IBJOpinion

STYRING: The teachers association lost its way

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Bill StyringNothing in politics is so constant as change. Consider the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Statehouse mavens know ISTA isn’t your ordinary actor. Every so often, some polling group asks legislators which lobby group is the most powerful, and ISTA consistently ranks on top, with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce a solid but distinct second, and everyone else in a cat fight for the distant third on down.

The association has been taken down a peg or two of late through scandal in the health insurance arm and labor law reforms. But when ISTA maneuvers in the Statehouse, it’s safe to say it doesn’t behave like your beloved bookish fourth grade teacher, Miss Smith.

It’s a trade union and often acts like one.

It wasn’t always this way. ISTA spent the first two-thirds of the last century as more of a professional association of teachers. ISTA’s transformation to trade union began just before my days in the Statehouse. So I can’t claim direct personal knowledge.

Supposedly it got into some financial trouble over a teachers’ retirement home it was trying to start in Greenwood. It had to be bailed out by its parent, the National Education Association.

The price was replacement of ISTA executive leadership by union militants, mostly from Michigan. (The NEA itself until the early 1960s had been run on the professional association model but was under assault from the American Federation of Teachers, an AFL-CIO affiliate.)

In any case, teachers won collective bargaining rights as part of the political deal surrounding Gov. Otis Bowen’s landmark 1973 property tax relief legislation (where I do have firsthand knowledge; I was in the smoke-filled room when the deal was cut).

It’s a historical fact that the rest of the 1970s showed a wave of ISTA-induced teacher strikes, including a bitter walkout in Indianapolis.

ISTA dues-payers who thought they belonged to a professional association were appalled to learn that one of their regional organizers was caught by the cops at high midnight defacing school board members’ automobiles during a Mishawaka teachers strike.

Nothing underscores ISTA’s chameleon act better than a booklet from 1926 I stumbled across in a neglected corner of my den titled “A Guide to the Study of the Old and New Testaments for use in the High Schools of Indiana.”

It’s amazing enough in this era, when the slightest mention of religion in the public square sends the ACLU into orbit, to learn that comparatively recently, Indiana had a three-credit-hour Bible study course.

What’s truly astounding is that the study guide wasn’t the product of some Bible-thumping evangelical nut cases (as the left today might describe them).

No. It was prepared by the Bible Study Section of the State Teachers Association.

Nor was this document some two-page mimeograph outline. Its 176 pages would do credit to a serious biblical scholar. No proselytizing. This was more college or even seminary level than high school.

In Indiana. For credit.

Strategists trying to fathom Middle East politics today could benefit from its historical perspective. Some of it still applies.

So there is hope. Change happens. ISTA wasn’t always a give-us-more-money-or-else trade union.

Rank-and-file teachers in Wisconsin recently voted to decertify ISTA’s equivalent organization, the Wisconsin Education Association. Bargaining laws are roughly similar in Indiana and Wisconsin.

For the sake of Indiana education, one can hope our teachers follow suit and return ISTA to its professional association roots.•

__________

Styring is an economist, a former Indiana Chamber of Commerce lobbyist, and a former senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. So, Pence wants the federal government to ignore the 2008 law that allows children from these countries to argue for asylum in front of a judge. How did this guy become governor? And how is that we'll soon be subjected to repeatedly seeing him on TV being taken seriously as a presidential candidate? Am I in Bizzaro-U.S.A.?

  2. "And the most rigorous studies of one-year preschool programs have shown short-term benefits that fade out in a few years or no benefits at all." So we are going down a path that seems to have proven not to work very well. Right intention, wrong approach?

  3. Well for Dunkin Donuts it might say that even a highly popular outlet can't make a poorly sited location work. That little strip has seen near constant churn for years.

  4. Years ago, the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device companies shifted their research investment away from Medical Institutions to focus more on private research centers, primarily because of medical institution inefficiencies in initiating clinical studies and their inability/commitment to enroll the needed number of patients in these studies. The protracted timelines of the medical institutions were prompting significant delays in the availability of new drug and medical device entities for patients and relatedly, higher R and D expenditures to the commercial industry because of these delays. While the above stated IU Health "ratio is about $2.50 in federal funding for every $1 in industry funding", the available funding is REVERSED as commercial R and D (primarily Phase I-IV clinical work)runs $2.50 to $1 for available federal funding ($76.8B to $30.9B in 2011). The above article significatly understated the available R and D funding from industry......see the Pharma and Medical Device industry websites. Clearly, if medical institutions like IU Health wish to attract more commercial studies, they will need to become more competitive with private clinical sites in their ability to be more efficient and in their commitment to meet study enrollment goals on time. Lastly, to the reference to the above Washington Post article headlined “As drug industry’s influence over research grows, so does the potential for bias", lacks some credibility as both FDA and Institutional Institutional Review Boards must approve the high proportion of these studies before studies are started. This means that both study safety and science must be approved by both entities.

  5. ChIeF and all the other critics – better is better no matter what. Get over it; they are doing better despite you ?

ADVERTISEMENT