the $400,000 that it reported raising came from Hoosiers. It received $200,000 each from two wealthy supporters of charter schools: John Arnold, a former gas trader and hedge fund manager from Texas, and Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, from California.

Why is Hoosiers for Great Public Schools backing Republicans? Peterson said the issue is charter schools.

“I am an unabashed supporter of charter schools and have been since my first campaign for mayor,” he told me in a text-message statement. “Charter schools are underfunded, and the funding gap between public charter schools and traditional district schools is getting much worse.”

Peterson said he is involved in efforts to support candidates who “support equitable funding for charter schools” regardless of political party. He didn’t elaborate, but he is on the board of RISE Indy, which gave $40,000 last year and $8,000 this year to the campaign of current Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat.

Charter schools had bipartisan support when Indiana first established them in 2002. But in the past decade, Republicans have aggressively expanded school choice, adding a private-school voucher program, while many Democrats have grown skeptical. Peterson has stayed on board with the strategy. As mayor, he set up a robust system for authorizing and overseeing charter schools in the city. He helped found The Mind Trust, which supports charter schools and encouraged Indianapolis Public Schools to partner with charter and innovation schools.

It’s widely understood in Indiana that donating to campaigns can help ensure access, so it makes sense to curry favor with Republicans. House Republicans have a 67-33 advantage over Democrats, and the GOP is all but certain to keep control of the House, Senate and governor’s office.

For Peterson, the contributions also carry on a legacy from Christel House founder Christel DeHaan, who died in June. DeHaan donated generously to Indiana political campaigns, mostly but not entirely to Republicans. Her last contribution was $60,000 in June to the House Republican Campaign Committee.

School vouchers and a Supreme Court nominee

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Here’s a topic that hasn’t come up but probably should in the debates over Amy Coney Barrett’s likely tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court: public funding of private schools that discriminate.

Barrett served from 2015-17 on the board of Trinity School at Greenlawn, a South Bend Catholic school, the New York Times reported. Trinity had a policy during Barrett’s time on the board that effectively prohibited same-sex couples from enrolling their children in the school, according to the Times.

Amy Coney Barrett (University of Notre Dame photo)

That would seem to cast doubt on Barrett’s claim in her confirmation hearing that she had “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference” and would not do so. It also raises policy questions about whether publicly funded institutions should practice discrimination.

In the two years that Barrett was on the Trinity board, the school received over a half million dollars in Indiana voucher program funding. Since the start of the state’s voucher program, Trinity School at Greenlawn has received nearly $2 million in state support for student tuition.

Indiana established its school voucher program in 2011, providing state funding to help families pay tuition at private schools, most of which are religious schools. Students qualify for the program by family income and other factors.

Trinity School at Greenlawn enrolls about 250 students in grades 6-12; 85 received vouchers last year.

It’s not clear whether the school still has a policy that would keep out the children of same-sex couples. The school’s handbook says Trinity considers marriage to be “a legal and committed relationship between a man and a woman.” It says that sex outside of marriage, whether straight or gay, is “not in keeping with God’s plan for human sexuality.”

But the handbook also says, “We do not require parents to subscribe to this position.” Unlike some Christian voucher schools, it doesn’t require students and parents to sign a statement of faith.

Indiana private schools that receive voucher funding may not discriminate by race, color or national origin but they may discriminate by religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, and they may turn away students for academic reasons or simply because they aren’t a good “fit.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court seems to have abandoned the once mainstream idea that public funding for religious schools violates the constitutional separation of church and state. Instead, the ground has shifted to whether laws that regulate voucher programs are infringing on religious freedom.

In June, the court ruled that Montana couldn’t legally exclude religious schools from a private-school voucher program. An upcoming case challenges whether Maryland can exclude schools that discriminate from receiving vouchers. And some voucher supporters have come close to arguing that parents have a legal right to state funding for their children’s private schools.

These are tough questions that may soon reach a Supreme Court that will include Amy Coney Barrett, former board member of a voucher-receiving school that discriminated.

‘Polite protest’ marked racial progress in Indianapolis

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Oscar Robertson should have been on top of the world. He had just led Indianapolis Crispus Attucks to the 1955 Indiana high school basketball championship, the highest achievement imaginable in the basketball-crazed state. The city had enthusiastically supported the all-Black team.

But instead of the traditional champions parade through downtown Indianapolis, the team and its fans were routed to a park in a Black neighborhood for a celebration. Robertson, insulted by the slight, left early for his father’s house.

