Tony Bennett

Dateline: Thu 08 Nov 2012

The biggest upset for Hoosiers in Tuesday's election was the defeat of Tony Bennett, the state's boss of public instruction who, depending on whom you believe, was either reform-minded and progressive, or dictatorial and a dick.

We all knew teachers did not like Bennett, but the assumption was he would ride high on the Republican wave of Mike Pence et al.

Not so. A little-known media specialist from Washington Township, Glenda Ritz, put an end to his reign.

I credit the power of the teachers' union (she's active in her union in Washington Township schools in Indy) as well as social media; how many times did I hear teacher/friends promote her and urge voters to support her and not TB?

But a friend and former colleague tells the story of another side....teachers agitating for Ritz on students' time. Here's the anecdote, as related to my friend by a mom:

“My 10-year-old daughter came home from school Monday and out of the blue asked who I was voting for in Superintendent of Public Instruction election.”

Finding it hard to believe her daughter even knew there was such a race, she replied that she was going to vote for Tony Bennett.

“Why?” the daughter said. “He’s crazy!”

The daughter proceeded to expound on the virtues of Glenda Ritz, Bennett’s opponent. The mother said it was like the daughter had read Ruiz’s campaign literature.

When asked where she had heard all this, the daughter said it was in class that day. Her teacher had told all the pupils.

“He said that if Bennett was elected he wouldn’t get a paycheck if I didn’t pass the ISTEP,” she added. The mother concluded her daughter didn’t even know which party Ritz was representing. So, the parents are asking, was school time being used for political reasons? And isn’t that against what teaching is all about?

           Ah, so. In my experience with Catholic education in the 70s, 80s and 90s, it's hardly a news flash that politicians get supported and promoted. At St. Luke, where everyone was GOP, my kids were the token Dems; at St. Thomas, where the Northside Democratic Party goes to eat the bread and drink the blood, being for Romney (or McCain) put you at odds.

        Kids hold mock elections, make posters, all that, in an effort by teachers to get them to buy into the electoral process. That's fine and dandy.

    But: did this teacher in Washington Township go a tad too far? If the story is true as reported, yeah.....keep it to yourself, buddy. And please, don't use words like "crazy" to describe someone running for public office, unless you have papers showing the individual is certifiable. Gratuitous insults demean the process, the person and of course, yourself.

 

Comments

varangianguard [unverified] said:

Supt. Bennett brought THAT kind of (alleged) behavior upon himself.

For him, school is a place to instruct in one thing, state-mandated testing.

Not surprising that some blowback might appear from some who disagree with a mandate that invalidates "teaching" and "learning" for some politically-driven agenda instead.

Guerillas in the classroom.

2012-11-08 11:38:44

hendy [Member] said:

+1 for Ritz. Bennett was the worst news in Indiana education in a 100yrs.

Classroom groundswell? So be it. Ritz was a teacher for two of my children. Her status as a union rep is well-known. Bennett's decimation of public education is also well-known. Charter schools are an unconstitutional travesty, as are school vouchers.

2012-11-08 12:52:07

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Ruth, with all due respect, I think you are making too much out of one teacher's alleged lack of wisdom. One of many thousands of public school teachers in this state.

I would guess a young kid. School supers are pushing out older, experienced teachers to replace them with a lot of young kids who are better for Repub-slashed budgets.

Bennett. If I could, I would go help him clean out his office. He and his cohorts have nearly destroyed many public schools. You want your kid to ride a bus in some districts? You'll have to pay for it. Your kid wants to play football at some schools? Stand in line and lay down your $300 for "pay to play." Yes, improvements are needed and are happening. But you don't make them happen any faster with a sledge hammer.

2012-11-08 13:28:16

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that it's good to have you posting on your blog again, Ruth? I may disagree with you at times, but I always respect your intelligence and sincere concern about other human beings.

2012-11-08 13:33:03

hendy [Member] said:

Seconded.

2012-11-08 14:09:52

Lori Schlabach [unverified] said:

This story, if it is true as related, is not consistent with my children's experience in Washington Township or MSD Washington Township's policies as printed below.

Political Activities

The Board recognizes that all District employees have civic responsibilities and/or rights including the right to vote; to be an active member of the political party of their choice; to campaign for candidates for election to public office; to seek, campaign for, and serve in public office.

In fulfilling his responsibility as a District employee, the employee will refrain from exploiting the privileges of his position. He will not exploit students in any way for political purposes for himself, for any party or candidate.

Political activities of District employees must be conducted outside of regular duty hours and shall not interfere with the regular work responsibilities.

The Board encourages employees to exercise full rights of citizenship in the community during off-duty hours.

