Thursday, February 10, 2011

Daniels Lack of Respect for Educators Boils Over

Governor Mitch Daniels has no respect for teachers. None.

After a passionate protest that had to do with the future of public schools by over a thousand teachers at the Statehouse yesterday, Governor Daniels chose to release a disrespectful and flat out untrue statement that tries to make educators sound like greedy, money-grubbing, and evil people out to destroy our students. Daniels’ said, “As always, the union's demand is more money, no change. Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana. Their special interest domination of education policy from the local level to the State House has hurt Indiana children for too long and this year, change must finally come."

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Governor Daniels should immediately apologize for his insensitive remarks.

Teachers do see the need for change and reform in our public schools. We see it every day in our classrooms and our hallways. We know that some things we are doing are working and that some things aren’t. But, teachers are the practitioners of the craft, and I believe hold the key to reforming the process.

As it stands now, the classroom teacher has little control over what is taught in the classroom...especially in the core areas. The State of Indiana has become more and more of an ever-present entity as it dictates curriculum, standards, and much more to our school districts. It has gained control of funding and other critical aspects of education that control the quality of our public schools. I would argue that the problem is more with the state than with the practitioner.

Instead of listening to the practitioner, Indiana wants to dictate politically-charged rhetoric down from the Statehouse. Many legislators on both sides of the aisle have no interest in hearing what teachers want to tell them about the realities on the ground. It’s as if the generals don’t want to listen to the foot soldiers and are blindly ordering a series of charges and attacks on the problem without first analyzing information.

It’s because Governor Daniels, Indiana House Education Chair Bob Behning, and others believe they know Indiana schools. They want to blame the teacher and the administrator for all the failings without looking at several different indicators of success. More importantly, they want a “fall guy” so they don’t have to look in the mirror.

Governor Daniels had done more to harm morale of teachers with flippant and condescending statements like the one he issued after the rally. He has shown that he doesn’t care what teachers have to say or the issues they are bringing to the forefront. He believes he has all the answers and believes that destroying our traditional public school system is the best thing for Indiana.

As teachers will tell you, the Governor is missing the point. This isn’t about us. Most of us didn’t get into teaching to get rich or to gain fame. We got into teaching because we had family in the craft, and we saw what a difference they made. We got into the craft because we wanted to touch the future. We got into the craft because it was a calling. It was what we felt we wanted to do.

Hundreds of teachers didn’t gather at the Statehouse on Tuesday because they wanted to get higher salaries. They gathered there because they wanted Governor Daniels to listen. They wanted Rep. Behning to listen. They wanted Superintendent Bennett to listen. They wanted the state to listen. Unfortunately, the Governor and his water carriers (including a Democrat or two) aren't wanting to hear what many teachers have to say.

The need for reform is there! That’s certain. The problem is that the state would rather not listen to the teachers or the schools. Instead, they would rather push a dangerous agenda that is charged up and full of politics. We should all be outraged at that.

By the way, with the help of my friend, Democrat Mary Ann Sullivan (the only Democrat to vote for House Bill 1002), charter schools will be cropping up across Indiana like corn in the summertime. The bill is not friendly to real public schools (yes, I know charters are public, too). One of the provisions of the bill takes transportation money from traditional public schools and gives it to the charter schools unless schools provide transportation to the charter schools for students in their district. It also coerces public school districts to rent "underutilized" school buildings to charter schools for essentially nothing. Folks, the jury's still out on charters. I have seen no evidence that cannot be easily rebutted that shows me that charters are somehow better than traditional public schools.

(Editors Note: Mary Ann Sullivan has invited me to go to some charter schools so that she can show me some of these schools at work. I plan to take her up on this someday. I disagree with her ideas on charter schools, but I still respect her tremendously.)


Bradley said...