“Dad,” he said, “they just don’t want us.”

The anecdote, from Robertson’s autobiography, concludes Richard B. Pierce’s “Polite Protest: The Political Economy of Race in Indianapolis, 1920-1970.” Published in 2005 by Indiana University Press, the book offers plentiful evidence that Robertson was right.

Its thesis is that Black people took a different path in Indianapolis than other Northern cities in seeking racial progress in education, housing and jobs. They largely rejected demonstrations and vocal advocacy for the “polite” tactics of coalition-building, petitions, lobbying and litigation. Thwarted by the city’s white power structure, Black citizens “met with interminable delays and ineffectual remedies,” according to Pierce, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame.

In education, Crispus Attucks High School was Exhibit A. Opened in 1927, it didn’t admit its first white students until 1967 – 18 years after the Indiana legislature outlawed racial segregation in schools.

“Indianapolis fought school desegregation with a ferocity rarely matched by any other northern city,” Pierce writes.

In the early 1900s the city’s elementary schools may have been segregated by neighborhood, but Black students attended high school with white students. That changed in the 1920s, a time of increasing racism and nativism nationally and the dominance of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. The school board voted to open Attucks as a separate high school for Black students. African American leaders pushed for integrated schools, but school boards resisted time after time.

There was an opening for integration in 1946, when a fire destroyed a Black elementary school. The students could have been moved to three nearby white schools, where there was room and principals welcomed them. Instead, they were sent to a Black school 10 miles away, far from their homes.

Around the same time, Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund were in regular contact with Indianapolis Black leaders while looking for cases to challenge the constitutionality of segregated schools. But local leaders opted instead to lobby state government, where Democrats had gained new influence. In 1949, the legislature voted to outlaw segregation in public schools.

But as the South’s response to Brown v. Board of Education made clear a few years later, outlawing segregation wouldn’t make it go away. Indianapolis school officials first delayed, then phased in integration. School assignments may not have been based on race, but gerrymandered attendance districts and a policy of “neighborhood schools” kept Black and white students apart.

Pierce summarizes what happened after the U.S. Justice Department finally sued Indianapolis Public Schools to force integration in the 1960s. In legal actions that dragged on for years, U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin ruled the city had deliberately maintained segregated schools and ordered them to integrate. Black students were bused to mostly white township and suburban Marion County schools.

Also key event in the history is the creation of Unigov, the 1970 merger of Indianapolis and Marion County governments. Birthed behind closed doors by white business and civic leaders, Unigov effectively checked the voting power of African Americans. It consolidated civil government but left schools untouched, with the result that Indianapolis today has 11 school districts.

It’s odd to think that 50 years have passed since Unigov was adopted, more time than elapsed between the Klan years and Unigov. And times have changed. Today, only three Marion County school districts are majority white. Black, Hispanic and Asian students make up a majority in the other eight.

A history of the political economy of race in Indianapolis from 1970 to 2020 would also tell an important story. Regarding schools, it would need to address white flight to the surrounding counties, middle-class abandonment of public schools and the complex racial politics of school choice policies.

 “Polite Protest,” meanwhile, is essential reading for understanding Indianapolis. It’s a reminder that progress doesn’t just happen but that it takes protest, polite or otherwise, to achieve any kind of justice.

Back to School!

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Hi guys and welcome back to How to: School! This week marks that very first week back at school since the start of the lockdown! I hope that you are all just as happy as I am to get back to some kind of normal!

Anyway, my school wasted no time in giving me 2 pieces of homework on the first day back – and 2 bits of homework for me to do this weekend! But, on top of this, I would recommend getting into the habit of doing half an hour to an hour of revision each day for GCSEs!

Today (Saturday) has been really hard for me – it has taken me 4 and a half hours to complete my art homework today! And I still have my biology test to revise for, and 2 hours of GCSE revision to do, and I would like to continue to develop my own sculpture for art and well!

Let me know in the comments any issues/experiences that you have all had in the first 2 days back at school!

My Life – Holiday in the UK

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Hi guys and welcome back! I know that it has been a couple of weeks since my last post – but there has been quite a lot of stuff going on! Mainly, I went on holiday last week – which is why I didn’t post!

But, as many plane flights are now dangerous due to Covid – my family decided to go on holiday in the UK to the Isle of Wight. And it was actually really nice to have some time away from home – and overseas as well (although it was only a 15 minute crossing on the ferry).

