Bennett Stresses Reward for Quality Teaching Over Seniority

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett spoke to the Columbia City Rotary Club Tuesday and emphasized his hope to keep the best teachers in Indiana’s school corporations. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette has the story; here it is in full:

Indiana public schools need to be centers for student learning, not employment agencies for adults, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said Tuesday.

Teacher contracts need to be overhauled so that if layoffs occur, it’s the worst-performing teachers who lose their jobs, not the ones with the least seniority, Bennett told members of the Columbia City Rotary Club.

“We have to have the political courage to have any and every discussion that puts children first,” Bennett said. “We’ve built a system that really doesn’t do that. So I think we all have to have the courage to say what are the structures that will afford us the opportunity to make decisions that are best for Indiana children.”

Bennett echoed the sentiments of Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White, who told legislators this session he would be in favor of repealing the law that allows collective bargaining for teachers so he could overhaul his schools with the right people in the right spots.

Bennett offered a four-point system for how Indiana’s schools can become the best in the nation.

He compared these goals with President John F. Kennedy’s goal he outlined Sept. 12, 1962, that the United States win the race to the moon.

“I think we need to go back to Sept. 12, 1962, if we’re going to talk about education,” Bennett said. “The world our kids compete in today is very different than the world in 1962.”

Bennett is challenging Hoosiers to acknowledge that students are in a competition for jobs; change the discussion from how to get more money for education to how to get more education for the money; put student learning before assuring jobs for adults; and develop a system that recruits, trains, rewards and evaluates teachers as professionals.

“We have to take a hard look at how we expend our resources,” Bennett said.

Among the goals for the Indiana Department of Education during Bennett’s first term, he said, is for 90 percent of Hoosier students to pass the ISTEP+ and for 90 percent to graduate high school.

“If this is a fight we’re afraid of fighting, we’re in trouble,” Bennett said.

Hat tip to twitter.com/INEducation.

Unemployment Trust Fund Proposal Not Good for Business

George Raymond, the Indiana Chamber’s VP of Human Resources & Labor Relations, lays it out pretty succinctly in this Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette article:

A House Democrat unveiled a proposal for fixing Indiana’s unemployment insurance system Monday that would triple taxes on employers to fund unemployment claims.

“The type of tax increase this bill calls for is going to cause additional terminations of employment,” said George Raymond, lobbyist for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “That’s a tremendous burden.”

Indiana’s unemployment trust fund has had a structural imbalance since 2001 and ran out of money last year – forcing the state to borrow at least $725 million from the federal government to pay unemployment.

The Democratic-controlled House failed to pass a bill addressing the issue during the first half of the session. Then, the Republican-led Senate passed a plan that raised about $870 million in new annual revenue for the fund through both direct tax increases as well as benefit and eligibility changes.

The Senate version would permanently increase business taxes $328 million annually starting in 2010.

House Bill 1379 is now in conference committee, where conferees from all four legislative caucuses are trying to negotiate a compromise.

Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, presented a proposed conference committee report Monday that included more than $1 billion in new taxes on employers.

Frugal Hoosiers has more on the matter.