News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 10, 2013

RONN MOTT: In Indiana, it pays to be teacher’s pet

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — You knew this was going to happen. It was a charter school started by a big Republican donor that had grade changes made by the superintendent of public instruction so his friend and crony could see the new school pass the examination for schools.

I don’t know all the ins and outs. When you mix politics with education, no good is going to come from it. And guess what … no good is coming from this mess.

Tony Bennett, who had gone to Florida and got another job similar to the one he had in Indiana, has been forced to resign because it’s rather embarrassing, even to the tea party-controlled administration in Florida. It must really be bad if the tea party is embarrassed.

Privately run charter schools are not all doing well in Indiana. My guess is their intent is altogether different and their responsibilities are altogether different than the public schools in our state.

The public school system cannot pick and choose a child who lives in the district and it is mandated by law to accept everyone. They do all they can to help him or her to be a better educated person. A charter school can control their environment and their enrollment. For instance, it may sound extreme, but if a charter school wanted only to accept left-handed, blue-eyed, red-headed students who had to be a certain height just to get in, they could do that very thing. And no matter how it’s sliced, or what you call it, this is a system your tax dollars are supporting.

I believe there are Republican senators and Republican legislators from the state House of Representatives who want to see public schooling dead in the water.

The motivation for getting rid of public education could actually be an honest attempt to have special schools to better educate the students, but at this writing that is not happening. Or, it could be the rise of a new class of people with deeply embedded prejudices that simply want to eliminate public education.

Public education is difficult. Not everybody who goes to a regular high school comes in the door with the same mindset, or the same level of learning, or the same level of wanting to learn. The job of our education system is to do the best we can for everyone.

I think it’s your God-given right in this free country to send your child to any school you choose. Or, for that matter, home-school them. On the other hand, don’t expect me to pay for the public education that has served us well from the time the state began and also pay for this private education.

I know many of you feel the burden to send your child to a non-secular school that believes as you believe. But our public education system should not be torn down because you believe differently than a large mass of Americans. There should be a dividing line between church and state.

Many charter schools have failed at better educating their students. I would say the church-related schools do better than the charter schools and that’s good. Expecting me to pay for your privilege of believing as you choose to believe is not going to work.  

From elementary school to land-grant colleges, the public education system has done well for us and the students we have served. Can it be better? Of course it can. But tearing it down, taking away the money sources, just on a political whim, is wrong. I had wonderful teachers when I was in school and owe them a debt I’ll never be able to repay. They taught me all I could absorb without regard to my skin color, my religious affiliation or how much money my family had.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.