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Have you received your constituent survey yet?

About this time every year, legislators send out "constituent surveys" ostensibly designed to gauge constituent sentiment on various issues so that the legislator is "able to represent you the best way" he or she can.  ISTA hopes that when you receive yours you take the time to read what your legislator has to say...and then note how things are said. The choice of issues selected for the survey, the manner in which the issues are framed, and the questions themselves are always interesting.  Sometimes, you can tell by the question itself what answer is sought--sometimes, not so much. Most times it would be nice to be given (as Paul Harvey might have said) "the rest of the story."

Here are a few questions that already have been disseminated that you might want to note--and then some of the rest of the story is offered:

(1)  Do you think schools should have the flexibility to hire professionals, such as engineers and chemists, to teach even if they did not go through traditional teacher training?

The Rest of the Story:  In the past few years, the general assembly has opened up multiple avenues for "nontraditional" entry into the profession of teaching--there are several avenues just in the Transition to Teaching Program itself (IC 20-28-5)--including one avenue that simply requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution of higher learning and proof of passage of a content test.  Frankly, this movement towards  de-professionalizing teaching that does not value the art and science of teaching is troublesome.  Any highly effective teacher will confirm that understanding instructional theory and multiple strategies to help students learn are crucial inside of classrooms--where the rubber meets the road. 

(2)  Currently, teachers' unions can automatically deduct fees and dues from teachers' paychecks.  In many cases, these dues are used to support candidates or political organizations that a teacher may disagree with.  Would you support a law that requires the union to receive authorization from the teacher before it can deduct fees and dues from their paychecks?

The Rest of the Story:   First of all, the union does not do the deducting here--the employer does.  And Indiana law already requires written authorization before dues (or any other wage assignments, for that matter) may be deducted by the employer.  See IC 20-29-5-6; IC 22-6.  The inclusion of this question as some major state policy issue is dubious.  Employers (including the state and its agencies) routinely engage in all kinds of employee-directed payroll deductions from health insurance premiums to United Way contributions and everything in between.  Indiana law even directs the Indiana Public Retirement System to automatically deduct from member pensions membership dues to certain retiree associations.  Let's see this question for what it really is--another attack on your Association.

(3)  Would you support a state-funded preschool program for low income families?

The Rest of the Story: There are a multitude of issues here that should be addressed before asking this simple survey question.  What is low-income?  Indiana is all over the board on this measure:  For K-12 private/parochial school vouchers, Indiana law allows a family of four making as much as $87,136 (or 200% of the free- and reduced-price lunch standard) to participate.  Yet, to be eligible for the Governor's Health Care Program ("Healthy Indiana Plan") the standard will be 100% of the federal poverty standard or $23,550 for a family of 4.  Then there are the many questions pertaining to identity of service providers, quality of programs and extent of public accountability. And it wouldn't be a constituent survey question without a few political issues to confront.  Is this being promoted as a preschool voucher simply to facilitate a "feeder system" benefitting private/parochial schools?  If not, then lets support a state-funded preschool program that is offered by Indiana's public schools--which are, by defnition, open to all.