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Conservatives' bull's-eye miss targets


Just a thought


February 16, 2011
School teachers, the poor and the elderly. These are the people who seem to be the main targets of conservative politicians these days. But as all three groups have a bull's-eye painted on their backs, many of us are standing in the shadows watching and saying nothing, and some of us are actually cheering it all on.

Is it the intent of those politicians to actually take the food out of the mouths of the poor, or to deny medical care to those who are too old to work, or to make teaching so unattractive that no one would want to enter the field? Or are these attacks just a way to steer our attention in that direction and keep us off guard while they have their hands in the real cookie jar?

Most of us who make an effort to keep up with the news — from several sources — know that all the talk of charter schools, vouchers, teacher accountability and tenure is mainly just a cover for breaking the teachers' unions. Gov. Mitch Daniels talks a mean pro-education game, but we have seen how concerned he really is. Just down the road in Floyd County, we watched as four good elementary schools were closed last year. One of them, Galena Elementary, was considered one of the best in the region. And there have been other school closings across the state, as well. And Daniels' property tax initiatives and $300 million cut to schools have seriously crippled many school corporations and now even libraries are receiving less support and funding.

Daniels has been in office long enough to have really made some positive progress in the state's schools. But he hasn't shown even the slightest interest in doing so. Now, all of a sudden, he wants to rip the current system to shreds and make life miserable for every teacher in the state so he'll be able to brag about his fiscal policies during the next presidential election. And everything he does this year will be focused that way.

Breaking all the teachers' unions, doing away with collective bargaining and eliminating tenure for teachers won't make education better or students smarter. But what they hope will happen is that the teachers' unions will be driven out because they have too much political clout. And that clout is often used to help candidates who are really pro-education. And as Daniels has shown us, those are usually not Republicans.

The attacks on unions all over the country are focused on the same thing. Unions represent working people, and those people vote, and those unions have money to help in political campaigns. The only problem with that for Republicans is that much of the union support goes to Democrats, who are known to be more focused on the middle-class workers in this country. And, these days, many Republicans don't even bother to conceal the fact that they are the party of the rich. They actually seem to be quite proud of it.

If many of the Tea Party-backed politicians like Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann and others get their way, Medicare will soon be dumped. And they don't have a plan to replace it with anything. What will happen to the elderly poor in need of medical attention? Talk about pulling the plug on Grandma; this is the real thing.

And they also want to do away with the Department of Education. Who needs smart kids? The rich can send their kids to private schools, and everyone else will have to be satisfied with less because the politicians are going to drive every good teacher out of the schools by denying them the ability to make a decent living. Add to that the "state standards" that teachers have to abide by when there are no state standards for parenting, and teachers are required to bring ALL students along at the same pace. But when the bell rings at the end of the day, the buses will deliver some students to good, warm, clean homes with good parents. Others, however, will be delivered to a meth-using household or to alcoholic parents and homes where unemployment has dimmed the flame of hope and to homes where violence is an everyday occurrence. Somehow, a teacher who doesn't deserve a voice, who doesn't deserve good benefits or pay must make them learn, all on the same level, or have some politician tell them they aren't good enough.

I'll bet that if all members of Congress and the Senate were required to have, at least, a master's degree and must take continuing education courses on a regular basis — and if every benefit they had was decided by a board of education made up of politicians (other than themselves) and if they were paid the same as most high school teachers — there would soon be a congressional and senate union.

Washington is overrun by lobbyists. There are lobbyists for baby food companies, for drug companies, for lumber companies and bankers. There are lobbyists for medical associations, for plumbing suppliers, for car makers and for fast-food chains. And there are also lobbyists for big oil companies, Wall Street and even gun makers. Politicians are really familiar with those and love them dearly (or at least their money). So, what's so bad about a lobby for teachers? That's essentially what a union does — lobby for their members. Why are some lobbies really, really good, while others, ones that represent American workers instead of companies, so really, really bad and must be broken?