If you could just break the norm a couple of times a week then I would recommend that you do it to make this last week before we all go back to school! I don’t really have a lot else to say – so that is going to be the end of this post (sorry it was so short)!

The Ideal Education System

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Education is the best wealth among all. No one can steal it, no one can snatch it. As one consumes, it increases. As one shares, it expands.

Sanskrit Shloka

Hello, fellow Mumblers! I’m back with a new post! Read along and let me know what your favourite part was, in the comments section below! Much love!❤

From ancient times, India has always been the land of knowledge seekers. This is why it had the Gurukul system of learning. The students or ‘shishya’ would live in with their ‘guru’ i.e. teacher in small groups. Each of the students’ cognitive and emotional needs were catered to, individually by the gurus. The ‘ashram’ where they stayed would also help in making them self-sufficient through experiential learning.

Thus, for me, an ideal education system would be one, where the core tenet is ‘inside out’ rather than ‘outside in’. In such a system, students will be able to expand their horizons and not be constricted into a mould of certain subjects forced upon them.

However, this does not mean that the usage of modern technology should be shunned. Rather, state of the art computerised aids must be integrated with the ancient system to provide holistic development to children.

Such a system must focus not only on enriching the knowledge base but also on keeping the children physically and mentally in good shape.

In saying this, I heartily welcome the new education policy being introduced in India to get our education system at par with the ones abroad.

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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: It’s Totally the Question

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I have finally found two things that everyone appears to agree on:

  1. Everyone is on hold until there’s a vaccines
  2. NO ONE PLANS ON GETTING THE VACCINE

Doesn’t matter gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, political affiliation or which Kardashian is your favorite. In my very unscientific survey, absolutely no one wants to be inoculated.

The reasons vary:

  1. They don’t trust the government
  2. They don’t trust Bill Gates
  3. Vaccine was too rushed
  4. They are tired of being told what to do
  5. Due to other issues, they have problems with vaccines and  the preservatives in them

I understand and empathize with every one of those reasons. I get it.

But here’s my question:

If no one plans on taking the vaccine, why do people keep saying- “Oh, life will be great when the vaccine comes out…things will go back to a sort of “new normal”.

Do people expect everyone else to get inoculated, but not themselves?

I didn’t intend to write about this today. I expected to give you a rather interesting essay about my recent hunt for sneaker laces including a picture of my new kicks (coming soon to a blog near you late October 2020), but day seizing my new attitude, I went with the topic that I’ve been discussing with friends and family for the past few days.

What are you going to do LA? you ask. (I heard you saying it- I do have a Mother’s spidey sense when I think someone is talking about me- and that my very wise friend G asked me the exact question yesterday)

I assume that students will be required to be vaccinated in order to go to school. If that is the case, then my daughter will be mandated. If my daughter gets the vaccine I will without hesitation, get the vaccine when I am able to.

There is no other option for me.

But my thought process is a little bit pessimistic right now.

If no one plans on actually getting the vaccine, what are we doing right now? If no one gets the vaccination, we will be in exactly the same place we are for the foreseeable future.

Which brings us to:

Will we all be required to get vaccinated?

Will we need to brandish ID cards to show we’ve been vaccinated before we will be allowed to do anything?

Here are my questions for you:

  1. Have you put everything on hold because you are waiting for the vaccine?
  2. Do you plan on getting the vaccine?

I get that this is a big deal, so you don’t have to comment. But please think about what I’ve written today. Discuss your issues and concerns with your family/friends.

Discuss/Think

It’s Only a Day Away

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Blogging friend Janet has something featured in an exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Library. I’d known about this for awhile, but hadn’t gotten to seeing it. I made plans with my friend M to see it on March 6.

The morning of March 6, M texts me that she has a massive headache. Did she mind if we postponed?

Sure. I said. There’s no rush. We can see it next week.

And the world said HA HA- because really, there was no next week for New Yorkers…

They opened a cute tea parlor in my neighborhood. It was on my “Someday” list. Now the tea shop is permanently closed.

A craft studio opened down the block from me. I kept missing the sign up for hand knitting (you weave big blankets with your hands or something- I don’t know what it is, but the blankets looked awesome and that’s why I wanted to take a lesson.) That shop is now permanently closed.

