Corporate takeover of Indiana public education illustrated by new documentary
Rise Above The Mark encouraging equal education for all
By Rick Yencer
ANDERSON, INDIANA (NEWS) - The 2011 school reform movement supported by Republican lawmakers and then Gov. Mitch Daniels was no more than sham to let corporate interests dismantle traditional public educations, according to a group of experts.
Dr. Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community Schools, proclaimed how public education is the great equalizers as he presented a documentary called Rise Above the Mark to a group of teachers and parents at Anderson High School.
Education professionals spent two years developing the film that shows the decline in money and support for public education in favor of charter schools, choice and vouchers for education provided by faith and other private interests.
And author Doug Martin, a college professor, offered his expose called Hoosier School Heist that documents money from big corporations like Walmart and Amway along with education foundations representing Bill Gates and Milton Friedman promoting lawmakers and laws that fostered charter schools and public money to fund them.
The film, narrated by actor Peter Coyote, took a look at teachers who retired as teacher evaluations were based on student performance and funding was cut from public education.
And it painted the picture of deceit by former school superintendent Tony Bennett who fostered privatization of schools and later found cheating on scores for a private school operator who donated to Republican causes and candidates.
Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, defeated Bennett in 2012 and has faced an uphill battle with current Republican Gov. Mike Pence who along with Republican lawmakers tried to usurp Ritz's authority.
The film also pointed to model public education systems like in Finland that emphasizes personal instruction, does no use standardized tests and only has public schools.
Killion, whose school system lost nearly $1 million in funding because tax dollars went to support private schools, said the public did not have a clue about what had been done to public schools in recent years.
Lawmakers should be funding early childhood education and giving more local control to school officials, Killion said, to improve education for students.
The crowd watching the documentary was mainly teachers, labor leaders and school administrators While Republican lawmakers and representatives of private schools were invited to join the discussion, none attended.
The film was critical of standardized testing like iRead for third graders besides reduced funding at the expense of supporting charter and other private schools.
Martin offered evidence of money passing from big corporations and billionaire foundations funneling means to Bennett and others supporting school vouchers and choice.
Diane Ravitch, a former U.S.assistant secretary of education found Martin's work truly frightening about the the corporate reform takeover of public education.
Killion said the movie took nearly two years to produce and had been taken around to Fort Wayne, West Lafayette and other communities since last winter. He hoped it would bring discussion to the issue of public education.