Non-Union Teacher Contract Bargaining Requires Flexibility

Finding, retaining and empowering great teachers must be a top priority for Indiana schools. However, the state’s teacher bargaining law ties the hands of administrators and forces the union-bargained contract and all its controls on every teacher in a district, whether or not they choose to even join the union.

Senate Bill 302, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon), would allow school districts to negotiate employment contracts directly with individual teachers or groups of teachers that choose not to join their union, instead of being forced to negotiate exclusively within the bargaining agreement and impose those same contract provisions on all teachers.

Today, schools and districts cannot recruit superb educators and those with specific skills needed (e.g. STEM, foreign languages, etc.) and cannot be offered higher pay or other incentives. And in districts with teacher shortages, there is no room to negotiate a contract to hire a teacher that might be needed to fill an important gap. There is no flexibility – it’s the union’s contract or nothing, even in a right-to-work state like Indiana.

Teachers are professionals and should be treated like it. They have the right to be a union member and bargain collectively should they so choose, but they also should have the right to negotiate their own contracts. If we want better teachers in this state, we need to encourage and support excellence.

The bill would free teachers from a longstanding stranglehold on contracts, allow for excellence to be rewarded and recruited, and stop treating all teachers like interchangeable parts under the same contract terms regardless of skills, performance or a school’s needs.

Please take a moment to send a message to your state senator and the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee to ask for support of Senate Bill 302 to provide for more flexibility for school districts and teachers.

Promise Initiative is Indeed Promising

I went to Wabash (the city, not the college) recently. At one point (1985-88), I was in Wabash full time as sports editor of the local newspaper. Among the highlights during that time: a still celebrated 1986 state baseball championship.

But I digress. The reason for this visit to Wabash was for an upcoming BizVoice magazine story on the Wabash County Promise. And if young, energetic leaders have their way — and there is no reason to doubt them — the program to drive postsecondary educational attainment will one day be the Indiana Promise.

The Promise begins with opening 529 college savings accounts for young students (kindergarten through third grade). It continues with touch points that engage students and parents. It includes a Walk Into My Future day that brings thousands of young people to a college campus.

The initial success is laudable. The local leaders I spoke with know they must continue the work.  One, Parker Beauchamp, told me about speaking on campus (with the words really applying to the entire program): “It was about pumping those kids up, having them be part of something positive and letting them have a say in their future.”

The full story will be the in March-April BizVoice, which will include more articles on business-education connections and the possibilities that emerge through strong partnerships.

 

Legislative Testimony: Employment for Non-Union Teachers

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 302 – Employment Contracts for Non-Union Teachers, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown).

The Indiana Chamber has long supported similar legislation allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to join their union. And as such, those that choose NOT to join their respective union for whatever reason should have the opportunity to negotiate their contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement that was set forth by that union – just as any other employee in the state might be able to do.

We feel that this legislation empowers both the employer and the employee to negotiate a contract that works best for BOTH parties.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

Pence’s Education Agenda to Take Center Stage — Should Include More Investment in Preschool

The Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee recently voted to support Governor Pence’s education agenda in principle. The agenda represents an important first step in increasing the focus in Indiana’s K-12 education system to our state’s young people and allowing them to prosper through high-performing teachers and schools.

The list below represents the Governor’s education goals:

  • Increase the base funding per pupil
  • Build on the successful performance funding in the last budget
  • Support efforts by the Commission for Higher Education to expand the performance-based model of funding for universities
  • Allow schools to choose to become “Freedom to Teach Schools – whereby they can improve educational performance by providing more flexibility to superintendents, principals and teachers by easing laws, policies and regulations through waivers granted by the State Board of Education
  • Adjust funding for public charter schools that will allow more communities to offer more choices for families and their kids, and attract more investment for education innovation in Indiana
  • Improve Indiana’s school choice program by lifting the cap on the dollar amount for vouchers and support efforts to raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program
  • Work with legislators to act on the State Board of Education’s recommendations to develop a new, strategic approach to turning around failing schools
  • Increase the amount of money, public and private, to give students more career and technical education opportunities
  • Change how the state funds career and technical education courses, basing funding on performance and relevance instead of enrollment alone
  • Give the State Board of Education authority to elect its own chair

The last bullet item would be a good step if the longstanding Chamber priority of making the state superintendent an appointed position is not enacted. There needs to be, at a minimum, some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.

The one area where the Indiana Chamber differs with the Governor’s education agenda is on preschool; he is seeking $10 million a year in this next budget to fund pre-K scholarships for the five pre-K pilot counties.

