Friday, February 4, 2011
Superintendent's Stand on Waivers Sounds Hypocritical
It's hard to believe, but this ice storm has turned out to become a controversial political snowball as many of the state's school districts across the state struggle to chisel their buildings out of the ice. With many schools missing several days, they are exceeding their built-in snow day allowance. In the old days, you could apply for a waiver so that those days beyond the scheduled allotment didn't have to be made up.
At issue today is the decision by the Indiana Department of Education to essentially end the waiver program that had developed over many years and that demands that schools meet their statutorily-required 180 days of instruction come heck or...well...ice water. The mechanism still exists, but the DOE has chiseled a line in the tundra that waivers will no longer be granted.
For his part, State School Superintendent Tony Bennett has been ice cold consistent with his rhetoric. He says that schools shouldn't bother to request waivers as they will not be granted.
Incidentally, when he was Superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, Dr. Bennett requested a waiver to not have to make up five days of school due to weather issues, but that was before he met politics. Seems to me, what was good for Clark County Superintendent Bennett should be good for State Schools Superintendent Bennett.
A larger question hangs in the air like an ice block from the Artsgarden: What would trigger a waiver situation? Let's say a school is hit by a tornado during summer when no one is there. The damage is so severe that the school can't open for a month or two, and there is no reasonable place to put the students nearby. Is that waiver-worthy or will those students have to go two months longer than everyone else? It's just a thought for the debate.
I can't remember the last time IPS or any of the other Marion County districts were out this many days in a row, and the forecast certainly doesn't look promising that the ice will melt anytime soon.
If the waivers will not be granted, then Superintendent Bennett must begin the process to take that away from schools as well. Why have a policy if it's not going to be used? Why leave that mechanism if the facts of each case aren't going to be looked at?
Whatever is decided is fine with me, but I do get why school districts across the state are scratching their heads at Bennett's doggedness on this issue given his own utilization of waivers when he was a district superintendent. The policy doesn't exist to screw kids out of an education, but I think that's what Bennett wants everyone to think...now that he holds statewide office, that is.