So, here we are, sitting in the shadows, watching all this unfold, watching the attacks that are focused on the very things that have, all my life, set us apart from other countries — the wonderful education that people come from all over the world to participate in, the system in place to feed our poor, including our hungry children, and the dignified treatment of elderly Americans — and I don't care for what we are becoming.

And while all of this is unfolding, while the brunt of the meanness is being aimed at the poor, the elderly and our schools, why aren't there any sacrifices, cuts or even help from the rich? I guess there isn't a politician who will go there, who would actually ask the rich to make any sacrifices or tighten their belt just a little bit. That's off limits, especially for the conservatives. But I know several teachers who wouldn't hesitate a second to get them by the ear and insist they do the right thing. And I'd almost bet that every rich person and every politician has to credit at least a portion of their success to some school teachers — yes, those same school teachers who now have targets on their back.

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  1. print email
    Thank you!!!
    February 18, 2011 | 09:25 PM

    Well said and sad, but so very true. What has our country come to? Will we soon be like the Egyptians? What a sad thought. However, it seems at this point the politicians will not be satisfied until teachers are making $0.00 and have no insurance of retirement. How would they feel if they had to give up their post retirement insurance plan that is guaranteed by the sheer fact that they are politicians?

    Jo Burns
  2. print email
    A mark on my back...
    February 18, 2011 | 09:27 PM

    Totally agree!! So many students do go home to situations without support. Why not make these parents accountable? Tie the child's success to their government supported checks.

  3. print email
    Well written
    February 18, 2011 | 09:27 PM

    Wow. Thanks. I mean that in the most sincere of tones. I just hope that all of the folks standing in the shadows can find a political voice and speak out against what politicians are doing to our country. Every day I try to teach my students about why our nation is so great, even as I am forced to push, push, push them and teach to a test so that I can hopefully keep my tenure, benefits, and even my self respect. What makes this nation so great is that someone with nothing when they are young, someone who is born into poverty but has hope and a good mind can get a good education and bring themselves up in the world. THAT is what makes our nation so great...and that is what current politics are attacking. I say this a citizen and as a public school teacher. (And I am a good teacher, too. I have been teacher of the year, and my students KNOW that I care about them, even on our not so great days.)

    I fear for our country, for as our country is headed...so went Rome.

    Anonymous
  4. print email
    Some Republicans bash advocates to rid us of public schools
    February 18, 2011 | 09:28 PM

    The reason teacher unions have a target on their back is BECAUSE they defend public education. The wealthiest taxpayers (including some politicians) want government to help them pay for their children's expensive private school tuition. Voucher supporters can't sell that program to middle class union members and voters, so voucher supporters claim vouchers are for failing students from poor families trapped in failing schools. The facts get in the way of that argument. The vouchers are not limited to failing students OR poor families. Families with incomes over $80,000 would qualify for vouchers. Hmmmmmmmm.

    Ninety percent of Catholic students attend PUBLIC schools, yet some policymakers would CUT public school funding and students to benefit the 10% of Catholic students enrolled in our parochial schools. Are we so desperate that we have to rob one set of children for another?

    I don't want the government telling my church that our students cannot have enrollment preference over outsiders. I don't want the government telling my church that we can't give preferential treatment in hiring to members of our own church and faith. It's very reasonable that taxpayers want transparency and accountability IF they are funding our church schools. But I LIKE our independence from government rules and regs. I don't want our church schools to be forced to enroll any and all students. I'd rather the government keep its money and LEAVE US ALONE.

    Grandpa H. Harrison
  5. print email
    Thank You Lee!
    February 18, 2011 | 09:52 PM

    I totally agree with you! I was one of those teachers who "abandoned" my classroom to participate in our democratic government process on Feb. 8th. I will say that a showing of 1,000-2,000 voters was disappointing. When I saw the Wisconsin news I thought, "That's more like it! Not only teachers but also voters from other walks of life!" Come on Indiana voters, the Governor says you are crying out for more charter schools. If that is not true then you should be standing up for the rest of the working class in Indiana!

