I am a big fan of charter schools. I like them because of the innovation they can bring to a classroom, because they give parents choices, they give teachers the freedom to teach and most importantly, when they don't work, they get closed down. Looking at the data at the Indianapolis Project School, I have a hard time seeing how this place is staying open.
To get you up to speed on this debate, the Project School, located at 22nd and College is a charter school that offers a "holistic" approach to education. According to its mission statement, "The vision of the Project School is to eliminate the predictive value of race, class, gender and special capacities on student success in our school and in our communities by working together with families and community to ensure each child's success." Noble goals, but unfortunately, while the spirit is willing, the flesh just might be too weak to do the job.
According to the latest round of ISTEP Test scores less than 29 percent of students passed both the English and Language Arts portion of the exam. Here is a breakdown by grade.
3rd Grade – 21.2 %.
4th Grade – 57.9 %
5th Grade – 29.2 %
6th Grade – 31.3 %.
7th Grade – 10.5 %.
8th Grade – 30%.
No one in their right mind could possibly think that 90% of a school's 7th graders failing English and math is a good thing.
I also wanted to check and make sure that the Project School just wasn't having a bad year and the poor test results weren't just a blip on the radar screen. So I went back and looked at ISTEP test results from previous years. Here's what I found.
2012 – 28.9% passed English & Math; 35.4% passed Math; 43.8 % passed English
2011 – 29.2% passed English & Math; 33.9% passed Math; 54.9% passed English
2010 – 21.1% passed English & Math; 26.7% passed Math; 46.7% passed English
2009 – 14.8% passed English & Math; 18% passed Math; 39.3% passed English
2008 – 29.8% passed English & Math; 38.8% passed Math; 40.3% passed English
And when you break the school down by racial demographics the results are even more tragic. While 72% of white students passed English and Math on ISTEP, only 16.3% of black students did. And while 72.4% of students not on free and reduced lunch passed the English and Math portion of ISTEP, only 13.5% of student on free and reduced lunch did. I also went and looked at past school years, the average pass rate at the Project School for Black students was 17% and for white students it was 49.3%. Free and reduced lunch students – 19.35%; and for non free and reduced lunch the pass rate was 40.25%.
I fully understand the Project School serves what I would likely label "difficult populations" but the fact over the past several years the test scores of black and poor students can barely crack the 20% mark tells me that something is not working and either the school needs to be shut down or new management needs to be brought in to run the place. Otherwise, the Project School may as well be an IPS School.
Normally when I sit down to write my weekly NUVO column, I have no trouble coming up with some topic of local interest to pontificate about, until now.I am sitting down at my laptop trying to come up with some kind of commentary on the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo and this well is dry.
I mean I'm used to my annual routine of dressing up in my black fitted T-shirt and slacks, working the door at Nicky Blaine's and then taking a walk between martinis and dodging bullets while watching foul-mouthed teenagers who decided clothing was optional run around and try to engage in the same feral breeding that brought them here.Not this year, I got nothing.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indiana Black Expo and 10-Point Coalition all did a really great job making sure last Saturday night was safe and uneventful.By my last count there were less than a dozen arrests, what kind of Black Expo is that?The most drama I got to witness was some idiot who decided to put his gun in his lap while driving not thinking that IMPD has spotters in the parking garages with high-powered equipment that can see inside your vehicle if you have your windows down.That person was arrested, which they should have been based on stupidity alone.
But other than that, nothing, folks.The management at Circle Center Mall started clearing the kids out between 8 and 8:30 p.m.The cops kept the pedestrian traffic moving.They closed off streets to avoid some the cruising that takes places and helps instigate trouble.There was strict enforcement of curfew and I actually saw a lot more of two things that I normally don't see on that second Saturday, parents and white people; a clear sign that things were normal. According to IMPD, there were 14 arrests and 15 curfew violations.Last year on the same Saturday night there were 26 arrests and only five curfew violations.
