Now that thousands of Indiana teachers, educators and their supporters have rallied at the Statehouse over teacher pay, testing and professional development, it’s time to drop some facts. No offense, guys and gals, but whomever you’ve been listening to, they have done you a disservice. You all have been misled, miseducated and misdirected on this issue.
I’ve already talked about teacher pay and the fact that on 47 percent of the money schools spend on personnel ends up in the classroom and over the past couple of decades, while the student and teacher populations have only grown by less than 10 percent while non-teaching staff has grown by nearly 60 percent so. And before I forget to mention claims that funding for traditional schools only increased by 2.2 percent while funding for charters and vouchers went up nearly 10 percent, well guess what, in Indiana the money follows the child and when kids leave traditional public schools for other options, the money follows them. What a concept.
So, with that said, let’s focus our attention on professional development and testing.
When I heard Indiana teachers were not happy with new professional licensing requirements that they must get 15 hours of an “externship,” I did raise my eyebrows just a bit on that one. I am an attorney, and my wife is a physical therapist assistant, so we both have professional continuing education hours we have to get to keep our licenses current, but I was a little taken back by the new requirement for teachers, and then I went and got the facts.
First of all, these are not additional hours. They are included in the 90 hours of certification a teacher must receive, and it can be done over five years, i.e., three hours a year. Second, teachers don’t have to go to a job site, the company can come to them at the school and tell them what they need to know.
Also, teachers can fulfill that obligation by participating in a professional development program by the state, a local business, or a community partner that provides opportunities for school and employers to partner in promoting career navigation. Or they can participate in a professional development program that outlines the current and future economic needs of the community, state, nation, and globe and how these needs can be disseminated to students. The point of all this is to make sure teachers are in tune with the workforce needs of their community.
But most importantly, we are not talking about 15 additional hours of certification, it’s included in the 90 teachers must get already. And if you think about it, some schools who used professional development days to give teachers the day off to protest at the statehouse could have used that day to knock out six or seven hours of that professional development requirement.
In this area, I have a lot more sympathy for teachers. With all the problems Indiana has been having with its testing procedures, I don’t blame them for wanting to be held harmless, at least for now. This, by the way, the governor and top legislative leaders have already said they plan to do. Now demands that Indiana stop spending an estimated $100 million on testing and use that for teacher pay is probably one bite at the apple too many. Under federal rules, Indiana has to conduct testing. The trick is to figure out how to meet federal regulations and not spend every class day preparing for an exam.
So, when teachers and their supporters show up on Organization Day to protest, I will give them a big round of applause for peacefully expressing what they perceive are their grievances with their government. However, the next time the come to the capitol, it would be nice for them to do their homework so they’re not be misled, misdirected and miseducated.