Telling It Like It Is

What was that line from Jaws? It’s baaaack…

“It” in this case is the Indiana Legislature, which is beginning its “long” session. (I don’t know how other state’s lawmaking bodies work, but in Indiana, which has a two-year budget cycle, the session is longer the year the budget is considered.) When I last looked, over 300 bills had been filed by members of the State Senate, and 150 or so by members of the House. As you might imagine, a number of them won’t see the light of day–and most probably shouldn’t.

For that matter, Hoosiers would be better off if some of the bills that will survive quietly died. But that’s a post for another day…

Indiana’s teachers had hoped this year’s budget would include funding for a much-needed raise. That may still happen, and it clearly should, but several lawmakers have issued opinions to the effect that, yes, teachers should get raises, but the school corporations that employ them should just take the money for those raises from another part of the school budget.

This is totally unreasonable, of course, because most of those “other” funds are needed and/or legally earmarked for a variety of purposes, but Indiana’s legislators rarely allow their lack of understanding of the way things actually work get in the way of their opining.

In an op-ed for the Lafayette Journal and Courier, the Superintendent of the West Lafayette School System, Rocky Killion, responded. He began with the obvious:

This week the House Education Committee, on a partisan vote of 9-3, passed House Bill 1003.  House Bill 1003 affirms increasing teacher salaries but provides no additional funding to public schools to do so.  Instead, the GOP calls on public schools to spend differently…

What they do not seem to understand is that unless more revenue is provided, there will be less money to provide custodial, maintenance, secretarial, health, special education and other support services for students and teachers.

Then he turned the tables–very effectively.

If legislators are serious about increasing teachers’ salaries without increasing school funding, I would suggest the same to them, spend differently on public education.  Here are three ways to increase teacher salaries without increasing school funding:

Killion’s first suggestion was to quit spending over $100 million annually on standardized testing. As he quite correctly points out, standardized testing doesn’t improve student learning; what he doesn’t say–but many education scholars confirm–is that such testing distorts what happens in the classroom, because teachers feel impelled to spend more time on subjects that will be  tested than on subjects (like civics, for example) that won’t.

 A statistically sound approach for measuring student achievement and holding school corporations accountable for student learning is that of measuring student academic growth over time, which standardizing testing does not do.  Reallocate this resource to teacher salaries.

His second recommendation was similar:Quit spending over $10 million on IREAD-3 testing.

Teachers do not need this test to determine whether or not a student is reading at a third-grade level.  The best, most efficient way to find out if a third-grade student is reading at a third-grade level is by asking a third-grade teacher.  Reallocate this resource to teacher salaries.

I unequivocally endorse his third recommendation, which was to quit spending over $70 million on student vouchers, and reallocate those resources to teacher salaries.

Vouchers were Initially justified as a way to allow children to escape “failing” public schools, but 60% of Indiana’s vouchers are used by students who have never attended a public school.

What Killion was too “politically correct” to mention in his op-ed was that researchers have found no improvement in academic achievement by voucher students. (A couple of studies have found a decline, at least in math.) It has become quite clear that Indiana’s voucher program–the largest in the U.S.–is simply a way to take money from public education and give it to the religious schools that constitute over 90% of the schools accepting vouchers.

Voucher programs were a strategy devised to evade the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits tax support of religious institutions. The courts accepted the argument that the money was “really” going to the parents, and not to a parochial school. That it was always a specious argument has become glaringly obvious.

Indiana’s public school teachers ought not continue to be underpaid so that religious schools can suck at the public you-know-what.


  1. RE: The Indiana Republican State Legislature.

    Never have so many gathered so long to accomplish so little.

  2. What happened to the Yes/No vote on the last election ballot regarding willingness to pay a very small tax increase to to provide the salary raise for teachers? I believe Yes won that issue; is it even included in the current Indiana budget session in either legislative body by either party, even in the small print? Indiana has been known for decades as “The Land of Taxes”; look on your paycheck stubs and your utility bills and total up the list monthly. Are any of these taxes still deductible on your new IRS tax form to undercut Trump’s big tax cut for middle Americans?

    Parents who have for many years paid taxes which supported the public school system and paid tuition fees when they chose to send their children to private, primarily religious, schools, are now aiding voucher students of parents whose income levels are far above their own. I haven’t read any reference to the lowered public education school bus provision since the voucher system was enacted; parents of voucher students must provide transportation.

    Is there a committee in either the Senate or the House to weed out “frivolous” bills; or move them to the bottom of the list of possible hearings?

    “Indiana’s public school teachers ought not continue to be underpaid so that religious schools can suck at the public you-know-what.”

  3. As a reacher, I say “Bravo” to both this blog post and also to the Superintendent of the West Lafayette schools. I have always believed that the school voucher system is a violation of the separation of church and state.

    Great teachers greatly affect student long-term success. Let’s pay them enough to keep the very best of them in the classroom.

