Pence, Daniels & Bennett Against Keeping Educators Working

Today we were a part of a statewide conference call alerting folks to the coming decimation of the backbone of our public school system. In a statewide conference call featuring Nate Shellenberger, President of the Indiana State Teacher’s Association and teachers from across the state, some losing their jobs due to budget cuts and others on the bubble.

ISTA represents more than 50,000 teachers across the state and has been under siege by Governor Mitch Daniels (http://aloyalopposition.in/2009/12/29/daniels-cannot-wait-to-fire-some-teachers) and Superintendent Tony Bennett for some time.

First, Daniels (http://aloyalopposition.in/2010/02/25/my-malicious-mitch) took advantage of the property tax upheaval to permanently remove education from the property tax roles thus always making it linked to the more rollercoastery ebb and flow of sales and income taxes. Fully knowing that with the very next downturn he would have to fire teachers. He has long wanted to see government out of the education business. It is why he has begun advocating for less education. Did you ever think you’d have a Governor telling folks that they shouldn’t aim for better educations?

Daniels (http://aloyalopposition.in/2009/12/16/disingenuous-daniels-gutting-education) has pressed since he was a part of Steve Goldsmith’s privatize everything cabal and then George Bush’s Your Child Left Behind crusade, to get government out of the education business so only wealthy folks can reach higher education’s rewards.

Then his hand-picked hatchet man, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, pressed to make it easier for less-qualified people who do not have training as educators, replace professionally trained teachers. Bennett, as the guy who is supposed to ensure Indiana schools improve, wants to make it so professionals can be replaced with less skilled, under-certified non-educators.

All this is now coming under fire now as Iowa Senator Tom Harkin has announced the Keep Our Educator’s Working Act.  Back in April Harkin announced the effort:

Job losses at public schools and colleges in the U.S. may top 100,000 in the next school year, Harkin said today at a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The legislation needs to be passed now because school districts are making budget decisions this month, he said.

“The jobs crisis in education is real,” Harkin said at the hearing. “And it’s not just a problem in one state or one area; it’s a problem nationally.”

The fund would supplement the $100 billion dedicated to education in the $862 billion stimulus package, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A total of $69 billion had been awarded to states through Dec. 31, preserving more than 300,000 teaching and school administration jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Education Web site. The stimulus money expires Sept. 30, Harkin said.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he planned to work with Harkin on details of the legislation.

“We absolutely need a jobs bill,” Duncan testified before the subcommittee. “It’s the right thing for our country; it’s the right thing for our economy; it’s the right thing for our children.”

The money in the Harkin legislation would be used to retain teachers, librarians and other school staff, hire new employees and provide training at schools districts and public colleges and universities. The funds couldn’t be used to retire debt or for a reserve.

The legislation would be classified as an emergency spending measure and be exempt from pay-as-you-go rules that would require cuts elsewhere, Harkin said. It is appropriate to increase the federal deficit for education purposes, he said.

“How can you argue that it’s OK for a kid to borrow to go to college but it’s not OK to borrow so that there’s a college for the kid to go to?” Harkin said. “If there’s one legitimate area where we can borrow from the future, it’s education, because what sort of jobs will we have for my grandkids and great grandkids in the future if we don’t have a well-educated group of young people today?”

Can’t hear Daniels blowing his top? Anyway, support for this effort has been ramping up and the ISTA call was to draw support for the bill. Shellenberger and some very worried and long dedicated educators were on the call reminding people of what is to be lost if nothing is done. As many as 5,000 teachers will be fired next year in Indiana if nothing is done. Classroom sizes will balloon. Whole school districts will be forced to cut programs and probably close schools.

We asked Shellenberger, who pointed out that if the bill passes the funding will likely drop to the state and be up to this governor to distribute, how he could be sure that such a non-advocate of public education could be trusted to make sure the funds get used to rehire teachers.

Shellenberger wisely did not take ALO’s red-meat bait but rather and appropriately pointed out that the ISTA will make sure that they put clear pressure on the Governor to properly and immediately distribute those funds to the most effected school districts.

When we again wondered to ISTA how he can be certain that Tony Bennett. who apparently left his heart somewhere, and the Governor can be trusted to rehire laid-off teachers and not replace then with under-certified hacks with no educational training, Shellenberger again did not jump at the chance to criticize, but rather cited that he is certain the teacher contracts in effect in each district will be adhered to and that “retired Lilly chemists won’t be hired over trained laid-off chemistry teachers.”

We are proud of Shellenberger for not jumping at our hot-headed rhetoric but rather cooly sticking to his guns. He has a long fight to impress Hoosier members of congress to pass this bill this summer and avoid huge lay-offs in September.

We know Congressman Mike Pence won’t vote for it, even though several of the most impacted districts including Anderson, Muncie and Richmond are in his district. Why? Because he is a doctrinaire flag-waving patriot who doesn’t vote for spending unless its attached to a bullets, missiles and tanks, his home district be damned.

And because he loves carrying Daniels’ and Bennett’s water.

Enough of our partisanship. Go here if you want to breakdown the nuts and bolts of how many teaching jobs can be saved by this bill: http://edmoney.newamerica.net/node/30915. If you don’t want to read it we can tell you it is 210,000 teaching jobs nationwide.

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