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July 11, 2014

Candidates’ views clash over more education testing, vouchers

Mann, Heaton vie for Indiana House seat

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana needs to change direction to improve education, said Democrat Jim Mann, who will face incumbent Rep. Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, in a rematch race for Indiana House District 46.

Heaton defeated Mann in 2012 with more than 57 percent of the total vote.

Mann, a teacher at Terre Haute South Vigo High School, said Indiana’s “education and future shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue. I appreciate the political dialogue and desire to improve our state’s education system, but it’s about time we solely focus on the needs of Hoosier students, not those of for-profit, out-of-state schools or big businesses looking to break down teacher unions,” Mann said on Friday at a news conference between the Vigo County Courthouse and Terre Haute City Hall.

Mann said testing should be done to help students, not used as a punishment for teachers.

Mann said that, if elected, he would work to scale back testing.

“It would be a cost-savings measure, and it would be more productive to allow teachers to teach and students to learn,” Mann said.

“We really need to look at what is the purpose of the testing and how much classroom time is devoted to it. When they went to evaluation of teachers, every class now has an evaluation test,” he said.

“The test are made up well ahead of time, so it does not allow the flexibility to look at the needs of the students,” he said. “The instruction is lost because so much time is being given to teach to that test. The flexibility is lost for the classroom teacher to recognize that this class has an interest in this issue, but you know what, it is not on the test” so will not review that.

“We need to have passion, we need to have interest, we need to have creativity. We don’t need to have the filling in of an Apperson [test] sheet as the main goal,” Mann said. “That is not the purpose of education.”

Mann said he opposes the use of public money to fund charter schools and opposes the use of vouchers.

“Republicans have spent millions of dollars to fully fund the governor’s duplicative and controversial education agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, where staff members are paid salaries over $100,000, while teachers continue to see their classroom budgets decrease,” Mann said.

“They also backed out of implementing the pre-K pilot program after taking credit for its passage,” Mann said.

Heaton disagrees, saying he thinks the state’s education system is headed in the right direction, saying graduation rates are improving. “It boils down to getting the best education for a child, wherever they are living,” Heaton said.

“You don’t see too many charter schools in westcentral Indiana, because they are doing a good job overall,” Heaton said. “However, a lot of kids are not getting the best quality of education that they can get in some areas, such as in Marion County or Lake County.”

Heaton said he supports charter school, providing vouchers, as well as merit pay for teachers.

“Billions of dollars are being paid out to public schools nationwide and in Indiana, under its $30 billion [two-year] budget, more than half, about 64 percent, goes toward K through 12 education as well as higher education,” Heaton said.

“I think money should follow the child,” Heaton said. “In westcentral Indiana we are doing a good job, but shouldn’t the individual parents, or in some cases grandparents, decide what is the best opportunity for their daughter or son or grandchild to get the best education?”

Heaton said testing is needed to have “some type of accountability that a student is going to be ready for college, if they want to go to college. I get it, and I think in some cases, the teachers are teaching their students for the test itself. But there has to be some type of testing, I feel, that shows little Jimmy or Jamie has made progress and where they stand to move up onto the next class or graduate,” Heaton said.

“It would be different if everyone was a good teacher, and there are many good teachers, but we want to make sure that everyone is getting a fair shake when it comes to getting the best education that they can get,” Heaton said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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