Thank Goodness They Went Home…

Can you stand one more diatribe about the pathetic Indiana legislature that has finally and mercifully departed? 

During the past session, I posted several times about the GOP super-majority’s deliberate rejection of evidence about the state’s woeful performance in education. (I could have focused on a large number of other deficits, but who has the time…?) 

The GOP’s persistent efforts to privatize education–while ignoring the state’s increasingly critical shortage of the public school teachers who teach 90% of Hoosier children–required legislators to ignore the years of highly credible academic research rebutting justifications for vouchers. 

I have previously posted about the many problems with privatized and other forms of “alternative” schools that researchers have identified. Among those numerous problems is the distressingly high percentage of such schools that close within 4 years of their founding. A May 4th article from the Indianapolis Star confirms that Indiana is not exempt from such closures. It appears that a third of charter schools close each year.

Proponents of charters and vouchers claim that these closures are a “feature, not a bug”–that the closures are evidence that “the market” is working. Tell that to the distraught parent for whom these closures are disruptive at best. As the article notes, those disruptions create yet another barrier for students who are already vulnerable to low student outcomes, and particularly for students of color.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle took a look at the legislature’s education policy failures during the just-completed session–and published an analysis with which I entirely agree.

As demonstrated by the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the Republican supermajority is more concerned with creating problems rather than solving them. 

If we are not able to attract and retain teachers and education support professionals because of low pay, lack of respect and inadequate funding, it’s the students who lose out.  

Too many students are in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support, disrespecting the profession and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less.

Additionally, too many potential educators never go into the classroom in part because of appallingly low starting salaries and record wage gaps between teaching and professions that require similar education – gaps that get worse over the course of educators’ careers.

So, what did our elected leaders do to solve these problems? 

    • They silenced teachers by eliminating a 50-year right to discuss students’ learning conditions with school administrators. 
    • They threatened educators with a level-six felony and two-and-a-half years in jail if they recommend certain books to kids. 
    • They trampled on the ability for local schools and educators to work collaboratively with parents addressing individual students’ mental health needs. 
    • They continued to drain public schools of scarce funding by siphoning a billion dollars to wealthy Hoosiers so their kids can attend private school for free.

As the commentary pointed out, it was Republican lawmakers who ignored testimony from educators and parents, and doubled down on what has become a GOP “anti-woke”  obsession. They focused on appeasing the Republican culture warriors who are determined to attack teachers and librarians in our public schools, employing misinformation and lies.

They listened to wealthy corporate donors who gave their campaigns hundreds of thousands of dollars to privatize our schools.

This agenda may benefit their political donors, but it hurts local communities which cherish and rely on their local schools – where 90% of Hoosier kids attend. 

It wasn’t just education, of course. The GOP super-majority ignored environmental concerns, thwarted efforts to improve building codes, spit on medical professionals and went to war against trans children–among many, many other things.

To call them “representatives” is to misuse the term.

Poll after poll confirms that Indiana’s legislature does not represent the policy preferences of Hoosier citizens. Thanks primarily to gerrymandering–which is the most effective of the GOP’s various efforts to suppress the votes of rational Hoosiers–Republican members of the General Assembly represent the most extreme elements of the Republican base. 

Since the Supreme Court has refused to notice that extreme gerrymandering is inconsistent with democracy and “one person, one vote,” the only way Hoosiers will ever get a truly representative legislative body is by massive turnout. Redistricting lines, after all, are based on turnout numbers from prior elections; if the people who have given up going to the polls because they’re convinced they live in a district that is “safe” for the other party were to vote in sufficient numbers, a lot of those “safe” districts wouldn’t be so safe.

I wish I knew how to get that message across.

I wish we didn’t have a legislative super-majority fixated on making Indiana the peer of a third-world country.



  1. The GOP isn’t the only party using gerrymandering. This morning, the AP polls say blacks aren’t pumped up about Biden, and in national polls, Biden is losing to Trump.