    Liz G.
  6. print email
    Can't Disagree
    February 18, 2011 | 10:27 PM

    This article is right on target!
    There are so many fiscal problems
    in this country and in the State of Indiana,
    and so many solutions, I suppose the "progress'
    to tame spending while driving up results, the "business" of government, is off limits.
    Our systems in government are broken, not self-correcting, but are self-destructing.
    The choices are:
    1) wait, and let self-destruction continue,
    or,
    2) break and restructure as rapidly as possible

    Almost all of us have been comfortable enough to let things degenerate...
    civility, education, competitiveness, finance,
    civic involvement and the list goes on and on.

    Perhaps cable TV watching, Twttering and Facebooking will save us all as we collectively bowl alone.

    God help the current and future generations of students!
    Wish I was smart enough to teach all the right answers, because I'd certainly do it.


    Richard
  7. print email
    Thank you!
    February 19, 2011 | 08:17 AM

    As a public school teacher, I appreciate and support the views expressed in this article. Bullying is when someone stronger and with more power picks on those who are weaker. This is exactly what is happening to children and the poor. I am proud to be part of a profession that is fighting to protect children from political bullies. Everyone else out there should take note. Bullies are constantly on the look out for someone to intimidate, and you or someone you care about could be their next political victim.

    Carolyn Bennett
  8. print email
    Thank you
    February 19, 2011 | 10:25 AM

    Lee, thank you so much! Please continue to spread the word. I'm one of those teachers, and I've spent 15 years as a secondary educator in three different Indiana public school districts. I've never felt so demoralized and unappreciated in my life. I won't go into all my education and credentials, but suffice it to say, I'm one of those teachers that Mitch Daniels pays lip service to as the kind of teacher we need in our schools. Unfortunately for my students, those same skills and education are going to be my ticket out of the classroom once all this mess is settled. I don't know how much more I can take of the continued teacher-bashing, especially knowing I could make a better living and be better repsected in other jobs. I teach because I love my students, and I work in a school with amazing, caring colleagues and a supportive administration. I teach because I love to see those "light bulb" moments happen to a student. I teach because I know I'm sometimes one of the only caring, sane voice my students have (many go home to horrible households). However, all this is just making me tired and for the first time in my career making me think it's just not worth it. Maybe it's time for a job where I don't bring the weight of the lives of all my 130+ students home every night.

    Jolie Lindley
  9. print email
    February 19, 2011 | 08:41 PM

    Parents should be held accountable, some students NEVER return homework and have all failing grades. Then the administration says we cannot retain them because it will hurt their self esteem. Cut welfare checks and see what happens to student performance. The teacher in Penn. was right....lazy, don't care, see no value in working and are following in their parents foot steps.

    Annie
  10. print email
    February 19, 2011 | 08:43 PM

    When public education falls so will democracy. sad

    Susan E
  11. print email
    Support our Public Schools
    February 20, 2011 | 03:42 PM

    Thank you, Mr. Cable for this article. I am a parent of 3 kiddos, and I am deeply concerned about what is happening to our public schools. Instead of fueling his own political aspirations, Governor Daniels needs to SIT DOWN and LISTEN to the teachers. Completely fund Full Day Kindergarten and preschool programs to give children the start they need to be successful in school, particularly those most in need. Give the teachers smaller classes so that they can spend more time with my child, meeting his individual needs and moving him forward using the ways he learns best. Lastly, leave control of the schools to parents, educators, school boards, and communities who know best what their school needs. I am staunch advocate of public schools. My kids have had amazing teachers who care deeply for them and go above and beyond my expectations to help them learn. 21 of the lowest performing 25 schools in Indiana are charter schools. Our state superintendent's wife is a new schools developent consultant for the Indiana Charter Schools Association. There are so many other factors causing this push for "reform." Let's hold our politicians accountable and let them know we are watching carefully how they take care of our kids!