Once Mitch Daniels gets an idea in his head, he will almost never budge from it. His obstinance and failure to compromise (his way or no way) is disturbing for a man who wants to be president. He has gotten in his head that the teacher's union is bad, and that most teachers are useless. He has never taught and has no idea what it is like to be in a classroom. He only knows boardrooms and people who kiss-up to him with flattery and money. He does not know what it is like to work with, say, a poor student because he is well-off himself. He sure does have good PR people (and is a consummate politician) that shows him as "one of us Hoosiers" -- what with the baseball cap, plaid shirt, Harley-riding, aw-shucks personaility of his RV-campaigning, county fair-visiting trips. But the man lives in a mansion in Carmel and surrounds himself with long-time, wealthy political cronies like Mitch Roob and Mark Everson.

Thus, I have a hard time believing him when he says this push is "for the kids". Somewhere in all this, the Daniels' education push will somehow benefit those in the business community he knows so well. If this push really were for the kids, I would think better of it, but I am sure it is not. For the governor to attack a whole profession such as teachers is disgusting; what a spineless weasel to criticize a profession of which he knows little. He needs to be invited to spend a whole day, without camers present, in a classroom of IPS, or a township school, or a rural county school downstate. Better yet, he needs to be in those classrooms all day without any help to see what it's like to have a class of apathetic, sleep-deprived, one-parent students. Then, perhaps, he could have the knowledge to debate education reform intelligently.

Anonymous said...

Talk to the parents of charter school students if you want a really clear picture of how they manipulate their numbers. Find out from parents how they are told to remove their struggling students from the school and return to public schools. Any school can be successful if you get rid of any student who is struggling and needs extra help. Most charter schools are a sham.

kris said...

i too was somewhat taken aback by daniels' comments. there are lots of people, not in unions, who disagree with the way republicans (and mary ann) are going about education reforms. i would say 99% of those opposed genuinely have the well being of students at heart.

i sent mary ann (who is my rep in 97) an email that i consider to be nasty considering my usually affable and non-confrontational nature. she responded with a similar request to meet with her. but i don't want to.

nor do i want to go to a charter school for a dog and pony show. the data, or lack thereof, tells me all I need to know about charter schools.

if politicians can't take time to tour and meet with educators in real public schools before deciding to cut their achilles and ask them to run a marathon, then i shant be assuaged.

i will, however, hold those accountable who voted for this legislation. what would happen if we actually held politicians accountable for legislation they vote for? are there repercussions? what if we set up a shadow government that can supposedly handle the business of the people better and cheaper?

Sorry for the digression.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Actually I agree with the thrust of this post, Jon.

When I worked on education issues for Rex Early when he was running for Governor, I had meetings with humerous teachers across the state. We put together a list of proposed reforms that were very teacher friendly. Teachers liked our campaign.

I think there are some teachers that aren't really qualified in their subject area, but that problem is miniscule compared to the fact we've turned teachers into glorified babysitters instead of treating them like professional educators. K-12 teachers spend an enormous amount of time dealing with discipline issues, time that takes away from education.

There is a huge gap too between administrators and classroom teachers. While I think most teachers are dedicated and hardworking, and not a part of the problem, overpaid administrators are a huge problem and an obstacle to much needed reform.

Anonymous said...

Jon - As an interested gparent, with 3 gkids in traditional public schools, I want to say thank you to all the hard working dedicated teachers in Indiana!

Like yourself and others, I too agree that educational reform is necessary. Having heard reform proposals from just one side; will you please share suggestions for reform that have been discussed among yourself and colleagues?

Hoosiers for Indiana said...

Thank you for the post. It is appreciated.

Ronald Rodgers

Anonymous said...

In IPS, about 50% of the overpaid administrative jobs need to be abolished. Teachers need to be allowed to teach and the very expensive "innovative" programs that are purchased from friends of Eugene White need to be cancelled. Teachers want to teach but need to be allowed to do so.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money. You may want to look at some of the out of state donors on Daniel's campaign contribution reports. I recall some from Michigan that may be of interest.