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Bennett addresses education, collective bargaining at senior center

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Photo)
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett responds to a question posed by an audience member during the Clay County Republican Club meeting Monday at the Clay County Senior Citizen's Center.
BRAZIL -- Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett attempted to dispel rumors circulating about education reform and the impending collective bargaining legislation Monday night.

Bennett spoke to the Clay County Republican Club at the Brazil Senior Center, receiving both praise and criticism from the audience.

He opened by summarizing federal and state education reform. Bennett said federally, he disagreed with the Obama administration's education philosophies, but he applauded the administration's decision to make education a top priority.

"The Indiana education budget will not do anything worse than flat line this year," Bennett said. "Fifty-five percent of state funds go to education. Last year, there was only a 3-percent education cut. We are the state with the largest percentage of funds going to education."

Bennett said his main concern as superintendent is, "Will the education reform taking place help Indiana's entire population of children?"

"My public is the 1.2 million children (in Indiana)," Bennett said.

He later added his responsibilities were not only to those students attending public schools. Bennett supports public, private, home and charter schools.

Charter schools have been a hot button issue lately. Charter schools, he said, are like a hybrid between public and private schools. These schools can receive money from the state, but are for profit institutions.

Many parents and educators have expressed concerns about what will happen with education if this reform is passed.

Terre Haute North Vigo High School Biology teacher Denise Sobieski said she thinks there is a "conflict of interest here," because Bennett's wife is involved in charter schools.

"I cry sometimes when I think of the kids that don't have supportive parents who wouldn't make it in a charter school," Sobieski said.

Rumors about decreasing teachers' salaries are circulating. Bennett said these rumors are not factual. He plans to change the way teachers and schools are evaluated by implementing a grading system. Bennett said teachers will no longer receive pay increases for seniority alone. He wants to hold teachers and school accountable for their productivity and effectiveness.

With this legislation in place, teachers would be evaluated over time. Great teachers and administrators would receive pay increases.

"If a child enters sixth-grade with a fourth-grade education reading level, it is a moral imperative for that child to move from a fourth-grade to a fifth-grade level by the end of the school year," Bennett said.

If a teacher was found to be less effective than expected to be, the teacher would be required to complete personal development training to improve. Their pay would not decrease, and they would not lose their job. However, if the teacher did not improve over time, their position could be jeopardized.

Bennett explained 99 percent of teachers are rated effective or above in Indiana.

"Chances of a teacher being fired under the current evaluation system are less than them being struck by lightning," Bennett said.

He reassured audience members he was not attacking public schools and he wanted to reform evaluation systems to put students first.

Sobieski expressed during the meeting she felt like she was being attacked, along with the other educators. She also said she felt good teachers were not paid their worth.

Staunton Elementary School teacher and Republican candidate for City Council Dustin Jorgensen disagreed with Sobieski. He agrees with Bennett, and thinks that experience should be evaluated more qualitatively than quantitatively.

"He (Bennett) wants to apply common sense and a democratic feel, when it hasn't been there in the past. Before, experience was looked at in the number of years someone has worked as opposed to actual experience gained," Jorgensen said.


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Another republican lying to the public!

-- Posted by BTruth1958 on Wed, Mar 23, 2011, at 12:29 AM

Several members of my family are teachers. I wish Mr. Bennett would just follow a dedicated teacher around for one full day. That day may start before school and last until 10pm. I know that by the time Friday night rolls around most teachers are exhausted. Teachers try their best to make learning interesting.

I take my hat off to all the deserving teachers. They have been getting a bad rap.

-- Posted by Abigailone on Wed, Mar 23, 2011, at 3:24 PM

Squawk, squawk, squawk.

-- Posted by stranded67 on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 12:38 AM


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