Saturday, December 31, 2016

Only God Knows

As we enter a new dimension, which is what I am referring to with regards to the future Il Douchebag-in-Chief's administration and on this New Years Eve I worry about where we are heading as a Country, both in domestic and international policies.

The new Ed Secretary, Betsey DeVos is another wealthy person with an idea of where Education should head and that is to church.  To her the concept of separation of Church and State is a silly notion and has no reasoning to her lack of reasoning.

I attended Catholic schools from grades 6-12.  Prior to that I attended a Luthern School and a non denominational private school at grade 5 which I loved.  When it came to discipline and authority the Lutheran's had nothing on the Catholics.   I saw both paddles, rulers and corporal punishment in lower grades and equal amount of faith as curriculum from what I can recall.

By the time I got to Catholic High School I look back and think it was basically a "basic" Education.  I can only recall one or two Teachers and only one favorably and frankly I have little to say about Blanchet other than I went there.  So when people compare private education and of course religious orientation as a matter of distinction I want to point out that they are much like Universities who make more money from out of state residents, the same go for those who pay tuition and affiliation to the Church.  So I did not think I was being indoctrinated, recruited or encouraged to join the Catholic Church nor become a Lutheran.    I just remember my fifth grade Teacher, a Minister with the Lutheran Church being a stern and unpleasant taskmaster whom I hated and then going to Middle School for 6-8 at St. John's Catholic School.  I remember all the Teachers there as complex and caring and some simply incompetent.  And is that which defines what  is a real school, be it public or private.

So are Teacher's better?  Are they smarter? Better curriculum?  No and yes.  And that is the same in public schools.  Some Teachers simply have the greatest resource - time - in which to offer support and in turn growth for kids who are struggling.  The class loads are smaller and that is one reason as well as a culture of a school that encourages self discipline and self success.  I am not sure I had that at Blanchet as I am a contrarian by nature and throughout my life I have heard the "I did not expect this from you" more times than I can count.  And that quality still today guides me in life.  I am truly the epitome of what defines "grit."

As a person who has spent most her professional life Substituting to avoid the politics of Education but allow for positive interaction that Teaching provides I have been an outlier in every sense of the word.  I see quite a bit and have been through more phases of Education than I have had hot dinners.  My move to Nashville, however, has utterly destroyed any desire to either Teach or Sub in a classroom and my resolution for the year is to simply make it work for both of us.  And by that I mean the few kids I do like and me as a way of making a living while looking for a new way in which to do so.

It is one thing I have learned about the Jesus fear-ers - no they don't just love Jesus they fear him - is that fear is the dominate emotion in their soul.  I used to believe that loving God or whatever name you wish to apply was a gift of love and peace, a way to find confidence and security in your soul to always know God had your back.  Not in the Bible Belt.  God is to be feared and that suspicion and doubt dominates every encounter with every individual here.   As I have frequently lamented that this belief that Racism is the dominate factor in life here is in fact incorrect, it is all socioeconomic. The whole idea of "working hard" and rising above one's station is that which comes from Christian dogma and that failing is an intrinsic factor and not that of extrinsic hurdles put in place to challenge said rise.

And ironically as I have also said that despite a city littered with Universities and Colleges, both public and private, the City of Nashville has less than 30% of its populace educated with post secondary degrees.  An irony that is even more noted as Vanderbilt University is the City's largest employer.  Things that make you go hmmm.

