Who Is In Charge

McCormick wants more regulation of charter and voucher-funded schools. Ritz has some advice: ‘Good luck.’

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Three state superintendents were on the panel. From left to right: Jennifer McCormick, Suellen Reed and Glenda Ritz.

In her race for state superintendent, Jennifer McCormick raked in donations from school choice advocates. But at a forum Saturday, she seemed at home in a room packed with critics of vouchers and charter schools.

At an event hosted by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, which advocates for public schools, McCormick called for more accountability and transparency for charter schools and private schools that receive vouchers.

McCormick, who is a Republican, joined two former state superintendents. The panel featured Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who is beloved by many teachers and union supporters but lost her re-election bid to McCormick in 2016. The final panelist, Republican Suellen Reed, led the Indiana Department of Education for 16 years.

The three education leaders raised concerns about private school vouchers and charter schools, a theme that drew applause from the audience.

McCormick appears to accept that charter schools and voucher funding for private schools are here to stay in Indiana. In a school choice system, however, all schools that receive public funds should have the same scrutiny, she said.

“If we are going to go choice,” she said, “shouldn’t it be quality choice? Whether it’s a traditional public or a charter or a voucher — should that not be a quality choice?”

Instead of creating a completely free market, the state should make sure that schools are meeting baseline expectations, she said. As it stands, some schools are not meeting minimum expectations.

“It shouldn’t be a free for all,” McCormick said.

McCormick’s position drew a weary half smile from Ritz, who frequently butted heads with politicians who advocate for school choice. “Good luck,” she said.

“It is very frustrating to see what has happened with a lot of those dollars that has come through,” Ritz continued. “We know they are not being used appropriately.”

In some ways, the competition from school choice has made traditional public schools better, Reed said.

“The problem is, there’s only so much money go around” for schools, she said. “As the amount of money has diminished, for whatever purpose, it makes it harder to get things done that absolutely have to be done.”

There was wide support from the panelists for fighting both to get more school funding and to prevent schools from losing federal funding they rely on, such as the aid schools receive to help educate poor children.

“We will never have enough. I mean, that’s the bottom line, but we have got to continue to fight for what we can get,” McCormick said. “We are trying to scrape and save every penny and fight for what we can get.”

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.