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Wisconsin Union Battles are Waking Up Teachers in Indiana and Other States

When workers unions’ collective bargaining abilities were threatened in Wisconsin two months back, unions across the country started to wake up in fear that their international human rights were in jeopardy. Governor Mitch Daniels was praised by the Indiana General Assembly on Friday for his plan for education reform. Unions are teachers are a little more skeptical.

The proposed budget has $6 million set aside for “merit pay in 2012.” Based on evaluations constructed by the State Department of Education, teachers who fall below the effective standard in their evaluation may not receive a raise the following year and they risk losing their jobs. This is a good thing, but right now collective bargaining between the Department of Education and the teachers unions only extends to “salary and wage-related benefits,” not teacher effectiveness standards.

As a side note, another highly debated bill would give eligible families funding for their children to attend accelerated charter and private schools within the state. The funds would go directly to their tuition. The debate is about state tax-funded dollars going to private institutions. The counter argument for this is that the money given for students to attend a private school would be no more than it costs to educate a student in Indiana public schools. Also, it increases competition among schools and offers variety. The idea seems fine, but what is the point? Indiana is not saving nor losing money. Governor Mitch Daniels states that the point of this is to give students and families a choice, and the “freedom to lead.” Even he says that although the bill is an important step, not much action is likely to come of it.

Indiana is not the only state dealing with similar issues. Just next door, Illinois faces similar reforms trying to make it through the House that has teachers unions stirring. Most important to the unions is Senate Bill 7 on education reform. The bill was drafted by teachers unions and reform groups, and it broadens the collective bargaining process and makes it more efficient, accelerates the process in firing low-performing teachers, and forces current and new teachers to take training courses and participate in evaluations. The teachers unions and reform boards would like to see the bill passed as submitted; but judging by the time it has sat unattended to, makes them think it will come out quite differently.The proposed bill gives each school district the ability to create their own set of guidelines for evaluation.

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Ryan Cook

Ryan Cook