The Chamber believes the pilot program is not adequate. Indiana has large numbers of children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. This ultimately impacts all Hoosier students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.

The state needs to provide robust funding that will help all low-income parents access education–based preschool programs. Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes sense, like in statewide preschool.

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Girls Inc. focus on STEM

TGirls Inc. recently collaborated with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and the IU School of Informatics STARS (Science, Technology and Research Scholars) to learn about virtual reality, video game creation and production, and using Photoshop.

Participants started off in a virtual reality lab. In this room, the girls had an opportunity to build their own virtual world and then navigate someone through it. Next, they moved to the advanced visualization lab. This room had large monitors that broke down the visual aspects of the virtual world. The girls learned about why these screens are needed and how virtual reality worlds are brought together. The last room they visited contained a green screen.

All of the girls posed in front of the green screen and then used Photoshop to place themselves in different scenes from around the world. Through this process, the girls saw how easy it is to manipulate a picture.

“They got to use Photoshop for good and not for bad,” said Adrianne Slash, program support coordinator, Girls Inc.

The girls really enjoyed the last room that they were in. It displayed artwork from video games that IUPUI students had made. The room showed them that they are capable of making games of their own someday.

Minnesota’s New Site Helps Students Make College Pay

minnPeople in powerful positions often have access to the best information.

Minnesota high school students now have the ability to expand their power base. When they are agonizing over technical school and college choices, they can now look at marketplace data that show which academic programs have high placement rates and what recent graduates are being paid.

For the first time in its history, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is making this information available to the public on its website.

The data reveal a pattern of underemployment among recent graduates. For the Class of 2011, among those completing programs ranging from certificates to graduate degrees, by their second year out of school, only 42 percent had full-time jobs that they kept for a whole year.

But the most intriguing statistics are the wage breakouts among academic programs. Here are some of the highlights for the Class of 2011 two years after completing their education:

  • Among students who earned bachelor’s degrees in marketing, 52 percent had full-time jobs and 31 percent were working part-time. The median annual salary for full-time employees was $35,373.
  • Among bachelor’s graduates with general business degrees, the median annual wages for full-time employees were $57,227. In this major, 59 percent were employed full-time and 21 percent were working part-time.
  • Those with special education and teaching degrees at the bachelor’s level had annual median earnings of $35,312.
  • Technical education translated into good-sized paychecks for people who completed certificate programs or associate degrees. For example:
  • Annual median earnings were $44,196 for full-time workers who obtained associate degrees in electromechanical instruments and maintenance technology. In this program area, 60 percent held full-time jobs in their second year out of school.
  • Plumbing program graduates also saw high job placement. Among students who completed certificate programs for plumbing, the annual median earnings for full-time workers were $41,229. Forty-five percent were working full time and 42 percent were employed part time in the second year out of school.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill requiring DEED to take the wage and employment data that the state receives from employers and present it to state residents in a format that’s easy to use. Called the “graduate employment outcomes tool,” people can use drop-down menus on the DEED website to look up wage and placement data by academic program.

Check out the site.

Governor Passes on Preschool Opportunity

GPreschool education has become a top priority for the Indiana Chamber and for countless members throughout the state. The prospects for making significant improvements to our state’s educational levels will remain challenging as long as large numbers of children are entering kindergarten unprepared for school. Moreover, those challenges are compounded and are impacting all Indiana students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.

Those are just two of the reasons for the preschool emphasis. It is critically important that Indiana join the vast majority of other states in providing funding that will help low-income parents to access their choice of preschool programs that are educationally based and accountable for outcomes.

During the 2014 legislative session, Indiana took a small step in addressing this challenge by approving a $10 million pilot program in five Indiana counties. To be certain, it was a good step forward – driven in large part by the leadership of Gov. Pence and House Republicans. But it fell far short of Indiana’s needs.

Fortunately, an opportunity arose shortly after the session to greatly expand those funds through a federal grant program that would provide $20 million per year for four years. Indeed, Indiana was identified as one of just two states that would receive “priority status” in the grant. Accordingly, staff from the governor’s office, the Department of Education and other preschool advocates began working on the application, which was due for completion this month.

Gov. Pence, however, announced last minute – just as the proposal was being completed and readied for submission – that Indiana would not apply for the funds. He cited concerns about federal intrusion and the desire to implement a program that is best for Hoosiers. But to the frustration of advocates and commentators across the state, he has not yet offered specifics on those concerns.

