Thursday was a super-big media day for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. He was quoted in front-page stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
In both, his message was the same: Teachers are the good guys; teachers’ unions, while they may be made up of teachers, with their leadership elected by teachers, are blocking what’s best for students.
“There is a tremendous difference in desire for reform between teachers and the teachers unions,” Bennett told the Post’s Nick Anderson. “Teachers want what’s best for children. The teachers union is an institution built to protect the interests of itself and adults.”
Anderson reported from Indianapolis for a story focusing on state legislation to institute teacher merit pay, limit collective bargaining and fund private-school vouchers. He interviewed the presidents of both state teachers’ unions, Indianapolis teachers and Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The New York Times story focused on nationwide teacher reactions to proposed changes in education laws. Bennett told the Times’ Trip Gabriel that union leaders had distorted the Indiana legislation to create fear. “This is in no way, shape or form an attack on teachers; it is a comprehensive effort to reform a system,” he said.
Coincidentally, Bennett was scheduled to be in Bloomington on Thursday to discuss his legislative agenda with local educators, but he called off the appearance. Lauren Auld, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education, said Bennett canceled because of changes in the state legislative calendar prompted by House Democrats’ walkout over education and anti-labor bills. She said the department will attempt to reschedule the meeting.