RICH JAMES: Pence draws a bead on public education

2013-12-15T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Pence draws a bead on public educationRich James Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Gov. Mike Pence’s assault on the state’s public school system apparently is headed for the fast track.

Pence threw around a lot of fancy words last week when he announced his education agenda for the legislative session that starts in three weeks.

The governor said he wants to put education “reform” on the shelf and instead move to education “innovation.”

And Pence said even though Indiana has 71 charter schools, there needs to be more — lots more.

He said more charter schools are needed because they “stir the pot” of what’s expected in education.

And, by golly, he also is going to change what’s expected in education in Indiana.

Pence said he wants to minimize the constitutionally mandated focus on general “knowledge and learning,” and have schools become worker training centers from the earliest grades.

In other words, Big Brother will be deciding early on whether Johnny will be a truck driver, a carpenter, a teacher or a doctor when he grows up. Nevermind that Johnny’s focus might change as he experiences different things in life.

He also wants to allow charters to take over unused public school buildings.

And he wants to allow charter operators with more than one Indiana school — including for-profit operators — to shift state money among their schools.

The most egregious assault on the public school system is Pence’s proposal to pay a bonus to teachers to leave their schools for a low-performing charter school.

In layman’s terms, he wants Hoosier taxpayers to pay teachers to abandon public schools in favor of charters. That is unconscionable.

While I am all for more money for teachers, they should receive it through negotiations, not because a head-hunter came calling.

If the public school system is so unproductive — as Pence has been suggesting since taking office 11 months ago — why does he want the heart of that system — its teachers — to jump ship in favor of charter schools?

Pence clearly is pitting public schools against charters, which is the opposite of an innovative approach to education.

I keep wondering why Pence has such a disdain for public schools. And clearly he does.

Pence and his Republican Party can’t seem to live with the reality that Democrat Glenda Ritz defeated GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett last year.

While Pence says warm and fuzzy things about trying to work with Ritz for the benefit of Hoosier children, the facts show he is trying to undermine her authority at every turn.

Pumping up charter schools is political power for Republicans. So is decimating the ranks of teacher unions.

Come on, governor. End the charade, and admit it. And let the educators run education.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writers.

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