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A ‘command-and-control mentality’

One vote shows politicization of schools among lawmakers

A recent conversation at Snider High School with State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, helped crystallize for me a way to explain in concrete terms the present, extremely worrisome state of education in our beloved state.

I asked Kruse why the General Assembly did not consider legislation to reduce the number of days that needed to be made up because of the winter’s horrific weather. His answer stunned me: He had proposed legislation in which the state would grant each local school board permission to determine how many days had to be made up. It was defeated by a vote of 22 ayes and 28 nays. That vote will live in infamy.

That vote demonstrates how politicized education has become in Indiana. All the childishness and tomfoolery that has transpired in recent months between Gov. Mike Pence’s Center for Education and Career Innovation and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has had nothing to do with seeking the best interests of Indiana’s schools and schoolchildren and everything to do with political posturing. Like immature and selfish parents bickering and fussing shamelessly in front of their innocent children, Indiana’s youth are helplessly trapped in a state where a politician’s self-interest trumps students’ best interests.

That vote declares that it is past time for Indiana’s politicians – Republicans and Democrats alike – to stop politicizing our state’s education system.

That vote illustrates how little faith state officials have in local school boards. I am stunned by how often state officials arrogantly believe they know what is best for each school district; better, even, than the local school officials. This arrogance is not simply found in such matters as days of operation; every classroom in Indiana is affected by the intrusion of mandates from the state. One example of many that could be chosen is the reverberations of Indiana Public Law 221 (the comprehensive school accountability law), passed in 1999, that still rumble mightily through every school corporation daily. This latest vote is an insult to every decent, honorable local school board member in the state.

That vote testifies how much power state officials want to have over education. Kruse’s proposal was to allow the local school boards latitude for only this year. Yet, in the minds of 28 state senators and their special-interest backers, this apparently was allowing too much power to local school officials.

That vote testifies to the toxic command-and-control mentality of elected and unelected state and federal officials that is flooding public education and is drowning school administrators, classroom teachers, and K to 12 students in a tsunami of standardized testing, paperwork, data collection and micromanagement.

There were 423 bills voted on the floor of Indiana’s Senate earlier this year. The vote on Kruse’s bill is a microcosm of the current dark and foreboding state of our state’s education system. Sadly, This vote says it all.

John Chowning, a public elementary school teacher since 1999, is a Fort Wayne resident. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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