For Indiana schools, freedom from union restrictions, but not from regulation

The Indiana General Assembly gave Gov. Mitch Daniels almost everything he asked for in the way of education reforms – almost.

More charter schools, vouchers, merit pay for teachers, limits on collective bargaining, even a “Mitch Daniels early graduation scholarship” for students who complete high school early. The solid Republican majority in the House and Senate managed to bull all those measures through the legislative process.

But when Daniels gave his State of the State address back in January, he also called on lawmakers to get rid of rules that have been piled on schools – for example, that they teach about organ donation, self-examinations for breast and testicular cancer and the spread of disease by rats, flies and mosquitoes.

“We are asking this Assembly to repeal … mandates that, whatever their good intentions, ought to be left to local control. I am a supporter of organ donation, and cancer awareness, and preventing mosquito-borne disease, but if a local superintendent or school board thinks time spent on these mandated courses interferes with the teaching of math, or English, or science, it should be their right to eliminate them from a crowded school day.”

As far as we can tell, none of these sorts of mandates were repealed. Nor were requirements that schools display the American flag in every classroom, provide a daily moment of silence and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and maintain 15 specific “protected writings, documents, and records of American history or heritage.” In fact, the patriotic requirements were extended to private schools that receive state-funded tuition vouchers under House Bill 1003.

Legislators are a lot better at making up new rules and regulations than at getting rid of old ones.

The Indiana Department of Education’s legislative agenda called for providing schools with greater flexibility and freedom. You might think that would mean getting rid of unnecessary regulations. But it turns out to have meant freeing schools from restrictions imposed by collective bargaining agreements.

Part of Daniels’ successful agenda, SB 575, limits collective bargaining for teachers to salaries, insurance benefits, and paid-time-off policies.

Of course, those were essentially the only factors that were required to be included in bargaining under the old law. School boards could also choose to bargain over the length of the school day, student-teacher ratios and working conditions. Many did. But no one was holding a gun to their heads.

2 thoughts on “For Indiana schools, freedom from union restrictions, but not from regulation

  1. Instead of helping education, the reform agenda just made teachers’ jobs that much harder to perform. Governor Daniels and Superintendent Bennett want to run schools on the cheap, and their insistence on vouchers and charter schools, they are trying to dismantle the free uniform public school system.

  2. If courses about organ donation were left to local control you can be sure that the number of potential organ donors will decrease. English, math, and science are very important but what weight do they hold when a life (or 100,00+) is at stake? A 40 minute class once a year will surely not disrupt years worth of basic English, math and science.

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