Stand for Children, an education advocacy group based in Portland, Ore., has parachuted into Indiana to join the push for Senate Bill 1, state legislation that would mandate performance pay for educators and make it easier to fire teachers.
The group was recruited to the state by The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis nonprofit that seeks to improve education by “empowering education entrepreneurs to develop or expand transformative education initiatives.”
Stand calls itself a “grassroots child advocacy organization,” and it does appear to be reaching out for local support. But it arrived in Indiana with a paid state director, an Indianapolis office (at the same address as the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association), two high-priced Statehouse lobbyists and a ton of positive publicity courtesy of Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully. It received $242,300 from The Mind Trust and $150,000 from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation to support its Indiana launch, according to a Mind Trust news release.
Real grass-roots organizations should be so lucky.
SB 1 does a number of things, but its primary thrust is to implement a system of annual teacher evaluations, with each teacher rated highly effective, effective, improvement necessary or ineffective. Multiple ratings of improvement necessary or ineffective could be grounds for dismissal. And teachers with either of those ratings couldn’t get a raise the next year.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett insists schools will be free to design their own evaluation systems. But the legislation says decisions about pay raises “must be based primarily on student academic performance.”
The Indiana Senate passed the bill, 29-20, which means it can be considered by the House whenever Democrats return from their exile in Illinois.
In addition to lobbying for performance pay for teachers and administrators, Stand for Children wants to bar schools from negotiating contracts that rely on seniority when protecting teachers from layoffs.
Stand for Children started out in Oregon as a group that advocated for better school funding, but it fell in line with Democrats for Education Reform, the Gates Foundation and other entities that have decided the path to reforming schools is by using test data to identify and reward effective teachers.
Indiana is the ninth state where Stand for Children has set up shop. It’s helped with successful fights for performance-based teacher evaluations in Arizona, a state merit-pay bill in Colorado and charter schools in Massachusetts.
The group established a political action committee last year in Illinois and raised an astounding $3.5 million in contributions between September and December. The PAC spent heavily on state legislative campaigns last fall in Illinois, where it is pushing an initiative called “Performance Counts,” aimed at reforming tenure and making it easier to fire teachers.