Monday, August 17, 2015

Don't Forget Daniels's Role in Producing Teacher Shortage

Indiana has a teacher shortage.

College graduates are going into other fields other than teaching, and those seeking teaching licenses seem few and far between.

There are many factors that have led to this point, but even the most staunch supporter of education reform has to notice when all of this began.

The year was 2008, and Mitch Daniels was going for reelection.  Daniels popularity had taken a few hits in his first term, but he was streaking towards reelection against an underfunded and unexpected opponent.  On the Superintendent of Public Instruction front, Democrats nominated a very popular and well-known educator, Richard Wood, to be the nominee.  Republicans nominated Southern Indiana superintendent Tony Bennett from Clark County.  Daniels appeared in a series of ads with Bennett talking about putting discipline back in the classroom and giving teachers more protection if they took reasonable steps in maintaining control.  Bennett won the general election over Wood in a tight race.

The new tone and tenor towards teachers was apparent right away.  Bennett drew the ire of many leading teachers when he wore casual clothes in some of his first meetings with them.  Quickly, teachers saw that Daniels had sold us a bill of goods with Bennett.

By 2012, reforms had been passed in Indiana.  Those reforms took away most collective bargaining for teachers and instead limited what could be negotiated.  No more could teachers negotiate things like working conditions or hours.  Raises would no longer be automatic and pay became tied to things like test scores and improvement.

Veteran teachers found their salaries locked in where they were on the salary scale, but new teachers found themselves locked at the lowest level.  In some districts, that is barely what some would call a living wage.

People like to say that teaching has never been about the income.  It's about the outcome.  That's true, but don't say that it's easy to attract excellent candidates to teach when you tell them they may only barely make a living wage before paying for insurance and things.

Sadly, I saw this coming, and I tried to sound the alarm.  I tried to speak truth to the powers-that-be, but they didn't listen.  My voice was probably one of the softer ones in the cacophony.  Others spoke even louder and more forcefully, but the General Assembly wouldn't listen.

Most of the reforms that have put us here today had a champion, and I'm not talking about Tony Bennett.  The grand champion in all of this reform effort was Mitch Daniels.

Even before Governor Daniels became Governor, he was talking about dismantling public schools as we know them.  During his second term as Governor, he pushed the reforms which have created the situation in. Most of those bills are based on model bills by ALEC.

What's gone on from January 2013 forward is on Mike Pence and the leaders of the General Assembly.  Together, they have done more than enough to hamstring urban districts and the ability to improve.

It's also important to point out that this is a nationwide problem.  For all the things he's been right on, President Barack Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been wrong.  It's important to remember that reform was and has been a national phenomenon based on shoddy models.

I'm going to make a few predictions.  It's going to become a lot easier to become a teacher in the near future.  I predict that we'll see the General Assembly make that happen.  These people won't stay in education either.  They will realize that the low pay is not worth the big headaches because it takes a special person to teach these days.

The point of this post is this.  While everyone loads on Mike Pence and the GOP these days for education reform, don't forget who the grand poobah was.  Mitch Daniels pulled the grenade pin and walked away.

1 comment:

Abstract Randomizer said...

Unfortunately, we are seeing this erosion of public education everywhere. No matter where you look, you will see an inexorable swing to the right, which means less investment in public schools and a corresponding incentive to go charter or private. People are losing confidence in the public education system because governments--which have a fundamental responsibility to safeguard the citizens' access to good-quality education--are taking themselves out of the equation. This is another sign of a declining civilization: when we don't consider the next generation's education to be a priority, then we are on our way out.