Monday, December 19, 2011

Indianapolis: The New Feeding Ground for Corporate Education Reformers

Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the Hoosiers, is getting ready for the fight of a lifetime. The Crossroads of America will need us to rally and support them as a corporate education takeover makes its way into their public schools.

Mind Trust is preparing to overhaul the Indianapolis Public Schools using strategies similar to those used in New Orleans and New York.  Mind Trust proudly states, "We have invested over $5 million to bring Teach For America, College Summit, The New Teacher Project, Stand for Children, and Diploma Plus to Indianapolis."

Mind Trust CEO states in the Indy Star, “"If we're going to be serious about doing something transformational, we need an aggressive plan…"

The plan is to create a total choice system in which schools “compete for students and make their own decisions about how to allocate resources formerly managed by IPS.”

The red flags are numerous.  The word CHOICE really implies choice for some, not for all.  The word COMPETE means some children will be left behind, as not everyone can win a competition.  As schools compete, students who don't make the grade will be sent packing. Students with special needs  may be turned away at the door.  Schools will be shut down and communities will be destroyed.

Minority students account for 76% of the IPS student population;  will they have a voice in the decisions being made about their neighborhoods and their schools as the restructure of IPS takes place?

When we can allocate resources independent of the school district one can guarantee that resources will not be allocated equally and profit will take precedence.  We need only look to New York, Detroit and New Orleans to see how such a system is playing out.

A new office will be created to recruit teachers, administrators and charter school operators.  We know that the CEO of The New Teacher Project is on the board of directors for Mind Trust.  Teacher recruiting will focus largely on the enlistment of non-educators into the school system - teachers with minimal training who will work as cheap labor and be easily silenced should it be necessary.  Administrators will be recruited through groups such as the Broad Foundation where teaching or education experience is not required.

The school board will be replaced by a board that is handpicked by the mayor and the City-County Council, and it appears that the superintendent will be removed. So, now we have potential mayoral control and the picture is complete.

Harris, Mind Trust CEO, expresses the importance of getting elected officials in the community to support this plan.

And of course, they play their final card.  The student data just doesn’t cut it.  Harris shares how the district ISTEP scores fell short of their five-year goals.  They don’t mention that Indianapolis Public Schools currently have 83% of their students on free or reduced lunch, therefore, ignoring the concept of protecting children from poverty as the first step in improving student learning.  And as Diane Ravitch tells us, after nine years of market-based reform in New York, "the achievement gap between black and white students is unchanged."

In the four key points of the Mind Trust plan they fail to mention wrap around services to shelter children from the effects of poverty.  Where is the health care?  Nutrition?  Books?  I wonder if anyone at Mind Trust is hungry, cold, tired or sick for extended periods of time with no resources to alleviate the pain? I wonder if anyone working at Mind Trust lives in fear of their community being ripped out from under them?  I have a feeling that the 160 page reform proposal they wrote was created under roofs with healthy living conditions, unlike the living conditions of many Indianapolis students, who must go to school, take high stakes tests, and somehow pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

There is a glimmer of hope in Indianapolis and it is growing stronger daily.  There are parents who recognize that the ISTEP is destructive to their children’s education.  They recognize that the curriculum is being altered due to state testing and they see that the test is taking away from real learning.  They want to protect their children from the abusive effects of high stakes testing. They are opting out of the ISTEP.  They have created a Facebook site for Indiana community members who are interested in opting out of corporate education reform.  They refuse to give the privatizers their children’s test data. 

The parents have been told that they cannot opt out.  They have been lied to and they know it.  A child cannot be forced to take a state test.  While the Department of Education in Indiana chooses to protect their data, the parents choose to protect their children.  Without this data the corporate reformers will have great difficulty punishing students, teachers and communities through methodical privatization tactics that support the profits of the 1%. The executive summary of the Mind Trust proposal makes it very clear what they intend to do.  They state, "Excellent existing schools would become Opportunity Schools immediately following a planning year. Poor performing schools would be given support to improve and seek Opportunity status. And new leadership and new school models would replace persistently failing programs." It is clear who will fail. It is clear who will succeed.  Standardized test data tells us one thing - it tells us which students are living in poverty.  These are the students who will fail and lose their Opportunity to a whole and equitable education.

However, without the data, corporate education reform fails, and school communities - not corporations - can begin to focus on providing learners what they deserve - shelter from poverty and the same education the 1% receives.

Mind Trust beware.  The parents are coming.


  1. If you read the gobbledygook that someone paid $3/4 million to produce, it actually appears more a PR piece for the Mind Trust. It certainly does not present any kind of serious discussion of educational reform. On page 45 in the plan, it states that $7.5 million would be redirected from IPS central office in the initial years to fund a charter school incubator. Currently the Mind Trust identifies itself as a charter school incubator. The Mind Trust currently sits on $15.5 million. So it appears that the plan was to raise these funds to survive 2 years while the dismantling of IPS gets through the legislature and then, after that is accomplished, they will continue to get their operating funds from IPS. Now with Stand for Children in place, who have been busy buying elected officials in other parts of the country, all that is needed is to buy one elected official here to control the school system rather than an entire slate of school board commisioners. Pretty nifty. Peggy, if you are in Indy, I would like to buy you a cup of coffee and link your efforts with Parent Power, Innovate Indy, and a fledgling youth empowerment group. Mike

  2. I don't know how to stop the train, but one thing I know is that we need to organize around another idea of what education should be, should do, should promote, should inculcate. Here's a beginning:

  3. Bless you for making this posting, Peggy. I'd read about the plan released by the Mind Trust with alarm and posted my own concerns on Educators' News in A Dangerous Proposal for IPS:

  4. Great work, Peggy! As a lifelong Indianapolis resident, the parent of IPS grads and a former IPS student and teacher myself, I have an enduring and irrational love for IPS. It is heartbreaking to see those who have no personal interest (but great financial and power interests) circling IPS like vultures with no regard for the lives of students, teachers and families.

    I am also alarmed at the enthusiastic response Mind Trust got in recent weeks with their Indy Star proposals. Thank you for caring about our schools all the way from Denver. May your tribe increase.


  5. I'm still keeping my eye on Indiana. I hope to have a new post up soon to commend you all for your efforts. I am in awe of the community organizing that is occurring right now and I am so proud to see a group of parents and community members stand up to corporate education reform. You all are a true model for our country. Some day I hope to make it to Indiana to meet all of you - and yes Mike - I'll take you up on that cup of coffee :) In solidarity Indiana!!!!! And for those interested in getting involved in stopping the corporate takeover in Indiana email Matthew at