The real story of Indiana education ‘reform’ — it’s a fraud

by Jim Lang

Another week, another news story revealing the truth about Indiana education “reform” — it’s a fraud.

A few weeks ago, the story was former governor Mitch Daniels’s attempts to ban historian Howard Zinn’s materials from Indiana classrooms.

As I wrote last week, Daniels’s actions revealed the motivation behind all Indiana education “reform” legislation — the cynical belief that teachers cannot be trusted.

This week, the focus shifted to former Indiana superintendent of public instruction Tony Bennett, now also the former school chief for Florida, after an Associated Press story revealed that under Bennett’s tenure in Indiana, an Indianapolis charter school run by a wealthy Republican donor had its grade changed.

Most Hoosier teachers and education experts have fought against Indiana’s education “reform” agenda because we have long realized the truth: it is a system based on half-truths, skewed research, and selfish motives, and it only improves one thing — the wallets of wealthy corporations and donors seeking to exploit our children and our schools for profit.

When you inject vast amounts of cash into the educational system, the system becomes political and corporate, and all decisions become self-serving. And, here’s the great irony of an education system that was sold to Hoosier voters as enhancing “accountability” — the very people who now hold schools and teachers “accountable” are the people who are contributing to the real problems in our schools in the first place.

School reform cannot be genuine or effective until we address the failure of the American family, increased poverty, and the problem of a shrinking middle class in a country where the rich continue to get richer. School reform must begin with honest discussions about family, poverty, and income inequality. Until we begin to address these issues, forget about effective schools in struggling communities.

So, Indiana and other states that have gleefully jumped on the corporate “reform” bandwagon have not improved schools at all. Not one bit. In fact, they make our schools worse. And, while I am sure that a defiant education “reformer” could very quickly toss out a statistic that reveals a stunning education miracle to prove my assertion wrong, remember this: we have learned this week that numbers can certainly be manipulated.

If we continue to support and elect corporate education “reformers” to distract us from our real problems with fake solutions like A-F grading systems, government-sponsored vouchers for private schools, corporate charter schools, merit pay, Common Core Standards, and other market-based “reform” solutions that improve virtually nothing, our true problems will only grow worse.

And so will our own culpability for these problems.

Public school educators who truly care about our children and our schools were right all along. There is no doubt about this now.

They fight for and teach our children despite the fact that their jobs grow more difficult with each new piece of “reform” legislation. They make a difference in the lives of children despite the fact that our state government now meddles in our schools and their classrooms more than ever before and continues to enact legislation based on a distrust of all educators.

My admiration for Indiana teachers grows each day. And yours should, too. And it’s time to finally listen to them. It is time to vote out anyone and everyone who supports these destructive policies.

It is time to finally address and solve our real problems.

So, those of us who truly support our schools and value education must carry a simple message to voters and citizens: the failure of Indiana’s education “reform”… and it will fail … won’t be because of Mitch Daniels or Tony Bennett, because the real story is not about these two men.

Indiana education “reform” will fail because it is a system designed to destroy rather than improve public schools while distracting us from our real problems and helping corporate “reformers” get richer. It is a fraud.

This is the real story.

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