News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 5, 2014

Author fights for public education with book, ‘Hoosier School Heist’

Author Doug Martin says that the purpose for his book, “Hoosier School Heist,” is to plant seeds of awareness about how the school privatization phenomenon is negatively impacting public education in Indiana.

“People are just beginning to wake up,” said Martin, a rural Terre Haute resident and behavioral aide at McLean High School, In all likelihood, according to a press release, Martin is Indiana’s loudest and most knowledgeable critic of for-profit charter schools and school vouchers.  

“Public awareness is crucial,” Martin said, “because Indiana is on the forefront of the damaging changes school privatization could bring all across the United States to public education. … For example, currently, Indiana’s 8th graders in public schools are now performing at world class levels in several subject areas.  This is being jeopardized by the charter school movement.”

Martin has become much in demand as a speaker at events around Indiana discussing the condition of the Hoosier state’s education and the impact of charter schools. On Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m., he will be at the Vigo County Public Library’s “Friends of the Library Book Sale” signing copies of his book in the lobby.

His next public appearance in Terre Haute will be at the Tilson Auditorium on the ISU campus, where at 8 p.m. on June 13 he will be the Ringmaster at the Nancy Sauer School of Theatrical Dancing’s 60th Anniversary Dance Circus. Martin’s books will be available to the public during the show.  

“My interest in charter schools was aroused in 2010 when I began reading articles by Karen Francisco and others in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette about Dennis Bakke’s Imagine Schools,” Martin said. “Bakke runs one of the biggest for-profit charter school companies in the country. He’s a millionaire. While Mitch Daniels was on the board of the Indianapolis Power and Light Company in 2001, Bakke’s AES Corporation merged with IPALCO in what became known as Indiana’s Enron scandal.”

After reading the Journal-Gazette articles, Martin began researching charter schools’ impact on education. What bothered him most during his investigation was how out-of-state wealthy people and educational corporations’ contributions to politicians can affect politicians’ attitude toward these schools.  

Being an educator himself with a doctorate in 19th century American literature from Oklahoma State University, Martin decided to write a book on the changes currently under way in Indiana. Martin had already published “A Study of Walt Whitman’s Mimetic Prosody” (Edwin Mellen 2004), but “Hoosier School Heist” would be an entirely new kind of writing adventure. Well-researched and documented, it focuses on the impact of charter schools and school vouchers.  

“Hoosier School Heist” covers the gamut of school privatization history from the 1950s when school vouchers were established in Virginia by white segregationists who wanted to avoid school integration to the 1970s.

The book continues the charter school story through the recent grade fixing controversy of Indiana Secretary of Education and charter school advocate Tony Bennett.

“Hoosier School Heist” is “one of the most frightening works I have read about the corporate reform takeover of public education,” said Diane Ravitch, former U.S. assistant secretary of education and a research professor of education at New York University.

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