(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Over 1,000 teachers from around Indiana descended upon the Statehouse Tuesday urging lawmakers to rethink ideas for education reform.
The Indiana House voted 59-37 largely along party lines to pass a bill expanding charter schools in Indiana despite the outcry from members of the Indiana State Teachers Association and Indiana Federation of Teachers who filled the Statehouse halls.
Many educators help signs or created chants opposed to the reforms.
House Bill 1002 seeks to increase the number of charter schools by creating a statewide charter school board and allowing city mayors to sponsor a charter. A public school could become a charter school if more than half of parents vote to do so. Charters would also have access to public school transportation funds if the legislation becomes law.
Various reports said teachers became visibly upset as it became apparent the legislation would pass, making its way to the state Senate.
“I am a huge supporter of our teachers, and I certainly believe they should be treated as professionals. Some here certainly aren't acting as such,” Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) wrote on his Facebook page following the vote.
The unions have been critical of proposed reforms from Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett which in addition to HB 1002 include state-funded vouchers for students to attend private school and basing educators’ pay on student performance.
ISTA President Nate Schnellenberg told the crowd Daniels’ agenda aims to weaken the unions.
“It’s not about school reform. It’s much more about privatizing public education than it is about true school reform,” said Schnellenberg.
Daniels fired back in a statement following the rally.
"As always, the union's demand is more money, no change. Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana. Their special interest domination of education policy from the local level to the State House has hurt Indiana children for too long and this year, change must finally come," the governor said.
Indiana University released a 2010 Public Opinion Survey on K-12 Education in Indiana Tuesday where 37 percent of respondents gave Indiana schools a "C" grade. Abotu 31 percent gave a "B" grade.
Nearly 89 percent responded that a purpose of teacher evaluations should be to help teachers improve teaching ability. Documenting ineffectiveness that could lead to dismissal received 74.3 percent. Just over 59 percent indicated evaluations should play a role in teacher salaries.