LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A Muncie teacher's take on HB-1315
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An Open Letter to President Mearns:
In a Feb. 1 letter to the community, you stated that you respect the teachers of the Muncie Community Schools and admire their professional and personal dedication to educating our children. If that is the case, there is absolutely no justification for HB-1315 to strip Muncie teachers of rights such as collective bargaining that are guaranteed to teachers in every other public school in Indiana. Is there any scenario that would convince BSU’s faculty to give up their tenure and other contractual rights?
We keep hearing about community engagement. Prove that you mean it by insisting that the citizens of Muncie will keep the right to directly elect at least half of the members of the new board. This is America. Those that suggest that the incompetence of some of the past and current board members justifies permanently ending representative democracy are taking a page right out of Vladimir Putin’s playbook. While the current management of MCS by Administrative Associates is hardly the democratic ideal, keep in mind that it is temporary and is led by Steve Edwards, who was elected to serve on the board by the people of Muncie in November 2016.
Ball State University’s 100 years of contributions to preparing teachers should indeed be celebrated. Therefore, how can BSU defend working behind closed doors on a bill that allows “distressed” schools to lay off teachers in the middle of the year? While being laid off is a hardship in any job, in many other professions a worthy and diligent person would have plentiful opportunities to search for and secure a new position at any time during the year. A teacher put out of work in December will have very little chance of landing another teaching job until the following fall. How will they live much less make payments on the five-figure student loans?
There would be disruptions to education as students are redistributed and the kids in the classrooms of the pink-slipped teachers will most certainly learn that education is an unwise career choice. The founders of Ball Teacher’s College would be rolling in their graves if they knew of BSU’s close collaboration with legislators who have been the architects of Indiana’s decade-long war on teachers and public education.
We keep hearing about how there will be a two-year planning period. However, Ball State will be in charge on July 1, 2018 and immediately responsible for hiring teachers and staff, making sure the buses pick-up and drop off students at the correct time and place, and countless other essential responsibilities. Some of the most critical and difficult tasks will be financial.
How can a university that just spent $1,000,000 on a ‘We Fly’ slogan gain the confidence of Muncie stakeholders and understand the situation of perpetual and severe cost-containment in the Muncie Community Schools? Our custodians and lunch ladies lost their state pensions in 2016, teacher pay has been frozen for years, and benefits have been reduced for all employee groups. Our roofs leak like a sieve and many of our HVAC systems are well beyond their life expectancy. Our buildings are in desperate need of upgrades to make them energy efficient. At the same time, BSU seems to get generous funding for every new gilded building or sports complex imaginable. Everyone in Muncie, including our students, knows who the haves and the have-nots are in this community.
A true partnership between Ball State University and the stakeholders of the Muncie Community Schools could have great potential in better serving the children and citizens of Muncie. However, HB-1315, as it is currently written, is, and will be viewed, as a HOSTILE TAKEOVER by many potential partners. Is that a recipe for success? Please tell the Indiana Legislature that BSU will not accept this opportunity and responsibility unless HB-1315 is amended to remove ALL of these onerous provisions.
— Allen Kidd, Teacher at Muncie Central High School