Indiana teachers rally against GOP education plan

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More than 1,000 Indiana teachers swarmed the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday for a rowdy rally denouncing the sweeping education proposals moving through the Republican-dominated state House and Senate.

Teachers said they felt disrespected by Gov. Mitch Daniels and state Superintendent Tony Bennett, both Republicans, who have pushed to restrict teacher collective bargaining, tie teacher salaries with student performance and create vouchers that would direct taxpayer money to private schools. Teachers said GOP leaders want to erode funding for traditional public schools and run schools like a business.

"Teachers have raised these concerns over and over again to this administration," said Matt Carroll, who teaches English at Mishawaka High School in northern Indiana. "We feel like every reason we have, every bit of experience we have is being totally ignored."

It was certainly hard to ignore cheering teachers Tuesday as they filled a second-floor atrium, lined Statehouse staircases and peered over balconies from the third and fourth floors. One teacher carried a sign reading "save public education from Tony the Terminator and Mitch the Knife." Tipton County art teacher James Huntley painted a caricature of Daniels with "education sell-out" stamped on his forehead.

"He wants to privatize schools," Huntley said of Daniels.

Teachers around the state already have raised complaints about the governor's agenda in local meetings, letters-to-the-editor and other forums, but Tuesday's rally allowed them share their opinions directly — and loudly— with lawmakers gathered in Indianapolis for the 2011 legislative session.

Dozens of teachers packed the House gallery and lined the chambers' windows as lawmakers debated a bill aimed at expanding charter schools, which are public schools free of certain regulations and, often, union contracts. Many minority Democrats seized the chance for a friendly audience and made fiery speeches railing against the bill and other parts of Daniels' education agenda.

Teachers cheered on opponents and booed supporters. They made so much noise that a House leader asked them at least twice to quiet down so the debate could be heard.

The House eventually approved the charter school proposal on a 59-37 mostly party-line vote.

Republicans who support Daniels' proposals said the extensive changes are meant to reform Indiana's education system and make students — not teachers or their unions — the top priority.

"As always, the union's demand is more money, no change," Daniels said in a written statement. "Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana."

Bennett said good teachers have nothing to worry about.

"Fear breeds these empty suspicions that there is some conspiracy to destroy public education," Bennett said. "My goal — and what I believe we are doing — is advancing an agenda that is pro-child, but also will save and preserve public education."

State Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb said the Indiana State Teachers Association spends millions each year on political campaigns and efforts such as Tuesday's rally to "defend policies that treat ineffective teachers no differently than outstanding teachers."

"The hundreds of professional educators lobbying at the Statehouse today represent hundreds not in the classroom," Holcomb said in a written statement.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger said the union hasn't held a rally in years and that teachers felt they had to speak out this year.

"They absolutely feel that not only are they being attacked, but public education is being attacked — unjustly," Schnellenberger said.


    I am a college student in Indiana at Ivy Tech Community College. I stumbled across this article while doing research for a persuasive speech I am writing. The topic of my speech is "The Educators vs The entertainers". I am truly dismayed by the lack of respect and recognition our educators receive. The amount of pay isn't hardly enough and especially when compared to the average salary of an NFL player. To me, this comparison is sickening and it clearly shows how much America values our educators. To cut funding for public schools and all the Tom-foolery that the Gov. is trying to pull, is without a doubt, ridiculous. I believe in our public schools! I graduated from a public high school and I am now attending a public college. I have the best Public Speaking Prof. and also the best Academic Advisor. So, it is needless to say that I am repulsed by the reduction of tax dollars/funding for the public education system. What is this world coming to? What will my children be facing when they are entering high school and college?
  • comment
    you are good porsion

  • Teacher worth
    Before complaining about the slick deal that public school teachers have, consider this:
    Assume that the average elementary school teacher has a class of 25 and has them for 180 days, six and a half hours per day. If we were to hire a childcare worker at the abysmal rate of $5 per hour to care for 25 kids for six and a half hours per day for 180 days, that person would earn $146,250 a
    year. This comes without any teaching. Now, and only now, can we talk about
    merit pay. The public school teacher in Indiana must have a bachelor's degree and is
    more than adequately trained to teach his/her subject (this degree having cost from $60,000 to $120,000). Teachers throw in
    expert instruction and work far more than the
    six and a half hours per day for which they are paid. If Dr. Bennett has such little faith in the performance of Indiana's teachers that he advocates the hiring of unlicensed persons to teach, I hope that he will only use the services of health care givers who are unlicensed.

