Who Is In Charge

Duncan cites Indiana’s “deep dysfunction” in interview

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and National Institute for Early Education Research Co-Director Steven Barnett talk about early childhood education in Washington, D.C., in 2012. (Mikhail Zinshteyn/Education Writers Association)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sounds worried about what’s going on with education in Indiana.

“Indiana has some very, very deep dysfunction right now,” Duncan said Thursday, “some fundamental challenges that I hope for the sake of kids that they can work through.”

Duncan made the statement in response to a question about whether Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver could be placed in jeopardy by rising opposition to Common Core academic standards.

In an interview with reporters in Washington, Duncan was critical of Indiana when asked about whether the state would continue to be released from some of the sanctions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Indiana was one of several states granted a waiver partly on condition that it adopt Common Core academic standards. But lawmakers now appear poised to void Common Core and require new standards. Duncan said he would decide on continued waivers for Indiana and other states that drop the Common Core on a “case by case” basis.

“There are some pretty deep issues there in Indiana I hope they can work through and I hope they can work through together,” Duncan said. “That kind of dysfunction is not good for moving education forward. When adults fight, kids lose.”

Indiana is one of several states that asked Duncan for an NCLB waiver, seeking to be judged on a broader set of criteria than the law’s narrow focus on rapidly increasing standardized test scores. The state’s agreement with the federal government granted release from sanctions. NCLB could have forced radical changes, including firing principals and teachers, at many schools across the state in return for instituting “college and career ready” standards, among other things. Indiana proposed following the Common Core to meet that requirement.

But on Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced a bill that would dump the Common Core, replacing it with new standards in July.

A recording of Duncan’s comments, posted online by Education Week, show he did not get everything correct when speaking about Indiana. More than once he incorrectly said he thought Gov. Mike Pence and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz were suing each other. Ritz has clashed with Pence and the Indiana State Board of Education over who controls the state’s education policy.

The only lawsuit was filed by Ritz against the state board in October. Ritz’s suit alleged board members violated state transparency laws by meeting in secret when they crafted a letter to legislators over email. The suit was dismissed because Ritz failed to get consent from Attorney General Greg Zoeller before filing it.

But Duncan was right that there have been deep disagreements over education in the Hoosier state. In contrast to Indiana, he mentioned Tennessee and Hawaii — states he said demonstrate strong alignment between the governor and state superintendent, even when they are from different parties.

Neither Pence or Ritz responded to request for comment.



Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”