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Friday, May 6, 2016

Residents grill state representatives

Monday, February 21, 2011

A packed house awaited the five Indiana legislators who represent Clay County Saturday.

More than 100 county residents, mostly teachers, attended the second Clay County Cracker Barrel of 2011, which took place at the Jackson Township Firehouse.

The annual events are co-sponsored by the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and the Clay County Farm Bureau. The first Clay County Cracker Barrel this year took place in Cory in January.

Those attending had many questions for Senator John Waterman (Republican-District 44), and Representatives Clyde Kersey (Democrat-District 43), Jim Baird (R-District 44), and Robert Heaton (R-District 46).

Senator Richard Bray (R-District 37) was not in attendance.

All four legislators had the opportunity to provide updates prior to the question and answer session.

"This is the biggest crowd I've seen here," Waterman said. "It's good to see a big crowd."

"We're getting more and more people involved," Heaton added. "It's good to be engaged."

"There are so many big issues that affect individual lives," Kersey said.

Regardless of all the issues facing state government, the majority of the residents in attendance Saturday centered their questions on education reform.

"It's pretty obvious what you want to talk about," Baird said as he addressed the crowd.

Before taking questions from the audience, Kersey briefly explained a handful of House Bills that were causing him concern, specifically regarding education.

"There has been a tremendous attack on public education," Kersey said. "My greatest fear is public schools will be fragmented."

Kersey expressed concern with House Bill 1002, which would expand charter schools in the state, giving parents a choice for their children's education. The bill passed the Indiana House and was on its way to the Senate, where it was expected to pass.

When the bill was in the House, both Baird and Heaton voted in favor. Kersey voted against the bill.

Other bills he said he was concerned about included House Bill 1003, a school voucher bill. The bill was approved by a panel of state representatives last week and would allow vouchers to be available for students to leave the public school system and attend private schools with public dollars; House Bill 1479, which Kersey said was essentially a school performance bill allowing the state to assume control of schools deemed as failing; and House Bill 1584, which would allow the Indiana State Board of Education to waive state law, something Kersey said "supercedes what legislators have done."

Kersey made it clear he was not opposed to charter schools, but was concerned that they "are not held to the same accountability as public schools."

"I'm really, really concerned with the direction we're going with public education," Kersey said.

When Baird greeted the audience, he disagreed with Kersey's concerns

"I don't think anyone is trying to demonize teachers," he said.

Baird said he believed some children needed extra attention and charter schools could be the answer.

"Maybe there are some (students) that need that," he said. "And there's only so many dollars for education."

Heaton told the audience he applauded public educators and does not like the rhetoric coming out of the Indianapolis from state officials, but was then asked, "Why aren't you standing up for us?"

Most at Saturday's Cracker Barrel stated they believed the state should consider doing away with the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+). Several in the audience said teachers were finding it difficult to educate students when they were essentially only working to get students ready to take ISTEP+.

Waterman said he presents a bill to do away with ISTEP+ every year, and few notice.

"That's the biggest waste of time," he said.

Kersey agreed.

"There are too many tests," he said. "I don't know how you have time to teach."

Clay Community School Corporation Curriculum Director Kathy Knust said she was disappointed with the situation as well, adding if there was "no money, then why are you taking more from public education and giving it to charter and private schools."

Knust also stated data she had showed charter schools, across the board, do not perform as well as public schools.

Former Clay Community Classroom Teachers' Association President Russ True echoed the frustrations of the others in the audience, asking the representatives, "How do we respond? How do we teach?"

The final Cracker Barrel this year will take place Saturday, March 19, at the YMCA of Clay County. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

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Wow Moon...that article should have been titled "Kersey Leads Cracker Barrel Session". That was awesome!

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Tue, Feb 22, 2011, at 12:05 PM

I can understand Rep. Kersey's concern and, frankly, I didn't understand Rep. Baird's lack of concern on educational issues.