  4. IStep which was done twice a year is replaced by ILearn done once at the end of the year. Most testing should be done on a formative basis to apply to a growth mindset which is normal classroom testing. So cut backs are already in place. The third grade test IRead is a needed benchmark test as it is a test that measures overtime and although their are arguments against it generally the student is passed on except for reading classes until they catch up. Teachers have been forced to be accountable to students falling thru the cracks but more importantly the k-4 grades with this test in mind collaborate more
    Overall increases in funding atleast should be slight to keep up with pay. As the referendum for IPS passed teachers in that school district saw raises for the first time in years.

  5. This is just another issue that demonstrates the Indiana republicans are solely intent on maintaining their ideological hold on the legislature while enabling and facilitating the decay of public education, infrastructure, the environment and public health. They should be ashamed, but that would require a conscience.

  6. Rocky has always been a staunch advocate for public schools and predicted their destruction by our predominately GOP lawmakers. I hosted his documentary Rise Above the Mark in Muncie for local teachers. Only a dozen showed up (eye roll).

    I wanted to host it at a central location – the Minnetrista Cultural Center. I was told it would be too controversial for the Ball financed cultural center. LOL

    I agree with all his recommendations and would take it one step further…where is the money going for all the standardized tests in our public schools?

    Once again, follow the money…Pearson, McGraw-Hill, ETS???

    Like with anything, with all the efforts to reform “education”, has it improved our outcomes or do we spend Billions needlessly so that educational lobbyists and the companies who hire them can enrich themselves?

    Last I checked, the USA has continued their decline and the number of Asian students showing up on college campuses continues increasing.


  7. Hmmm……

    I don’t see Mr. Killion’s suggestions getting even a passing thought from the R state legislators.

    If they followed his advice their vast donations from the ALEC members would shrivel up instantly.

    Nice idea for the students and teachers – Bad idea for the pockets and jobs of the R legislators.

  8. Why should we expect people who do not value knowledge to provide proper funding for education? If I may quote from 45, “I like stupid people.” I posit that he likes them because they vote for him. Ditto for other Republicans.

  9. our legislature,2 year legislative cycle,they will give state workers a 3% pay raise,thats 1% per year,for the next three years., first time in 10 years.. and they are sure they will like it.

  10. The Steroid Capitalists would tell you, you need to pay some CEO or athlete millions of dollars to attract and retain the best. This thought process is abandoned when pay raises for the Proles (99%) are discussed. Decades ago we had strong Unions to fight for a living wage. Back in my early Boomer days, teachers by virtue of their important job of educating young minds were highly valued.

    Teachers were looked at as Professionals. Today, the highest paid employees of our Universities are the coaches of sports. The other Professors of education are in a distant second place.

    Back in the late 1960’s the forces of a Reactionary Movement, decided that all the tumultuous political protests civil rights, anti-war, and anti-draft were caused by Radical teachers attacking “traditional values”.

    Since the late 1960’s slowly but surely these Reactionary forces began undermining public education. The private academies established in the old Confederacy had one main purpose, perpetuate segregation.

    These academies and parochial religious schools, depended upon the parents being able to afford the costs. The solution to expanding these religious schools was a voucher program supported by public tax dollars. Through some convoluted thinking the taxes paid for schooling was not owed to public schools, but followed the student. I know of no other tax levied where “the citizen” decides what his tax dollars will be spent on. You do not get a “choice” of what weapons systems the Defense Department will buy.

    I am curious though. I wonder how many of our Legislators could pass the High School ISTEP, or what ever test they use today????

  11. And what about the Indiana Department of Education not supporting Senate Bill 132 requiring Indiana students to pass a test required of those seeking U.S. citizenship? The Department of Education does not support this bill because it would add more testing time. Civics needs to be taught in schools, and if it is being taught, the method should be changed because there is a lot of evidence out there that our citizens do not understand civics.

  12. Texas also has a Republican-dominated legislature. It meets only every other year…unless the governor calls for extended sessions on those meeting years – which he almost always does.

    The actions of the legislature are almost always about the Republican agenda, religion and how much money can be cut from social services – like schools.

    Typical Republican… In Texas the legislature is owned and operated by big oil, big insurance and big real estate. End of story.

  13. Sheila’s penultimate paragraph in her lead-in tells it all. Such specious thinking undergirds Republican education policy, if it’s policy. Such “policy” that has found its way through wrongfully decided judicial decisions is clearly at odds with the Establishment Clause, but voucher aficionados have managed to cloud the constitutional issues with their own views and have won out, at least for the present, but I think (and hope) this brawl over quasi-privatization takeover of education under various guises is not over.

    I see historical parallels of education with taxes. When the federal income tax was finally instituted in 1913 after a constitutional amendment allowing it, then citizens were told that it would be a progressive tax, i.e., the more you made the more you paid. However, while keeping the basic structure of the statute, lobbyists for the rich and corporate class with their amendments, additions and subtractions to that code have made it anything but progressive, and so it is with the state’s poor-mouthing of its obligation to educate children in a public setting.

    What to do? Keep pounding away on the church-state issue, raises for public school teachers, curricular designs that include civic literary etc.

