I know, I know. I'm going on and on about this. But wow, from things I'm seeing around the state, it needs to be said.
Recently, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White decided to start school on the Monday following the Super Bowl on a two-hour delay schedule. Why, you ask? Because in 2007 when the Colts were last in the Super Bowl, so many bus drivers called in sick the following day, classes had to be canceled. Kids couldn't get to school. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett thought that it was a bad idea to use the two-hour delay in such a manner, so he instructed Dr. White not to do it. The compromise reached was to begin school one hour later, followed by a dismissal half an hour later than usual.
I thought that Dr. White's idea had merit. 75% of the bus drivers for Indianapolis are employed by a contractor. It's not like he can fire them directly if they don't show up for work. But the backlash in the Indianapolis Star's comments section made my jaw drop:
"I am not sure I would want my kids being taught and opinionated by educators that cannot get out of bed and get to work after a football game. Simple, fire them and get teachers that have their priorities where they should be. This is not brain surgery. The right thing is for the kids to be in school....no excuses."
"It's time to get rid of the UNIONS-they are the ones destroying the educational process."
Wait. What? The whole situation is created by bus drivers not reporting to work, and it's the teachers and our union at fault? Wow. We have more power than I thought. I find it interesting, too, that the Indianapolis Catholic schools just gave their kids the whole day off. No mention there in the comments section about that.
In an article from yesterday's local newspaper, it was reported that the governor is okay with pushing the start of school into September, no earlier than the day after Labor Day.
Um, okay. Why? To preserve summer vacation for families and to reduce cooling costs. Okay, I've taught in mid-June and I've taught in mid-August, and I have to say, there's no significant temperature difference that is going to save any appreciable amount of money. And as far as preserving summer vacation, are two weeks in August more desirable than two weeks in June? I would think if there really was that much of a temperature difference as they claim, they'd want to take vacation in early June rather than late August. But that's just me, thinking again. Oh, yes, and then there was the backlash against teachers in the comments section:
"Personally, I think they should add a week or two to the school year to give the kids more time to master skills or at least make the school day longer. If there is a budget issue to cover the longer school year or hours than maybe the schools should cut costs like they do in private industry--cut the educators' health benefits--make them pay higher premiums, higher copays and less benefits."
Okay, really? Did someone give me a "gold-plated Cadillac" health insurance plan when I wasn't looking? I am currently paying $5,000 per year in premiums with a $4,000 deductible for a family health insurance plan. That means I will pay $9,000 per year (nearly 20% of my gross salary) for my family's health care out of pocket before insurance covers a single penny. My insurance right now is only there to cover a catastrophic health crisis. Seriously, what the heck?
It's also interesting that when we had ISTEP+ in the fall, the calendar got pushed back, back, back into August to give students more time in class to prepare. Now that the test has been moved to the spring, do we really want to push the beginning of school forward so that students have fewer days of instruction before the high-stakes test? Why would the governor be interested in doing that? Shouldn't we try to actually control the variables that affect our students' test scores? You know, the ones that we can control?
Something smells here. Cut the education budget by $300 million when you have a $1 billion surplus. Try to pass legislation which would include a $49 million unfunded mandate to retain third graders who are not at reading level. Change the school calendars across the state unilaterally so that kids have two fewer weeks of instruction before the high-stakes test that determines whether public schools are passing or failing.
Are you still paranoid if they're really out to get you?