I believe that competition spurs improvement and, therefore, vouchers could lead public education into improvement. However, charter schools are not yet numerous nor are they of the same caliber educationally to compete with the public school systems in Indiana to stimulate public education to improve.

From what was said by our elected officials, about 20,000 Hoosier students attend charter schools now and that few charter schools do well academically compared to public education. However, the numbers could change drastically in light of pending legislation. HB 1479 would give the state the option to appoint new management for schools with the lowest academic proficiency rating and set them up as "gateway" schools and as independent school corporations. There are 221 of these schools in Indiana right now with 1 in Clay County and 3 in Vigo. Now, if they become "gateway" schools and their parent school corporations do not use them for classes for two years, those buildings can be purchased, with everything in them, by a charter school for $1.

Senate Bill 0446 contains the following concerning unused educational facilities: (g) If a charter school wishes to use a school building on the list created under subsection (e), the charter school shall send a letter of intent to the department. The department shall notify the school corporation of the charter school's intent, and the school corporation that owns the school building shall lease the school building to the charter school for one dollar ($1) per year for as long as the charter school uses the school building for classroom instruction or for a term at the charter school's discretion, or sell the school building to the charter school for one dollar ($1).

Senate Bill 0001 Changes the powers of the local School Board on employment to read "(A) Employ, contract for, and discharge superintendents, engineers, architects, accountants, educational and other professional consultants, data processing and computer service for school purposes, including the making of schedules, the keeping and analyzing of grades and other student data,"; severely limiting the power of the Board to control who is hired and passing that power to the superintendent. The employees that the Board would no longer have to approve the hiring or firing of are supervisors, principals, teachers, librarians, athletic coaches (whether or not they are otherwise employed by the school corporation and whether or not they are licensed under IC 20-28-5), business managers, superintendents of buildings and grounds, janitors, physicians, dentists, nurses, and teacher aides performing non-instructional duties.

HB 1479, well you just need to skim through this one http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2011... We do have one school which is in the fifth year and that one school is the one school that we could not afford for the state to turn into a "turnaround academy". As Murphy's Law dictates that "if something is going to go wrong, it will go wrong where it does the most damage"; the one school is North Clay Middle School.

The Teacher turnout was huge. I did want to ask a question but never got the chance. If you use vouchers to allow students to attend other schools, including charter schools, taking the tuition with them and you require that only 51% of the teachers in a charter school be required to meet the qualifications of the public school employees while setting charter schools up as school corporations that maintain their own buildings and administrations (duplicating services) while requiring the surrounding school corporation to provide transportation services (supported by property tax levy), how does that improve education as you then have less qualified teachers and are using more dollars outside of the classroom than you are now?

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Tue, Feb 22, 2011, at 6:38 PM

Isn't it obvious has hit the nail on the head....Besides..I thought Kim Tucker was hired to be curriculum director, then seems she actually was called assistant superintendent. Now she is acting interim superintendent. Kathy was the "coordinator" assigned to the position when Laura Eisle resigned because Dr Rohr was tired of Laura proving her point as to why various programs shouldn't be cut from the budget. Not the Kathy hasn't given her all to do the job but the students in Clay County haven't had a fully dedicated curriculum director dedicated to only that for many years. No one to stand up to those in charge of balancing budget and pushing an agenda to add on to our physical plant when we should have been investing into academic programs instead of whittling away at them as we've been doing for the past 10 years.

Wisconsin is worried because over 80% of their operating budget is spent on employee costs. Here in our school corporation it's above 90%. Totally not going to be able to keep that up long before even more is cut.

An alternative choice here is long overdue and may bring the schools up to par if they don't have monopoly...I know that school districts in areas that have more private schools such as religious based tend to have better curriculums due to the competition. Bring 'em on. If public schools so good, they shouldn't have to worry...

Again both nice enough people, just that their positions have been misrepresented to the taxpayers....

Have a good day.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Feb 22, 2011, at 7:02 PM

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