    Think about that for a moment…

    A rapist is the best the GOP offers against a fragile 80+-year-old. #Pathetic

    I’ll vote for Kennedy, who hopes to wash away both slimy parties in Washington. In Indiana, there’s not much bringing us to the polls. Democracy is dead. Not sure what you call the mess we have remaining.

  2. And, I would add, ignored ethical issues for lawmakers who are profiting or benefiting from laws they themselves proposed- from legislators tied to Home Builders Association to legislators connected with charter school companies. My friends and I read, talk about the legislature’s actions, write and call legislators. Yet, we feel the real power comes from those who sit back, don’t engage, question, or inform themselves. Ignorance is more powerful than knowledge here in Indiana.

  3. When I think of the current batch of politicians I am reminded of this quote from Ken Follett: “I have become a politician. I serve those who best serve me”.

    I appreciate the inclusion of a solution, that being a surge of voters showing up at the polls to fire the bastards. When will Hoosiers have a belly full of these self-serving politicians? What kind of damage will be left behind?

  4. “Additionally, too many potential educators never go into the classroom in part because of appallingly low starting salaries and record wage gaps between teaching and professions that require similar education – gaps that get worse over the course of educators’ careers.”

    Sorry, but I can’t resist calling out this myth. The average starting teacher salary in Indiana is $55,000 with terrific benefits, including an outstanding pension plan, working about 190 days a year. That is a very good starting salary. Many professionals have much more education than teachers, work many more hours and make less without a teacher’s benefit package.

    Regarding jobs in the legal profession, which I know best, I know many, many private sector attorneys who have more education than teachers yet make far less than the starting salary of teachers working 6 or more days a week…if they’re lucky enough to have a job. And their pay doesn’t go up much with time. (The partners at the big firms make all the big money in law.)

    I had dinner with a recently retired IPS kindergarten teacher. Our dinner companion started to talk about how teachers are underpaid. The kindergarten teacher immediately contradicted her. She had taught for about 35 years and was making like $85,000 when she left. She was very happy with her pay as a public school teacher.

    The problem with teaching K-12 is not the pay. The problem is the working conditions, including the lack of support for teachers. Teachers, understandably burn out, and want to do other things in life. More money doesn’t change that.

  5. “I wish we didn’t have a legislative super-majority fixated on making Indiana the peer of a third-world country.”

    When recent polls show this nation prefers the unstable, ketchup throwing, lying, thieving, bigoted, rapist who remains above all laws of this land; we can’t expect Indiana Legislature to improve it’s continuing failing performance or any level of local and state government. Educating our young via creation-based curriculum in many states has taken over 200 mass shooting thus far this year before the media is finally posting “prayers are not working” but no one is listening. I’m again thinking about that long ago Frances Farmer winning essay in her Seattle high school, “God Is Dead”. She was praying to find her lost favorite red hat while her best friend was praying for God to save her dying mother. Frances found her red hat, her friend’s mother died; she reached the conclusion that God must be dead if her red hat was more important than her friend’s mother’s life. We are arming the masses and the body count is continuing to rise daily; maybe the Legislature should stay home, they are not doing the majority here any good.

  6. A couple of links with embedded links for Mr. Ogden, who ought not consult only currently retired teachers in order to understand teacher compensation problems. He also should recognize the difference between average salary (roughly 55k) and average starting salary (roughly 40k).

  7. Paul, many attacks on public education are performative and used by both parties. The primary benefactor is the cowardice and lazy union bureaucrats. They should be wiped clean, and the teachers set up work committees consisting of teachers—bottom-up organization to work against our oligarchy.

  8. Linda – hate to break it to you, but numerous recent studies have shown that most politicians, unless they are already inclined to vote one way or the other on an issue, ignore phone calls/messages to the contrary. Another outcome of fierce gerrymandering.

  9. Teacher salary IS a problem. Here is a link that lists the teachers’ salaries in different school districts in Indiana.

