Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Indiana: They're going for the jugular of the teachers' unions


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Indiana's NewsCenter met with area teachers after they watched Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' State of the State Address.

More than half of the Daniels' 30 minute speech centered on education.

. . . One teacher's initial reaction was the speech was "slap in the face" to her decades of hard work.

Unless you've been living in a Gulf of Mexico oil slick for the last six months, you're probably aware that in the GOP's ongoing struggle to destroy what was once quaintly known as the middle class, the latest gambit has been to blame any and all of everything that goes wrong on public sector unions, regardless of evidence.

Well New York City isn't the only place where this is going on. Here in the Midwest, we find Governor Mitch Daniels and the state's GOP-controlled legislature going rather bananas all over the Indiana State Teachers' Association. And unlike the trumped up "work stoppage" charges that look like they'll never go anywhere in New York, and have only made the jagbag who came up with the story look stupid, Governor Mitch and his buddies down in the Hoosier State appear quite likely to succeed in their attempts to deal a death-blow to a union. Here's what the GOP has dreamed up in a their fevered brains for the good teachers in my old home state.

House Bill 1337 contains provisions that would . . .

* allow annual evaluations to be conducted by other teachers or contracted outside agencies
* eliminate the ability of a local associations to bargain or discuss the evaluation tool
* restrict collective bargaining agreements to wages and wage related benefits
* ban the bargaining of contractual hours or number of days worked.
Wow. That's pretty draconian, considering that all of these are things that unions here have been bargaining over for years. This guy sure seems to hate him some union teachers.

The Senate Version of this bill, SB 575, is similar. . . a long list of things that are stricken from bargaining. Both of these bills have passed out of committee. Quite simply, what they're trying to do is put strict limits over what the union can actually negotiate, and it's wages and wage-related benefits, and THAT'S IT. Everything else has been pulled unilaterally "off the table." That's not negotiating, that's dictating. Under these new laws, members of the teachers unions would have no recourse regarding termination, no say in the length of their work week, no say at all in ANYTHING outside of wages. But wait, it gets better . . . meaning worse.

Governor Mitch, whose administration, by the way, slashed education by $300,000,000.00 last year (that's $300 million if you don't like counting zeroes) has also been going around promoting charter schools like they're the new cure for our supposedly "failing" schools. There IS precious little evidence that your average charter school does any better than standard public education. Charter schools are far more likely to be non-union than public school, though. As an added bonus, charter schools, because they are generally selective, get to exclude lower-performing students.

The Governor believes, quite whole-heartedly, in fact, that public school systems should GIVE AWAY unused buildings to charter schools. From SchoolsMatter.org
"If any school district in this state is sitting on perfectly useful school buildings that it isn't using and doesn't have any prospect of needing, people say, 'Well, they should have to sell them. They refuse to sell them; they should have to sell them'," Daniels said. "Sell them? Hell, they should give them away. The public already paid for them once."
How's that for a smart business maneuver from this supposedly business-minded Governor?-giving a way public property for free!?

So to go over the checklist:

1) Gut the teachers unions right to bargain? Check.
2) Strengthen non-union schools that have proven to do better than public schools approximately 17% of the time? Check.
3) Funnel public money to private entities that are actually less accountable to the general public? Check.
4) Further starve public schools and dump them with students who struggle? Check.

Yep, this angry wind continues to roar across the prairie toward union teachers and public education in Indiana, generally. But you guessed it, there's more.

In his State of the State speech recently, Mitch Daniels proposed vouchers that would take public tax money and give it to private schools in the name of "school choice." In many cases that money would go to his fundamentalist friends, who run the burgeoning number of "Christian academies" that are springing up all over the country. This proposal brought a glowing review from the fine minds at the Heritage Foundation, who claimed that Daniels had "put the Hoosier State on the school choice map."

What happens to public school districts and public school teachers all across Indiana, which are already on hard times financially, and which will inevitably be tasked with educating those who don't want to attend John Q. Associate's Degree's Fundamentalist School of Christian Light and Dismissing Evolution; or those just don't get lucky enough to have a voucher? Well they'll just have to make due with less . . .

In Indiana, Contact Your Reps

It can't just be the unions fighting these attacks on public schools and public school unions. Everyone has got to fight back against this. We simply cannot let this stand unchallenged, or the Mitch Model for destroying public education swill be repeated in many other locations.

And this guy's thinking about being President?

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