Sunday, December 02, 2007

Has Ballard Changed His Tune On Charter Schools?

I had the opportunity to interview Greg Ballard at length last summer when nobody, including his own Republican Party, was paying attention to anything he had to say. During that interview, Ballard spoke about the problems with our public school system in Indianapolis. He compassionately expressed his view that we have to help turn around our Indianapolis Public Schools and township schools if we are going to have any success in ebbing the out-migration of Indianapolis residents to the collar counties. Ballard praised IPS Superintendant Eugene White and pledged to support a public-private partnership to help White succeed in turning IPS around. Ballard thought Mayor Peterson placed too much emphasis on charter schools at the expense of our public school systems. As I wrote then in urging people to take a look at Ballard and support him as our only real alternative to the failed leadership of Bart Peterson:

Ballard is deeply concerned about the state of education in our city. [Ballard] Rule Number 3 emphasizes an educational level of achievement for our children which reflects the priority of its citizens. Ballard criticizes Peterson's focus on charter schools at the expense of IPS and the township schools. He supports a public-nonprofit partnership to support those schools, not seek to replace them.
I pick up my Sunday Star this morning and read that Ballard has already decided to pick up where Peterson left off on charter schools. The Star's Andy Gammil writes:

The mayor's charter school board appears poised to endorse one final initiative under Mayor Bart Peterson, who for five years has been the only mayor in the country with the power to open the unusual public schools.

Mayor-elect Greg Ballard met with charter school leaders and pledged his support. But the charter system was launched under Peterson, so the change leaves questions, such as who will run his charter school office, how new schools will be approved and the fate of the Indianapolis Project School, which is up for approval this month . . .

Ballard, a Republican, has signaled he will not make any drastic changes when it comes to charter schools.

In a brief e-mail Friday, Ballard said that charter schools are a key part of his transition efforts and that he hopes to expand upon the foundation of charter schools already in place.

"Charter schools are a high-quality alternative to the present public school system," he said. "Education improves and accountability increases when parents are given a choice."

How could Ballard reverse his position so quickly on charter schools? I'll tell you. It's the same thing I've been saying since he announced members of his transition team who already convinced him he must abandon his support for repealing the property tax as he promised during the campaign. It's packed with lawyers and lobbyists who have a vested interest in protecting the status quo. Some of those team members represent these charter schools and are more interested in protecting the steady flow of legal and consulting fees fromtheir existence than fulfilling Ballard's pledge to improve IPS and the township schools. I don't see how you turn IPS or any of the township schools around if you continue to drain off good students and money for the charter schools, which always seem to have ties to politically-connected folks.

And what about Ballard's pledge to reduce spending by 10%? A whole new bureaucracy has been created within the Mayor's office to oversee Indianapolis' charter schools under Peterson's tenure, creating competing educational authorities in the city. "Peterson's office oversees 16 charter schools, although it has granted a few more charters than that during the years," Gammill writes. He adds, "It shut down one of its schools, the Flanner House Higher Learning Center, in 2005 after it was found to have falsified enrollment records." Flanner House received more than $700,000 in state school funds than it should have because it overstated its enrollment. The Star's Kim Hooper wrote about the problem the charter schools posed to IPS a few years back:

The drain on IPS is already apparent. More students attend the charter schools than attend 67 of the state’s 293 traditional school districts, including the tiny Eminence and Southwestern districts in the metro area. All five mayor-sponsored charters are within IPS’ boundaries. And more than three-quarters of charter students live within the IPS district. At a sixth local charter, the Irvington Community School, which was approved by Ball State University, just 12 of 129 students live outside IPS attendance boundaries. The result: Schools like IPS’ School 103, which saw 39 students move to a new charter two miles away this year, are facing the prospect that, if charters continue unchecked, they might have to close. ”I’ve got to have a plan to keep my school open,” said Principal Toni Trice, who lost three teachers to other district schools due to declining enrollment. She also stands to lose $80,000 in federal funds because of the decline, and that will cost her a fourth teacher.
Indeed, IPS has just recently announced the closing of eight more schools. And the jury is still out on whether charter schools are doing any better educating children than the public school systems. It seems to depend on who is preparing the statistics. As Gammill's story points out, White has asked for a moratorium on the opening of new charter schools in Indianapolis. After reading this morning's article, I suspect White is wondering if he hadn't just lost his new-found friend, Mayor-elect Greg Ballard.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you're the only voice openly asking, "What in the hell is going on here?" Everyone else seems to be pushing the old "just give him some time" and "let's see what happens" lines. It's pretty apparent what's happening, and that is that the person who was elected isn't going to be the same person that will be mayor.

Anonymous said...