Nashville Public Schools are an abomination.  The district is too large and goes back to the 60s when  Davidson County and the City of Nashville were forced to desegregate.  So by taking all the schools that existed as a part of the the larger county, they bundled them together to make  a singular district and this is the end result - a hot mess.   It has not succeeded in any level despite the efforts in which to do so.   At some point you have to ask yourself after 40 years when will this stop and why not look busting it up to let schools and communities to resolve this themselves.  When you still bus kids 45 minutes or more a day, and when you take kids out of their neighborhood or simply rebrand the school in the neighborhood without looking at the systemic problems that exist in that area you are hiding the problems.  Instead why not  have a school that can provide a harbor in which to help its members improve the quality of their lives, find ways to work within the community or at least the chance to find some alternative, a port in the storm.  What I do see here is just maintenance, a way of retaining the status quo and I suspect that is largely the point.  Again, racism here is subtle but it is insidious and always centered on money.  As said schools would cost money.   I stay within my 20 minute circumference of schools in which I go but even with the City I have areas that are no go regardless. And that says there is a larger problem than reading and writing.

That places me in the situation that has questioned my own values and beliefs.  I thought at one point, "has this place made me a racist?"  And then I simply realized that I meet no one of any color in the public schools that have half a brain and many of them have more letters after their name then our own President who simply has a J.D.   It is every example of what defines an excess of Education that serves no one but the school who provided the degree.  When you meet stupid people consistently you realize it is a systemic and long term problem and being the smartest person in the room here is marked here by a very low bar.

And when I read the below article about voucher programs in Indiana where our actual President was Governor, the results were what one expected.  You can give a man a voucher but without a horse with which to travel he cannot get to the river to drink.   It is a clever way of maintaining the staus quo but pretending to offer choice and options.  But clearly that is not what is happening.

And one comment stood out from the over 1K that responded.  A man who said this is Indiana and this is a State with a low level of Education so when the "smart" person with the degree tells them something they accept that as sacrosanct and do not question the validity of the statement. And that goes to the rest of America. I know I live in Tennessee.  Whatever bullshit they are peddling in the esteemed Universities here is just that bullshit.  So of course it then validates the idea that State Education is useless and that only some school are good.   Wow it is a parallel universe to public K-12 Education.   Private is better and religious schools are better than nothing.   And the costs reflect that or do they?  Well only God knows.  

So when I read the below article about DeVos and the Indiana School System it was to say the least interesting. Basically to surmise, taxpayers are now subsidizing the same people who would go to a private school anyway and that those who then elected to take advantage of said vouchers did not need to do so and had sufficient income in which to enroll their child anyway.

What is not discussed is why poor families don't enroll their students into private schools. Well the Voucher is a subsidy and it does not cover all the costs associated with private school education. I have written before about the Christian School, Franklin Road Academy, and it is for grades 9-12 18K just to walk in the door.   Then there are additional costs and fees, including owning an Ipad,  and my favorite, the required missionary trip that all Students must take to graduate.  Where that is reminds me of Book of Mormon but I doubt it is that fun.   And then add to this  you have to get there and it is nowhere near a public bus stop and private service is not provided.    Our secular schools here shove that fear of the Jesus down your throat while taking dollars out of your hands. If I recall the story Jesus chased money lenders from the Temple and disavowed those who pursued money. Funny, here in the Bible Belt money is the value to overcome evil.   But that is the South, a contradiction, or what I call "So Nashville." 

And the same people that are sure religious dogma is a way of instilling value and worth and that the taxpayers would be more than happy to supplement that, I wonder if they would feel the same if a Madrassa opened shop.  Things that make you go hmmm. 

Fear fear and more fear. And from fear comes ignorance. I see it on a daily basis and the word of God is not owned by the rich but they seem to have patented it.

How Indiana’s school voucher program soared, and what it says about education in the Trump era

By Emma Brown and Mandy McLaren
The Washington Post
December 26 2015

Indiana lawmakers originally promoted the state’s school voucher program as a way to make good on America’s promise of equal opportunity, offering children from poor and lower-middle-class families an escape from public schools that failed to meet their needs.

But five years after the program was established, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools, meaning that taxpayers are now covering private and religious school tuition for children whose parents had previously footed that bill. Many vouchers also are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.

The voucher program, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing, serves more than 32,000 children and provides an early glimpse of what education policy could look like in Donald Trump’s presidency.

