Yesterday, the House passed, by a vote of 63-46, SB 486 which contains, among other things, a provision that removes the requirement that school administration discuss certain items with teachers.The mandatory discussion provision has been in place, I am told, since the 1970s and was adopted as a way to head off strikes. (I’m vaguely remembering a strike in 1977 or 1978 that kept us out of school in Richmond for some period of time. I wonder if the two things are connected.) Current law provides at IC 20-29-6-7:
Sec. 7. A school employer shall discuss with the exclusive representative of certificated employees the following items:
(1) Curriculum development and revision.
(2) Selection of curricular materials.
(3) Teaching methods.
(4) Hiring, evaluation, promotion, demotion, transfer, assignment, and retention of certificated employees.
(5) Student discipline.
(6) Expulsion or supervision of students.
(7) Pupil/teacher ratio.
(8) Class size or budget appropriations.
(9) Safety issues for students and employees in the workplace, except those items required to be kept confidential by state or federal law.
(11) Funding for a plan for a remediation program for any subset of students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12.
(12) The following nonbargainable items under IC 20-43-10-3.5:
(A) Teacher appreciation grants.
(B) Individual teacher appreciation grant stipends to teachers.
(C) Additions to base salary based on teacher appreciation grant stipends.
(13) The pre-evaluation planning session required under IC 20-28-11.5-4.
(14) The superintendent’s report to the governing body concerning staff performance evaluations required under IC 20-28-11.5-9.
(15) A teacher performance model.
(16) The use of adjunct teachers permitted under IC 20-28-5-27.
The new law would strip the requirement that a school discuss the matters at all. It would now say that the school employer may conduct discussions and, furthermore, may do it with a non-representative group of teachers behind closed doors if it so chooses. That last part gives away the game. Cherry pick your teachers, hot box them, and/or play them off against each other to get the answers you want.
School privatization has three main goals: subsidize religious education, weaken teacher’s unions, and divert public funds to private interests. This isn’t privatization, but it’s clearly in support of goal #2. Requiring discussion with someone who represents teachers as a group has been in place for 40+ years. Having teacher representatives and administrators talk regularly is a good way to make sure that issues don’t turn into problems and that small problems don’t turn into big problems. During my stint on the West Lafayette school board, I was one of the board representatives to a discussion group that met once a month. It was not uncommon for those discussions to, among other things, allow administrators to float plans they had and to tweak those plans in a way that helped teachers do their jobs better.
This is anti-teacher, union busting; plain and simple.