    It is precisely because of persons in power who have the mindset of this politician that
    I would not even think of teaching without
    union membership.
  • Re-test
    I live in Muncie and if I left when I was permitted to,(3:20) with a little luck with traffic, I could have made it to the rally in time. I think you are just a little judgemental. If you were faced with the possibility of the loss of your job, maybe you would do what you thought was necessary.
  • What Has Happened to Indiana's Rs?
    I may continue to vote for Republicans at my local level but I believe I am done with them as the party I want running our state. I'm not too thrilled about letting the Dems run it either, so maybe we voters can figure out a way to once again have a balanced government, not a one-party government.

    Before you jump to conclusions, I'm not a teacher. All three of my children, however, have graduated from traditional public schools and have gone on to public universities.

    I believe our very democracy is founded and its future rests on the existence of our public school system. Someone once described America's public school system as the greatest weapon our country has against our enemies, foreign or domestic. Now, I am witnessing the Rs I once had so much respect for systematically dismantling that great weapon!

    I am dismayed at how the general public has heard the lie that our public schools are failing so many times that it is now accepted as a truth. From what I see, our public schools are doing better than ever before, with less resources than they've had in the past, and with more diverse and challenging students than ever before.

    Or, even if the lie is true--our public schools are failing, let's look at what the Rs are doing. They are taking scarce public tax dollars away from our traditional public schools and giving them to their cronies to run charter schools where only half of the teachers are required (if one of the current bills becomes law) to have teachers' licenses. And where will this take us? It'll result in public schools getting worse and, based on the data I've seen, the limited number of students who go to charter schools finding out the hard way that the charter schools are failing at an even greater rate than the public schools.

    I just saw a report that said if Indiana was a country, the performance of our public school's 4th and 8th graders on standardized tests would rank Hoosier children 7th in the world! That's failure? You've got to be kidding.

    That's not to say that our public schools can't and shouldn't get better. I'd like them to be number one in the world! But, they'll never get there with a governor and his followers hammering on teachers day in and day out and finding ways to move public tax dollars away from traditional public schools and into the coffers of their business cronies. If this outrage does not end, I hope public school teachers by the tens of thousands come to the State House the next time to exercise their right to advocate for their students and their profession.

    Just as I'd rather have a painful operation to eliminate a cancer quickly than to suffer from that disease for a long period of time, I'd rather have Hoosier students go without their teachers for a day or two now, then to suffer for generations to come because the governor and his followers made public school teaching so unattractive that no one of any worth would enter it.

    When I was in law school, one of my professors planted a thought in my mind that stays with me when I see people doing the kind of damage the Rs are presently doing...A little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing.

    The governor, state superitendent (ex-football coach with less than 1 year as a local school superintendent, I believe), and their followers know a little bit about education--but not nearly enough. Yet, they cut off the voice of teachers who do know a lot about education. That is a very dangerous thing--for Hoosier students.

    Finally, I'm all for non-public schools, too. I want them to exist and succeed because the better they do, the more challenged public schools will be and that's good for students no matter which kind of school they are in. I just don't want my tax dollars doing anything except to keep public schools as financially healthy as humanly possible.
    • Sad Day
      I am a teacher and not a union member and never have been. That being said, I am saddened by the people in this discussion who seem to have zero respect for the jobs that teachers do. They forget that with out a large group of educators that they would not be where they are today if it was not for the greedy, selfish, people who went above and beyond to make sure they had every opportunity in life. People like Rich post things that make absolutely no sense. I find it funny that a lot of you had issues with teachers rallying and lobbying in Indianapolis. So because we are teachers we can't practice one of the fundamental aspects of our society and that is the right to lobby and be heard by our the representatives of our govenrment (which by the way would make a great lesson for those teachers who teach Government but we can't mention that can we). I am guessing that if 1,000 sales representatives lobbied in Indianapolis that would be just fine even though they also would be missing their jobs. Nice double standard.

      Teachers already support accountability and it has been federal law and state law for years. Our schools are already held accountable on behalf of our students ISTEP and now end of course assessments. The prevailing thought is that by opening up a charter school down the street from the school that I teach at that our test scores will rise. There is no logic in that.

      The collective bargaining argument is also flawed. In my disctrict we have taken no pay raises and taken cuts in benefits for several years in a row now not becuase we were made to but because we had to do our part to help our district survive financially. We had to cut over $3 million from our budgets and at the same time do our jobs better. I am guessing that Rich had a pay raise in the last three years. Would Rich sacrifice pay raises and benefits for the good of the company?

      Rich talks about having courage to explore new ways of meeting the educational needs of Indiana's children... Sir, you have never stepped foot in my classroom. How in the world would you know what I or 1,000's of other teachers are doing in their classrooms. As a matter of fact, this legislation and the entire educational agenda set forth by Gov. Daniels will do just the opposite. For the youth of this state to grow to their potential they need more than science, english and math. But when this agenda is realized, technology, mucis, art, physical education and all other electives will be shed from the public school system.