Trump has signaled that he intends to pour billions of federal dollars into efforts to expand vouchers and charter schools nationwide. Betsy DeVos, his nominee for education secretary, played an important role in lobbying for the establishment of Indiana’s voucher program in 2011. And Vice President-elect Mike Pence led the charge as the state’s governor to loosen eligibility requirements and greatly expand the program’s reach.

The idea of sending taxpayer funds to private and parochial schools is one of the most polarizing propositions in education. To proponents, the rapid expansion of Indiana’s program is a model for giving more families better educational options. But Indiana’s voucher program is seen by many public school advocates as a cautionary tale.

Most recipients are not leaving the state’s worst schools: Just 3 percent of new recipients of vouchers in 2015 qualified for them because they lived in the boundaries of F-rated public schools. And while overall private school enrollment grew by 12,000 students over the past five years, the number of voucher recipients grew by 29,000, according to state data, meaning that taxpayer money is potentially helping thousands of families pay for a choice they were already making. Most recipients qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, according to state data, but a growing proportion — now 31 percent — do not.

“The political strategy that voucher supporters have used is to start off small and targeted — low-income families and special-education students — then gradually expand it to more groups,” said Douglas Harris, a Tulane University professor of economics who favors choice but has been critical of DeVos’s free-market approach. “That’s also something the Trump-DeVos team will likely try. The term ‘Trojan horse’ comes to mind.”

Indiana’s program offers vouchers to low-income families, giving them an amount equal to 90 percent of the state funds that otherwise would have gone to their assigned public schools to educate their children. That figure ranges from $4,700 to $6,500 per child, depending on the school district. Children from more-affluent families get half that amount in vouchers.

Indiana’s program has succeeded in reaching children who otherwise would not have the chance to attend private schools.

Stephanie Schaefer of Newburgh, Ind., is a stay-at-home mother of six children, four of whom have used vouchers. For her 13-year-old daughter, Eliana, the opportunity to attend a private school was transformative: After struggling with learning disabilities and falling behind at her highly regarded public school, Eliana was able to catch up, thanks to more-personalized attention at Evansville Christian School. Her progress was a relief for her and her parents.

Schaefer said she and her husband, an engineer, own their home and consider themselves middle-class. “We have a comfortable living, but we struggle when it comes to extra,” she said, and they never could have afforded private school without help from the voucher program.

“I don’t think public education works for every kid,” Schaefer said. “Parents should have the right to be able to find out where their child can fit, where their child can get the best education.”

Indiana’s legislature first approved a limited voucher program in 2011, capping it at 7,500 students in the first year and restricting it to children who had attended public schools for at least a year. “Public schools will get first shot at every child,” then-Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) said at the time. “If the public school delivers and succeeds, no one will seek to exercise this choice.”

DeVos, who had lobbied for the program as chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, hailed its passage and proposed that other states follow Indiana’s lead. Two years later, Pence entered the governor’s office with a pledge to extend vouchers to more children.

“There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices and teachers more freedom to teach,” Pence said during his inaugural address in 2013.

Within months, Indiana lawmakers eliminated the requirement that children attend public school before receiving vouchers and lifted the cap on the number of recipients. The income cutoff was raised, and more middle-class families became eligible.

When those changes took effect, an estimated 60 percent of all Indiana children were eligible for vouchers, and the number of recipients jumped from 9,000 to more than 19,000 in one year. The proportion of children who had never previously attended Indiana public schools also rose quickly: By 2016, more than half of voucher recipients — 52 percent — had never been in the state’s public school system.

“Governor Pence supports the rights of parents to exercise choice and select the best school for their children,” Kara Brooks, Pence’s press secretary, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

The state Education Department says taxpayers are taking on $53 million in tuition costs that they were not bearing before, although it is unclear how many of those students would otherwise attend public schools — with state funding — if there were no vouchers. Voucher proponents dismiss the estimate as inflated by a Democratic state education chief.

