State officials kicked off Indiana Learns, a federally funded tutoring program, in August, declaring it a “bold and innovative” way to help students catch up on learning they missed during the pandemic. They followed up this month with a news release, urging families to enroll.
Seana Murphy, Indiana Learns senior director, said last week that the program was off to a strong start with an initial focus on lining up tutors and getting support from schools. Since Indiana Learns went live Oct. 15, she said, over 200 students have signed up. That’s less than 1% of the eligible 57,000 public, charter and private school students.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Murphy said in a written response to questions. “Families and schools are excited that students have the opportunity to access funds for additional math and English language arts support.”
It’s no secret that the backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion has been strongest in suburban school districts that are growing more racially diverse. We’ve seen that across the country, and we saw it this year in Indiana, where some school board candidates campaigned against “critical race theory.”
It probably shouldn’t be surprising. The stereotype of suburbs is that they are largely white, middle-class and comfortable. Some people, certainly, moved there for those qualities. As suburbs become more Black and Brown, it’s reflected in the schools, which may cause some discomfort.
School board elections are the quintessential local elections. In most states, including Indiana, they are nonpartisan. Voters make their choices based on the pros and cons of candidates, not parties. Issues matter, but candidates with strong networks of friends and supporters are likely to do well.
That makes it hard to draw conclusions from the school board elections that took place across the state last week. But it appears that conservative culture warriors didn’t do as well as they had hoped.
In some school districts, candidates vowed to take on “critical race theory” and “wokeness” in the schools. Those folks won and now have a majority in Hamilton Southeastern, an affluent suburban district north of Indianapolis where white parents protested the hiring of the district’s first Black superintendent last year. In the New Albany-Floyd County district, two candidates backed by Liberty Defense, a PAC that supports Republicans, were among four winners.
Eight Indiana school districts asked their voters to approve more funding for education in Tuesday’s election. Four were successful and four weren’t. A quick look suggests what’s wrong with Indiana’s philosophy of relying on local property tax referendums to give schools the money they need.
The four districts where referendums were approved were Southwest Allen County Schools in the Fort Wayne suburbs; Westfield-Washington Schools in the northside Indianapolis suburbs; Monroe County Community Schools in Bloomington; and Southern Wells Schools in northeastern Indiana.
The districts where referendums failed were rural or small-town districts: Brown County Community Schools, Delphi Community Schools, Medora Community Schools and Wabash County Schools.
Indiana Republicans are spending several million dollars to protect and extend their supermajority status in the state House and Senate in Tuesday’s election. If they succeed, they may want to thank a California billionaire. One who’s usually described as a liberal Democrat.
Reed Hastings is a CEO of Netflix. Politically, he’s known for donating to Democratic politicians, nationally and in California. Netflix supports liberal causes, like abortion rights. But in Indiana, his campaign contributions go almost entirely to Republicans, who trample on his supposed principles.
It’s possible Hastings has given more money to the Indiana House and Senate GOP campaigns than any other individual in the past couple of years. Not directly. The money is funneled through a political action committee called Hoosiers for Great Public Schools. The PAC, headed by former Democratic Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, was founded in 2020 to promote charter schools.