      I was personally educated in a private school from another state. Here is where 99% of those against these bills are completely off base. Yes 98% of my classmates graduated and all but 1 went on to college for at least a semester. But those had nothing to do with the fact I was taught by teachers willing to make less money and with no collective bargaining. The difference between public and private schools lies directly in the homes of the students. Private school parents take a much bigger and active role in their childrens education. In my years of teaching I only see an average of 24% of my students parents on conference night. The average grade of those students in 86%. Trying to make contact with parents that do not take an interest in their children's education is the most difficult part of my job.

      Let's take a quick look at the teaching profession vs. others like Rich. Teachers are licensed and one of the few professions that require a license. To maintain our license we are required to maintain a record of continual education. That means college credit. We are required to partipate in professional development every year in our schools. These are not complaints as I am a big believer in the value of continuing to learn regardless of profession.

      What I dislike is people that don't have a clue what I do and what my peers do but have these completely off-base and negative thoughts about me and the job I am doing.

      My advice is for people like Rich to have the courage to research before they make judgements on the job that I do. You have no idea how I feel about my students or my job.

      I continually have to prove through evaluation and education that I am not only qualified but "highly qualified" to perform my job. You see, qualified doesn't cut it. According to state law we have to be highly qualified.

      Thanks for your support of education. It is with discussions like this that we might be able to move education forward. At least people on this discussion care regardless of the side they take. We can make education better with discussion.

      My biggest issue with my profession right now is that yes we don't want these bills. What alternative are we as teacher (and more specifically the teachers union) offering. I see none. Say don't vote for these bills is not enough in my mind. We need to offer an alternative. Unfortunately that is not how politics works right now but that is changing.

      Again, I do thank you all for your support.
    • Regrade
      Teachers from my local school (2 hrs. down I-65) left AFTER school. Over half of the teachers that attended the rally (AFTER SCHOOL) were NOT union members. Not one teacher (union or non-union) left before the last bus of children left. In addition, the only teachers from our entire system (2) that spent the day there were lobbying. They took their own personal day (3 per year) to lobby. As far as I know, most businesses allow paid vacation...something teachers DO NOT have with the exception of the 3 personal days.
    • Simple Reasoning Score
      JP: The rally was held at 5 pm. Teachers took personal time from their families, not from their classrooms.

      Grade: F. If they're local teachers. Move 1-2 hours of driving time any direction and they had to take time from the classrooms -and- their families. Care for a retest?

      • Solidarity
        My wife and daughter are professionals,teachers, licensed by the state of Indiana. I know many . Their admonition and dedication to the well being and education of our children is unquestionable . If you weigh heart and intelligence against money and politics where will you put your children ? for my part " I will respect the multitude of teachers before and after. I will not strip them of Respect they Earned tested with time. "
      • Moving ahead...
        Looks like the lines are pretty much drawn, as demonstrated by yesterday's House vote on the charter school proposal - Democrats (owned in part by the Indiana State Teachers Association)will vote AGAINST any change from the status quo in order to appease their voting block; whereas, Republicans (owned in part by their constituents who: 1) support performance measurement and accountability; 2) focus on education improvements vs. public teacher collective bargaining entitlements; 3) have the courage to explore new ways of meeting the educational needs for Indiana's children with a genuine interest in seeing them grow to fulfill their potential and become purposeful and productive contributors in an increasingly complex and competitive world; and 4) are no longer tolerant of being required to foot the bill for salaries/benefits of teachers (or ANY other group for that matter) that is not tied to some meaningful measure of good performance - sure wouldn't ever happen where I work!) will vote FOR such positive changes. If my math is correct, based on the current make-up of the state legislature and the Governor's priorities, I would bet on positive change. Therefore, rather than denying school children another day of learning in the classroom and running to the statehouse to throw a temper tantrum, public school teachers who are competent and who desire to remain public school teachers (and I would guess that describes the vast majority of you!) might be better served doing what you are asked (and paid) to do - and do it to the best of your ability - teach! Excepting those 1,000 or so of you who chose to play hookey yesterday (in suppport of your union), the rest of you are, no doubt, already doing just that... and for that, all Hoosiers, both Democrats and Republicans alike, are grateful to you!
      • It's Not Just Teachers
        Teachers have the unique luxury of being able to hide behind the kids, but the real problem is with public sector unions, the teachers union being but one of several.

        There is absolutely no accountability, no wage parity with the private sector and the benefit levels are unsustainable. Private sector unions at least have some incentive to cooperate because if they don't the employer goes broke or moves offshore.

        Public sector union workers do not have to compete with other providers of the same product (in this case education), and only get fired if they do something that makes the front page.