There were one or two opportunities that I missed because I didn’t thing the timing was right…and now these things will probably never happen.  Sometimes, things are once in a lifetime- and you will look back with regret and say –

What was I thinking? Why didn’t I do that when I had the chance. Boy- that was a mistake…

Because opportunities are more fleeting than we realize. Time is more fleeting than we realize…

What are the things on your “SOMEDAY” list?

What are the things in life that will make you happy, or excited but maybe you’ve been hesitant about doing?

What are the things that you will be sorry that you never did? What are the things that you will regret?

I’ve been seizing my mini moments as they happen: as things open up I’ve been doing them. Last week I had a dreamy look on my face and my husband asked:

“What are you thinking about?”

My daughter actually responded- “I bet she’s thinking about what museum she’s going to visit first now that they’ve said that they can reopen.”

And she was right. (I haven’t decided yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the Met. They have the most permanent collections)

And I’m totally signing up for in person Asian cooking classes when they eventually open.

I’m going to figure out how to fix something I screwed up.

I’m going to take a few acceptable risks…

Things will not be filed under “SOMEDAY”. They will be placed in dates and I will do them…

I get that there are people who are scared right now- people who don’t want to take a risk at all…

but…

Isn’t life always a risk?

Driving, getting on the subway, taking a bath….aren’t these all risks?

You need to take precautions. You don’t drive while impaired. You stand well behind the yellow line at the subway, you put adhesive duckies on the bottom of your tub.

You wear a mask.

Youi observe social distancing protocol.

Wash your hands.

You use good judgement.

I get that things are scary right now, but when haven’t things been scary?

Eleanor Roosevelt is sort of a Goddess in our household, so I will leave you with a quote of hers:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face

Carpe Diem baby…

 

 

 

Avoid it Like the Plague

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My cousin posted on Facebook the other day:

Guess we can’t say ‘avoid it like the plague anymore’…

It was kind of serendipitous that she wrote this recently, as my scheduled topic for today is about my neighbor and how she thinks I have the plague.

Ok- she doesn’t actually think I have the plague…

Ok- maybe she does think that…

Here’s the story:

A few weeks ago I entered the lobby of my building, armed with groceries and a smile under my mask. As I approached the elevator I saw one of the women from my hopefully temporarily defunct book club.

I gave a big “Hi” while remaining about five feet away.

M retreated backwards. She literally cringed and I could see her eyes and forehead tense up.

She didn’t say “Hi” to me. She just looked panicked. A woman I’ve had innumerable conversations with over the past twenty years.

She told me she hoped I didn’t mind but she was taking the elevator by herself.

She then proceeded to look straight ahead at the doors as they opened and she ran in and elbowed the DOOR CLOSE button about a million times.

What’s the expression- “deer in headlights”?

Or

She ran away from me like I had the plague…

Because, you know, I really could have the plague.

Of course, my building has a rule that if you have the plague you must disclose it and quarantine yourself- but it’s not like anyone actually listens to rules- so…

But anyway-

There are some people that are totally scared of catching Corona. I get it. I really do. I have lived through this nightmare too.

But, I wonder if many are ever going to recover.

We have now gotten to the point where we don’t trust our neighbors. We have now gotten to the point where many are afraid to leave their houses.

Will these people ever be able to get over their fears of living through COVID 19?

Will they ever be comfortable going to a store?

Saying “Hi” to a neighbor?

Sharing an elevator?

A year from now- will they still be scurrying to and fro like mice avoiding a cat?

Will people want to leave their houses ever?

Or will they exist in virtual life?

Work from home?

Zoom parties?

Amazon orders?

Netflix nights?

Anything to avoid human contact?

Will we become a society of introverts?

Discuss…

How Do I Know You

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After you’ve been blogging awhile, you begin to develop relationships with other writer/readers. It’s a natural thing: when you “see” people on a repeated basis, you begin to know one another, like the person at the cubicle next to yours if you are working in an office, or the person who works the check out at your favorite market. These people achieve a certain status in your own social hierarchy.

I’ve been blogging for awhile now, and I definitely have blogger friends. I kinda/sorta treat these people a little differently when I comment on their blogs and vice versa.

One such person is blog friend Cindy. Cindy writes a very nice blog, where sometimes she writes practical things (this morning she posted a recipe), sometimes you writes inspirational things , and sometimes she just rants a bit. Sometimes, I make a sarcastic  comment on her posts. because I know she gets my humor and what I’m going at…

See, that’s just it: when you talk to someone for awhile, you know what you can and can not say…and you know who you can be a little snarky with…

So a few weeks ago, Cindy wrote a post that was a slight rant/commentary. And I posted a slight sarcastic/witty comment….

