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A few IDOE priorities may draw backlash from educators

Today, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick announced her 2018 Strategic Policy Priorities. Overall, the outlined priorities are positive, for example lowering the compulsory school age and finding a solution to Indiana’s federal graduation rate. However, a few points are of concern.

Included in her priorities is “flexibility for fiscally distressed schools and districts.” When questioned by reporters, McCormick noted that some districts have difficulty knowing their enrollment counts, and those that cannot meet their obligations (including presumably their obligations to staff) should have “flexibility” to address the shortfall.

“Flexibility” could mean school districts could cut classroom teachers only weeks and/or months into the school year. If so, that should cause concern for teachers, parents and students.

“Cuts to classroom teachers during the school year should be off-limits,” said ISTA President Teresa Meredith. “In addition to the immediate impact on the teacher’s life and career, it would mean larger class sizes, disruption in learning and parental distrust to name a few.”

School administrators face no such threat. Under their iron-clad, multi-year contracts any modifications must be made by mutual consent and the notice period for any such changes must occur in the year prior.

Another priority of concern is allowing fiscally distressed schools to become innovation schools. Innovation schools exclude the collective teacher voice by breaking the exclusive representation with their professional association. Currently, only academically-challenged schools can become innovation schools. ISTA opposes innovation schools because the system is profit motivated, which does not put kids first.

ISTA has expressed its concerns on these issues with Superintendent McCormick and will continue to work with her and her team to focus on solutions that will benefit schools, educators and the kids they serve.

Next week, ISTA will release its student-centered legislative priorities. More to come.