Teachers hold rally at Statehouse over education reform

Facebook fan page started by two Indiana teachers
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Indianapolis - Teachers and their supporters held a rally at the Statehouse Tuesday to support public education and denounce reform backed by Republicans who control the House and Senate.

Hundreds of teachers and parents gathered at the north atrium of the Indiana Statehouse for a rally that began at 5:00 pm. Teachers held signs bearing slogans like, "Putting students first doesn't mean putting teachers last."

It all came together from a Facebook fan page that was created last month by two teachers from Bedford North Lawrence High School.

The group managed to gather 10,0000 supporters in just a matter of days, in fact between Monday and Tuesday they gathered 2,000 more supporters. Their goal is to unite and voice their concerns against an education reform proposed by both Gov. Mitch Daniels and the state school superintendent, Tony Bennett.

Some of the proposed reform issues include:

-Performance pay for teachers and principals
-Rewards for teachers based on how much students are learning as opposed to seniority and academic credentials
-School choices, giving parents more opportunities to send children to either private or chartered schools
-More flexibility and accountability for local schools
-Early graduation for students who complete their required classes
-Tax money as college scholarships

Some say the governor is choosing private over public schools.

"The plan is so non-data driven. They want to have charter schools, which are at the bottom 25 percent of our schools right now. If they go forward with this plan, they're going to drive more scores down," said Laurie Pfaffenberger.

"The biggies right now are charter schools. There's no research to support the efficacy of charter schools. In fact in places where it's been tried it does not work. The second one right now which I think is the crown jewel is the slow, death-by-a-thousand-cuts elimination of collective bargaining," said Lloyd Greenwell, a 25-year veteran Indian Creek Middle School teacher.

"I am very concerned about the direction that the legislators are trying to take education," said Christine, an IPS teacher who attended the rally. "Myself and every teacher I've spoken to, I've personally taught over 25 years, keep asking the question, where's the data behind these ideas? Everything I do in my classroom has to be data-proven and data-driven. Since I was in college, study after study after study has proven small class sizes increase test scores. There are no studies that prove charter schools improve test scores, merit pay improves test scores. Where's the data? I am required to prove what study I'm using. That's my concern."

"Children who have special needs, children who come from impoverished homes are not going to have a choice. They're not going to be accepted at charter schools, the private schools. We take them in. We take them in," said Karen Finley, Lake Central School Corporation.

"Look at the bottom schools in our state. They're all charter schools. Once our schools fail, he's gonna drive in and he's gonna try to make a profit off of it by cleaning it up," said Elwood teacher Steve Wickliffe.

The state says the current system needs to be re-tooled.

"I believe with all my heart that if traditional public schools don't perform they too should have consequences," said State Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett.

Teachers say the state seems closed to protect the future of education.

"Every time teachers go in to negotiate, we're thinking about students," said John Webb, Indiana State Teacher's Association.

"Young teachers are going to leave this state, because there will be nothing here for them. They'll go elsewhere, where they're respected. The new kids on the block will be gone," said Tom Fischer, a 30-year teaching veteran from Wheeler.

"I'm frustrated. It saddens me that we feel the need to take away from a system that's not broken," said Evansville teacher Heidi Slavkin.

Statement from Gov. Daniels

Governor Daniels issued the following statement Tuesday evening.

"As always, the union's demand is more money, no change. Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana. Their special interest domination of education policy from the local level to the Statehouse has hurt Indiana children for too long and this year, change must finally come."

Indiana survey finds support for teacher merit pay

A new survey measuring Indiana attitudes toward public education found some support for Gov. Daniels' proposal to tie teacher salary to student achievement.

The survey from Indiana University's Center for Evaluation & Education Policy found that about 58 percent think teacher compensation should be based on students' improvement on standardized tests.

About 75 percent say student achievement in the classroom should be a factor, and about 57 percent said a teacher's years of experience should also count.

The results indicate support for the merit pay portion of Daniels' sweeping education agenda, which Democrats and teacher unions have resisted.

The survey of more than 600 Indiana adults was conducted Nov. 18 through Dec. 4, 2010, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.