While Indianapolis voters are asleep at the switch, a movement among the education profiteers has been afoot for several years to seize total control of the elected board of the Indianapolis Public Schools. Two years ago, these self-serving outsiders successfully bankrolled campaigns of candidates who back their self-serving agenda like Caitlin Hannon and Sam Odle. Hannon formerly worked for Teach For America, the same nonprofit that employed Mayor Greg Ballard's deputy mayor for education, Jason Kloth, and now works for Teach Plus, both of which are bankrolled by the education profiteers and front as advocates of education reform in this country. Odle is a lobbyist for Bose Public Affairs Group, which counts education giant McGraw Hill Education among its stable of clients. Arguably, no other private business interest has a larger stake in public education than McGraw Hill, which has a big contract with the state's Department of Education to administer the ISTEP tests used to measure student performance at the state's schools. It also peddles all kinds of learning materials used by schools.
This year, Stand for Children, another nonprofit organization bankrolled by mostly out-of-state education profiteers, is pouring tens of thousands of dollars into a campaign to elect three handpicked candidates it has been assured will ally with their selfish interests, which are often at odds with the public's interest in ensuring a strong and viable Indianapolis Public School system. Stand for Children is the same organization that is pushing Indianapolis City-County Council members to raise property taxes on the city's residential taxpayers to finance Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to put city government into the business of funding pre-K education, which is neither a constitutional nor statutory obligation of municipal government. Stand for Children has no desire to work with IPS on pre-K education programs or the operator of the City's federally-funded Headstart program; rather, it desires that tens of millions of dollars be turned over to a nonprofit early childhood provider like the Day Nursery. Stand for Children could care less that the elimination of the homestead property tax credit to fund their pre-K education plan will actually cut funding for Indianapolis area public schools by about $5 million a year.
Stand for Children's candidates are the usual suspects. For the at-large seat, the organization backs Mary Ann Sullivan. Sullivan is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives who won her first House race with strong financial backing of the Indiana State Teachers Association. The teachers union turned against Sullivan after she turned her back on them and began siding with the education profiteers down the line by backing her Republican opponent, Brent Waltz, when she gave up her House seat to run for his Senate seat. This should have come as no surprise. Sullivan formerly worked for multi-millionaire Christel DeHaan's Family Foundation. DeHaan's vanity charter school, Christel Academy, was at the center of the grade-fixing allegations under former Supt. of Education Tony Bennett, who received more campaign contributions from DeHaan than any other person. The school's grade calculated by the state's Department of Education was upgraded substantially after Bennett and his staff became concerned that the school operated by his largest political benefactor was about to be issued a "C" grade and recalculated the grade for Christel Academy and several other schools. Sullivan, who also formerly worked for the Indy Chamber of Commerce, now works as an education consultant for the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning where she's paid to pine for issues advocated by the education profiteers.
One of the more troubling endorsements made by Stand for Children is a very young first-time candidate, LaNier Echols, a candidate for District 5. Believe it or not, Echols is the Dean of Students at the Carpe Diem charter school in Indianapolis, which competes with IPS for public education dollars and students. If that's not a conflict of interest, I don't know what is. Would Dell stand for a high-level executive of Hewlett-Packard sitting on its board of directors? Carpe Diem charter schools have distinguished themselves for their e-learning environment where students do all of their school work sitting in an individualized cubicle in front of a computer all day rather than being taught by a teacher in a classroom setting. Its founder is Rick Ogston, whose for-profit company Carpe Diem Learning Systems manages the publicly-funded charter schools like the one here in Indianapolis. The company is opening up its second charter school in Indiana at The Summit in Fort Wayne. According to Amos Brown, Carpe Diem's most recent state-issued grade was a "D," which they are appealing.
In District 3, Stand for Children is backing former IPS board member, Kelly Bentley. Bentley started the local chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, which supports public funding of alternative charter schools and providing vouchers to students to attend private schools, including religious schools and the widely criticized Common Core standards, which the education profiteers backed as yet another means of cashing in on public education spending. Bentley supported Hannon's election to the school board two years ago. Not surprisingly, the Indy Chamber of Commerce, which has been working overtime to destroy IPS, endorsed the exact same three candidates which Stand for Children has endorsed.
The only person in the media paying any attention to the school board races is black radio talk show host Amos Brown. Several of the school board candidates were interviewed on his WTLC-AM show, "Afternoons with Amos," today. Bentley and Echols were confronted about the bankrolling of their campaigns by Stand for Children. Bentley feigned disapproval of the organization spending so much money to aid her election, which she says is happening without her approval; however, she defended the right of the organization to support her campaign. Echols also defended the group's large expenditures in support of her campaign, saying she had no power to stop them from spending money on her behalf. When confronted by a caller about her conflict of interest, Echols merely said she would recuse herself on any voters where her employer might be partnering on something with IPS. Wake up, people. It's bad enough that they've bought and paid for most of our other elected officials. Now they want total control of every single school board as well.
Who deserves the attention of voters?
Is there anything left to corrupt in Indianapolis?
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