Thursday, July 9, 2015


by Doug Martin at Hoosier School Heist
As Indy Star’s Tony Cook first reported a few days ago, one of Mike Pence’s newest funders is Republican donor John W. Childs, a chief official in the Club for Growth, a pro-business organization loosely aligned with the Koch Network.
In 2011, Childs was honored at a Koch Brothers’ retreat for giving at least $1 million to Koch causes.
private equity firm CEO and Mitch Daniels supporter, Childs was an early investor in Edison Schools, now named Edison Learning.
Edison Learning has operated Gary’s Roosevelt Career and Technical Center every since former Indiana supt. of public schools Tony Bennett turned the public school over to the for-profit operator.
major investor in Edison, Childs was a board member in the 90s alongside Democrat Reverend Floyd Flake–a main character in my book Hoosier School Heist–but it is unknown if Childs still has a financial interest in Edison.
Back in 1998, when Edison was taking off, Childs donated at least$100,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee, according to Indiana campaign finance records.
John W. Childs was recently named by Business Insider as one of Wall Street’s top 16 political donors.
Whereas Childs gave Mike Pence just $50,000 for his reelection campaign, the Center for Responsive Politics finds that the private equity leader funneled over $4 million to outside funding groups in 2012 alone, with $1.1 million going to the Club for Growth, which proves what I have been saying for years—the Koch Brothers are only two of many people we have to be worried about in Indiana, and my book names many, many more.
Doug Martin is the author of Hoosier School Heist : How Corporations and Theocrats Stole Democracy From Public Education, a book being read in over 130 cities and towns and 78 Indiana counties, 23 states, and the District of Columbia.  A regular guest on national and Indiana radio talk shows such as Justin Oakley’s Just Let Me Teach and Amos Brown’s Afternoons with Amos, Dr. Martin’s research has been or will soon be featured in the Washington Post Answer Sheet , ABC’sNightline, and the Associated Press

Monday, July 6, 2015


By Doug Martin at Hoosier School Heist
(This is the first in a series of articles that will address the money behind Mike Pence’s quest to be reelected Governor of Indiana)
On June 25, just one day after the governor wrote a letter to president Obama saying Indiana would not comply with proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules against greenhouse omissions, Mike Pence’s campaign received a $10,000 gift from Marvin Gilliam of Bristol, Virginia.
Gilliam is the former VP of what was once one of the largest coal producers in America, Cumberland Resources, which was purchasedby Massey Energy in 2010.
In 2013, Gilliam and Koch Industries, along with other wealthy donors, financed the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, a longtime Republican and anti-LGBT climate denier who “used his position to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist.”
Owners of Koch Industries, a multinational oil and manufacturing corporation making money from toilet paper, fertilizer, and a long list of other things, the Koch Brothers are wealthy giants who have influenced everything from climate control to school board elections.
Marvin’s brother Richard, who founded Cumberland Resources and now directs the rare metals exploration company Endurance Gold Corp, gave Mike Pence’s campaign $25,000 in 2012.
Richard Gilliam is a major donor to Koch Brothers-supported groups and visited their secret retreat in June 2010 to discuss political strategy.
Richard and wife Leslie were listed as #33 in the top donors to Republican political campaigns, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, spending over $520,000 in 2010 alone.
Richard Gilliam also handed money to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super-PAC which spent over $104 million on the 2012 elections.
Another donor to Karl Rove’s PAC was Weaver Popcorn.  As I detail in Hoosier School Heist, Weaver Popcorn’s Mike Weaver was a chief Tony Bennet donor when the Republican ran for the Indiana supt. of public education slot in 2012.
Doug Martin is the author of Hoosier School Heist : How Corporations and Theocrats Stole Democracy From Public Education, a book being read in over 130 cities and towns and 78 Indiana counties, 23 states, and the District of Columbia.  A regular guest on national and Indiana radio talk shows such as Justin Oakley’s Just Let Me Teach and Amos Brown’s Afternoons with Amos, Dr. Martin’s research has been or will soon be featured in the Washington Post Answer Sheet , ABC’s Nightline, and theAssociated Press