2012-11-08 14:25:59

Lori Schlabach [unverified] said:

By the way, I think everyone is underestimating the depth of anti-Bennett and anti-privatization sentiment among public school parents.

2012-11-08 14:31:40

Seneca [unverified] said:

"I may disagree with you at times, but I always respect your intelligence and sincere concern about other human beings."

Thirded.

2012-11-09 06:05:23

guy77money [unverified] said:

Tony was so hell bent on testing he couldn't see the forest through the trees. The basic problems with the schools is the compensation and retirement benefits that both the teachers and the administrators are costing the taxpayers. Imagine retiring from your job after 30 years and getting a pension and health benefits for the rest of your life amounting to over 50 to over 100 thousand dollars a year. Throw in the lavish buildings and athletic facilities that where financed on bonds long term bonds. These were the main problems with the schools funding problem. I never saw Tony wanting to scale back the administrative costs or find better ways to bring down the cost of building schools. Nope he was to busy complaining and attacking the teachers as the root of all evil in Indiana schools. Good riddance!

2012-11-09 07:41:01

guy77money [unverified] said:

Tony was so hell bent on testing he couldn't see the forest through the trees. The basic problems with the schools is the compensation and retirement benefits that both the teachers and the administrators are costing the taxpayers. Imagine retiring from your job after 30 years and getting a pension and health benefits for the rest of your life amounting to over 50 to over 100 thousand dollars a year. Throw in the lavish buildings and athletic facilities that where financed on bonds long term bonds. These were the main problems with the schools funding problem. I never saw Tony wanting to scale back the administrative costs or find better ways to bring down the cost of building schools. Nope he was to busy complaining and attacking the teachers as the root of all evil in Indiana schools. Good riddance!

2012-11-09 07:41:06

sjudge [unverified] said:

Why on earth we elect this position (or Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General or all the other essentially ministerial posts) is beyond me. It always sets up a potential situation where one elected office is set in a death struggle with the administration for four miserable years.

2012-11-09 08:06:10

hendy [Member] said:

Not necessarily so. We remove education from political appointment and make it elected for good reasons, along the lines of why we don't allow mayors to control schools-- too much power in one person's hands. We remove libraries from mayors for the same reason.

Does it make things more complicated? Yes. I agree it creates tensions, but it also holds powermongers and grafters in check. In the old days, if you worked for the government, a small fraction of your pay went to the party in power. This created all sorts of graft and influence peddling.

I hope the best for Ms Ritz. Bennett was a tool.

2012-11-09 08:30:48

Gary Welsh [unverified] said:

Normally, voters in the state superintendent's race just follow their political leanings without any knowledge of the candidates in the race. That has traditionally benefited the Republican candidate. The teachers who opposed Bennett were very effective at using social media, particularly Facebook, to make their case that Bennett was bad for schools and needed to go. Teachers alone couldn't have defeated Bennett. Their promoting of Ritz' candidacy must have influenced enough voters to switch their normal party allegiance in casting their votes in this race. At the end of the day, Ritz will be bound by the same laws Bennett helped enact over the past four years, and the state board with whom she will have to work will be made up of people appointed by Pence so I'm not sure how much she can accomplish on behalf of the teachers who support her.

I was visiting with my family in Illinois on Wednesday. They were commenting on how all their teacher friends on Facebook there were advocating to them to vote against a state referendum on a state constitutional amendment that would have made it more difficult for schools and state and local governments to sweeten their pension benefits. They created enough confusion that a common sense measure failed to get the requisite number of votes needed for passage. Illinois has an unfunded public pension liability of $86 billion. I'm sure if voters realized how much their taxes were going to have to be raised to pay for those pension benefits they might have voted differently.

2012-11-09 12:51:43

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Having a teacher in my family, i don't quite understand this perception that public school teachers bail out after 30 years with Golden Parachutes.

Most of the teachers I know who are retiring now are getting pensions in the range of $20-$25 a year (unless they were able to pay a lot into them) and with little to no health care benefits. And most of them started out teaching in the late 1970s at about $10k per year. Salaries are still weak and were terrible until about 10 years ago.

Now, as for some administrators bailing out on gilded gliders... now that's a different story

2012-11-09 13:51:15

Victor [unverified] said:

To paraphrase Frankenstein:
Teachers good.
Union bad.
Administration bad.

Mad Dr. Frankenstein wishes Ms. Ritz well. In my madness me thinks if you go to the Statehouse with a plan to significantly reduce the statewide educational administrative costs you may get the door cracked. Massive and worthless bloat there. Then if you go to the teachers and convince them to change the union to a professional organization then you have a realistic shot with the Statehouse for reform, however you define it.

