Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 2, 2012

Letters to the Editor: Nov. 2, 2012

Kokomo — Superintendent is outsourcing our kids

There is an education time bomb ticking in Indiana, and Tony Bennett wants to blame teachers. He should be looking in the mirror.

We are about to lose local control of our schools to the corporate, for-profit, privatization movement. State School Superintendent Bennett is selling off inner-city schools to private, profit-motive companies and charter schools. Studies show that these schools either fail or do no better than public schools, even though they are often given more money, more staff and more resources, and they drain money away from public schools. This year Fort Wayne Public Schools lost $2.6 million to private sector schools.

Why is Bennett doing this? Follow the money. Check out the big donors to his campaign, big corporations and testing services that stand to make a profit from privatizing schools. If Bennett wins re-election, they profit. Is this good for Indiana kids? We would like to ask Tony, but he is elusive, failing to show up four times in my town for a public forum.

How is he setting up schools to “fail”? By spending millions on testing programs (see his donors) that don’t begin to assess all that schools really do. He repeats the dubious message that schools are “failing,” ignoring schools’ many successes (the graduation rate in the 1950s was 50 percent; now it is 85 percent and climbing).

Reports around the state say teacher morale is at an all-time low, stress is high, and good people are leaving the profession. Think what will happen when Bennett releases his grading system (probably after the election) publicly labeling schools F, D, C, B, or A, all based on scores on a written test. Let’s guess how that will come out. Indianapolis Public Schools will largely “fail.” Affluent Carmel will be “A+”, and Bennett will reward them with his “merit” pay plan. IPS will be turned over to the profiteers who will do no better and maybe worse, and some of the hardest working teachers in the profession will be publicly humiliated.

What is the elephant in the room? Bennett and his friends don’t want to admit what studies have shown: that the No. 1 predictor of lower functioning schools is their level of poverty. This is obvious to any teacher who has taught in the inner city. Having visited over 130 schools in Indiana, I have great respect for these teachers. No one works harder under adverse conditions than they do.

Through the foresight of our founders, public education was established as a pillar of our democracy. Our public schools do not select their clientele, nor do they reject them. They accept everyone, whether rich, poor, non-English speaking, homeless, disabled, disadvantaged, apathetic, parentless, or those without clout or hope. We should be supporting this diversity and those hardy teachers who face these challenges every day. Why let charter schools feed at the public trough while siphoning off resources from the students who need them most?

We have to stop Tony Bennett from outsourcing our kids.

Dale Glenn, Ed.D., Bloomington

Vote your values in this election

We have a clear choice in the upcoming election: Vote for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” or vote to fundamentally change our society.

The Democratic platform “supports a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion regardless of ability to pay [and] opposes any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” Our taxes shouldn’t pay for abortions, which end a life we should protect. Who will speak for the unborn unless we do? When the Indiana Legislature voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood, a federal court ordered the continued funding of the abortion provider.

Democrats support “equal treatment under law for same-sex couples” and “support the full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.” The Obama administration refuses to support DOMA, which is law! Thirty-two states have put same-sex marriage to a popular vote, and all have overwhelmingly supported a ban on same-sex marriages and in some cases civil unions and domestic partnerships, usually by large margins.

Obama’s failed “green energy” policies have given almost $35 billion in loans and guarantees. Abound Solar borrowed $70 million, went bankrupt, and put 125 in Colorado out of work without bringing any jobs to Tipton County as promised. Solyndra is another failure, closing its doors after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee, just a part of the $787 billion stimulus package.

We have the opportunity to stop the downward spiral of the last four years. No candidate is perfect; no person is. But the Republican Party at least has the courage to stand up for its moral values.

Susie Cox, Greentown

Write in Stockdell for Taylor board

It is our honor to ask you to write in the name of Otis Stockdell for Taylor School Board on Nov. 6th, Election Day.

He is an educator with 30 years of classroom dedication; a father of two honor students, one graduated and one attending Taylor; and has been invested in education his entire career. He would be a voice for education, educators and maintaining excellence in the Taylor Community Schools.

Debbie, Seth and Shannon Stockdell, Kokomo

Obama ‘hope, change’ threatens America

President Barack Obama promised “fundamental transformation of America” when he ran for president four years ago. Let’s evaluate some of those changes, to see if the transformation has made America a better, safer and stronger nation.

One of the changes is the quiet war President Obama and his administration have been waging against Christianity and the traditional moral values that made America great. For example, President Obama has stated publicly that he approves of same-sex marriage and unions.

President Obama has also signed the blatantly anti-Christian “hate crimes” legislation into law. This law could make traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality a de facto hate crime. Under this law, even passages of the Bible calling homosexuality a sin could be considered “hate literature.” For example, over the last several years a printer was fined $5,000 for refusing to print homosexual-themed stationery for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives.

The president who promised openness and transparency has pushed Obamacare into law, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of American seniors strongly oppose Obamacare.

