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Topic: The Story of Indianapolis, Destroy Public Education - DPE
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
The Story of Indianapolis, Destroy Public Education - DPE
Posted: Jul 23, 2017 3:10 PM
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From Diane Ravitch's blog - A site to discuss better education for
all, Sunday, July 23,2017. SEE
A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis
and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

By Diane Ravitch

This very important post was written for this blog by Jim Scheurich
on behalf of himself, Gayle Cosby, and Nathanial Williams, who are
identified in the text. They are experienced in the school politics
of Indianapolis, a city whose school system is being systematically
dismantled and privatized. They have been active in the fight against
what they call the DPE (Destroy Public Education) model in their
city. Their experience and insights are extremely informative,
especially their recognition that the DPE movement is not limited to
Indianapolis; it has gone national. Indianapolis is only one of its
targets. The business community, civic leaders, political leaders,
DFER, the Mind Trust, and Stand for Children have joined together to
Destroy Public Education. As they attack democratic institutions,
they falsely claim that "it is all about the kids" and they claim
they are advancing civil rights. Instead, it is about money and power
and gentrification. As the paper points out, it used to be possible
to run for the IPS school board with less than $5,000. Since the DPE
crowd arrived, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to try for a
seat on the local school board. Consequently, the DPE crowd has
bought control of IPS.

Think National, Fight Local:

Fighting a National Neoliberal "Destroy Public Education" Model at
the Local Level

By Jim Scheurich, Gayle Cosby, and Nathanial Williams
Indianapolis, Indiana, Community & University Activists

The three of us have been collaboratively fighting the national
neoliberal "Destroy Public Education" (DPE) model in Indianapolis,
Indiana, for several years (we dislike calling it a "reform" model
given the generally positive connotations of that word that obscure
the truth about these efforts).

Gayle was an Indianapolis Public School (IPS) school board member
from 2012-2016. She was initially funded to win her board seat by the
local DPE initiative in 2012, but she soon realized what they were up
to and turned into a vocal critic, publically speaking and organizing
against them. Also, she is now an Urban Education Studies (UES)
second year doctoral student at Indiana University - Indianapolis
(IUPUI). Nathanial "Nate" Williams is a long time Indianapolis
activist, starting as a Black Student Union activist in his
undergraduate years at the same university. He graduated with his
doctorate from the same UES doctoral program in 2015 and became a
professor at Knox College in Illinois, though still maintaining his
activism in Indianapolis as much as possible. I, Jim Scheurich, am a
professor who came to Indianapolis in 2012 to coordinate the UES
program after having been an educational leadership professor at
Texas A&M for eight years and at the University of Texas at Austin
for twelve years.

The three of us began meeting to share data and information a couple
of years ago. It became clear that the local DPE's deceptive
messaging needed to be publically critiqued. The two "non-profit"
organizations doing most of the DPE work in our community are the
Mind Trust, which works to incubate and fund new charter school ideas
and to facilitate partnerships with the Indianapolis Public Schools
(IPS), and Stand for Children, a national organization headquartered
in Oregon and working to dupe parents into loving the "choice" model
or, as we call it, the DPE model in 11 states. In order to share this
critique with the community, we began doing public forums and using
social media.

However, what we want to focus on here is the national "model" that
is being applied in Indianapolis. While Nate and Gayle began to "see"
this early on, our understanding of it has only gotten stronger. We
now believe there are a range of tactics or elements implemented
across all the cities where the DPE model is being applied. We are
not saying there is one set of tactics or elements (organizations,
policy, rhetoric, etc) that is being applied everywhere, overseen in
some tightly controlled way by one "headquarters" entity. While such
a dominant, controlling entity may exist, we do not know about it.
Probably the closest to such an organization is the Center for
Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), located at the University of
Washington, as they list 39 cities (though we believe there are more
following mainly the same "model") and their characteristics
( (you have to
click on "View Network Overview" to see all 39.)

The point to remember with all of the "model" tactics or elements is
that they all converge on destroying traditional public education and
privatizing and profitizing public education, and they often do so in
a way that local people do not fully comprehend because of the slick
marketing and messaging. Indeed, their public relations efforts are
usually good to excellent, which commonly includes the appropriation
of civil rights and community-oriented language.

