‘Last hired, first fired’ strikes again

A story in Saturday’s Bloomington Herald-Times (subscription required) provides an example of the kind of thing that gives teachers’ unions and public schools a bad name.

It’s about Scott Wallace, a science teacher in the Monroe County Community School Corp. who was selected as 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year by the Air Force Association but lost his job with the MCCSC because of budget cuts. Wallace was placed deep on the district’s reduction-in-force list as a result of the strict seniority system – “last hired, first fired” – enshrined by the MCCSC’s contract with the local teachers’ union, the Monroe County Education Association.

The MCCSC board voted in April to put 73 teachers on the RIF list, which meant they could be laid off for the 2010-11 school year.

Dozens were called back over the summer. They included Batchelor Middle School’s Jackie Macal, one of six “outstanding Hoosier educators” honored at a Statehouse ceremony in May, Continue reading


‘Edujobs’ update – food stamp increase on the chopping block?

The U.S. Senate breathed new life last week into “Edujobs,” passing legislation that would give the states $10 billion to help prevent teacher layoffs along with another $16 billion to help support Medicaid programs. The House is being called back from recess this week to take up the measure.

But to pay for the education funding without increasing the federal deficit, the Senate had to make spending cuts elsewhere. And one of the cuts it approved – to future spending for the federal food stamp program – is running into opposition.

Indiana would get $207 million from the Senate bill, according to an update from the Education Commission for the States.

The House passed a different version of the teacher jobs bill last month, despite controversy over some of its proposed budget offsets Continue reading

Indiana updates: You think your child’s summer break was short?

The Warren Township school district on the east side of Indianapolis wins the prize for the earliest start to the 2010-11 school year. Their students returned to class on Monday (Aug. 2).

Peggy Hinckley, the Warren superintendent, cites a recent Time magazine article in explaining the rationale for the short summer break. She says summer vacation can be “devastating” for low-income kids. “The article describes what we as educators know, and that is a three-month summer break is not good for children,” Hinckley tells the Indianapolis Star.

The Time cover story, titled “The Case Against Summer Vacation,” makes a powerful case for year-round school. Continue reading

‘Dollars to the Classroom’ — less than meets the eye?

The recent Dollars to the Classroom report from the Indiana Office of Management and Budget brings to mind Mark Twain’s oft-quoted line about “lies, damned lies and statistics.” Not that the report is dishonest – but gleaning truth from its hundreds of pages is no easy task.

Key points, according to Indiana OMB director Ryan Kitchell, include that Indiana schools spent only 57.8 percent of their dollars “in the classroom” in 2008-09, and that this figure “continues to trail the U.S. average by 5 percentage points.”

But calculations of how much is spent in the classroom can vary dramatically, depending on how spending is recorded and categorized. And the comparison of Indiana with the national average isn’t quite the apples-to-apples comparison that Kitchell implies.

Indiana’s Dollars to the Classroom reports grew out of a nationwide push a few years ago, led by the CEO of online sales company Overstock.com and endorsed by columnist George Will and other prominent conservatives Continue reading