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Heart of the Matter

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Patrick McClamroch of Heritage Lake talks to Shane Grimes, former North Putnam High School teacher, on Monday at the North Putnam School Corporation open forum regarding House Bill 1002. If passed, the bill would allow charter schools to be more easily created as well as allows them to operate in debt, often at the expense of public schools. [Order this photo]
BAINBRIDGE -- Though rescheduled due to weather, Monday night's forum in the North Putnam High School auditorium, titled "Heart of the Matter," hosted a packed house as parents, educators, students and school employees gathered to learn about the issues that are affecting education in Indiana and in Putnam County.

The forum discussed the problems with the Indiana General Assembly's numerous bills regarding changing education, particularly House Bill 1002, which would establish charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools. Educators and students have protested the passing of the bill through the House and its committees, with the full bill passing on Feb. 8.

Aside from creating a charter school board controlled by the state, with members appointed by the governor and state superintendent, the bill also allows newly established charter schools to use under-utilized buildings in school corporations at the school corporations' expense, requires charter school credits to be accepted at other public or private schools, allows up to 50 percent of teachers to be unlicensed and allows the charter to go into debt without having to pay it back themselves, forcing their debt to be paid by the common school fund.

Dr. Mary Sugg Lovejoy, North Putnam superintendent, began the meeting with a brief introduction before turning the mic over to the main speakers of the night: Jana Brothers, moderator for the event and head of the North Putnam Teachers Association; Dr. Robert Dalton, former superintendent of the Kokomo School District and retired educator and Shane Grimes, former North Putnam High School teacher and current Greencastle resident, as well as an ISDA employee.

"If we want to have public education in Indiana we have to get in the game this year," Dalton said. "If you look at that bill, everything is troubling for public education."

Dalton went through the seven Indiana Coalition for Public Education maxims that define why money should not be diverted away from public schools, which includes public schools being open to al students regardless of income, public schools being the bedrock of democracy and being centers of the community. He also listed several facts pointing to the poor performances of the state's current charter schools. There are currently 62 charter schools in Indiana, and 21 of them are listed at the bottom 25 schools and school districts in the state. Dalton also pointed out that public school performance has steadily increased over time.

"Public schools need financial stability," Dalton said. "Public schools are the center of the community, and I know that's especially true here."

Grimes used to teach in the same auditorium 13 years ago, teaching at the school for 10 years total. Grimes said he was very passionate about the community and the school system, and his daughters still go to Putnam County schools. Grimes communicated his anger and frustration through brief snippets of humor, but he also showed his distrust towards the Republican assembly members now in office.

"The current Republicans are not the Republicans we elected to represent us," Grimes said.

Both speakers were very cynical regarding how the use of charter schools would help the public education system, especially since the current legislation going through the assembly would take money and students away from these schools. Other house bills would also strengthen HB 1002 if it passed, including one that would create a voucher system for those attending the charter schools. With public school funding decreasing over time and political opinion against the public education system for the moment, Grimes and Dalton feel that the public school system may be torn apart if the bill passes through the Senate.

"Give some of your lawmakers credit in their ability to systematically deteriorate us," Grimes said.

Both speakers held a question and answer session after their speeches, where they expounded on their facts further. Many residents were concerned about the path public education would be forced to take if the trend continues.

"My family's full of educators, my children will probably go here -- I wanted to know more about it," said Patrick McClamroch of Heritage Lake.

Grimes said that though Republicans will use the rhetoric of giving parents a choice in their education, he argues that the choice for parents was there before. What this new choice will really do, he claims, will wipe out poorer public school districts, give more power to charter schools and ultimately more power over education to the state government.

"This is simply a way to divide us by dollars," Grimes said. "This is the beginning."

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Thank you NP for starting this conversation. Everyone needs to call your legislators and tell them to stop listening to rhetoric coming from Indianapolis. This will hurt our schools in Putnam County. We can not continue to be silent!!!! Call TODAY, and EVERY DAY!!!

-- Posted by Old Cougar Fan on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 6:40 AM

Really, what's all the fuss about? NP is ripe for consolidation along with the other school systems in Putnam Co. NP is loosing population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, which confirms why it is facing falling revenue.

Vouchers are for students to use at private schools. The student's funds are currently transferred from his/her home district to a charter school. Just clarifying that vouchers are not for charter schools. Besides, is there really talk of a charter school in NP or anywhere in Putnam Co.?

Republicans care about the best education possible for all students. The state cares about the best education possible. Why the "us" against "them" mentality? We are all on the same team!

