Monday, June 24, 2013

Indiana: Where "Reform" Meets the End

David Frizzell, Indiana Legislator

David Frizzell is someone that has made your life miserable.  Merit pay?  TFA in the building?  Larger class sizes?  You can thank David Frizzell.   David Frizzell is a state representative from Indiana, a member of the General Assembly since 1993, representing the city of Indianapolis in the state government.  You are probably wondering how this guy has any effect on your life; after all isn’t Indiana considered one of those “fly over” states, the ones that are culturally equivalent to dry toast?  So you might ask why this politician has any bearing on your life as an educator, administrator, a parent or a student.  

David Frizzell was the National Chairman of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2010 and 2011.  During his tenure over this infamous organization that has ties to right-leaning funders such as the Koch brothers and the DeVoss family, ALEC created model legislation that was made specifically for Indiana, because Mr. Frizzell knew that Indiana would just let these reforms sail through the General Assembly.  He was so sure that Indiana would adopt every part of this education reform legislation that it was named The IndianaEducation Reform Package.  This document contains everything that has brought public schools to its knees with specific legislative language for each of these false reforms:

·       Charter Schools

·       School Vouchers

·       Teacher pay tied to school “grades”

·       Licensing for anyone

·       Eliminating collective bargaining

·       Turnaround Academies and Parent Triggers

·       Early Graduation Scholarship

·       Remove local control of textbook selection and adoption

All of this legislation was quickly passed into law in Indiana during the 2011 legislative session thanks to David Frizzell. It is no coincidence that the Charter Schools Law from Indiana looks just like the one in Wisconsin and Utah.  Licensing rules and teacher evaluations that were put into place in Indiana suddenly popped up in Ohio, New York, and Michigan. A to F grades for schools were put into place in Florida first, but Indiana took that law and made it more painful by being one of the first to tie teacher pay to the school grade.  In many states the laws have been changed to match the law in Indiana that allows nearly anyone with a degree from a college to get a teaching license without attending a graduate education program, and administrators are not required to have any educational experience at all.  Collective bargaining, well we can all forget about that, thanks to David Frizzell and ALEC.

By now I am sure you are thinking that Indiana and all of the Hoosiers that reside in the state are terrible people.  After all, not only do we have David Frizzell, but there is Mitch Daniels, our former governor who strong-armed the ALEC legislation and of course we had Tony Bennett, fondly called the spawn of Jeb Bush.  But last fall many of us, 1.3 million of us in fact decided to do something about David Frizzell and his buddies, particularly Tony Bennett.  The Superintendent of Public Instruction is the educational leader of Indiana and is an elected position.  Tony Bennett was voted into office in 2008 and quickly made his mark by endorsing the ALEC legislation while showing his contempt not only for public schools, but those public school teachers too.  When he was up for re-election in 2012 teachers had decided that enough was enough and we organized.  Glenda Ritz, a librarian and union leader from Indianapolis decided to run against Tony Bennett with virtually no money in comparison to his millions.  But teachers stepped in to make up for the lack of funds.  We talked to people, posted on Facebook, Tweeted, handed out out flyers, made signs and phone calls.  On election night things went downhill quickly for Bennett, he lost by 9 percentage points and Glenda Ritz received the most votes of any candidate in the state-wide races. This election night rout of the GOP-backed education reforms sent a clear message to the political leaders of the state, don’t mess with teachers, don’t mess with their schools and don’t mess with their kids.

Teachers campaigning for Glenda Ritz in Indiana

Reform may have gotten its start with ALEC in Indiana, but its also where Reform met its end.  So if we are to be Badass and stand up to well-funded self-serving politicians and billionaires then we need to follow the lead established in Indiana.  Talk, communicate.  speak up against these people that claim to know what is best for education.  Pay attention to who is running for local, county and state offices.  Your state legislature has more control over your life than anything that Arne Duncan can do so be the ultimate Badass Teacher and run for office in your state.  Every state has a David Frizzell; we just have to stand up to them.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very informative post! Great stuff! We BATs need to know what's happening around the country. In some states, like California, we don't have it nearly as bad as this. ALEC is a serious problem for public education in the United States. Thanks for writing this!