The IRS is now hiring 16,000 new agents to enforce Obamacare, and 159 new agencies are being formed to administer it. Under Obamacare, religious institutions will be required to pay for insurance coverage for abortion drugs, sterilization and contraception, even if that violates their core beliefs, or suffer crippling fines. Also, all Americans will pay a “premium” into a fund to cover abortions. Are these changes that he had in mind when he took office four years ago?

President Obama’s most egregious change has been the selection of Eric Holder as attorney general. Holder is a threat to American liberty and security. Holder is the first attorney general to ever be impeached by the United States Congress. Holder lied to Congress about his role in the “Fast and Furious” weapons scandal.

Holder has also staffed the Justice Department with lawyers who went out of their way to help Islamic terrorists, especially during the Bush administration. While everyone is entitled to counsel, we have had a noble tradition in the United States that representing enemies of the United States in private practice would have disqualified an attorney from ever getting a job at the Justice Department.

Under Holder, however, attorneys who previously represented terrorists have been placed in positions where they oversee terrorist detainees and national security issues.

The above examples of the “fundamental transformation of America” tell me these are not the kinds of changes the majority of thinking, freedom-loving, God-fearing Americans want.

Much of the Obama change agenda is not in the best interests of our republic. If we allow these and similar policies to be fully implemented over the next four years, we will no longer recognize America.

I am not willing to allow that to happen without informing others about the kinds of “fundamental transformation of America” President Obama is about.

James R. Butcher, Kokomo

Privatize FEMA, too; who gets the bill?

Sometimes you need to ignore the media, Facebook, what friends say, and pay attention to what candidates say.

Monday night, Mitt Romney said his preference would be to privatize (sell off) FEMA to some corporation. Wow, what a revolutionary idea for a vulture capitalist: make money off the misery of others.

Can you imagine, after the emergency is over, you become inundated with bills for emergency management from corporations you never heard of before? ABC Emergency Management (a private company) bills you $10,000 or more for services rendered.

Larry Brooks, Kokomo

Ind. teachers deserve better than Bennett

While the presidential, gubernatorial and Senate races are in the forefront of our attention, I would like to encourage everyone to give thoughtful attention to the race for state superintendent of schools. This is a critical race as to its effect on the vocation of teaching. Who will lead the Indiana Department of Education? Will it be Tony Bennett or Glenda Ritz? From what I can gather, the majority of teachers are very frustrated with the brashness of Tony Bennett and his mandated educational reforms. His proposing and pushing mandates regarding teacher performance and evaluation has impacted teacher morale so that it appears that they are preparing students for ISTEP tests rather than exercising the freedom to teach in ways they believe they are called to teach. It is also atrocious that Dr. Bennett’s proposed teacher-contract form required teachers to work overtime at their own expense. Needless to say, Superior Court Judge Patrick McCarty struck it down as unconstitutional. Such an approach to education in Indiana does not command the respect of teachers nor should it.

As to Glenda Ritz, I attended a gathering in Kokomo wherein she spoke regarding her qualifications and proposals for the public school system in Indiana. The gathering proved to be primarily teachers, many of whom resonate with her candidacy. Ms. Ritz has 33 years of teaching experience, is very in tune with public education in Indiana, and is very articulate regarding the issues. More than anything, she demonstrates common sense and has very broad support among teachers, commanding their appreciation and respect.

I write this letter as the father of two teachers, one being in a county school and the other being in the Kokomo-Center Schools. I encouraged both of them to respond to the call to teach. I have watched them mature in the classroom, and I am quite aware of the hours they spend at home as well as going to their classrooms on some weekends, correcting papers, planning lessons, and giving over and above time to the needs of their students. Both love children and seek to do their best – as is the case for the majority of our teachers. Nonetheless, these teachers are not only faced with the educating of our children, they are faced daily with the familial and social dilemmas of our day. The poverty rate among children in Howard County is 24.5 percent, with 39 percent needing free lunches. Sixty-one percent of grandparents are caregivers for their grandchildren. Four thousand four hundred ninety-six children are being raised by single mothers, and 1,549 children are being raised by single fathers, a stress all its own. Children are under great duress. My guess is that neither Dr. Bennett nor our legislators really understand the ramifications this has for public education and the teaching profession. One can certainly understand, then, why student testing falls far short of being a legitimate method of the evaluation of teachers.

I wrap this up with a true story. Three or four years ago my son and a teaching colleague exercised team teaching with their fifth-grade classes. Following the student ISTEP testing, the Indiana Department of Education called for a conference with these two teachers. Why? Their classes did too well on the ISTEP tests! They wanted to know if these teachers gave their children the answers. The teachers’ response was, “We told our students over and over to go back and check their answers, and they did.” Their principal was quick to back them up. I have every respect for my son and his colleague, knowing them both from their younger years. Both are of outstanding character. For the Department of Education under the leadership of Tony Bennett to question their integrity was less than professional if not downright unjust.

The public schools and teachers of Indiana deserve better. The teachers of Indiana are worthy of our support. As an expression of such support, I encourage you to vote for Glenda Ritz for state superintendent of schools.

Fred W. Dorisse, Kokomo