The Dunes Shore
District Council of the Indiana State Teachers Association hosted its yearly
legislative breakfast and forum Saturday, discussing topics ranging from the
state’s teacher shortage, pensions, fair funding and bills that may have a
detrimental effect on public schools.
This year’s forum
at Portage High School saw a paltry number of just three local legislators
attending -- State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and State Senators Ed
Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte. But the forum did
receive a visit from Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda
Plan for more
Ritz briefed the
audience on the Blue Ribbon Commission which she pushed for this year to
bolster teacher recruitment and retention.
“It wants to have a
serious conversation on the education system,” Ritz said. Made up of
educators from around the state, the Commission advocates for local control
of teacher pay, evaluating how teachers use student performance data,
reducing the number of standardized testing, promoting teaching as an
attractive professional, increasing diversity and offering more
opportunities for professional development.
“The biggest place
you can make a lot of change is at the local level. State testing should not
be a primary measure. Period,” Ritz said.
shortage was brought up a few times throughout the forum. Valparaiso Schools
Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said there are 40 percent fewer college
students going into education than there were five years ago.
Members of the
state legislature have proposed multiple programs to give incentives for
potential teachers, most prominently House Bill 1002 which would create the
Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarship. It would award $7,500
scholarships each year for up to 200 applicants.
Ritz talked about
her stance on the A-F accountability grades for school, saying she’s “not a
proponent” as it is “hurting kids by putting a label on the school.”
Children who have a 3.5 grade point average in an “F” school are not seen
the same way as students who have a 3.5 grade point average at an “A”
school, she said.
Ritz also expressed
her disapproval of private school vouchers and urges the state to implement
a moratorium on the school voucher system so that data can be gathered and
studied to understand the effects vouchers have on students.
Moseley said that
all children in Indiana should have equal opportunity and he takes issue
with the imbalance of state funding going to vouchers and charter schools
compared to traditional schools.
are going to be a problem in my mind because of a lack of parity,” he said.
“I don’t think education should be run like a business.”
president of the ISTA, led discussion on charter schools saying there have
been “some positive and some not so positive things about charter schools.”
Charters were started with the goal of education in mind and were supported
by the ISTA, but there are some schools out there now with “not much
accountability,” she said.
The state a few
years ago forgave $90 million of charter schools’ $120 million total debt,
she said, but no loans have been forgiven for public schools. “There is
tremendous imbalance,” Meredith said.
Deb Porter from the
Portage Schools said the loan program for charter schools has an interest
rate of 1 percent while the rate for traditional based schools is about four
although people hear claims that if you send your children to a charter
school they will do better, the reality is only one in six performs as well
as traditional schools.
gave updates on what ISTA identifies as “eight bad bills for education”
introduced in this year’s Indiana General Assembly.
One bill discussed
at length is HB 1004 for school pension plans, authored by Education
Committee Chair Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, which would allow school
districts to give extra pay to teachers who take a position the district
considers difficult to fill and without permission from the teacher’s union.
It would also introduce a new 401k-style defined contribution retirement
program as an alternative to the existing defined benefit pension plan.
according to ISTA, it would leave fewer dollars to bargain with for wages
for school employees and would divest from teacher retirement funds.
ISTA alleges the
bill would take money out of the pockets of current teachers as the bill
does not have a funding mechanism.
HB 1004 passed the
house 57-42 last week and has been referred to the Senate.
Moseley said he has
his suspicions about the bill as it was never brought up to his Labor and
Pension Committee where he is the ranking minority member.
“This bill didn’t
come from Labor. Its goal is to be a distraction, to get yourself worked up
about getting a plan and how they are paying you in the future,” said
Moseley who said he bets people in the audience are surprised to see a Labor
issue being at an education forum. “Why are you being so nice about it? You
should be getting mad.”
Some bills like HB
1311 which would expand voucher-like entitlements, HB 1325 for early
retirement and Senate Bill 379 which would give a teacher the option of
individually negotiating a separate contract have died.
ISTA will continue
to oppose the amended SB 10 in its current form which would allow school
salary bonuses to be handled in executive session and HB 1005 that would
give a handful of school administrators the authority to change the salary
landscape for every teacher.
Due to advocacy
efforts, HB 1394 regarding the expansion of Innovation Network Schools and
HB 1395 originally demanding a rescore of the 2014-15 ISTEP scores that
would have cost an estimated $10 million in tax dollars have been improved,
Arnold bowing out
Sen. Arnold, who
mentioned last week he intends to vote in support of HB 1247 -- to force the
Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to issue the DNR three-way liquor
permits to state parks without any local input -- mentioned he will not be
running for re-election this fall and is retiring after 50 years of public
He left the session
early for another event without speaking on HB 1247.
Another view on
boundaries of Duneland is Discovery Charter School.
The president of
the school’s board of directors, Laurie Metz, later gave her points of
clarification when it comes to the comparison of charter schools to
Metz said charter
schools follow all of the same kinds of rules as traditional public schools
-- teachers must be certified in all of the schools, the students take all
of the same state tests, and the per-pupil funding formula is exactly the
“Some believe that
charter schools receive more funding, which is not true. Unlike traditional
public schools, charter schools do not receive capital or transportation
funds,” Metz said. “In Indiana, the funds follow the student, so saying that
charter schools take funds away from the traditional schools is not giving
the full picture. The money allotted to that student is transferring to the
new school they are attending, so the school they left is not getting the
funds, but they also no longer have the student.”
The loan that was
forgiven by the state was a loan given to new charter schools for capital
building expenditures and enabled them to acquire buildings and begin
operations, Metz added.
“One of the best
things about charter schools is that they foster competition and innovation,
which makes all schools better,” she said. “Those involved in charters
simply feel that parents should have a choice in finding a school that best
fits their child.”