Thursday, June 25, 2015


by Doug Martin at Hoosier School Heist TV
When word broke recently that Indiana Republican state representative Bill Fine’s daughter–a Mitch Daniels-pick and Mike Pence-reinstated state board of ed. member–may become the new co-chair of the state board to share powers with supt. of public instruction Glenda Ritz, many were outraged.  Bill Fine had, in fact, “backed the bill to create the position of vice chairwoman” to the state board of education, and his daughter seldom agrees with Ritz.
As I expose in my book Hoosier School Heist, the whole so-called school reform movement in Indiana (and elsewhere) is a billionaire’s playground to buy legislators to privatize public schools.   And crony capitalism and conflicts of interest are the rule and NOT the exception.
And Bill Fine has money from those involved in the takeover of Indiana public education.
In October 2012, Fine received $5,000 from the Hoosiers for Economic Growth PAC detailed in Hoosier School Heist (see page 5 in this PDF).  For years, this PAC has been backed by Walmart, Amway, hedge fund managers, and several wealthy Indiana businesspeople, among others in and out of Indiana.
Since the PAC changed its name to Hoosiers for Quality Education recently, it has given over $400,000 to Indiana Republican candidates and committees since 2014.  One of these is the Indiana House Republican Campaign Committee, Fine’s chief funder.
Out of the $275,000 the Walmart-Amway front-group American Federation for Children handed the Hoosiers for Quality Education PAC in 2014, $50,000 came on October 10 and $100,000 in September (seepage 4).
On October 22, 2014, the Hoosiers for Quality Education PAC gave the Indiana House Republican Campaign Committee $25,000 and another$25,000 on October 24, 2014.
The Indiana House Republican Campaign Committee handed Fine $7,100on October 24, 2014 and $13,500 on October 17, 2014.
Yes, it is obvious, Bill Fine is doing his best to do what the extremely wealthy want so that he can open up that campaign chest and sing.
Doug Martin is the author of Hoosier School Heist : How Corporations and Theocrats Stole Democracy From Public Education, a book being read in over 130 cities and towns and 78 Indiana counties, 23 states, and the District of Columbia.  A regular guest on national and Indiana radio talk shows such as Justin Oakley’s Just Let Me Teach and Amos Brown’s Afternoons with Amos, Dr. Martin’s research has been or will soon be featured in the Washington Post Answer Sheet , ABC’sNightline, and the Associated Press

Friday, June 5, 2015

Is a contested primary a problem in a democracy?

I'm intrigued by the widely held notion that a contested primary is a bad thing. Yet this is what we hear from many - particularly supporters of  John Gregg's candidacy, in race the for Indiana Governor.

I would suggest the opposite.  I can't imagine another scenario more likely to reinvigorate the Indiana Democratic Party.

With Scott Pelath opting out of the race, primary voters will have three very decent people representing arguably three distinct points of view.

In Gregg, we have a conservative, business friendly downstater.  In Karen Tallien, we have a NW Indiana progressive.  And in Glenda Ritz, we have a moderate Republican turned moderate Democrat with particular expertise in arguably the most significant responsibility the state has.

All three candidates have their ardent supporters, and I expect a very civil campaign season.  In the end, it should not be hard for supporters of the two who that don't make it to support the one that does.

I think we saw what happened the last time around - when the nominee was essentially anointed: The Dems had a lackluster candidate and a fairly disengaged electorate.  The result was a loss.

Contrast that with a highly engaged electorate in the Superintendent of Public Instruction race - which was a huge upset win.

Like in that race, the Republicans will field a highly damaged incumbent this time around.  And it's hard to see a better strategy for the Democrats than to pick the best of three good people to face him.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A young girl, gone..

Many years ago when Mary Tyler Moore was asked how she was able to deal with the painful losses in her life, she turned to the questioner and said simply,  "No one goes through life without pain."  I'm an older guy at this point, and I've certainly dealt with loss.  But the news I got today was really devastating.

We heard through a friend that a sixth grade girl took her own life recently.  She was someone who attended the same middle school as our daughters, and was in the same class as our daughters in 4th grade.

She was a beautiful girl:  Full of life, smart, engaging.  But she must not have known that.  Or?... We'll never know, of course.

I suppose my sorrow is deepened a bit more as I am a CASA who tries to help kids through some really tough times.  I realize that not being connected with her any more, I can't blame myself for what happened. Still, there isn't much I wouldn't have given up for the chance for one conversation with her.  I really liked her.  I think a lot of people did.

We lost a promising person.  There a couple things we can do, though.  First, the family needs help with burial expenses.  If you are so inclined, please use
this go fund me link.

But more broadly, try to make sure every young person you encounter knows that they matter. Cultivate the habit.  You can make a difference.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I'm disappointed in State Impact Indiana

State Impact Indiana is heard weekly on our local NPR station WVPE.  Their weekly report on education issues is normally quite informative, but this week was really disappointing.