The republicans will not play with you if you as a union representative with a system that is sucking tax $ and has a long and consistent history of marginal at best, horrible at worst, performance.

Ms. Ritz, you may have the power of the people but in politics that's as valuable to a politician as a dead cat is to me.

This mad Dr. says you've got to give to get (ironic isn't it).

2012-11-09 14:57:46

Jane [unverified] said:

I didn't need the teachers' union to tell me what's going on with the Bennett program or who supports it. Talk to schoolchildren,parents, tutors, employers, read/watch all sorts of news media, pay attention and gather informatio on your own. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that more time spent testing (which requires teaching to the test) equals less time teaching fundamentals and encouraging a love of learning.

Why do so many "leaders" think we're all just sheep, unable to decide for ourselves which politicians we want to support?

2012-11-09 15:17:58

Jake [unverified] said:

The poor teachers only get pensions of 20-25 thousand dollars a year? Plus Social Security? You mean teachers in retirement live on MORE than the roughly $32,000 which is the median income of working Americans over age 25? What a disgrace. (And they often, of course, take other jobs after retirement from teaching.) Little to no health benefits for the teacher retirees? They have to live on the same benefits as most of the rest of America? Shocking!

I propose that American public school teachers be paid in proportion to the performance of kids on the PISA test. (Standardized international test.) In 2010, kids in the U.S. finished 17th in reading, 31st in math, and 23rd in science. Teacher salaries and benefits should match their student rankings. You do the math.

Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educatorshttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/education/07education.html?_r=1

It is hard to think of a another job whose members are held to such a low standard of performance as public school teacher in America.

2012-11-10 07:29:30

hendy [Member] said:

Sure, Jake.

Perhaps you didn't realize that in IPS, the majority of kids come from single parent homes. The primary caregiver probably has to work for a living. Most of the children are latch-key.

You do the math.

Many teachers get to be mom, dad, sitter, teacher, and so forth.... on a good day. Sometimes it's truant officer, detective, and probation officer.

Go ahead and teach or monitor a class (silently) for a few days to get a feel for teachers. It's easy to tell you don't have a real world idea of what's going on, and what the challenges are. Most of them, but not all, are parental.

Do they deserve pensions? We pay them so poorly that we used to use pensions to attract rational college graduates to the profession, because we otherwise paid so little monetary attention to schools, expecting them to run themselves. We in Indiana modified the tax structure eight different times, including allowing township assessors enormous latitude in assessing property tax for funding. Inequities that are mind-boggling ensued, and have only been somewhat stanched today.

Do the math.

Take a look at our universities, where 14 of the top 20 are in the US. Take a look at science, tech, ag, medical, and legal leadership in the US. I left out finance because we let our banks get away with murder.

Do the math.

2012-11-10 20:24:17

Jake [unverified] said:

The average salary of teachers in Indiana, who work 9 months, is over $50,000. This in a state where the per capita income for 12 month workers is $35,000. Do you not know this or are you being satirical?

American public school teachers are among the highest paid teachers in the world, and among the worst.

Lousy public school performance used to be the fault of teacher pay, and then class size, and then poor facilities. Now we have gotten to the bottom of it: the teachers are too good for their crummy students.

2012-11-10 21:36:42

hendy [Member] said:

Citation please?

Let's see, all Indiana workers have at least a masters degree required by law and must retain their licenses thru updated professional continuing education.

Uh, no.

Your race to the bottom seems to bear a lot of grudges about teachers. I know many of them; most are among the finest I know. IMHO, they are underpaid at $50K.

2012-11-11 08:13:51

hendy [Member] said:

Citation please?

Let's see, all Indiana workers have at least a masters degree required by law and must retain their licenses thru updated professional continuing education.

Uh, no.

Your race to the bottom seems to bear a lot of grudges about teachers. I know many of them; most are among the finest I know. IMHO, they are underpaid at $50K.

2012-11-11 08:13:54

Jake [unverified] said:

Teacher salaries by state:

http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/

SAT scores by intended college major:
http://www.joshuakennon.com/?p=24572

Sub-average for education majors, of course.

Gross monthly income of teachers by country (2005)

Ranking - net monthly income, constant US dollarx

1. USA - $4,055
2. Germany - $3,075

2012-11-11 14:06:46

Jake [unverified] said:

Reference for teacher income by country.

http://www.worldsalaries.org/teacher.shtml

2012-11-11 14:08:04

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Jake, I don't know what your personal gripe is with teachers, but they are terribly underpaid for the education, licensing, additional training, responsibility and experience they must have.

How many career professionals with bachelor's, master's and required additional annual training are paid in the range of $60,000 a year after they have 30 years of experience?