        The failure of the public sector to compete and innovate is the reason state and local governments are going broke, and the basis of civil unrest, even riots in places like France and Greece. There's a great article about this in a recent issue of The Economist.
      • for Monday
      • follow the money trail
        Dr. Tony Bennett's wife is a consultant for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association. She also supervises the Teach for America Program at Marian University.
      • Too Much
        Too much spin by the Teachers Union... they had a chance to work with the govnernor and refused and now are upset at the out come. The education system is not working well as it currently run. The Teachers Union just looks to protect itself and not in the best interest of students (our kids!!). Will the proposal(s) help? Not sure... but I do know that saying NO to all proposed changes will definately not work.
      • SPELLING
        Hey Brian...maybe you should learn to spell first
      • Sorry Travis
        You object to Highly Qualified Teachers (as defined by IDOE leaving their classrooms for half a day to lobby their government for redress of greviences, a right guaranteed in our Constitution. If this legislation goes through, Indiana children will be in charter school which will allow 50% of their teachers to be unlicensed. It is a grave concern.
        Please, Travis, give the teachers of Indiana some of those "thousand ways" we could have gained attention.
      • Hey Mitch...why don't you take a pay cut
        It appalls me that the Governor of any state would say "Their [public teacherâ??s] priority is their organization [the ISTA], not the young people of Indiana". This is akin to saying that if Mitch Danielsâ?? (or any legislatorâ??s) priority is a balanced budget then he or she would take less pay. Or, if Indianapolis librarians are really concerned about public literacy then they should take a pay cut so the library could stay open longer during the day.

        I am married to a public school teacher (who is not a member of the ISTA because she is opposed to a seniority-based system) and can assure you that the majority of teachers care deeply about the young people of Indiana. I donâ??t know many fields where college-educated professionals (many of whom have advanced degrees) are paid at the level of our teachers. And, for those of you that think this pay is fair given that they only work 6 hours a day, 10 months of the yearâ?¦let me assure you that the vast majority of teachers work well over 40 hours per week and many work through the summers preparing for the next school year.

        Public education unions are not the answer. They do not create an environment where high potential teachers are given challenging opportunities nor where high performance teachers are rewarded. The best way to remove teachers unions is to pay our teachers equitably. Keep in mind, ISTA dues in 2010 were $651 per year (money that most teachers would prefer to keep).
      • Indiana Politics at Work Again
        Many of you bring up several valid points. There are other sides to this story. Dr. Tony Bennett's wife is a consultant for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association. She also supervises the Teach for America Program at Marian University. The program she supervises landed a $500,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Education. This program is to help turn around failing schools. This to many is a definite conflict of interest and helps contribute to the distrust between Dr. Bennett and our states teachers. It's easy to understand why teachers become upset when the person supposedly leading you seems to be fighting against you. Just another side of the story.
      • Please become educated on the bills before making a comment
        I have been a teacher for 18 years. I have been a union member for 18 years. I had NEVER left my students with a substitute to lobby in Indianapolis before yesterday. I had never felt that the value of public education was threatened before. I left my students yesterday to fight for them. I care about the quality of their education. I am for education reform, but the bills being pushed on Indiana schools will not make our schools better, our teachers better, or our students better. Make sure that you read and understand the legislation before you make comments about what we are doing in Indianapolis. Because you are not informed and are speaking out in support of what the government is trying to do, they believe that everyone is supporting them. I do not believe that most people even know what they are trying to do. I encourage you to PLEASE become educated on the bills!!!
      • Rally
        The rally was held at 5 pm. Teachers took personal time from their families, not from their classrooms.
        • Reply to Travis

          While Governor Daniels is spinning the legislature to look as though the teachers are money hungry, the fact of the matter is that Daniels is making an attempt to cut into the safety of teaching jobs and even make schools into a business. Do your realise that current plans state that any school without 100% of students passing the ISTEP by 2013 is considered failing, and if they fail 3 years in a row they may be bought out by a charter school for $1? Teachers aren't allowed to say "We can't get every single student to pass." because it makes them sound like the bad guys and that they are giving up, when in actuality you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. If more of the public knew some of the more drastic parts of Bennett's plans, maybe people would understand why my favorite teacher was rallying on Tuesday for the sake of saving the teaching profession. Because of Bennett's plans, I no longer want to be a teacher... please just consider that statement.

          • Oh well
            I have no care for the 1000 teachers who left their students with a substitute. This is a perfect example of the teachers not being able to put the students first. there are a thousand ways they could have gained attention without leaving the children with a baby-sitter for the day. I had teachers who would regularly tell us students that the unions had gone too far and that is why there were only a thousand teachers complaining and not the whole school system. This will be good for Indiana education

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            1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

            2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

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            5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.