    I retired from teaching in 2020 and my salary was about $20,000 less than what was mentioned in the above post about a Kindergartener teacher’s salary working in public schools. Different school districts pay different salaries, so salaries do peak higher in Carmel, Zionsville, and Brownsburg school districts. The average starting teacher’s pay is not $55,000. The average Entry Level Teacher salary in Indiana is $41,570 as of May 01, 2023, but the range typically falls between $34,715 and $50,696. Teachers’ pay took a hit in 2011 and teachers never caught up. The change to “accountability” through teacher evaluations and students’ test scores, and not the automatic increase by years of service and increments for obtaining your Master’s Degree, and also credit increases for each milestone of 15 grad college hours over the MA degree were removed. Healthcare premiums for teachers raised by large amounts also. Beginning teachers are not making livable wages, especially with school loans. When switching to the teacher evaluation process, rarely did teachers get the highest rating. In order that school superintendents could manage the school budget, school principals were quietly required to only use a certain percentage of staff to obtain “exceeds expectations” ratings. This process did nothing but cause friction between teachers. I switched to a special education itinerant teacher position in a rural special education cooperative in the last six years of my teaching career as it was closer to my home. At my age, I had no energy to handle the hour commute one way. I took an $8,000 pay cut to do so. I have 45 hours over my Master’s Degree and am certified in four areas – Elementary Education, Special Education Blind/Low Vision, Special Education Deaf/Hard of Hearing, and Orientation and Mobility. The teachers received only a .5% pay increase for two years due to budget constraints. When I retired, teachers were leaving for jobs that had better pay and benefits, such as managing a local Clancy Carwash, to avoid the stress, long hours, planning time at home, paperwork, and hoops to jump through daily. Teachers love the kids but it is unfair that other four-year bachelor’s degree grads make nearly twice as much as the $40,000 beginning teaching salary. I miss my students and parents very much. However, I do not miss the attacks on public education and public school teachers, the ridiculous amount of paperwork, large caseloads, standardized testing, the rise of Moms for Liberty and Purple Parents, and our nasty legislators stripping away all professionalism and respect for teachers. At the beginning of my career, I was very proud of my profession. It has been disappointing to see the dismantling of public education.

    Teachers can’t be trusted to pick books for our students, but teachers can be trusted to be armed in a classroom. In the past, schools pushed to have “highly qualified” teachers with experience, specialized education, and continued professional training annually to meet the needs of all students. Now, substitute teachers only need a high school diploma to work in schools. The shortage is real and Districts continue to respond to the shortage through emergency permits, use of teachers outside their licensed areas, and full-time substitutes. The goals of education to improve the certification process and emphasis on the professional growth of teachers have taken an about-face turn and a warm body is the requirement too often. The following article provides a realistic window into Indiana’s teacher shortage.

    The GOP supermajority was hung up on “porn” in schools (I have never seen an inappropriate book or “porn” used in a classroom while working in several large school districts over the last 30 years), the crusade against SEL and CRT, “furries” resulting in students’ dress codes, horrific transgender bills, funding firearm training to arm teachers (but removing important training requirements for suicide prevention, recognizing child abuse, homelessness, and the effects of adverse childhood experiences), the frenzied funding for vouchers, and the long list of out-of-touch education bills, rather than legislation addressing Indiana’s teacher shortage and real issues in schools. This was the worst session ever and I thought last year was horrific. Let’s also pause and recognize the important bills passed this session, such as legalizing throwing Chinese Stars in Indiana, thanks to Senator Linda Rogers. Nothing will change for education unless the leaders in our statehouse are removed and replaced with leaders that listen to educators and understand the needs of all students and how public schools operate.

    In 2011, I often spoke out about the agendas of Mitch Daniels/Tony Bennett. The policies of Governor Pence were worse. Holcomb was a nothing burger and fled the state to avoid teachers at the Red for Ed Day in 2019. Devastated, I realized that I will never see the damage done to public education and public school teachers “fixed” during my lifetime. It is 2023, and the same anti-public education group is still running the show. This breaks my heart for my grandchildren and future students in Indiana.