  14. We have a teacher shortage, and they don’t really want to raise their pay? Are you kidding me?
    The state legislature needs to wake up. They wonder why so many people leave Indiana. I will bet that one of the reasons they leave is that our state government does not want to invest in Indiana’s future, that would be the children and their education. And yes, civics should be mandatory to support our democracy.

    My sister has taught for decades. She tells me many new teachers leave after 5 years due to the fact that there are too many school administrators with little to no class room experience. She also states that standardized tests put pressure on both the kids and the teachers and don’t allow her to use her expertise. She would prefer to teach kids how to use critical thinking and states that teaching to the test interferes with that. She works at least 60 hours per week during the school year.

    She has told me her most difficult years are when parents don’t support her and let the kids get away with too much. She gets blamed if the kids fail to make good grades. Kids make better grades when the parents back good teachers and confront their kids when they behave badly or don’t do the necessary home work to make the grade.

    There is a great film short on the latter issue. It ends with a humorous twist at the end. Unfortunately I can’t recall the name. It’s on YouTube.

    I can guarantee you that as long as we keep paying teachers poorly, as long as we create systems that interfere with their competence, as long as we blame teachers when they have students who don’t perform well due to lack of motivation and/or parental support, Indiana will continue to have a teacher shortage.

  15. A couple of interesting articles in The Guardian today.

    ‘Brought to Jesus’: the evangelical grip on the Trump administration
    The influence of evangelical Christianity is likely to become an important question as Trump finds himself dependent on them for political survival.

    In setting out the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, one of the first things Mike Pompeo made clear to his audience in Cairo is that he had come to the region as “as an evangelical Christian”.

    In his speech at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said that in his state department office: “I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and his word, and the truth.”

    Just as he did in Cairo, Pompeo called on the congregation of a Kansan megachurch three years ago to join a fight of good against evil.

    “We will continue to fight these battles,” the then congressman said at the Summit church in Wichita. “It is a never-ending struggle … until the rapture. Be part of it. Be in the fight.”

    Almost alone among major demographic groups, white evangelicals are overwhelmingly in favor of Trump’s border wall, which some preachers equate with fortifications in the Bible.
    Just as an observation Facebook posts I read that favor The Wall, the same person will post some bible thumping about the war on Christians, etc.
    Another article in The Guardian:

    ‘In God We Trust’ – the bills Christian nationalists hope will ‘protect religious freedom’
    The package of new bills are part of Project Blitz, a political playbook that aims to support and promote Christian beliefs. Christian hardliners on the religious right have introduced new bills to impose their values in at least six American states in the opening days of 2019.

    Frederick Clarkson, senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a think-tank which studies the political right, was the first to draw attention to the Project Blitz playbook last year.

    He first revealed that the 140-page playbook had been shared by a group called the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) set up by a former Republican congressman with the stated aim to “protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer”.
    One of our theocratic Reactionary Bible Thumping legislators will probably try to insert something from Project Blitz into this legislative session.

  16. In 6.5 years of teaching in Texas, California and Indiana, in the 1960s, I learned quickly that the surest way to get in big trouble was to actually teach. It made no difference how much or how little they paid teachers as long as teachers smoothed the waters and did not teach.

    If I really wanted to teach some concept well, I had to find a way to do it that was invisible, somehow cloaked in silliness or fun or tedium; whatever, “guerrilla” tactics were the only way.

    And it was not really the administration that mustered that opposition to kids learning stuff; it was the parents. Woe to the teacher whose students went home and proudly, happily brandished some new concept, such as the success of the Marshall Plan, but especially the idea that one should think for himself or herself.

    Most parents did not see education as their child’s salvation but rather as some sort of injury inflicted by the teacher upon their child’s ability to fit into the cultural status quo. And from what I have observed in subsequent years, the parent’s opposition to their child’s learning has only gotten worse.

  17. Thanks so much for highlighting Rocky Killion’s comments.

    One clarification – vouchers technically don’t give “money” to the parents. They get a ‘voucher’ or certificate rather than funds, and the voucher can be endorsed over to a school which turns it into the state for reimbursement with taxpayer funds. Parents never see the money – presumably so that parents don’t use the money for something other than their child’s education.

    This scheme permits the state to launder funds through the parents for an unconstitutional purpose. The state and U.S. Supreme Courts have essentially said it’s okay to launder taxpayer funds for religious schools through the parents, even though laundering funds is viewed as a criminal act for drug cartels, organized crime, and others. The state’s position is ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

  18. Larry,

    Spot on. As a science teacher, I was continually assailed by parents about teaching evolution, the big bang and a host of other FACTS that conflicted with the teachings of their church.

    Religion keeps coming to the rescue of sanity and human progress.

  19. Back in the day when the Indiana legislature met for 60 days every two years Governor Brannigan said that we would be better off if they met for two days every sixty years. I’m not sure if he was correct then, but given some of the stupidity that comes from the legislature today, he would certainly be correct now.

  20. Not to throw a bomb into the discussion, but racism is as much a driver – if not more – of the use of vouchers as religion is. Religious schools just happen to be way more plentiful and accessible than private schools without a religious affiliation. The end effect is segregation.

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