Home > Uncategorized > In Indiana, Accountability Only Applies to Public Schools… Um, Make that GOVERNMENT Schools

In Indiana, Accountability Only Applies to Public Schools… Um, Make that GOVERNMENT Schools

November 26, 2018

In a post yesterday, Diane Ravitch drew on a Washington Post article by Carol Burris to describe the latest shenanigans in Indiana, where former Governor and now VP Mike Pence launched a de facto voucher plan that his successor Mitch Daniels bought to fruition in 2011. Ms. Burris describes how funds from the American Federation for Children (led at the time by Betsy DeVos) helped assure the election of pro-voucher state legislators who allowed funds to go from public coffers to parents who had already enrolled their children in sectarian private schools bleeding millions of dollars from the public schools. Here’s a paragraph from Ms. Burris’ article that summarizes the kinds of private schools that benefitted from this shift of funds:

Nearly all of the 300-plus Indiana private schools that receive vouchers are religious schools.Although they may not discriminate in admissions based race, color, national origin or disability, they can require attendance in a designated church, mosque or synagogue and they may select students based on other factors such as test scores, discipline records and the lifestyle of their parents…

So much for the notion of public education providing future citizens with an equal opportunity… But here’s what I found even more discouraging. When some of these private schools failed to meet the standards set by law, the elected officials created a work-around… as did the operators of charter schools:

Voucher schools with grades of ‘D’ or ‘F’ for two years in a row are prohibited from taking on new voucher students until they raise performance. This law cost private schools with poor test scores considerable funding. To keep the voucher money flowing, last summer the legislature passed a new law that allows voucher schools to appeal to the State Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor. As soon as the law was passed, four religious schools applied for a waiver and all four were approved to take on new voucher students despite their failing grades.

The Indiana voucher program has also been an escape hatch for failing charter schools. The Padua Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis, had two years of consecutive failing ratings. Instead of shutting down, Padua became St. Anthony’s Catholic School. The same principal who led the failing charter stayed on as the leader of the replacement voucher school, which received $1.2 million in tax dollars.

But the workarounds were’t limited to religious schools whose principles, presumably, allowed this kind of misrepresentation. Unsurprisingly those seeking to make money from operating charter schools also devised ways of circumventing the accountability measures adopted by the legislature:

Failing charters flipping to voucher schools is not limited to Padua. Imagine Schools is the largest charter management corporation in the United States. Imagine was founded and operated by Dennis Bakke, the former CEO of an energy company, AES, which merged with the Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPALCO) in 2001. That merger would quickly become a disaster for IPALCO stockholders and workers. Stock price plummeted and many lost their jobs and their retirement savings.

When Bakke was ousted from AES in 2002 after its stock crashed, he moved into the charter management business. Imagine quickly expanded and became notorious for the real estate deals of its subsidiary company, SchoolHouse Finance. SchoolHouse Finance buys properties, often selling them for twice or three times the purchase to a buyer, and then leases them back from the buyer in order to then lease them to Imagine charter schools at exorbitant rates. Investigations of Imagine Charters in Ohio and Florida found charters paying leases that amounted, in some cases, to half of the schools’ revenue from tax dollars. Imagine was fined $1 million by Missouri for self-dealing.

Apparently, religiously affiliated schools view accountability as something that does not apply to God-fearing parents and children…. and capitalists view accountability as something that applies only to “government schools”. As for democracy… it doesn’t matter to either those who practice religion or those who practice plutocracy.

 

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