Except…

After I read Cindy’s post, I had gone back to “Reader” because her comment box wasn’t appearing at the bottom of the post (one of the offshoots of the recent update)

But…

And this is a really big but…

I clicked on the post of another blogger. A post I hadn’t read yet. A blogger that doesn’t post very often and I don’t know very well, and I don’t think I’ve commented on or received a comment from…

I left my slightly sarcastic, a little witty comment…

ON THIS OTHER PERSON’S BLOG

I realized my error the moment I pressed “Send”…

I hurriedly read the post I had just commented on…

Oddly…

My comment sort of worked with the content of her post…

But this blogger doesn’t know me or my penchant for sarcasm…

I was mortified…

Mortified I tell you…

And that blogger responded back….

And I think she was a little surprised but she replied back gracefully…

And I never admitted that I’d originally commented on her post my accident…

But there you have it…

So, my advice for the day is: when doing anything in WordPress, be super careful, because WordPress updates totally make you screw up…

If not for WordPress, I would never make an error…

 

Highlights August 16

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History of my the Gramercy neighborhood
This is Gramercy park from Lexington…
See…optimists…
Good Thanks…Lower East Side
Fashion shoot….don’t know if model is masked
Watermelon strawberry lemon aid
Jue Lan Club
Breezy Point, Queens, New York
Kennedy’s Breezy Point
Strawberry…
Soft scrambled eggs
Early and empty

Gratitude Saturday

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I had a Covid era pedicure the other day. My favorite part of a pedicure is the foot massage: I still walk a lot, on pavement and my feet are normally achy, no matter what shoes I wear. #Firstworldurbanlivingproblems. So, I always get an extra ten minute foot massage…

I am really grateful for the nail technician who gave the most amazing foot massage. She got the spot on the soul of my foot, the lower part of the arch,  that just released all the tension in my body right up to my hair….I just melted into a puddle of happy…

I was ready to divorce my Husband and marry her…

 

GCSEs – Pre-Exam Preparations

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Hi guys and welcome back to How to: School! This is the first post that I have made since completing the 365 posts in a row goal – and I must say that it feels nice being able to write whenever I have enough time and creativity to increase the quality of these posts!

Anyway, I went shopping yesterday and I shopped for some school supplies that I thought that I could need for next year and its’ GCSE exams – and here are the things that I bought:

  • A clear pencil case (you have to have a clear one for exams)
  • A new 360 degree protractor (because my old one has snapped in 2 places)
  • A new notebook (for notes and revision)
  • A Lino cutter (for art)
  • Macbeth book (for GCSE English – so that I can write in it and annotate)
  • Sticky notes (for, well, notes)
  • Coloured pens (to make my notes stand out more)

But, there are many other things that you should all be buying (just in case you don’t have them aready):

  • All 3 novels that you are doing in English (mine are An Inspector Calls, Hamlet, and A Christmas Carole)
  • Plain folders (for all of your books and textbooks – to keep then neat and organised)
  • Highlighters (for notes)
  • Graph and tracing paper (so that you can practice in both maths, science and art)
  • A clear ruler (so that you can easily read graph lines if the ruler is on top of them – it might sound a bit pointless, but some of my classmates lost out on marks because they couldn’t read and draw on the graph at the same time)
  • A pencil sharpener
  • Coloured pencils (for art)
  • A full dictionary in what ever language you are taking (mine is Chinese)
  • Paints and a sponge (again for art – but you might not need it depending on your course)
  • A scientific calculator (if your one has run out of battery/ is not a scientific calculator already)
  • All of the items in the previous list

Besides all of this – you also need a revision timetable (either print one off online or buy one), so that you can revise efficiently and not get overwhelmed. I recommend that you spend around 3 hours a week – or about half an hour each day with one day off (my preferences would be a Friday or a Saturday)!

I would also recommend speaking to your teachers about exams – and any other books that they would recommend that you get. I will post more about GCSEs in my next post – and it might become a bit of a recurring theme in my future upcoming posts, especially as I will sit my exams in less then a year from now!

I hope that you have all enjoyed this post! If you have any concerns about school or exams – or would like to see me answer your questions in a future post, just leave a comment down below and I will answer it! Also, make sure that you are subscribed to this blog for more school tips and tricks!

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