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Saturday, October 23, 2021

After secret coup, it’s war between State Board Education and Ritz

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Open warfare erupted Tuesday between Indiana’s State Board of Education (SBOE) and Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who sued the board’s 10 members accusing them of violating Indiana’s Open Meetings Law.

The war was sparked by last week’s SBOE coup to seize control of Indiana’s “A-F” grading system by asking Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long to have the Legislature’s Legislative Services Agency control the calculating and releasing the A-F grades to Indiana’s schools.

For the SBOE to seize control of designing the A-F grading system’s reform from educators to political bureaucrats is heinous, devious, dictatorial and just plain unnecessary.

The excuse for this political power grab was SBOE’s whining that the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) was dragging its feet on releasing the 2013 A-F grades. But some explanation is in order.

One year ago this week, IDOE released its new “A-F” grading system for elementary, middle and high schools which utilized a new formula incorporating ISTEP scores, end of course scores for high school students, high school graduation rates and other calculations, including tying individual school performance to how students statewide did on standardized tests.

The A-F grading system was lauded by then Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett and education reformers as moving Indiana forward as a leader in school reform.

Well, we now know that Indiana’s A-F grading system had fatal flaws, including Bennett’s staff manipulating the system so a charter school favored by school reformers and run by a prominent Republican donor got an “A” grade.

Release of 2012’s A-F grades were delayed a couple of times. After ISTEP results were released in early July 2012, preliminary A-F grades were confidentially issued in mid-September 2012; with the opportunity for districts and schools to appeal their grades before public release.

After Bennett’s staff freaked over Christel House Academy’s lack of an “A” grade in the new system, the 2012 grades were held up and not released until late October.

This year, because of the computer foul-ups, 2013 ISTEP results were released Sept. 18. Ritz told the SBOE earlier this month that she’d have A-F grades done in mid-November. Two months later.

So why the coup?

I think we all know the reason. The SBOE and Republican legislators don’t want a rational, logical A-F grading system. They want a system that punishes urban schools and rewards favored charters and racially un-diverse suburban schools.

SBOE wrote their letter and acted not in a formal meeting, but according to Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reporter Nikki Kelly reporting on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, “State Board of Education member Cari Whicker says there was no meeting or conference call with members to create the letter in question. Instead, it was through email and some one-on-one calls with staff and members.”

So like the villains in the military coup thriller Seven Days in May, the SBOE schemed in secret to take an action that now threatens to polarize education policy even more in Indiana and which does nothing to improve Indiana’s schools.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

I was stunned when I heard that the key federal Appeals Court judge whose ruling on Indiana’s venal Voter ID bill persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold it, now says his opinion in the case was “wrong.”

Richard Posner, one of America’s most respected jurists, wrote in a new book Reflections on Judging that his conclusions were wrong about Indiana’s Voter ID law.

Posner wrote, “I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion” saying that Indiana’s Voter ID law, which paved the way for the adoption of similar, more restrictive laws in other states is “a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

Asked by the Huffington Post if the court was wrong about the case, Judge Posner said, “Yes. Absolutely.”

“There hadn’t been that much activity in the way of voter identification. We weren’t really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disenfranchise people entitled to vote.”

Posner said the appeals judge who dissented from his ruling “was right.”

Interviewed by the New York Times, Posner said that sometimes “judges aren’t given the facts that they need to make a sound decision. We weren’t given the information that would enable that balance to be struck between preventing fraud and protecting voters’ rights.”

We all knew the Voter ID law was a sham. There wasn’t rampant voter fraud in Indiana then or now.

But Indiana’s then secretary of state, the unctuous Todd Rokita, made Indiana the guinea pig for a new wave of Republican voter suppression laws.

Now a congressman, Rokita’s said nothing about Judge Posner’s mea culpa. That’s probably because Rokita’s been too busy wiping the stain of shame from his outrageous remarks that America shouldn’t raise the debt ceiling, but massively cut federal spending. Even if that meant mass government layoffs, or a possible recession.

Rokita devastated voting rights in Indiana and almost devastated the economy here and worldwide.

In last week’s Recorder, Indiana Black Expo Communications Director Vernon Williams dissed the attendance figure for the Circle City Classic reported in the Oct. 13 Indianapolis Star which reported the attendance was 22,357.

Williams and IBE forgets that the attendance figure came from the official game stats published by the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), which supervised the SWAC conference game. Presumably SWAC officials got the attendance figures from responsible Lucas Oil Stadium officials.

Williams also misled in his Recorder remarks last week. Williams claims their 31,137 Classic attendance figure included complimentary tickets and credentials. But, my sources tell me the 22,357 figure included all game tickets “scanned” at the gates by ticket takers. Those scans include paid and “comp” tickets.

The Classic might have distributed 31,137 tickets and credentials, but there were barely 22,000 folks in the stadium.

See ya next week.

You can email comments at acbrown@aol.com.

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