Here, then, is our initial list of the "model" tactics or elements
with some brief discussion on each, particularly in reference to
Indianapolis. But one effort we really need is for activist
researchers, community or university based, to send us your data from
as many cities as possible. We need local community and university
researchers to collaborate in developing the data from each
individual city, and then we will synthesize all that data to further
define and verify our contention that there is a national model,
however decentralized in application. We will return to this point
after our list.

1. Increasing integration of traditional public schools and charter
schools, but with a favoring of charter schools. Here in
Indianapolis, there is a step by step effort to enhance charters and
dismantle the traditional district. Charters often get cozy deals
from the school district that benefit them with dollars, busing,
support, and students, while traditional schools serving the same
student populations are squeezed financially and closed. Also, there
has been the development of measures to have charters created by the
district, which, in Indianapolis, are called "innovation" schools (we
will cover this further below).

2. Usually a single funding conduit to which national and local
wealthy, white individuals and organizations can contribute for the
local DPE initiatives. This is especially useful for huge increases
in the funding provided for school board elections. This conduit
usually has a 501c4 to hide the sources and expenditures of the
funds. Stand for Children plays that role here, as well as in
Nashville, where they got a hand slap for violating local election
In addition, Stand for Children is meeting some resistance in Denver
and Chicago school board elections. Also, according to grassroots and
university activists, the Skillman Foundation is playing a similar
role in Detroit.

3. Local and national wealthy, white, conservative collaboration.
Collaboration between local white, wealthy conservative power elite
and national white, wealthy conservative (sometimes rightwing) power
elite. Here in Indianapolis, this includes Chamber of Commerce, Board
of Realtors, and Lilly. Nationally, it often includes Gates, Dell,
the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Bradley Foundation, the
Friedman Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the Walton family,
or billionaire oligarchs as some would suggest.

4. Huge infusion of new dollars into school board elections. A huge
increase in dollars is devoted to getting DPE-supported candidates
elected to the school board, most of which flows through the single
funding conduit discussed above. This increase in funding is
phenomenal in Indianapolis. Before DPE became operational in
Indianapolis, a local citizen could win a school board election with
~$5,000. Starting in 2012, Stand for Children was spending literally
hundreds of thousands per candidate for each election and has spent
over $1.5 million for all their candidates over the past three
elections. As a result, Stand for Children has funded the campaigns
of six of the seven current IPS board members, and it shows in their
voting records.

5. Development of a network of local organizations or affiliates that
all collaborate closely on the same local agenda. In Indianapolis,
these include Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform (a
cover for so-called members of the Democratic Party to support DPE;
in 8 cities), Teach for America, Teach Plus, local charter schools,
the Indianapolis Mayor's office, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. The
network will create some new organizations for a specific purpose,
and then that organization, having served its purpose, will
disappear. For example, Democrats for Education Reform operated in
Indiana until the first wave of DPE candidates were elected in 2012.
It then mysteriously ceased to exist, after contributing thousands of
dollars to candidates. While the Mind Trust does have a diagram of
its partners on its website, most local people do not know that a
whole range of organizations are closely collaborating on the same

6. Teach for America (and all other instant-teacher-certification
programs) and Teach Plus are integral parts of the DPE "model" agenda
almost everywhere, whether they bear the same organizational name or
work under a different name. These types of organizations provide new
(typically short term), low salary teachers, especially for charters
and especially to bust teacher unions and undermine university-based
teacher preparation programs. Teach Plus is an organization that
began in Boston and was incubated by the Indianapolis-based Mind
Trust. It works by taking new teachers and paying them a stipend to
research educational issues (of the pro-DPE variety) and teaching
them to lobby at the statehouse for those issues. Together, they have
funding support from the same funding sources as DPE initiatives

