Well, according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Indiana’s devotion to public education leaves a lot to be desired.
Indiana school reformers love letter grades, but they won’t like the grade assigned to their own work. The Network for Public Education gives the state a failing mark for its commitment to public education, based on measures controlled in recent years by a General Assembly beholden to privatization interests.
Indiana earned a grade of F, placing itself among some historically low achievers and states at the forefront of untested reforms: Idaho, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Arizona.
The low grades were based upon deficits in teacher professionalism, levels of privatization, and the investment of school funding resources.
Although the newspaper article didn’t mention it, Indiana Governor Mike Pence has been an ardent supporter of vouchers. Indiana’s voucher program is the largest in the nation, and the money redirected to private and parochial schools in the state comes out of funds that would otherwise go to the public school system. This is despite the fact that public school enrollment this fall was 1,046,146 students, compared to 84,030 non-public students.
Pence cannot distance himself from the poor grades earned by Indiana schools; ever since his election, he has moved aggressively to neuter and block the authority of Glenda Ritz, who was actually elected to run the state’s schools (with more votes, incidentally, than Pence garnered). As Politico reported at the time,
Pence and state Republicans have quickly moved to change state law to boot state Superintendent Glenda Ritz from her post as board of education chairwoman and allow other board members — most of whom Pence appointed — to elect a new leader. Ritz could still run the state education department but would have much less say in setting the policy that governs the agency.
More recently, media has reported that a state administrator hired by Pence altered language in a supposedly “independent” analysis that reflected poorly on the decision to substitute a new ISTEP exam for a previous one based on national Common Core academic standards.
Whatever “grades” Indiana schools receive, Pence owns them. As he heads into a much tougher re-election campaign than he originally contemplated, his power play against the elected Superintendent of Schools will be part of the political baggage that includes RFRA, his refusal to apply for federal funds for preschool, the state’s crumbling infrastructure, a “war on women”( a war that includes recently jettisoning the only high-ranking woman in his administration), his much-derided “news bureau” and a variety of other unforced errors.
The 2016 election will give Hoosiers the opportunity to grade Governor Pence. Right now, he isn’t passing.