Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bennett Bodyslams Ballard in Education Battle Royale

Yesterday was filled with all sorts of chest puffery about Mayor Ballard’s long-awaited plan to save local control for seven Indianapolis Public Schools. After weeks of silence and then public comment to the contrary, Mayor Ballard somehow became active in the discussion finally and came out with a nuanced position based upon state law (that the Ballard Administration claimed responsibility for). Ballard’s seemingly quickly whipped up plan would have turned the seven underperforming schools into charter schools and maintained local control while providing a different pathway towards improvement.

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, essentially slapped down the Mayor’s plan and said that he’s moving forward with the planned takeover if the schools don’t show immediate improvement while telling the Star the Mayor doesn't understand the state law giving Bennett the ability to move forward.

Sadly, a state takeover would mean a loss of millions in funding for the struggling school district and cripple its ability to provide services for the students that would be unlucky enough to remain IPS students.

It’s a city vs. state issue. You get the feeling that this was now either grandstanding by the Mayor or perhaps a plan that wasn’t vetted by the state before it was presented.

One way or another, it’s a black eye and an embarrassment for a Mayor whose supporters yesterday were being snarky about his education plans telling those of us that criticized his reactionary leadership on this issue that we should have read the budget more carefully. Perhaps the Mayor should have read Public Law 221 better.

Melina Kennedy's plan, announced a few weeks ago, would provide a more active role in local schools for the Mayor of Indianapolis as well as putting forth a broad vision that included not some handy dandy and ready made panacea for all the ills of the system, but an open ear and a focus on literacy that are more broad in focus but perhaps more effective in turning things around than handing off our schools to some outside group.

My position on the subject is simple. It's not political, either. Local control and local remedies work best. It should be up to the parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members of IPS in coordination with the City of Indianapolis to improve the schools under the IPS umbrella. If that means more control by the Mayor, then I agree with that. The solution isn’t to bring in some local or out-of-state guru that’s going to wave a magic wand and fix the schools. It’s heavy lifting and hard work, and I hope Tony Bennett’s ready to put his big boy pants on and be ready to deal with where this goes.

As far as Greg Ballard goes, no vision again has the Mayor in trouble. Perhaps his new slogan should be, “Greg Ballard: Reactionary Leadership at Work”.

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