Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DFER Indiana Update

Though all eyes are on Wisconsin today, there are incredible things happening all over the country.  This is from Larry Grau, Indiana State Director of DFER:

Hello DFER friends,

I thought you might be interested in some news from the Statehouse.  As you may have heard, the Charter School (expansion) bill HB 1002 passed out of the House recently on a 59 to 37 vote.  One of our IN DFER leaders, Mary Ann Sullivan was the lone Dem to vote for the bill in what proved to be a very ugly day.  Not coincidentally, today was "teacher rally day" as organized by the Indiana State Teachers Union (ISTA), which included a very loud and reportedly angry protest against several pieces of reform legislation including the Charter Schools Bill.  As you are aware that legislation and most of the reform measures are in line with our principles, and IN DFER subsequently supports the legislation moving forward.  Mary Ann's vote was actually more courageous than the vote total may indicate, as she was at one point booed on the House floor, along with being angrily confronted in the hallway by what had to be uninformed teachers who were clearly at the Statehouse to support the status quo and not our public school students.

The angry mob-mentality on display at the Statehouse this evening is disturbing and unfortunate.  Some who witnessed what was taking place even muttered the question; "didn't these people learn anything from what happened in Arizona?" referencing the despicable act of violence that occurred there last month.  The behavior does give us some sign of what we are working against, and strangely enough it is by and large our fellow Democrats in Indiana.  Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Republicans in the General Assembly are going to bask in all of the credit for passing major education reform -- which may I remind everyone, was almost all initiated by Democrats over the past two decades -- and many in our party are going to be left defending a system that is failing far too many students.  Furthermore, the way this is all going to be portrayed is that the Democrats are more interested in supporting the adults in the education system and unwilling to follow the lead of our President, who has not wavered in his resolve to do what is in the best interests of students.  The Dems will be left with the teacher unions and some of the other groups that have historically fought any change in the education system, while the Republicans are taking a victory lap for what they did to free the many students who have been neglected in the current system and are lingering in poor performing schools, with ineffective teachers.  That is not what I think any of us want for the future of our party and especially not what we want when it comes to doing what is right for the students and for education policy. 

So, we do indeed have our work cut out for us, but we can stand strong in knowing that we are fighting for what is right, and while we may not be winning per se at the moment, it is people like us in DFER who will ultimately be proven successful in pushing -- no, actually plowing -- ahead with a much more progressive education policy agenda, that puts students first; supports our most effective, caring and dedicated teachers; and, is working to bring people together to transform our education system as opposed to trying to bring others down.

Okay, I am coming down from the soapbox now.  Thanks for indulging me everyone, and stay strong Mary Ann: someday the fruits of your labors will pay the dividends you deserve, that children in this state deserve.  Have a good night all, and back at it tomorrow; we obviously have a lot of work to do.

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