News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 5, 2013

EDITORIAL: Maintaining high standards

Loosening hiring rules for superintendents bad idea for schools

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Standards

It’s the raging buzzword in education circles these days. Everyone insists that higher standards must be met. Anything less is, doggone it, unacceptable.

Political leaders and legislators raise their voices about it. They pound their fists on their desks. They thump their chests. They demand accountability based on strict, clearly articulated standards for schools, teachers and students. And then they collectively pat themselves on the back for being tough-minded and uncompromising in their expectations for greatness.

Fine and dandy. But we’re a bit puzzled about a proposal advancing in the Indiana General Assembly that would no longer require Indiana’s local school superintendents to hold a state superintendent’s or teacher’s license, which is the current rule.

So, is this where the line is drawn on high standards?

Superintendents of school districts are now required to have a teacher’s license and complete graduate school work in education administration. That certainly seems to be a reasonable standard to which we should hold individuals responsible for running day-to-day operations of our public schools. A community should be able to have confidence that those selected by local school boards to be top administrators have a proven track record and a strong background in education.

Proponents of lowering these standards say the change would give local school boards more flexibility to hire a business leader or someone else they believe would best fill their needs for a top administrator. In other words, they would set their own, arbitrary hiring standards that may or may not have anything to do with education.

Opponents have good reasons to worry. Lowering this standard would  permit hiring of superintendents with no classroom or school administrative experience whatsoever. More worrisome is that the upper echelons of school administration could become bastions of cronyism and political manipulation.

The Senate Education Committee this week narrowly voted, 6-5, to approve the bill and send it to the full Senate for consideration. The House has previously approved the proposal.

This is a bad bill that aims to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. In fact, it is almost guaranteed to create problems that could eventually damage public schools.

Should we have high public education standards or not? We think so. And we think they should be consistent. We urge the state Senate to reject this bill.