IBJournal: Daniel’s damage to public education

Indiana Business Journal
March 5, 2011


Things are getting crazy as state resources diminish. Our governor is clearly out of touch with reality. He wants to abolish the 1:600 ratio for elementary school counselors to students on top of drastically cutting back state-supported mental-health programs.

As the nuclear family continues to erode, Mitch Daniels has increased expectations and pressured schools to perform at higher levels. He believes that paying teachers bonuses for performance will increase student achievement. Not accurate, says a 2010 study by Vanderbilt University.

If anything, Gov. Daniels’ idea will foster a negative undercurrent in schools that decreases teacher collaboration. If there is to be bonus pay, it would only make sense to reward individual schools for “student growth.” This approach would increase subject-level collaboration and put healthy pressure on teachers to stay up with best practices.

Another proactive way he can accomplish his educational goals would be to extend the instructional day for low-achieving, at-risk students. This would require current financial resources to increase, which in the end would be a good use of funds, compared to people dropping out of school and having little chance at obtaining and keeping a good job. There is no easy way around the challenges we face. Either we become proactive and reach out further to students who struggle, or reactive and pay later to rehabilitate those who fail and/or drop out of society.

Mitch Daniels is interested in only one thing: increasing his ego and power by positioning himself to run for national office. Soon he will begin testing the water, trying to convince people that he is the man for the job because his state’s budget is balanced. Having a balanced budget may be a true statement, but has it been accomplished in a responsible way?

There is growing concern that Gov. Daniels’ intense push to overhaul Indiana’s education system seems to originate from a small group of special-interest groups. One such special-interest group is Patrick Byrne, chairman and president of Overstock.com, and also chairman of the Indianapolis-based Foundation for Educational Choice. Campaign-finance records show that Byrne, a Utah resident, donated at least $125,000 to Daniels since 2007 in addition to $15,000 for State Superintendent Tony Bennett. Byrne also gave $200,000 to Hoosiers for Economic Growth, which is a PAC that helped support GOP candidates last fall.

It is critical that people from all political points of view question our governor’s agenda. Clearly his educational policies are lacking in supportive data and unfortunately are currently blindly being followed down party lines.

Thomas Terrell

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