Make no mistake. Governor Pence was not trying to appease Superintendent Ritz nor the 1.3 million voters who elected her when he announced that part of his new education plan was to dissolve his shadow department of education, the CECI (Center for Education & Career Innovation).
Claiming this was "in the interest of restoring trust and harmony,” he then announced his intention to allow his appointed state board members to elect their own chairman, unseating Ritz. If the governor were truly concerned with trust and harmony, he would trust Glenda Ritz to represent the people of Indiana. He should remember why Indiana voters chose her.
Glenda Ritz ran on a platform of keeping public funds in public schools. Now the governor wants to bleed more of that funding into private schools through unlimited vouchers and charter schools that have no democratically-elected, accountable boards. Every Indiana child has the constitutional right to a free, high quality public education. What the governor is proposing is that we now fund three separate (but equal?) systems of education with our tax dollars: public schools, charters and voucher/private schools.
The governor calls this tenet of his policy plan: “Fairness in Funding.” Orwell would be proud.
What is fair about redirecting public money to private and charter schools that play by different rules with different kids? Public schools accept all children regardless of background and ability.
Glenda Ritz ran on a platform of more teaching and less testing. Now the governor wants to push for more test-driven obsession, further tying teacher pay and even school funding into his test-based, warped system of grading (labeling, stigmatizing) schools. Achievement on standardized tests closely tracks socioeconomic status of students’ families. Grading schools according to test scores means punishing poor communities for poverty. It makes it a liability for teachers to work with children from low-income families or those with special needs. With the threat of a stigma, loss of funding, loss of jobs, loss of status, tests are the focus and the curriculum is narrowed. The creativity, the hands-on projects, the joy, are being lost in a data-collecting “accountability” frenzy.
Governor Pence calls this policy point: “Freedom to Teach.”
1.3 million voters went to the polls to choose a direction in education in 2012: Glenda Ritz. The resistance that the governor is meeting is that people do not want to continue this corporate education “reform” where the rich make money off of "failing" schools and the poorest children get jerked around from one school to the next. Voters elected Ritz because they wanted schools to be for children, not testing factories or for-profit ventures. Voters elected Ritz because they wanted educators to guide what happens in the classroom, not politicians in the statehouse or business executives in a board room.
Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. Voting is its lifeblood. Our governor, who received far fewer votes than Glenda Ritz, has shown that he clearly has no respect for the democratic process nor democracy as a whole.