Gary, you should check up on how Ballard dumped supportive LEOs for his security detail in favor of the spouse of some crony in Carl Brizzi's office. Brizzi will now be able to keep close tabs on what Ballard is doing. How many more casualties are we going to suffer before Greg takes office?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Sadly, disappointed Ballard supporter, one of Ballard's supporters and a hard-working member of his campaign related a very similar account to me. It's simply unbelievable that the people who worked the hardest to elect him could be treated so badly.

Anonymous said...

An answer to your question with regard to Ballard's position change please go to:

You will find that this group was extremely influential in Peterson's Charter Program.
It's CEO is Gordon St. Angelo, a former head of Lilly Endowment and longtime member of the power broker elite in Indianapolis but is now up in his years.

You will most likely find someone involved in this foundation on the Ballard transition team.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, just simply amazing. Now I'm getting some idea of how Ballard worked his way up to Lt.Col in the Marine Corp.
Impressing the City's brass is no different than his career of impressing the brass in the military, which is subtantially more political than running City Hall.
What really pisses me off is the fact that I personally,out of my own pocket, gave the exact same amount of money to Ballard as Brizzi. The difference is that Brizzi did not use his own money, his contribution came out of his campaign fund.
Looks to me like the voters who voted ABB (Anybody But Bart) may very well end up with someone as bad, if not worse, than Bart.

By the way Mr. Ballard, thanks for sending me a thank you for the contribution and support. I guess my money doesn't spend like the Downtown Klan's does.

Anonymous said...

tgxdukHow refreshing to see someone bringing to light these discrepancies in what Greg Ballard is talking about.....Get the printintg going and let's get the GREG LIES signs and bumper stickers anyone could dump on the few people who helped him win is a serious character flaw...more to come.

Wilson46201 said...

Is it too early to whisper FLIP-FLOP ?

Anonymous said...

Gary, I used to read this blog daily, but you got off on personal tangents and I bailed.

However, you have proven over the long run that you are against bad govenment, and I commend you for that.

IndyU has turned out to be a partisian tool, and that makes me fell like a tool for reading IndyU. Abdul and Ike should really come clean, or at least pull the plug.

It is watchdogs that we need, not lapdogs. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I have to say... As a parent of a child in the charter school system (she went to IPS last year), I'm all in favor of the new schools.

At IPS she was lost in the crowd. She got straight As and brought home no homework. We'd moved from Washington Township into IPS that year and her standard quote was "We learned all of this last year. It's nothing new."

This year, she gets B's and she's having to work for them. The academic quality is much higher. Her class size went from huge to 20 or less. The teachers talk to each other and follow students throughout the year instead of "only in my class."

They really work with the kids on everything from behavior problems to homework and how it all relates.

I hated sending her to IPS - it was a hell hole of drugs, gangs, and sexing up kids waaaay to young to be "sexy" without any academic success to even attempt to balance out the negatives.

Count me as a fan of the charters.

Anonymous said...

And how do charters help IPS or any of the other public schools that are supposed to educate the vast majority of the populace. Until we focus on ways to improve the existing schools (maybe first by allowing anyone to attend any school in the county (transportation on their dime - schools need to get out of the transportation business)), we should not be creating another bureaucracy (charter school system) and increasing the number of schools.

As for Ballard, it is very clear, as indicated in this post that the same government sucking leeches are influencing Ballard for the worst, because they are afraid that their lucrative contracts and fees will disappear. If Ballard would talk to apolitical city workers, he would find many ways to save money and he would understand who has the best interests of the city at heart.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Bil, you prove my point. People who can afford it send their kids to the parochial schools in Indianapolis. The charter schools cherry pick the cream of the crop and leave IPS with some of the worst, at-risk students with which to try and educate. IPS is sitting on a huge infrastructure it is struggling to maintain while its attendance declines and its state supported dollars get eroded by charter schools, which are operating on a different playing field than IPS. They aren't restricted by curriculum and hiring policies which hamstring IPS. At the same time, government keeps extending tax abatements and TIF districts at the expense of IPS' tax base. That leaves IPS dependent on fewer homeowners to shoulder the property tax burden and causes the politicians like Bart Peterson who helped contribute to the problem blame IPS.

Anonymous said...

You people make me sick. Just because the man says he thinks charter schools are a good thing doesn't mean he's bailing on IPS. It hasn't even been a month since the election and you're already turning on him. As much as you've supported him, you obviously did not get to know him well enough to know his character. Ballard is loyal and to infer he obtained his military promotions in any way other than through high performance and commitment is akin to taking Bart's tack and saying he doesn't have enough experience to do the job. Ballard will choose people he trusts, who will be loyal to him, and who he feels will get the job done the way he wants it done. Maybe he didn't choose who you think he should because they didn't fit that bill. (For instance, you, Advance Indiana, certainly don't fit the "loyal" part.) Ballard is his own man. He may be choosing people you think are inappropriate but he will take the opinions he wants from them and then make his own decisions. Don't expect to like all of them. But since you worked so hard to get him elected, at least allow some time for the larger picture of what he is working toward to become more clear before you start bashing him.