-- Posted by sassylass on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 1:43 PM

Our Governor Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett are going to ruin our public school system here in Indiana. They want to run our schools like a business. They are also giving false information about the public schools and blaming teachers for failing schools while they continue to take away public school funding. Their proposed education reform will hurt every child enrolled in a public school. I do not believe "My man Mitch" wants the best education possible for all students. He is the one that is using the "us" against "them" mentality.

-- Posted by sslg on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 8:16 PM

I have to give the governer and state superintendent credit for making an effort. I believe that Mr. Daniels and Mr. Bennett DO want the best possible education for all Indiana school children and by trying something new it will force public schools to compete in order to draw those children to their corporations. In this county I don't understand why we have four seperate corporations in the first place.

I went to public school. I had a small number of "GREAT" teachers in those 13 years (K-12). But there were also horrible ones, that I as a parent, would never subject my own kids to. (Thankfully some of them no longer teach.) But I will say, the great teachers were almost always the ones that I didn't like when I was in school. But those were the ones that challenged me and made me learn. I say, lets try something new, its overdue!

-- Posted by justducky on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 9:19 PM

Some food for thought...

The information document pasted to this email was shared with the Senate Education Committee members yesterday to address the concern that have been raised about the quality of our public schools. It startled and amazed virtually all of them. Among the most jaw-dropping --literally -- were

Indiana teachers rank first in the nation for credentials in teaching what they teach (in other words in CONTENT certification which with the Governor should be THE priority. We subscribe to a higher standard -- that both content and teaching skills are important.

* If Indiana were a country, our 4th and 8th grade math students would rank 7th highest IN THE WORLD.

* 87% of our students rank the equivalent of a C or higher on NAEP 4th grade math tests. (That's a higher standard than a passing score and -at nearly 90% with a C or better equivalent -- is truly phenomenal.)There's much more good news on this page. So the rhetoric that would lead the public to believe our schools are failing, teachers are not all that effective so evaluations procedures must be severely tightened and prescripted, that teachers have focused on OTHER than student achievement are misleading, unfair, and not research driven.

GOOD NEWSIndiana's Public SchoolsIndiana's public schools serve more than one million children in all 92 counties across the Hoosier State. Indiana's public schools work and over the past several years, they have improved in several important measures according to data from the Indiana Department of Education, the College Board, the ACT and from the National Assessment of Education (NAEP).

* On the NAEP, the "national reading and math test," Indiana has consistently outperformed the nation on all 35 NAEP assessments since 1990.

* Indiana's composite score on the ACT rose to 222.2 in 2008-09, the highest mark in state history.

* Indiana's ACT scores have exceeded national averages in all 20 years of the study.* Verbal SAT scores rose from 490 in '88-'89 to an historic high of 504 in 2004-05. Reading has fallen to 496 in 2008-09 from 498 in 2004-05. These scores decreased ever so slightly while Indiana tested more than 63% of all its high school graduates, 17% more than the nation as a whole.

* The drop out rate for the Class of 2009 was only 8.7%.The data are clear: Indiana's public schools work, but continuous improvement is never finished.

3 FACTS about Indiana's Public Schools:

1. Indiana's 1816 constitution was the first in the U.S. to provide for a system of free public schools.

2. State government did not establish a public school system until the 1850.

3. Today, more than 90% of Indiana's school children attend public schools.

-- Posted by sslg on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 11:01 PM

WOW! People - We had better wake up and speak up. Current legislative proposals have one goal in mind - The elimination of local control. As each proposal moves through our legislature, one can see "our" decision-making abilities on critical local educational issues becoming less and less valuable. Do you want our schools to be run by "state" people?

Case in point - How do you feel about your property taxes paying to transport students to a private school? Folks there is a proposal on the table to allow that very thing to happen. Not just happen, but it will be the law and local people cannot do anything about it once it passes. But wait, there is an answer to all this discussion, you will be paying 10 cents for each plastic bag you use from the local grocery or Walmart and a portion of that will go to local schools. Unless of course you decide to bring your own bags or use no bags at all. Unless of course that will not be your decision and someone from "downtown" will dictate to you how many bags you need to pay for at 10 cents each.

Maybe Aldi has had it right all along. :)

Folks, we better get off our duffs and make ourselves known to our state legislators. See if they are truly representing us or their own political party.

Thanks to those at North Putnam for hosting this event and hopefully opening some eyes and encouraging others to open their mouths.

-- Posted by cvilleguy on Thu, Feb 17, 2011, at 7:59 AM

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