[r31] Progress continues with conversation (3/28/2011)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Start Date: 3/28/2011 All Day
End Date: 3/28/2011

Since January I have been meeting with various individuals, organizations and agencies concerning education reform. I have met with the Indiana State Teachers Association, commonly known as ISTA. I sat down with their members and talked about legislation, and heard their concerns.

I held an education forum for teachers, superintendents, principals and parents to attend-answering questions and hearing their concerns. After the forum, I organized a meeting with some of our superintendents to talk one-on-one with the Chairman of the House Education Committee.

I have had teachers in my own living room till all hours of the night talking about their concerns and the legislation regarding collective bargaining, charter schools and the education funding formula, to name a few.

Needless-to-say, I am taking education reform seriously and I am talking to everyone willing to contribute to the conversation because I understand the severity of the issue. Not only is it dealing with educating our young Hoosiers to prepare them for the future, but it's dealing with the livelihoods of our teachers. So it's nothing I take lightly.

I am hearing the concerns of our community, our parents and our teachers in order to find what needs to happen to ensure positive change in our school systems.

However, I keep hearing how we-the House Republicans-are supposedly "eliminating collective bargaining," in addition to "eliminating due process and tenure rights." This couldn't be further from the truth.

The legislation focuses contracts to be negotiated between teachers' unions and school corporations on salaries and wage-related benefits. Other issues-like working conditions-may still be discussed on the local level as part of each school corporation's policy. But simply put, salaries won't be getting cut.

Due process for teachers will remain, and it will mirror current principal due process with a focus on demonstrated teacher effectiveness based on locally developed, multi-faceted evaluations. In addition, current teachers will not lose tenure if they have already earned it.

In addition, Senate Bill 575 would help identify and reward excellent educators to support the development of all educators. By recognizing excellence in our schools, we will remove ineffective educators who fail to improve after receiving significant professional support.

I believe that is a fair argument. If you are an effective educator, you deserve to be rewarded, and vice versa.

Our community has excellent educators who do great work with our students-so I want them to be rewarded for their efforts. But let me clarify: we aren't working to pass legislation that will punish great educators-we are rewarding them.

I will continue to meet with educators, superintendents and parents. Nothing is final yet and we will continue to work over the next few weeks to get this legislation right, for all involved.