Indiana Education Reform Developed in Boardrooms

Rich Hoosiers Meddling in Indiana Education Reform

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana (BLOG)– There will be a march today in the Statehouse Atrium at 2:00 pm to protest the handling of democratically elected Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz. It’s mainly to protest the stripping of her powers by Governor Mike Pence and the Republican-led super-majority. Our statewide media network has headlined the news with one bill after another hurting public education. Governor Pence told Hoosiers last month in the State of the State Address that this legislative session would be about education, but we don’t think Hoosiers expected this kind of assault.

The problem is Hoosiers are marching on the wrong doorsteps. Indiana’s education reform has been underway since 2009, or even earlier. We know there are plenty or reasons to be mad at Governor Pence and Hoosier lawmakers, but this has brewed for years. The only reason they are usurping 1.3 million voters is that Hoosiers weren’t supposed to choose Glenda Ritz. Simple.

The Republicans are writing laws to correct our errors and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The Gannett-owned IndyStar writes about Governor Pence and a few Republican legislators hoping readers will accept these targets for our anger. For the most part, it’s working. But, our “elected representatives” are merely providing political cover for the suits behind these power plays, or the monied interests who’ve been steering this boat from day one.

I spent most of my time last week on Facebook (the news platform of the future) telling people to quit focusing on the mud-slinging between Ritz and Pence. Look behind the scenes at the testing companies, and the Billionaires, who are privatizing public education.

Trust me; Governor Mike Pence is NOT the engineer behind educational testing and public school reform. Representative Luke Messer is NOT the brains behind the charter school movement. You did not vote for the people engineering education reform. They are not in the classrooms or the statehouses.

Pence and Messer are politicians with a blended compensation package funded in part by us taxpayers, but mostly by campaign contributions (aka bribes) by rich and powerful people who have lots of money invested in their agenda – privatizing our public education system.

So, who are these people?

Nationally, you need to look at three names: Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Walton family foundations. In Indiana, you need to look at Fred Klipsch and Hoosiers for a Quality Education, and Eli Lilly Foundation with their non-profit educational organization called Mind Trust which has an expanded network of philanthropic organizations and charter schools who pull strings attached to governors with the last name of Bush and Daniels. When Tony Bennett lost to Glenda Ritz, he was immediately hired by Jeb Bush to become his Czar of Education in Florida.

(Note: For an organization the size of Mind Trust, we find their Wikipedia page noticeably small.)

Last year, Valerie Straus of the Washington Post said this about Diane Ravitch’s book:

Walton, Gates, and Broad now fund many of the same programs, including Teach For America, and the Gates foundation funds ultra-conservative advocates of charters and vouchers, such as Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Since the book came out, many more billionaires — and multi-millionaires — many of them Wall Street hedge fund managers, some of them women — have jumped into this arena as well.

I am a huge supporter of Diane Ravitch. Diane has been telling Americans the truth for several years about public school reform, but the corporate owned news media drowns out the noise she is making. We hosted a viewing of “Rise Above the Mark” in Muncie, but only a few people showed up. In 2014, we should have seen hundreds of teachers interested in the event.

Wall Street owned media isn’t interested in communicating her truth because they are too busy trying to get Jeb Bush elected as president.  You must understand this simple point – the MEDIA in the United States doesn’t serve the interests of the people – they are mouthpieces for the Billionaires and their corporations who are leading the assault on public education. These same Billionaires own our Media or at least 90% of it.

So, why are these Billionaires reforming education?

The three primary reasons are:

  1. The Christian-right movement wants to end secular schools, or a liberal educational model – move away from science-based evolution to creationism; and,
  2. Libertarians want to end public sector unions and government-run institutions; and,
  3. Wall Street sees education as a real money-making opportunity.

Take your pick – they line up with the right side of the political aisle, but as we’ve pointed out for over three years, you better pay attention to both sides of the aisle.

Anyway, Diane Ravitch chooses a couple of quotes from New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert’s book which amplifies our point:

This hit-or-miss attitude—let’s try this, let’s try that—has been a hallmark of school reform efforts in recent years. The experiments trotted out by the big-money crowd have been all over the map. But if there is one broad approach (in addition to the importance of testing) that the corporate-style reformers and privatization advocates have united around, it’s the efficacy of charter schools. Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments.

Charter schools produce the same results but at a lower cost to taxpayers. That’s really all you need to know about ed reformers motives. Same results – lower costs.

