Monday, November 29, 2010

Former School Board Member Greg Wright Offers Sensible Education Reforms

Former Washington Township School Board Member Greg Wright pens a guest editorial in the the Indianapolis Business Journal that should be read by reformers all over the state.

I particularly like how Wright exposes how the school boards and superintendents, rather than operate as separate branches of government (legislative and executive), are in bed together. I experienced that in Pike Township. The phone number listed for Pike School Board's president rings into the administration's office. The administration takes board members on a "retreat" to indoctrinate them and supplies board members with computer laptops and the same health insurance than top administrators (but not teachers) receive. The Board also relies on the Superintendent's attorney for legal advice, apparently not realizing that that attorney's responsibility is to act in the Superintendent's best interests, not impart objective legal advice to the Board.

The only thing different is that, unlike in many districts, in Pike the administration and teacher's union is very much at odds. Both support opposing slates of candidates in school board elections.
At the end of his column, Wright proposes some sensible reforms. I can't say I disagree with any of them.

• Allow all K-12 children to enroll in any public school, including charter schools, in any school district in their county of residency.

• The money must follow the child.

• Provide children travel vouchers for transportation to any public school within their county of residency.

• Move school board elections from May to November.

• Make all school district employees (including teachers) state government employees and provide them with the same benefits currently provided other state employees.

• Require all school employees and school board members to adhere to the same ethics rules as all other Indiana government employees.

• Require public schools to transfer vacant school classroom buildings to certified charter schools.


varangianguard said...

I have previously read some of Greg's suggestions and find him to be a refreshingly non-partisan and rational voice in the education reform debate. I would like to add some of my own comments to his.

1) Allowing all K-12 children to enroll anywhere in the county. Well, this one does have a limitation on time and access. I doubt that parents would really consider a charter school all across the county from their primary domicile.

2) The money must follow the child. Sadly, this one should already be in place, and it shouldn't even be an arguable point at this time.

3) Provide children with travel vouchers. This sounds good on the surface, but what transportation are we talking about here? IndyGo doesn't have the route system to even begin to accomodate something like this idea, and township schools appear to be shrinking their transportation capabilites, not expanding them. Unfortunately, I have come to believe that this one is no longer very realistic.

4) Moving school board elctions to November. Excellent idea.

5) Making all school employees equivalent to state employees, with the same benefits. Well, that's certainly something to think about. In practice, I think it would be very painful to implement. This idea would need to be fleshed out quite a bit for any kind of discussion to bear fruit.

6) Require all school personnel to adhere to the same ethics rules as other state employees. After recent news, is this worth putting on the table? Senior state personnel seem to be rather indifferent to both the intent and the letter of the state's ethics rules.

7) Require public schools to transfer vacant classroom buildings to certified charter schools. This is interesting. Still, most vacant buildings would require money to be re-opened. Who pays? And, are we talking about "giving" public assets to private business entities? Haven't we had enough of THAT just yet? I have.

Bradley said...

The superintendent and school boards working together happens at the state government level also with various boards appointed by the governor. At DWD, to contact the Unemployment Insurance Board, the phone number and emails go to the Leadership Team there. During the meetings, DWD people speak mostly the whole time with their information and facts and figures being used and the Board just shaking their heads "yes" in agreement with little-to-no argument. The UI Board is supposed to be an "oversight" function of DWD, but they are in bed with DWD about 95% of the time.

I know this happens with school corporations also because I have seen it first-hand. The school board is the group who has the authority to fire the superintendent, but all too often they are good friends with the Sup. How can you fire or reprimand a good friend?

This whole state needs reform, starting with our educational system and going upwards. We have become so corrupt in areas that I am afraid we will never get out of it.

Instituting ethics reforms in schools to equate with the state's ethics rules will do no good. The teachers will be held to stringent ethics policies while the administrators will get away with murder -- just like how the state government is right now. The lower-level workers cannot do anything without sharp rebuke while the top brass typically get away with whatever they want.

At least Greg Wright is bringing-up mostly common sense reform ideas, though -- it's becoming a rarity this day-in-age.