Dispatches from the Conservative Legislation Lab

Republicans (usually with a helpful assist from Democrats) are doing everything they can to destroy Indiana's public education system. This is hardly a comprehensive list, but, as a few examples: Public school funding has been cut; legislation has been passed allowing public schools to teach creationism; school vouchers are all the rage, which has predictably led to charter schools turning away students from marginalized populations; and, in the best news of all, the Indiana State Board of Education created an "adjunct teacher permit," allowing anyone who holds a bachelor's degree, had a 3.0 GPA, and can pass a single test to immediately teach their subject of study in an Indiana classroom, with no formal education training.

Some people, ahem, thought that was not the best idea! So the idea was put on the back burner. (Instead of in a dumpster where it belonged.) Until yesterday, when the Board of Ed passed a slightly revised version:
The State Board of Education agreed Wednesday to create a "career specialist" teaching permit, enabling Hoosiers with three years full-time work experience, but no education training, to become high school teachers in the subject they worked in.

The proposal is a revision of the "adjunct teacher permit" plan initially approved in December 2012 by a state School Board seeking to give Republican Tony Bennett a final victory on his way out of office. Bennett lost the month before to Democrat Glenda Ritz in his bid to remain state superintendent of public instruction.

Under that proposal, Hoosiers who earned good grades in college en route to a bachelor's degree would have been permitted to teach without any additional coursework.

The idea was to create a different route to the classroom than the traditional "practitioner" license, which requires training in child development, child psychology and how to run a classroom — along with student teaching and additional in-school internship requirements.

Bennett and then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, also a Republican, strongly backed the adjunct proposal, claiming it would give local school corporations greater flexibility in hiring.

Ritz opposed the plan but was not allowed to participate in the board's discussion at the time.

When technical rule-making changes brought the permit issue before the board again Wednesday, Ritz recommended the adjunct teacher plan be dropped.

She noted several alternative paths to teacher licensing already exist and include vital training in how to teach children.

Brad Oliver, a Republican board member from Muncie, agreed with Ritz that teachers should learn how to teach before they're standing in front of a classroom and charged with ensuring each student achieves at least a year's worth of academic progress.

Nevertheless, the board voted 6-5 to overrule Ritz and keep the adjunct permit.
And not only that, they voted to get rid of the bachelor's requirement altogether! Instead, now you just need three years of relevant work experience. And you'll be required to "complete appropriate education training programs within two years."

Silly me—I was under the impression that a degree in education was the appropriate education training program, but apparently not! Although I have full faith that the people who don't think you need any educational training to start teaching will definitely create a perfect alternative "appropriate education training program."

The thing is, I do think that teaching is, in many ways, an innate talent. And I also think that the rising cost of higher education increasingly means that people with that innate talent are meeting prohibitive barriers to becoming qualified teachers. So, presumably, I should support this legislation.

But this legislation isn't about finding the best teachers. It's not about providing students with the best education via the best educators. It's not about helping poor young people with an innate talent for teaching find their way to a classroom through nontraditional means.

It's about saving money. It's about getting the cheapest teachers possible for "school corporations" that don't want to pay a premium for instructors who have some basic background in child development, child psychology, and classroom management.

I would, quite genuinely, be all for a program that re-envisioned new and nontraditional paths to classrooms for talented potential teachers. But this isn't that program. That program would not be about saving money; it would be about investing money—in education, in teachers' salaries, in classroom supplies, in new technologies, in kids.

A visionary and robustly funded framework to tap the most talented people for public school classrooms outside of traditional educational training? Fuck yeah.

But this ain't that.

This is another way to make public schools fail, under the auspices of "saving money." Because discrediting free public school education for every child is an explicit goal of many conservative legislatures.
It still likely will be many months before any Hoosier can obtain a career specialist teacher permit.

The final proposed rule must be reviewed again by the State Board and approved by Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Gov. Mike Pence, both Republicans, before it can take effect.

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