It also might have had something to with the earlier measures law enforcement had taken to avoid problems caused by unsupervised youth such as approaching the homes of know gang members and "encouraging" them to stay home. Letters were also sent to the homes of public housing tenants warning them that if their kids get in trouble, they could lose their housing subsidy.
I guess if I did have a criticism of the event it's that a lot of my friends who are downtown business owners or restaurant managers took it on the chin financially, doing only about a quarter to half of the business that they normally do.There has got to be a way for Indiana Black Expo to do a better job with the downtown merchants by encouraging its thousands of attendees to patronize those establishments. At the very least they can help build up enough business during the week so that if business drops off on Saturday, it's not as detrimental.
But other than that, it was a pretty uneventful Saturday night and I had to struggle to write this column.However, when I think about what happened back in 2010, when an idiot with a gun decided to start shooting and injured more than a half a dozen people, I guess writing about nothing really isn't all that bad.Hopefully we can try this again next year.
I am not a big sports person, but I can appreciate half-time reports because they give me a pretty good synopsis of what I've missed and they also let me know what to pay attention to for the rest of the game.So if you don't mind me taking a page out of the NFL playbook, I'd like to give you a half-time report of what's been going on with your city-county government.
What They've Done
- Smoking Ban – Although I am not a big fan of smoking bans from a philosophical perspective, the Mayor and Council got this passed.
What They're Doing
TIF District - The Council is looking at restructuring the way the city does TIF districts. For you non-government geeks a TIF district is a tax-increment financing district. The districts use money from the increased assessed value in property within the district to pay for economic development projects. Debate continues about how long TIFs should be allowed to exist and how they should be created. The Council has put together a recommendation, but the Mayor's office is not crazy about it.
Same-sex domestic partner benefits - The Council is putting together a proposal that would give city benefits to same-sex and unmarried couples. The problem is verification and safeguarding against two people who are roommates trying to scam the city versus two people who are true domestic partners. The other catch is a number of councilors are skeptical about giving benefits to unmarried opposite sex couples because they have the option of getting married.
What They Didn't Do
- Redistricting — The Democrat's efforts to redo the Mayor's redistricting proposal fell flat. They failed to override a mayoral veto of the new maps. There is talk of legal challenge; the problem is finding a law firm to do it and the money to finance the litigation.
What They Still Have to Do
- The budget — Indianapolis is looking at closing a $47 million budget shortfall. Note: That number was north of $70 million before the recent discovery of the state's accounting error that shortchanged local governments. That revenue correction dropped the budget squeeze by a few million bucks. The big problem weighing on expenditures involves public safety. The sheriff has been complaining about having to eat the costs of inmate health care and wants to be able to bill that amount back to the arresting agencies. He also suggests that his lower-paid staff could handle traffic patrol more cost effectively than higher-paid IMPD officers. The city is cool to that idea.
One other item of note:
- The council has cancelled scores of committee meetings this year resulting in a backlog of proposals on the councilors' plates.A recent study showed the following
- January - 5 meetings cancelled 11
were scheduled (45.46%)
February - 2 meetings cancelled 13 scheduled. (15.39%)
March - 2 meetings cancelled 11 scheduled. (18.19%)
April - 1 cancelled - 11 scheduled. (9.09%)
May - 3 cancelled - 8 scheduled. (37.5%)
June - 9 cancelled - 11 scheduled. (81.82%)
Don't get me wrong, I am not a big fan of unnecessary government meetings, but this seems a little on the high side.Of course, as the old saying goes, government that governs least tends to govern best.I guess we'll know at the end of the year.
When I came to Indianapolis nearly eight years ago to do talk radio, one of the first topics we discussed was whether the city needed to have Indiana Black Expo. I had a number of people call in and tell me there was no "white expo" so why should there be a black one? I immediately reminded them that there were several white expos in the city, they were called the State Fair, Indy 500 and the Brickyard. I offered to give more examples, but usually the callers would hang up. For the ones that stuck around I would cite things like Italian Fest, Greekfest and a number of other ethnic organizations that host activities and no one seems to have an issue.