I don't know why anyone would want to be a teacher in this era in Indiana when teachers are so disrespected. That vast majority of teachers I had in the public schools were hard-working and excellent and cared about me. I thank them for making a big difference in my life.

One of the finest teachers I ever had hauled groceries out to my family's car in the evenings as a part of his part-time job at a grocery store. Another fantastic teacher I had worked part-time as a custodian at a middle school at nights to pay the bills.

2012-11-11 17:19:05

Jake [unverified] said:

There is no specific amount that a person in a given occupation should be paid. Teachers make roughly twice as much per hour as the average American, yet are graduates of one of the easiest college majors and have lower than average SAT scores heading into college. Teachers make more per hour than registered nurses, with far less stringent educational or licensing requirements. Teachers are paid more per hour than aircraft mechanics and landscape architects. A nurse, mechanic, or architect whose work product was as poor as that of most public school teachers would be out of a job quickly -- unless his union made it difficult to fire him.

You would think that being paid double the average per hour wage of an American worker would be satisfactory considering that few teachers have special skills that make them irreplaceable, but we hear endless kvetching about the plight of the poor teachers. If they have such remarkable talents (despite their low average SAT scores) then let them apply those to other occupations where the pay is higher. If the pay and conditions are so horrible, then why did they make such a poor choice of occupation? Altruism? Ha ha.

At $50,000, a Hoosier teacher makes more than 75 percent of all American workers (much less Indiana workers), yet that is still not enough. Never enough for the oppressed teachers who produce students who sink lower and lower in the international rankings in match, science, and reading.

Unlike most every other worker, it is terribly unfair to judge teachers by the quality of the product they product because, as they never fail to tell us, the students are idiots. How teachers can take money to do the impossible task of teaching ineducable dolts is an interesting ethical topic.

2012-11-11 20:23:07

Jake [unverified] said:

A couple of obvious typos in my last post.

The expected pay in any occupation is apparent when you begin training for it. If you don't like the anticipated pay, then train for another occupation, don't spend your life demanding more money. (Obviously students will lower than average SAT scores are limited in terms of the training for which they can qualify, which is the point.) As a rule, pay is the result of scarcity (whether your skills are rare) and productivity (how much quality product you produce). It is obvious that the skills of teachers are not rare and their productivity is wretched. We have the numbers to prove both of those things over many years.

If a person can't make ends meet on a salary greater than 75 percent of all Americans, it shows a serious money management skill deficiency.

Considering that teachers are supposedly in love with their jobs (so the hype goes), they sure spend a lot of time griping about those jobs.

A little secret is that teachers at the best private K-12 schools make roughly the same salaries as do the public school teachers, with much higher skills, and they either like their jobs or quit. They don't have a union to constantly whine on their behalf and demand higher salaries without better student performance.

What has increased public school teacher pay bought American parents and students? Nothing but demands for even higher pay.

2012-11-11 20:40:36

hendy [Member] said:

My direct and secondary experience says that private school teachers usually do not make as much as public school teachers, and the experience comes from both parochial school data, and private school data.

I not only believe that public school teachers are underpaid, but that their pension benefits stink, too. Your outcomes-based thinking presumes that children are like refrigerators or autos, and can be manufactured through the educational process. Nothing is further from reality. Children are unique, and their educational needs are unique as well as their own interests and motivations.

Your Scrooge approach to teacher pay chills me. We used attractive pensions in lieu of low pay, which is still the case. Much of public service is just like that. Now you want screw over the teachers (and perhaps other public servants) in some sort of quixotish quest to save money. Only Grover Norquist is more insane about these things.

2012-11-12 09:36:42

varangianguard [unverified] said:

So, by Jason's logic, TV weather forecasters should be paying viewers to watch them, more often than not. Many CEOs shouldn't be getting golden parachutes for failing, but should be refunding all their stock options. Politicians should generally be paying large amounts of money to voters silly enough to vote for the same old stuff. And, one could go on and on.

Since none of that will be happening soon, why the vitriol just about teachers?

2012-11-12 13:34:56

Married to a teacher [unverified] said:

Jake, my sister is a nurse, works 3 days a week and makes over $80,000/year with a nursing degree, no BSN. My husband is a teacher, works loooong days 5 days a week, loses sleep over struggling students and makes $50,000/year (including a coaching stipend) with a master's. The struggling students are growing in number and spreading to every district in the state. Until we find a way to address the plethora of social issues that create these problems, teachers should be paid a lot more. Don't believe me, spend a day as a sub. You'll get a real good idea of what they face.

2012-11-14 09:14:32

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Turns out defeating Bennett was part of a national trend.

Who knew?

(See EyeOnIndianapolis.blogspot.com)

2012-11-14 11:17:43

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