As you can see from this recent article, the Lilly Foundation is the major donor behind school privatization in Indiana.

Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, the Gannett-owned IndyStar plays the “blame game” giving us a version of “He-said, She-said.” The more progressive, but cautious, Journal-Gazette in Ft. Wayne wrote a more truthful perception:

The uprising shows Indiana lawmakers weren’t the only officials to buy into the test industry’s self-serving claim that costly assessments are the only way to demonstrate accountability. The more measures added – school letter grades, teacher evaluations, new curriculum requirements – the greater the profits. Politico reported this week that Pearson, the British publishing powerhouse, has reaped $4 billion in sales from its North American education division, much of it tied to testing. And it is just one company among many politically connected megacorps seeking profits at taxpayer expense.

Our lawmakers don’t serve the people in the United States because they can’t afford to. They are professional fundraisers who spend their time on “Big-Hitters” offering huge bribes (campaign contributions) in exchange for pushing the donor’s agenda.

Doing the right thing for 99% of the people doesn’t come with fringe benefits and bribes. The working class in Indiana barely have enough money to eat, so funding political campaigns for Democrats isn’t a priority. As a result, Republicans score big in Indiana, and Hoosiers pay the price. The austerity programs or funding cuts by state lawmakers are by design. They are being told to cut funding to the local schools. Our brothers and sisters who vote Republican are doing so because they are mobile enough to remove their kids from school and place them in a school of their “choice.”

As mentioned, if you want to know why Republicans have a “super-majority” in Indiana, look no further than who can pay the most, or who has the most to gain by having Republicans in office. Alternatively, if you want to know why Indiana isn’t working for over 40% of impoverished Hoosiers, they can’t afford to get Democrats elected into office.

Electing Glenda Ritz over Tony Bennett was an aberration that monied interests in this state couldn’t have to happen again, so they are making it go away – effective this July.

The constitutional point of the press was to counter-balance excessive power, or prevent this from happening, but the same people control them. Doug Martin’s book, Hoosier School Heist, connects many of the dots. Doug points out who is behind usurping Glenda Ritz’s power. It’s the same guy who appointed himself as chairman of the State Board of Education – essentially overruling 1.3 million Hoosier voters, including Republicans and Democrats. He is also the President of Marian College, a Jesuit faith-based college. We wrote to his public relations vice president a year ago asking for the university’s opinion on the behavior of the president, but we didn’t get a response.

Sadly, the Gannett-owned press seems content in providing plenty of smoke cover for the real schemers behind privatizing Indiana public schools – the Mind Trust funded by the Eli Lilly Foundation. It wouldn’t look good if the state’s largest newspaper chain began holding the most powerful organization in the Midwest accountable.

As we’ve pointed out a hundred times,  the Tea Party has their muzzle loaders pointing in the wrong direction.

By the way, who gets to vote for the Mind Trust’s board of directors?

Taxpayer dollars are funding the charters. Isn’t this taxation without representation?

Just so you’re aware, the President of Marian College is Daniel Elsener. His school promotes Teach for America in Indiana. Doug Martin connected Elsener in this article to the layers of controversy and cronyism (Tony Bennett, et al) within school reform by both republicans and democrats in Indianapolis.

When you step away from the surface noise created by our corporate owned media sources, your perception improves, and the players come into focus. Ed reform isn’t about a 12-hour ISTEP+ test or 3rd graders. It’s about a tiny group of Billionaires who have developed a strategy to replace expensive and liberal minded government-run schools with taxpayer-funded religious and lower cost charter schools.

When Hoosiers voted out Tony Bennett, we thought we eliminated the problem, but Tony was just a spokesman for the Billionaires. We thought our political leaders would hear our voices loud and clear, but it should be clear to every voter by now, our voice doesn’t matter in this state.

Money rules the Republican Party in Indiana. No matter what happens on Election Day, the politicians and the Billionaires behind them aren’t listening to Hoosiers. They’ve appointed themselves as Directors of Public Education. Not because they won the most votes in an election, but because they have the most money.

Instead of protesting at the State Capitol, we should be marching at 1630 N. Meridian Street or the headquarters of Mind Trust. Mind Trust and Hoosiers for Quality Education are front groups engineering education reform in Indiana with funding provided by the Eli Lilly Foundation and Hoosier taxpayers.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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