The Amazing Abdul said...

Just so you all know, Ballard has never changed his tune on charter schools. He said during the second Mayoral debate on RTV 6 that he wanted to create more charter schools and change the education model to fit the 21st century. That's the position he's always held. And even Dr. White acknowledges that IPS needs to step up to compete with charter and private schools.

Gary R. Welsh said...


I know what he told me and what he had on his website. I didn't even bring up the subject of education in my interview with him. He brought it up. There is a contradiction, and I stand by what I wrote. I also heard him say
with my own ears that he would use the bully pulpit of the mayor's office to fight for a repeal of the property tax. You may have already forgotten this, but he said at one time early in the summer before the property tax fiaso hit that he would support the COIT increase for public safety. I criticized him on my blog for his position, and later he abandoned that position and decided he opposed it. The person who told him to say he supported the COIT increase was probably the same person who told him to propose the construction of a
new judicial center. If he hadn't reversed that position, the masses would have never rallied behind him the way they did. He's already abandoned his support for the repeal of the property tax in favor of something like Daniels is proposing, which is a bit ironic given that Daniels did not support Ballard's election and the property tax crisis was the major impetus behind Ballard's election. I'm not on anyone's payroll but my own. I simply call them as I see them.

Gary R. Welsh said...

From Ballard's website:

"What do parents want most for their children? What is the surest ticket out of poverty? A good education. The Mayor touts charter schools as a savior for education, and while he deserves credit for using his authority to open these schools, this leaves tens of thousands of school children in Indianapolis public schools and township schools without all that they need to thrive and succeed. How can we have economic development if we don’t have enough educated workers? Would you move your company to Indianapolis if there weren’t enough educated workers?"

"I will propose a public-nonprofit partnership to complement the schools, not replace them. Any marketing expert can tell you that niches are becoming more prominent and this is exactly what we need to do in education. Different kids need different help. Educationally-oriented nonprofits usually operate separately, but we can form a coalition of them with help from the United Way and the Central Indiana Community Foundation. We can unify these educationally-oriented nonprofits and give each child or group of children the extra help they need. This can be after school, at home, or in any other necessary setting. In addition to the aforementioned nonprofits, the faith community would greatly welcome such an approach."

"You might say, “The mayor isn’t responsible for education.” Isn’t that the point? He could use his influence to get this done if he wanted to yet, our current Mayor chooses not to."

He clearly criticized Peterson for focusing on charter schools and wanted to return the focus to fixing our existing public schools rather than replacing them with charter schools.

Anonymous said...

Keep the pressuse on them, Gary. Abdul, how much is Tom John paying you to be his lapdog?

Anonymous said...

Look for Abdul to get some appointment in this administration for being the official mouthpiece and "explaining" what Ballard really meant.

Anonymous said...

Gary: Not all charter schools in the area cater to high achievers. I have a learning disabled child who started attending a charter this year because of their alternative learning style and small classroom size. Bil Browning was correct about the mega schools and the problems inherent with humongous class sizes.

Public schools need to change with the times. They need to break these schools down into smaller units with emphasis on various subsets; i.e. gifted and talented, learning disabled, special ed, unruly, etc. This is what charter schools are providing on a small scale, parental choice. And this was one area I saw Bart Peterson make a difference.

Anonymous said...

This is your best post of the year Gary. This issue of Charter Schools is quite problematic for IPS and the kids it serves. Mayor Peterson's support of charter schools was an outrage. You are right to raise this alarm. Thank you.

indyernie said...

Gary I agree with Abdul, I heard the same message.
I too have talked to Ballard. We discussed crime, taxes and education. He has been very open about all. What do you expect Ballard to do? Disband the charter schools? The system appears to work.
He isn't in office yet.
Can you wait until he has some power before you crucify him? Ballard needs time to adjust to the position. Will he make mistakes? Yes. Will he be honest and correct those mistakes? I believe so.
This is beginning to sound like sour grapes. He can't appoint everyone who supported him to the transition team.
If you crave a position, apply. If you don’t want a job then give him his time. Soon enough we will know how he will serve.
What happened to the support?

Anonymous said...

Gary, you should check up on how Ballard dumped ...>>> we going to suffer before Greg takes office?

Who is the spouse of the crony?

I. too. was a supporter of Ballard who is now disappointed. The "lets see what happens" and "just give him time" is getting old.
I know most of thepeople on his transition team, they are BART supporters who turned toward the winner, in order to keep their positions. It's too latenow, Greg. You have already failed as Mayor!