Mychal Thom, head of Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, estimated that at least half of his school’s 366 voucher recipients last year would have enrolled at Concordia even if the voucher program did not exist. “It’s just reduced some of the financial burden on families to attend,” he said.

Janelle Ruba, principal of Adventist Christian Elementary in Bloomington, said the same of her small school: “Most of the students were already in our school, so the vouchers have just helped with their payment.”

According to state data, more than 300 Indiana private schools accepted vouchers last year. Voucher recipients composed more than 75 percent of students at 44 of those schools, most of which identify themselves as Catholic, Lutheran or Christian.

Opponents argue that vouchers are not reaching the children most in need of better schools. They also assert that voucher programs violate the constitutional separation of church and state by funneling public dollars into religious schools, including those that teach creationism instead of the theory of evolution. Indiana’s program survived a legal challenge in 2013, when a judge ruled that the primary beneficiaries of the vouchers were families, not religious institutions.

Indiana has no financial reporting requirements for private schools that receive public funds, leaving taxpayers with less oversight and accountability than with the state’s public schools. And although the state’s voucher program has more stringent academic expectations than many others — private schools must give the same state tests as public schools, are graded on the same A-to-F scale and can be prohibited from accepting new voucher students if they perform poorly — there are loopholes.

Small schools do not get letter grades, for example, and thus are immune to the consequences for poor performance, according to state education officials. Even schools deemed failing sometimes continue receiving voucher money, according to state records.

Horizon Christian Academy, for example, had three campuses at which 85 percent of students received vouchers in 2015-2016, bringing in a total of $2.8 million in state funds. Horizon has not fared well on the state’s grading system, and one of its campuses received two F’s in a row, a performance so poor that the school should have faced consequences this year, according to state law.

Horizon consolidated its three schools into one, which was then allowed to continue accepting new voucher students this fall — though Tammy Henline, a Horizon co-founder and its superintendent, said the consolidation had nothing to do with avoiding accountability: “Having everyone in the same building makes things a little simpler.”

Robert Enlow, president and chief executive of EdChoice, an Indianapolis-based organization that advocates for vouchers nationwide, said he wondered why voucher opponents are not as skeptical of persistently terrible public schools as they are of private schools. “We have schools that have been dropout factories in this state forever,” he said.
Effect on public schools

Even as vouchers have shored up many parochial schools, public schools have been squeezed: State education spending has not kept up with inflation, and still is not as high, in real dollars, as it was in 2011, according to Lawrence DeBoer, an economist at Purdue University.

But it is not clear how the vouchers have affected public school finances. Indiana state tax money follows children to whatever schools they attend, so public schools that lose students also lose revenue. But spending on vouchers has not affected the rate of growth in overall state aid to local districts, DeBoer said, noting that the $132 million price tag for vouchers in 2016 was a tiny fraction of the $6.9 billion that local districts received from the state.

It is also not clear that vouchers are an effective way to boost student achievement. Some research has found that after using vouchers to transfer from public to private schools, Indianapolis students experienced no change in language arts performance and saw a decline in their math performance. Studies of other statewide voucher programs have made similar findings.

Glenda Ritz, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, said Indiana has spent nearly $375 million to date on a voucher program that has yet to be evaluated. “Before replicating this program on a national level, Hoosier taxpayers deserve a full accounting of the impact this program is having on student academic achievement and diversity as well as the fiscal impact on public school funding,” she said.

Other studies have found that voucher programs boost college enrollment and completion rates, especially among minority and low-income students.

To some Hoosiers, worries about school funding and student achievement are secondary to questions about the effect that vouchers might have on public education’s role as a civic institution. Private schools set their own admissions standards and can reject students for any reason, leading to concerns about segregation not just by race and class, but also by faith, ability and disability.

“If we’re going to expand vouchers further, folks have to grapple with: Are we going to distribute public funds to private entities that can practice discriminatory or exclusionary practices?” said David B. Smith, superintendent of public schools in Evansville, Ind.

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