PHS teachers rally at the Statehouse

PLYMOUTH — Seventeen Plymouth teachers joined hundreds of other teachers from around the state March 5 at a rally held in Indianapolis aimed at showing support for public schools.
Co-President of the PEA (Plymouth Education Association) Laura Kruyer was among those attending the rally.
“As co-president of the PEA, I am proud of how our teachers have come together to deal with ever-increasing demands and budget crunches,” Kruyer said. “Teachers and administrators are working together to improve test scores and accountability.”  
In speaking about the negotiations at the local level, she said, “We have negotiated in collaboration time to further the development of an effective curriculum. Negotiations in the last couple of years have even witnessed teachers rescinding a 1 percent pay raise in an effort to help our corporation deal with state funding cuts.”
Kruyer shared some of her reasons for her personal show of support saying, “One of the main reasons I decided to become a teacher was because of the Ply-mouth teachers who influenced me so greatly as a student. At the time, it never crossed my mind that one day I would have to defend public education and those people who have dedicated themselves to this profession. It scares me to think that many of the programs that PCSC offers may have to be cut or eliminated altogether if the funding for public education continues to erode. I can’t image a school system where teachers have no true voice in how the schools are operated. I don’t want to imagine a school system without art classes, foreign language classes, industrial tech classes, food and consumer sciences, speech, and physical education.”
She added, “Do we really want a system where we only teach the core classes and nothing else? A great deal of the success at PCSC can be contributed to the fact that our schools offer a wide variety of programs and encourage our students to be well-rounded individuals.”
Kruyer outlined some of the bills being considered at the state level.
She said, “While there are many bills in front of the General Assembly that deal with public education, here are a few bills public teachers are watching especially close.”
HB 1003:  Vouchers - Private School Tax Credits
“This bill phases in an increase in the existing tax credit for contributions made to ‘scholarship-granting’ organizations. Current law sets the credit at 50 percent of the contribution.  HB 1003 increases the tax credit from 50 percent of the contribution for 2011 to 60 percent in 2012, to 70 percent in 2013, and to 80 percent in 2014. Vouchers will transfer public dollars to private schools, yet taxpayers will have no say in how the voucher schools are run.  Voucher schools are not required to meet basic accountability standards such as open meetings, the release of test scores, and drop-out rates. It is estimated that if implemented the program would shift $110 million from public schools to private schools.”
HB 1002: Charter Schools
Kruyer said, “The bill removes all existing caps on establishing charter schools. It expands the number of entities that can sponsor a charter school. While at this point it does not look like Marshall County will fit the criteria to establish a charter school, once again funding for public education will be affected greatly as money will be funneled away from traditional public schools to charter schools. Charter schools do not measure up even with the advantages of not being held to the same standards, admissions, and accountability as traditional public schools. According to the Indiana DOE’s own numbers, charter schools account for 21 out of the bottom 25 schools in regards to ISTEP scores! Also keep in mind, up to 50 percent of the instructors at charter schools do not need to have education licenses at all.   
SB1: Teacher Evaluation
“The bill establishes an annual staff evaluation procedure categorizing teachers as highly effective, effective, improvement necessary, or ineffective. Those in the lower two categories cannot receive an increment or raise. Teachers agree that an annual evaluation system is beneficial.  However, the system needs to be fair and consistently applied.”
She added, “Teacher evaluations need to be rigorous and balanced too. The system should focus on improving teacher practice to improve student learning. 
“The proposal being made does not put such safeguards in place.  Instead it allows for mentor teachers to evaluate fellow staff members. Money saved by not providing raises to ineffective or improvement necessary rated teachers would provide funds for raises to mentors and teachers rated effective and highly effective. The poses a conflict of interest for the mentor teachers. Most importantly, these bonuses fail to recognize the role collaboration plays within the educational system by singling out individuals for merit pay.” 
SB 575: Collective Bar-gaining
Kruyer said, “This bill limits collective bargaining to salary, wages, and wage-related benefits. One big misconception about collective bargaining is that it is all about the money.  Collective bargaining em-braces local decision making because one size does not fit all. This bill takes the educator’s voice out of those items that have a great impact on the quality of teaching in the classroom.  The provision that the school board may discuss certain non-salary items, but prohibits the substance of those discussions from being included in a collective bargaining agreement does not make sense.  Teachers are uniquely qualified to have their voices heard when it comes to working conditions most beneficial to improving student learning.”
Kruyer is hoping the public will join in support of public school education.
“It is time for the public to stand in solidarity with the teachers to make sure our voices are heard,” she said. “Local teachers, administrators, and school employees have already raised concerns and suggested possible solutions through local meetings, rallies, letters-to-the editor, and by writing our legislators. Sadly, it may not be enough. We need parents, students, and community members to let our legislators know we will fight for our schools. After all, public education is the very foundation of our society.”