To be certain, this is a politically charged issue. Even the pilot program would not have happened if the Governor had not ignored pleas to the contrary and appeared, in person, to advocate for the program in the Senate. What ultimately did pass was the result of hard negotiating by the Governor and House Republicans with the Senate.

Yet, it remains disappointing that Gov. Pence chose to take a pass on this new opportunity. If Senate leaders were concerned about funding – as seemed clear in the legislative debates – then this was a unique opportunity to expand Indiana’s program with outside funds. If federal strings were a genuine problem (not just the prospect of a problem), then the specifics of that challenge were not made apparent.

Meanwhile, Indiana is proceeding with its pilot program. The Indiana Chamber is hopeful that the “pilot” aspect of the program will focus strictly on administration matters and not be used by opponents to revisit, yet again, whether preschool is needed and effective. Those questions have been answered. Preschool is a key strategy in the Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 plan to help achieve the goal of eliminating achievement gaps. The state must  move farther and do it faster to accomplish the goals and the vision to make Indiana a “global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.”

Preschool thus again becomes a priority issue in the upcoming legislative session. It’s disappointing that Indiana’s foray into this important issue will not be bolstered by the outside financial support that was made available – and that any additional investment will fall fully on Indiana taxpayers.

Tour Events in Lafayette, Southern Indiana Connect Education with Industry

20140625_TF_Subaru_Legacy_Associates-8The Indiana Chamber recently co-sponsored two industry tours that brought educators and employers together to find ways to align efforts and better meet the needs of students.

The first event was in Lafayette at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. Educators, counselors and administrators listened to representatives from Caterpillar, Nanshan America, Kirby Risk, Duke Energy and Chrysler Group. Each employer seemed to be facing the same issue – a significant portion of their employees will soon be eligible for retirement and the current talent pool cannot replenish their workforce.

The group toured the Subaru plant, where they saw nearly every process for building a vehicle. Subaru, like many manufacturers, hires employees of almost all educational backgrounds, from high school diploma to master’s degree.

The next industry tour was in the southwest region at NSA Crane, a United States Navy installation. The base is the third largest naval installation in the world by geographic area and employs approximately 3,300 people.

Representatives from GKN Sinter Metals, TASUS Corporation, Cook Group and Jasper Engines all spoke about their workforces. Overwhelmingly, employer needs center on soft skills (communication, basic math and professionalism) and workforce readiness.

Matt Weinzapfel of Jasper Engines reported that 48% of their workforce hold an associate’s degree and/or technical certification and 36% hold no post-secondary degree, while only 16% hold bachelor’s degrees.

The group toured the Crane naval base and learned about jobs in electronic warfare, strategic missions and special missions. The base also offers internships within the various sectors.

“All of these jobs sitting open can be filled if we break down the knowledge barriers and reach students,” said Dan Peterson, vice president industry & government affairs, Cook Group.

The Indiana Youth Institute hosted the events, with the Center for Education and Career Innovation and the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning also co-sponsoring.

Deja Vu for School Accountability

SIt’s only been a couple of years since the uproar over Indiana’s school accountability measures. To be sure, there were a lot of reasons for the pushback from educators and eventual legislation invalidating the current system. But one of the leading reasons was the decision to base “student growth” measures on comparisons of students to other students with similar starting points rather than measuring their progress toward the state’s academic standards.

But a year after legislative leaders, the Governor and the state superintendent convened a panel to construct a new accountability system, nothing has changed and the majority of the panel is set to recommend the same approach that is already in place – the same “growth” measure that has already been forbidden by the state Legislature.

How could this happen? Well, there are lots of factors.

Most importantly, the staff of the Department of Education and the Governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation have simply worn out the panel. After 11 all-day meetings, committee members have been given none of the data that has been requested (and promised at the first meeting) to help develop alternatives; and the staffs have provided no outside experts other than people who developed Indiana’s current accountability model.

The staffs have also played games with terminology, suggesting most recently that they have accomplished the law’s focus on “criterion standards” because their peer-based growth measures create a new target performance level.

But the law doesn’t call for that. Rather, it is quite a bit simpler – as stated in the 2013 legislation:

“The new standards of assessing school performance: (1) must be based on a measurement of individual student academic performance and growth to proficiency; and (2) may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.”

The final proposal must still be reviewed by the Legislature and approved by the State Board of Education. But if passed as currently drafted, it’s hard to imagine how a school that’s unhappy with its grade wouldn’t have solid standing for challenging it.

The state superintendent has been an outspoken opponent of school accountability, generally, and Indiana’s accountability system, specifically. But why the Governor’s staff would support this re-adoption of a failed and outlawed accountability system is baffling.