Yes, Wilson! It's a little early to whisper FLIP-FLOP, but you will soon. Probably in about a year! Right now we're STILL happy that Bart is leaving. You'll be able to say "Told-You-So" soon enough!

Abdul, you should stick with your IndyU (propaganda spreading, IMPD almost served a search warrant on my computer, CCC is giving some officers their back pay but I won't tell you the proposal number)Blog! Get in line with Tom John, John Cochran, Kyle Webber, and the rest of the "PICK ME!!!! PICK ME!!!!" crowd and get your special assignment!

Ballard may have HAD honor, but he lost it when he won. For a Marine to lose his honor, is to no longer be a Marine! He is now an EX-Marine! He is no better than Bart Peterson.
Ballard has already forgotten the people who elected him.
He has forgotten those who volunteered for him.
He has forgotten those who believed in him while he was in an uphill battle.
He has forgotten those who delivered countless signs, made hundreds of phone calls, walked for miles, and talked to complete, un-attentive strangers! All in an effort to get a change in city government!
Mr. (1 term) Mayor Ballard! You have failed as a Myor, and you haven't even taken office.

Sign me,
another disappointed Ballard supporter!!

Wilson46201 said...

Semper Fi?

Anonymous said...

Ernie: I didn't support Ballard, but I do expect the man to follow through on what he said.

It appears, through this blog, and the Ch.6 debate, that he might actually have placed his feet firmly on both sides of this touchy issue. He still deserves the benefit of the doubt, but I appreciate Gary pointing out his, uh...inconsistencies (?)

The Gordon St. Angelo insert was hilarious. He's been at Marquette Manor for years. The Friedman Foundation also espoouses trickle-down economics. How Reaganistic. That worked SO well.

Most township schools need tinkering, but not fixing, to be blunt. Bil, your daughter moved from one of the best township systems in the midwest, whose high school's college prep program is nationally recognized.

It's not the college-bound kids who need the help. They rise to the top wherever they are. It's the non-college kids: for them, and sadly, too many others, Charter Schools are a cruel class-envy joke.

IPS is a sinking hole that is bleeding cash. Until they close about half the schools, they can't even see the top of the water line, let alone work on grad rates, violence, etc.

Until we take control of our schools from the menial superintendents, whose job is apparently padding their retirements, and let them know who's boss, things won't get better.

Charter Schools only make the problem worse for the masses. Some, about half statistically, are better than their traditional public counterparts.

This insane attitude of separating kids and allowing some priveledged few to be even better educated, is class envy to the max.

If you ever doubt the true success of charter schools--just remember, until recently, one of their chief paid apologists was Ron Gibson.

And on pitiful truism, I rest my case.

garyj said...

Sign me,
another disappointed Ballard supporter!!

Your typing sux worse than mine!

Thats all I'll say on this issue!

Anonymous said...

All you needed to remind us was that Ron Gibson was the poster child for charter schools. Poor Ron, lost that job and then lost the election. It is enough to drive a man to drink and cause him to get violent after a few drinks...OOOPs too late for that, he has already done that......Ron Gibson, may you rot in hell.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 10:09...that took an ugly turn.

No need to wish him rotting in hell. He's got the earthly equivalent now--obscurity. For people like Ron, being ignored is more punishment than hell itself.

I'm actually holding out hope that he can finally come to peace with himself. We all deserve that.

Especially Ron.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:47

Hi Wilson!

Anonymous said...

10:09 is clearly a LEO, no offense, but a LEO's answer to everything is to hit it.

God love 'em, and all that, of course.

Anonymous said...

This blog, once intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, and provocative at the same time has devolved into a nest of kooks and malcontents led by a demagogue. You squandered something very valuable, Gary. What a shame.

Gary R. Welsh said...

"This blog, once intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, and provocative at the same time has devolved into a nest of kooks and malcontents led by a demagogue. You squandered something very valuable, Gary. What a shame."

Then why are you hear reading and commenting on what I have to say? If it isn't a Democratic partisan attacking me, it's a Republican partisan. Some people simply have no tolerance for independent, free-thinking persons.

Anonymous said...

Adv. Ind., you make some pretty broad attacks agaist charter schools that I don't think you can back up. In particular, if you look at information from the state Dept. of Ed., you'll see that students who go to charters are usually scoring below the IPS average on ISTEP when they first go to the charters. But then many of the charters in Indy show really significant gains over time. So it's not accurate to say that charter schools -- at least the ones in Indianapolis -- are taking the best students from IPS. In fact, it's usually students who are not performing well who move to charters.

And Ballard always said he supported charter schools.

I'm not sure what your complaint about charters is -- schools don't exist for adults, they exist for kids. If parents think their kid can get a better education at a charter, why should they be forced to stay in IPS with its 50% graduation rate?