Another viewpoint: Education panel started something they didn’t need to

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Indiana General Assembly’s interim education study committee recently tried to shove ahead a terrible idea that reminds one of a famous line from “Men in Black.”

Agent J tells an alien that continued provocation will lead to an untenable situation. Agent J stated it in less diplomatic terms: “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.”

Even considering changing the teacher discussion law — which the committee wisely walked back — only amps the perception that the legislature’s supermajority would subjugate teachers rather than work with them. So there was no need to start something here.

“The change could limit teachers from raising concerns and discussing with their superiors issues relating to class sizes, student discipline, working and learning conditions and student-teacher ratios,” The Indiana Capital Chronicle reported. “Such discussions are commonplace for teachers throughout the school year and required under current Indiana law.”

The committee’s Democrats voiced their disapproval due to, as they said, the lack of prior discussion about the proposal. In a bid for bipartisanship, the committee agreed to remove the language from the report.

“But this does not preclude us from having this discussion during (the) session,” committee chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, is quoted in the Chronicle. “It just says (this item) won’t be in the report.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association is going to fight. And so is Jennifer McCormick. The former Indiana superintendent of public instruction recently was in town to discuss issues as she mulls a gubernatorial run as a Democrat.

“I don’t know where this is coming from, but I will say that at a time where we’re struggling to find teachers, we want their environment to be empowering and supportive,” McCormick told The Journal Gazette, adding Indiana public schools have 3,700 open teaching positions.

Another policy idea that made it through the committee would be to integrate financial literacy curriculum into specific math courses. In looking at data culled from surveys on financial literacy, this curriculum is integral to our future.

Earlier this year, Forbes reported 32% of American workers run out of money before payday, “a figure that includes those earning $100,00 or even $200,000 a year.”

There’s a need to integrate financial literacy concepts into the curriculum. So what gets trimmed out of the math curriculum — or another class or part of the day — to fulfill a new state requirement?

And who’s going to pay for it? Will districts be responsible for their financial curriculum or will the state control that?

These are questions for the supermajority’s decision-makers, who McCormick said have a collective interest in satisfying one goal — privatization.

“I think a lot of the education decisions that are being made today in Indiana are being made by people who want to take the public out of public schools,” she said.

There’s a perverse logic or great political theater in removing teachers’ voices, saddling them with mandates, insulting their intelligence and integrity then wondering why the state can’t attract teachers or keep the ones already here.