I always tell people if you look at the term "black" and apply it more as an ethnic group than a race, the Indiana Black Expo makes perfect sense. So with that said, I recommend giving it a try. You may not think there's a lot that can benefit you if you are a melanin-deficient individual, but there is.
Are you looking for a job? Or know someone who is looking for gainful employment? Then you might want to check out the job fair on Thursday, July 19. Got concerns about your health or just need a quick check of your blood pressure or cholesterol? There is a health fair on Friday, July 20. If education is a major concern, one of the themes this year is education and Expo is hosting a major education conference. IBE is also hosting a number of events with the City of Indianapolis and State of Indiana to discuss business opportunities with both entities. Education, jobs, health, these seem like pretty universal concerns to me. And there are a ton of other events to appeal to just about everyone.
For those of you still not quite convinced because you are concerned about your "safety," need I remind you that IMPD, the 10-Point Coalition and a number of organizations work together to keep the mischief down to a bare minimum, specifically on that second Saturday night of Expo where trouble is likely to rear its annoying head. IMPD is planning strict curfew enforcement, which, by the way, is 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday for people 14-years-old and under, 1 a.m. for 15-17-years old. I agree that those may seem a little late, but until the law changes, that is the universe we live in and that is what law enforcement is going to enforce.
I strongly recommend you give Indiana Black Expo a try this year, if you haven't already. Don't let the "Black" part imply that you are not welcome. Because there is also the word "Indiana" which comes before "Black" which means all Hoosiers are welcome. And how is this for icing on the cake? I'll be down there just about every day either doing interviews, conducting a seminar or my personal favorite, working the door at Nicky Blaine's on that second Saturday night engaging in some serious people watching.
Hope to see you there.
As a conservative-libertarian leaning political pundit, I am now convinced more than ever that it is high time in this country for a single-payer health care system. Before you go into cardiac arrest, you might want to read the rest of this.
You know the Supreme Court upheld most of the President's health care plan last week, I think the results will be horrible for Indiana because more people on Medicaid will put more pressure on the state budget to an estimated tune of at least $2 billion. The excise tax on medical devices will likely have a negative impact on places like Warsaw where the medical device sector is key to that region's economy. And throw in the fact that more people will be on a government program just can't be a good thing. So what's a pundit to do? Advocate a single-payer health care system, with the single-payer being you, the individual, who goes out and gets their own health insurance. We can get there by ending employer-provided health insurance.
Most of us get coverage through our jobs and if you have no job, odds are you don't have insurance. And health-care costs eat up a significant portion of a business's budget. If you eliminate the break, there really isn't a reason for an employer to provide insurance and they will start dropping employees like a rock. The plus side of this is that health-care costs will also drop. Part of the problem with our health-care system is no one knows how much anything costs because a third party is picking up the tab. This is a recipe for disaster.
And I don't believe employers dropping insurance will lead to fewer insured. That free market is an odd thing. You will be amazed at how many companies will pop up providing insurance. And since businesses no longer have the expense they can actually hire more people. As a small business owner I constantly hear stories from people who want to bring people on board full-time but can't afford to, primarily because of health-care costs.And when we are directly responsible for paying for our own health care, we tend to take better care of ourselves. By the way, you already buy your own car insurance, homeowner's insurance and life insurance.
And for those of you wondering about those who really can't afford insurance, I don't see any reason why states can't adopt a moderate plan where the working poor, for a small fee, can purchase a basic, bare bones plan.And there are some other things that can be done like allow insurance to be sold across state lines. Then, however, insurance companies would have to register in states where they sell their products and we could eliminate mandates on what health insurance providers must cover. This makes a lot more sense in the 21st Century than more taxes and more government regulation.