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What Mitch Daniels is Doing in Indiana is Far More Radical than Scott Walker’s Union Busting in Wisconsin

It’s important to keep in mind that this poisonous crop of right-wing Republican governors isn’t just targeting unions when they go after teachers — they’re targeting the public school system itself. Why? Because conservatives have always hated it.

Harmon Baldwin, a respected educator and former Vigo County school superintendent, believes the Republican education reform agenda passed this legislative session “has the potential to destroy public schools” as they now exist in Indiana.

Baldwin, 88, who served as Vigo County School Corp. superintendent from 1975 to 1984, has closely followed the legislative session.

“Neither do I accept that [public schools] are as bad as some like [Gov. Mitch] Daniels claim they are,” Baldwin said in a telephone interview Thursday. He does not believe wholescale change is necessary.

And what are these sweeping changes?

The legislative reform package backed by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels opens the door to more charter schools; creates the most expansive private school voucher program in the country; and limits teachers’ collective bargaining to wages and wage-related benefits. Also, Daniels on Saturday signed legislation that overhauls teacher evaluations and links teacher pay to student performance.

And remember: this is happening when Daniels, who people seem to have completely forgotten was George W. Bush’s budget director, is the flavor of the month for 2012.

Baldwin, like many of us, doesn’t see individual labor disputes or voucher debates or pension concerns — he sees a full-scale assault on public education.

It’s part of a state and national movement to make significant changes in public schools as we know it,” Baldwin said. But in his opinion, “We have done a lot of things that I think have the potential to destroy public schools as they have been.

Thomas Frank didn’t call these people The Wrecking Crew for nothing.

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