7. Innovations Schools. So-called "Innovation" schools are being set
up across the country. For us here in Indianapolis, this is a way to
set up charters within the school district. The school board signs a
contract with an organization to run a charter within the district.
That organization then has its own board, which has oversight over
all aspects of the school. The Indianapolis School Board no longer
has any control over the school, except for being able to get out of
the contract if performance requirements are not met. In addition,
that school can pay any charter management organization or its own
organization whatever it wants. Thus, this within the district
charter school is no longer under the control of the district and is
now a source of profit for the "non-profit" organization, typically
seen in the form of over-inflated CEO salaries at the top of the
charter organization. Provocatively, the state legislation that made
this possible comes from ALEC (the right wing American Legislative
Exchange Council that has led the takeover of state government by the
right wing with funding from the Koch Brothers and other billionaire
oligarchs). ALEC calls this "The Innovation Schools and School
Districts Act."
This is a good example of an initiative that looks local, but was
actually created nationally.

8. Unified enrollment. This is a CRPE term
( What it basically
means is an online system through which parents can choose among both
charters and district traditional schools. This sounds parent and
student oriented, but it further cements charters and traditional
schools into one so-called "choice" system, allows for manipulation
of the racial and class make up of schools to serve gentrification,
and often devolves into parents bidding for seats in the "best"
schools. (We could offer more critique of this system, but no space
for that here.) In Indianapolis, we do not have a fully developed
one, but we are on our way with Enroll Indy. We believe this idea
originated in New Orleans' all charter district, where it is called
EnrollNOLA. Los Angeles is considering it, but fighting over whether
to include or exclude charter schools
Other cities that have or are considering this are Baltimore, Camden,
Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Memphis, New York
City, Neward, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, Rochester, San
Antonio, and Washington, DC-a regular roll call of DPE cities

9. Support for gentrification. Though many of the organizations
involved in DPE vehemently state that one of their primary aims is
integrated schools and equitable opportunities for all students, this
is simply not the case. Indianapolis (and many other cities) are in
various stages of gentrification of the inner city core. Population
migration combined with school choice and, in some cases, unified
enrollment (though not fully implemented here yet) has resulted in
significant and intended racial isolation of white students in the
district. Locally this is evidenced by the Indianapolis Mayor's
Office Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity (or, NEO) plan, which
is an educational reform (DPE) plan developed in hopes of raising the
tax base in the inner city of Indianapolis (see:
In the case of IPS, this gentrification, a la school choice, has left
us with "highly desirable" magnet schools where a majority of the
students are white. This conflation of "white" and "high performing"
or "highly desirable" has led to further segregation of our public
school students.

10. Business as best model for schooling. In Indianapolis, the Mind
Trust and Stand for Children persistently claim that a business model
is the best model for how to do schooling. However, particularly over
the past decade or two, we now have extensive research in the U.S.
and across the world as to the characteristics of schools that serve
all children well, but there is no education research we know of that
supports a business model as the best model for high quality
schooling that serves all students well.
In your city, you may have some of the same elements of the DPE and
some different than the ones in Indianapolis. Our point is that there
is a kind of national menu of elements and tactics that local DPE
initiatives are utilizing, and local folks do not usually know this.
Indeed, our experience is that most local folks do not even know that
the same kinds of neoliberal DPE efforts are being used in other

Accordingly, we think it is critical that local people understand the
national nature of what is occurring. We also think it is critical
that those of us paying attention to the national level are
communicating about this national menu of elements. Locally, one of
the messages we are trying to communicate is that what we are
fighting is a national "model," not a locally derived one, as is
typically communicated to the local community. This is especially
important because our local DPE effort, led by the Mind Trust-Stand
for Children Network, deceptively tries to portray itself as a local
community effort dedicated to the local community.

To further our efforts to fight this anti-democratic, anti-community
local-national effort to privatize and profitize public schools, we
are asking other local communities to check this menu list of tactics
and elements we have offered. Let us know which ones we have named
that you have and which ones you have that we have not listed. If
folks will do this, we can build a national data base that can be
shared. Just send us the numbers for the ones you have, like you
might have in your city #'s 1, 2, 4, 6, and 10, and then tell us a
little about ones you have that we do not have listed here. Please
send all such communications to Jim Scheurich at

Jerry P. Becker
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Services
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
625 Wham Drive / MC 4610
Carbondale, Illinois 62901

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