Indiana's "reformist" Politics
Indiana's legislature is run by a supermajority of Republicans. The Hoosier state is nearly all "red" and has only gone for a Democratic presidential candidate twice in the last 75 years (1964 and 2008).
The supermajority legislature and the Republican appointed State Board of Education has been attacking public education, public school teachers, and teachers unions regularly and in 2011, passed laws to eliminate teacher seniority rights, do away with tenure (due process) for teachers, stop paying teachers for extra education, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and restrict collective bargaining rights to money issues (salary, insurance).
The General Assembly is so solidly and heavily Republican that when they talk about "compromise" they're talking about the House Republicans compromising with the Senate Republicans. Democrats are apparently only there to delay the inevitable through objections and speeches. Rational discourse between parties is met with Republicans figuratively putting their hands over their ears and mumbling, "I can't hear you."
It won't get any better either. The governor and his lackeys in the legislature have been bought and sealed by the Koch Brothers and ALEC. Is there hope that enough people might cross party lines and vote some of the rascals out" Not likely. Most of the citizenry, outside of a couple of major cities, are life-long, "my-daddy-was-a-Republican-so-I'm-a-Republican-too" Republicans.
[There are some who are more thoughtful, of course. But they continue to vote Republican even if they disagree on education issues, because of traditional Republican issues like abortion and GLBT rights.]
Indiana Democrats try their best, but the odds are not in their favor. As long as Republicans keep getting elected then the leadership (Bob Behning and Brian Bosma in the House, and David Long and Dennis Kruse in the Senate) will continue to do what they can to keep the campaign dollars coming from "reformers."
THE MISUSE OF TESTING
Guest column: Schools should be about children
This excerpt from a behind-a-pay-wall article was written by a Bloomington, IN mom. In it she calls out the state testing program for all the damage it has done. Grading schools, labeling children, and evaluating teachers is a waste of time and just one more piece of the ALEC plan to completely privatize public education.
(Bloomington area readers, the author suggests you subscribe to your local newspaper.)
At one time, testing was only part of the overall assessment for how kids and schools were doing. We relied on teachers to tell us the rest. After all, teachers are with our kids every day and are professionals who know where students fall on the continuum of development and learning. We trusted teachers.
Now, thanks to the state Legislature and governor, the test has become the focus of our kids’ education. It is no longer a temperature check for how kids are learning; it is the (state’s) objective...
Does slapping an “F” on a school and stigmatizing the teachers and children within, help those kids? Does a threat of takeover and privatization by the state ameliorate the effects of poverty? No. It creates a pressure cooker for children and teachers.
High-stakes testing provides fertile ground for the profit-making idea of “school choice.” Prove public schools are failing and offer alternatives. Charters, voucher schools and public schools compete for tax dollars in a game that is rigged. Test companies grow richer.
The laws that created this marketplace of education all come from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s goal is to create more competition in education and to privatize it. There is even an Indiana Reform Package of model legislation on their website. Our governor has written the introduction to the ALEC report card.
The A-F grading of schools, tying teachers’ pay to test scores, the pass-a-40-question-reading-test-or-fail third grade law — these are all from ALEC. They were not backed by research of what are best practices in teaching. Most reflect the opposite.
SHUTTING DOWN UNIONS
Schooling lawmakers: Education bills have predictable consequences
The editorial writer in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette seems to think that this year's anti-teacher, anti-public schools legislation will mobilize teachers around the state to fight back. Turnout is always largest during a presidential election year, which, I hope will favor those who are against further damaging public education.
One of this year's bills, which the House wrested from the (slightly) less-hateful-of-teachers Senate, takes us back to the day where nepotism and corruption ruled the hiring and firing of teachers. The Republican leaders in the Senate claimed the law was part of a solution to the teacher shortage and that it was "misunderstood." They killed the House version because of all the outcry from teachers and their supporters.