In a piece entitled "Building Funds:  How Charter Schools Benefit From the Newest Budget" we heard a segment that might have even made the folks from ALEC blush.  It was a complete puff piece for charter school denizens.

The legislative action which appears to have inspired this segment (as reported by SII):

The new Charter and Innovation Network School grant program gives charter schools $500 extra per student in state funding  – but only if they’re considered “high-performing,” earning an A, B, or C on the state’s school grading scale. Schools that earn a D or F can qualify only if they can prove to the State Board of Education that they are performing as well as or better than the nearest non-charter public school.

I sort of get that if charter schools were willing to take on the most challenging students, the extra boost could be well placed.  Students with learning challenges and those from unstable homes require much more than, say our daughter, to succeed in their studies.  But the pattern is pretty clear that many of these institutions, once the head count has been achieved, are quite adept at determining that these kids are "unsuitable" - which leaves them to traditional public schools who can essentially turn no one away.  The charter will have already received the funding for these children, but it will be left to the traditional public school to educate him/her.

The statement also assumes that the state issued grades have some credibility.  Many folks would disagree.

Another glaring feature of this SII story is the absence of dissenting voices.  This as close as Rachel Morello gets:
Not everyone likes charter schools, or believes that they should be handed public funds, but others say the move could serve as a pretty big incentive to not only to draw more charter schools into Indiana, but to keep the schools that are already here – and their traditional counterparts – performing at a high level.
 Perhaps one of the most common arguments against extra funding for charter schools is that they don’t always perform better than the traditional schools they claim to supplement.

Rachel uses a passive aggressive approach to dismiss any contrarian view, and even offers us a straw man in the latter quote above.

I'll take this opportunity to clear up her misunderstanding.  It is obviously true that charter schools don't always perform better than the traditional schools they intend to supplant.  It is true by the evidence that in the aggregate they perform slightly less well than traditional public schools using the rubric of high stakes testing - which most charter school denizens seem to think of as sacred.

Additionally, most non-profit charters contract with for-profit service companies for building leasing and operations (oddly enough often with ties to the non-profit principals).  So a significant amout of charter schools are intended as cash cows for investors,  These are facts.  But in the piece:
“Say they came from an F district and they were progressing forward, they could be eligible for this grant also,” explains Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, the House budget author. “That’s the idea of charters – to use a different way, a different teaching method, have a different structure so that kids can excel in a different environment.”

Elsewhere, there is the claim that this funding doesn't diminish traditional public school funding. Come on, we're all grownups here.

It turns out that there aren't so many profound ideas no one has thought of before.  We know what works.  Small class sizes and exposure to creative arts of some kind.  For the most part, charters have been enamored with the "no excuses" model.  And teaching to the test.  Perhaps the subject of this article has something else in mind.

But should we we rise in support that she get a 5 million dollar loan financed by us to launch her dream?  Perhaps her idea is good, but one person can't run anything like what she has in mind, and we have no idea who she has (if anyone) to make her dream operational.

Here is some of the reality of charter schools, and their champions.   It should make us more cautious.

Monday, October 20, 2014

It should be Stan Wruble for the "Riley" District

In terms of the quality of school board candidates in the Second District of South Bend, it is very nearly an embarrassment of riches.

Carolyn Peterson is a retired teacher and former President of our local National Education Association chapter.  She has been a tireless advocate for quality public education.

Oletha Jones is the local Education Chair for our NAACP chapter.  Ms. Jones has been a valuable asset to our community in that she tasks us to focus on issues which are not often discussed and not easy to solve.

Stan Wruble was appointed by the Board to complete the term of the late John Stancati.

Stan grew up on the south side of South Bend, attending SBCSC schools before graduating from the "old" Riley in 1990. His daughter is a First Grader in the South Bend School Corporation. Though he had other opportunities, he chose to settle here.

 As a citizen, Stan feels it's important to give back to the community. In addition to the time consuming duties of school board trustee, he offers his expertise in the law to benefit others - serving as a Public Defender for folks who can't afford the services of paid counsel, and as Adjunct Professor at Notre Dame's Law School (of which he is a graduate).

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Stan a bit over the last few months.  He seeks and values input from the community.  He’s wisely suspicious of the quick fix schemes touted by the so-called education reformers.  He knows that where we want to go will take time and great effort.

Stan has shown good judgment and a tireless work ethic as a Board member.  For me, Stan is the man.