The Indy Star made some seemingly minor edits to my gubernatorial candidate submission, but I thought I’d better post the original here just in case you wanted to see what I’d actually sent them (or in case you don’t get the Star):
Nobody wants to shortchange kids. So it’s natural and common to deny the extent and nature of the problems with our schools. But our schools are literally a criminal shame.
I don’t have space to detail the problems with unconstitutional regulations and bureaucracies that sap teachers’ authority and initiative. I wish I could shed light on corruption like the Tremco/AEPA/Wilson Education Center no-bid jobs; or discuss the injustice of low teacher pay against six-figure salaries for school administrators, sports coaches and of course union officials. You can see the problems if you dare to look. What’s important is that we can fix the problems if only we’ll change the way we think, and vote, about schools.
A good start would be to examine what was originally designed, acknowledge what devolved, and then plan a fix.
Article 8 of the Indiana Constitution is the law respecting our tax-supported education system. The key words are “…and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”
When our constitution was written, “Common School” meant the uniform and simple system of primary (not secondary) education promoted by Horace Mann as the “ladder of opportunity.” As opposed to the free church-run schools of the day, Common Schools were intended to give poor children a non-Christian education. They were to be state-funded with no disparity between rich and poor regions. And these uniform schools were meant to be rigidly focused on scholastic achievement, so that a Common School graduate would be ready to work in the real world with useful skills in mathematics, science, communication and technology. Colleges and universities were only for those who needed specialized, advanced training for academia, medicine or engineering. After all, real life (and drop-outs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Thomas Edison…) won’t wait through two decades in a classroom.
Article 8, Sections 2 through 7 lay out specific funding by an “inviolate” and “perpetual” Common School trust fund. Of course that fund was violated and is now gone. But the fund is still law, to be maintained through many specified sources including “taxes on the property of corporations.” What is excluded, and therefore not authorized, is personal property tax. So legally, half of your property tax bill is unconstitutional.
This is the law. If we don’t like it, then let’s talk about how we’d amend it.
But I believe the law is vastly better than what we’ve fallen into with our political chicanery. So here’s what I propose we do:
We’d de-consolidate toward a greater number of smaller schools where buses become obsolete in all but rural areas, so that parents and teachers can more easily collaborate; and kids would no longer be such tiny fish in such large oceans. Teachers would have authority to teach, to expect a high standard of performance, and to expel. No more “dumbing-down” or lowering standards to fit a curve. Teachers would be rewarded for performance, not just for paying union dues. We would spin off sporting facilities into community centers and gyms so that kids don’t have to be genetically gifted to play.
…We all know kids who need more opportunities to exercise.
And while there is no excuse for compromising necessities like music and art instruction, microscopes, and a clean, healthy environment; homeschool successes have demonstrated that education doesn’t have to be vast and expensive. And it wouldn’t be, if school money went solely to teachers, smaller-scale buildings, and education supplies.
Besides being an improvement on what we do now, this is the law.