"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Indiana Teacher's Close Encounter with "Red Menace" Daniels

Last Tuesday over a thousand teachers and parents showed up to lobby at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis.  Below is a news clip of the event and below that is a testimonial from a 38 year veteran art teacher who had a close encounter with what turned into a bulging-eyed and red-faced menace--Governor Mitch Daniels.


On Tues. Jan. 25th, 2011, I went to Indianapolis to help lobby for public schools, their students, and teachers. You see I graduated from public schools, as did my husband, and our 3 children. ( Katie, a public school teacher, Jonathan a lawyer, and Molly a medical doctor, where did I go wrong?)  I have taught art in public schools since 1973. I love my students, my job, and my school.

Enough about me.... as I am walking through the halls of our state capital I see a small group of teachers talking to the governor of Indiana and I join them to hear him speak. One of the first things I heard our Governor say was "You teachers are all making to much money. You are all making 22% more than the taxpayers who are paying your salaries." A lady said her children are on free and reduced lunches and she was a teacher. One teacher did speak up in her defense and said she had 6 years of college. The Governor asked her what kind of a teacher she was and she replied a "very good teacher."

The Governor then said "well the rest of the teachers at her school must not be very good then because not everyone can be a very good teacher." He went on to say that 90% of the teacher evaluations in our state say that the teachers are excellent. And our education is horrible. "One half of our state budget goes to education and that is ridiculous! Our state has the highest amount being paid out to fund education.... and our education is terrible!" the Governor replied.

One teacher said it is not terrible and we are talking about our future, our children. She was ignored. "We have 300 school districts in Indiana and that is ridiculous. We need to cut that in 1/2" the Governor said. A senior student from Taylor High School stepped in. "Sir, I am a 21st Century scholar and I am concerned about the $3500 you want to give to seniors to leave school after their Jr. year. They need that year to figure out what they want to  do and the schools can use that money . You will be hurting the school budgets." The Governor pointed at her and accused her of taking money away from the poor students. She tried to get him to see her side. She was ignored. "Other states are watching us to see what we do with our education programs. I get calls every day" the Governor said.  A very soft spoken teacher replied "Sir, I would like very much to discuss some of these issues with you, how do I go about this?" The Gov. said "You just did!" and walked away.

I stood within 2 feet of our Governor and watched as his eyes bulged as he attacked everything said. I felt his disdain and contempt for public schools and teachers. And I felt the respect that should have been given to these public school teachers and students was non-existent. Several teachers have stopped and asked did I have fun in Indy on Tuesday. We left at 8:00 and returned a little after 5:00. The whole time we were at the statehouse or with ISTA.  None of the other statesman would see us after sending countless notes to them for a few minutes of their time.

I returned to Kokomo tired, more knowledgeable, and feeling very sad about what could happen to our school. But I can't stand by and watch without knowing I could have done something more. I plan on writing another letter, making another call, trying to find a way to let people know what is happening, not only for myself, (I will retire soon) but for my daughter who is only in her 7th year, and for my students, but also for all of you of whom I respect and care for. I encourage you all to do the same or go to the statehouse and see for yourself what we are up against.

Jeanette Sundheimer
Western High School

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