From: Rose Maudlin
Dr. Andrew Robertson’s letter to the editor on Aug. 26 claimed that the Democratic Party shows “implacable hostility” to charter schools and that its platform does not support charter schools, teacher accountability, testing students annually and the elimination of teacher tenure. Professional educators know that some charter and private schools provide high-quality educational opportunities to students.
However, many do not, and before expanding non-public school opportunities further, their operations, expenditure of public dollars and their performance results should be transparent and thoroughly examined. Indiana provides a case for such a study.
The bipartisan Indiana Legislative Services Agency reports that in 2015-16, $53 million of taxpayer money went to private schools, which have no public accountability and no publicly elected school boards composed of community members who should provide oversight of charter managers as well in the use of public tax dollars.
Private schools benefit from tax credits through educational savings accounts, voucher dollars and funds for materials. Superintendent Glenda Ritz has proposed the materials funding for public school families, as well.
The nonpartisan Indiana Coalition for Public Education reports that between 2009 and 2015 public school funding fell by $3 billion, yet they serve 94 percent of Indiana’s students. WTHR reported in April that nearly half of Indiana’s 76 charter schools were doing poorly or failing. State school board member Brad Oliver explained that problem by stating, “Unfortunately, we live in an era of high-stakes accountability.”
Welcome to the world of public school teachers, Mr. Oliver. As professionals, public school teachers embrace accountability for the success of every student of every ability level and are held accountable for things outside our control as well, including the negative effects of increasing poverty in Indiana and the results of an annual pass/fail ISTEP test fraught with malfunction and manipulation.
Finally, teacher “tenure” defined as “a job for life” is a myth. What public school teachers and their students have is the constitutionally determined due process right to respond to any charges. Rigorous evaluation results determine teacher employment status and hearings protect our students.