    mom3cs
  12. print email
    A different opinion
    February 20, 2011 | 07:03 PM

    I live on a small fixed income. I am retired and I have raised 2 children both who attended the North Harrison system. If right now I could go back and send them to private school, I would not hesitate for one nano second. They did not receive what I would call a good education. I pay out of my own pocket for my grandchild to attend a private school. There are 20 students in the class and the teacher teaches. My grandchild is very bright and makes mostly straight A's. It appears that all teachers do not support school vouchers. Well, I am not eligible to receive them. I have been paying property taxes in Indiana over 40 years and have not had a child in NH for many years yet I am still paying property taxes for the school system. I understand that the school system receives $5.500 or so dollars for EACH child in the school system so it appears to me that I am saving the state of Indiana $5.500 dollars a year by paying privately and I think this is unfair. All those paying privately should get a voucher, tax deduction, credit, etc. from Indiana! As for teachers what other job can you have where you only work 9 months out of the year? And Monday through Friday? I would also like to add that over 90% of the students attending my grandchilds school receive scholarships. Some amount to almost $100,000 dollars. These are very bright kids because they are taught by teachers who teach. We do homework 3 nights a week. No, I am not rich in dollars. I have to pinch pennies and drive an old car. I have always heard a good education is something you can never lose. I am for vouchers but against the idea that those already attending private school are ineligible. I do agree that there are too many lobbyists and special interests and Indiana does not want to help seniors. I suppose that is why so many have moved to Florida. I have teachers in my own family and there are some good ones but one's own family should decide what is best for their children and grandchildren and which schools offer the best opportunity for the best education and scholarships.

  13. print email
    A Day of Reckoning
    February 20, 2011 | 08:17 PM

    There is a nationwide offensive against teachers and their unions. Republicans are tired of the money that unions throw toward their political opponents, and feel like what do they have to lose by going after the unions. There is a bill in the legislature that would prevent teachers from using payroll deductions to pay union dues. That is unabashed union-busting, and has nothing to do with improving the quality of education. It's all about going after political enemies. Well, here's the miscalulation. Hoosier teachers vote republican in about the same percentage as the general electorate. How many teachers do you think would vote for Tony Bennett? More importantly how many do you think will make impassioned appeals to friends and relatives? In sports when a player is hit with a cheap shot, we say "take a number." Well my dear Republican friends your day of reckoning is coming. When you alienate enough supporters, there will be hell to pay.

    Eddie Love
  14. print email
    Talk About Redirection
    February 23, 2011 | 07:48 PM

    I see that Mr. Cable is still at it. While I agree with him that we do still need Unions of all kinds in this 21st century (of which I am a dues paying member), his screed is always and as usual solely against the Republican conservatives amongst us. Hey Lee, who just presented us with the LARGEST BUDGET DEFICIT IN THE HISTORY OF THE USA, greater in dollars than a combination of ALL previous Presidents? Hmm... Might wanna check Google for one "Barack Hussein Obama." Why don't you rail on him for a bit - ought to be plenty of literary vomit you could spew forth on him, eh? For your information, I am the most despised of all working, tax-paying citizens in the country at the moment - a Federal civilian worker (gasp, oh the humanity)!!! Now I'm facing an indefinite lay-off without pay while both political parties square off in yet another urinating contest in which there are no real winners. And yet somehow, some way, this is ALWAYS the fault of the conservative Republicans and not the liberal Left who consistently advocates more and more freebies and hand-outs while demanding that I (and other hard working people in this country) PAY FOR IT ALL. So you can take your Republican bashing back to the woodshed and try coming up with some original thoughts for a change (as if). This makes me so angry I could scream (as usual).

    Joseph E. Totten
Schuler Bauer
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