The House leaders, on the other hand, led by a florist-turned-self-declared-education-expert, are in the process of pushing the Senate version through to the Governor's desk. If the Governor should sign it (and it's an election year, so he might listen to the outcry against it) it will become law and the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and school boards can be overruled by back-room conversations and deals with no public input or accountability.
[Hoosier voters, write to your House legislators today and tell them to reject SB10 (which eliminates more collective bargaining rights) and SB334 (which expands the nation's most expansive giveaway of public funds to private schools through vouchers)]
There’s little Indiana lawmakers could do to further marginalize teacher unions, although some believe they’ve found a tool.
But Senate Bill 10 might be just what the struggling associations need to remind teachers of the value of collective bargaining. It gives superintendents the authority to pay some educators more than others, as they did in the days when some school chiefs paid male teachers more than their female colleagues or when a board member could insist on extra pay for a daughter-in-law. There’s no provision to limit the extra pay to teachers in hard-to-fill disciplines like math or special education.
Arbitrary compensation systems and other unfair management practices gave rise to Indiana’s collective bargaining law in 1973. A return to those practices will mobilize teachers in numbers the bill’s supporters can’t imagine.
Zombie teacher-pay bill rises from the dead
That should have been that. But Rep. Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, picked up the supposedly dead SB 10 and waltzed it through the committee by a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday, the final day for committee action. It now goes to the full House.
Expect Behning to block any attempt to amend the bill. Any change would send the bill back to the Senate, which has said it won’t pass the measure again.
DAMAGE TO TEACHERS
The big trouble in Indiana public schools, as explained by a troubled educator
What do teachers think about all this? Here's a sample.
The looming teacher shortage in Indiana is the same as in other parts of the nation. Fewer people are going into teaching because of stagnant salaries, lack of professional autonomy, and general disrespect of educators.
Yes, the mess in education isn’t just affecting those of us who are in education. First, legislators thought we weren’t doing our job, so they legislated the pay scale so good teachers would get paid more for their efforts. In reality, the legislature has capped teacher salaries, not allowing years of experience or education to fiscally matter. Being a highly effective or effective teacher results in a minuscule stipend, maybe enough to get the brakes fixed on your car.
Salaries for teachers statewide are stagnant. Your income does not rise over time. Families cannot be supported on a teacher’s salary over time, and yet college costs the same for them as it does to be an engineer.
I wonder why there’s a teacher shortage.
DAMAGE TO STUDENTS
In 1954, for those old enough to remember, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education, that "separate educational facilities [for black and white children] are inherently unequal."
In a second ruling, PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ET AL. in 2007, the Court essentially stripped Brown v. Board of Ed of all it's power. It told (emphasis added)
...local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits.The Justices who passed PARENTS, would argue that it didn't overturn Brown, but in the meantime, school districts around the nation were suddenly free to ignore segregation and close their eyes to continued separate facilities.
Study finds Indy charter schools increased segregation
Charters have added another level to the continued segregation of children in public schools. The charter school movement has increased segregation all over the country. The cure to the so-called "bigotry of low expectations" has made things worse.
The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University education professor Marc Stein and published last summer in the American Journal of Education, found that charter-school choice in Indy led to “higher degrees of racial isolation and less diversity” than in the public schools the students were leaving.
African-American students were more likely to enroll in charter schools with a higher concentration of black students than the neighborhood schools they left; and white students more likely to enroll in schools with a higher percentage of white enrollment.
The average white student in the analytic sample chose a charter school that enrolled 13.9 percentage points more white students and 13.1 percentage points fewer black students than their previously enrolled school. Concomitantly, black students chose to enroll in charters with enrollments that were 9.2 percent more black and 5.6 percent less white than their former schools.
As a result, charter schools were becoming more racially isolated. In 2008-09, only one charter school in the study met the city desegregation target of having its enrollment of black students within 15 percentage points of Indianapolis Public Schools. When the charter schools opened, five met the target.
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