  10. I’ve read several books on education, one being “The Lies my Teacher Told me” by James Loewen, where he states that “government has made it impossible for teachers to have books on history that aren’t full of misinformation”. And that civics is not taught in many schools. It feels as though they (gov’t) doesn’t want any of our children to know anything. After all educated people have a problem with a stupid politicians.

  11. Pam; and the Republican Indiana Senate has again this year screwed retired teachers receiving twice lowered retirement income and again denied the return of the 13th Check with no COLA as their “compensation” which last year was 1%. In 2021 they (we Public Employee Retirees) lost the 13th Check but the 1% COLA didn’t begin till 2022. This November election will be no help ridding this state of Republican Senators where the problem lies; in 2021 and 2022 the House agreed to return the 13th Checks; they did so again this year with an added $50 to those checks.

  12. Copied and pasted from Sheila’s post: “if the people who have given up going to the polls because they’re convinced they live in a district that is “safe” for the other party were to vote in sufficient numbers, a lot of those “safe” districts wouldn’t be so safe.”

    Thanks to the gop’s extreme gerrymandering it has become next to impossible to find Democrat and Independent candidates willing to run for office. Who wants to go to the trouble to run for office when you know that you will lose? If the ballots contain only gop candidates there is no reason to show up to the polls.

    Just look at last year’s election for Secretary of State. Destiny Wells was obviously the best and most qualified candidate, yet the completely unqualified Diego Morales won the election. This happens up and down the ballots across the state.

  13. Nancy – EXACTLY! This has been trending hard since 2018 in US House races for sure. Making things even worse, if there is a DEM primary in an somewhat competitive race, the “progressives” come out in force and get their candidate on the ballot. We tracked 21 of such cases in 2020. In 20/21, the “progressive” DEM got fewer votes than the “moderate” DEM who ran in the same district in BOTH 2016 and 2018. Data matters – ideology kills.

  14. Pam; by the way, the retired Indiana Legislators are part of this same Public Employee Retiree system. The current Republican Senate has cut retirement income for the older GOP members who served when the Republican party worked for the people in this state. If not for the trust in those older, retired Republicans by the voters, those who cut their retirement benefits would not be in office today.

  15. I think the best response by Indiana’s teachers would be a general strike until the communities of their students and the business community demand that the Indiana General Assembly reverse course, like the reaction to RFRA (Religious Freedom Reform Act) in 2015

  16. Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett’s Republican opponent Jefferson Shreve wants Indianapolis Municipal Police Department to investigate Planned Parenthood. A fine example of the basic Republican IQ levels here. Hope Shreve stays home on November 7th.

  17. Linda, a vote for Kennedy will be a vote for yet another fool! Biden may be 80, but so am I, and
    in good shape, thank you. Where do you get the “information” that he is “fragile?”
    The GOP, or what passes for same, has long worked to destroy public education, in order to
    keep people from learning how to tune their “busllshit detectors.” It’s simply called “Keep them dumb
    and that will keep us in power.”

  18. It’s hard to believe that there are people out there thinking that the idiot Kennedy son would be preferable to someone who just happens to be 80. Rose would be appalled!

  19. I taught in grades 6 through 9 for thirty plus years. My average class size was probably 30 to 35 students. Most years I taught 6 classes a day. One time I had a class of 14 students and it was a joy to teach. It changed the whole classroom experience. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that class size is unimportant, especially at that age level. If I could have had classes that small all the time, I would have been a more effective teacher with happier, better educated students. Barring that, having a full time aide would probably have had a similar effect. The aide would not have needed to know a lot about the subject matter to be a huge help. On the rare occasions when I had an aide in the classroom, students behaved better due to the extra pair of eyes watching and got more of the attention they needed.
    People who have never taught full time rarely understand how challenging it is to be held responsible for everything that happens in a classroom day after day. I expect more people leave teaching due to stress than low salaries.

  20. Sheila and Morton,
    Your new book arrived safely, a modern mailing/shipping miracle. I can’t wait to dig in. Thank you!

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