Mitch Daniels comes from the corporate world which feeds on privatization and decreasing workers’ rights. Just hours after Mitch Daniels took over as governor of Indiana in 2005, he rescinded the rights of highway police, hospital attendants, mechanics, and other state workers to collectively bargain for wage and hour increases, working conditions, and other benefits.
Under the theory that he needed to restructure the government and could not run the government efficiently with collective bargaining agreements in place – poor man – Daniels began his vendetta against state workers who were covered by collective bargaining agreement. However, in 2006, Daniels was forced to take a brief hiatus from his daunting task of destroying collective bargaining when Hoosiers turned the Indiana House over to Democratic control.
Daniels became a “missing in action” governor with the disappearance of his rubber-stamp general assembly. But, last November, with the shift back to a completely Republican-controlled General Assembly, Daniels got back on his steed of destruction and once again began his ride to stamp out collective bargaining – this time turning his efforts toward the collective bargaining rights of teachers’ unions.
To accomplish his goal, Daniels’ first move was to rid himself of Dr. Sue Ellen Reed, an experienced educator who was elected and who served four terms, two of those under Democratic governors. Reed’s bipartisanship when it came to Hoosier children just didn’t sit well with Daniels, who needed a superintendent of education who would kowtow to Daniels’ plans to rid the state of collective bargaining in public education.
Daniels found his ally and soul mate in Tony Bennett, who had less than a year’s experience as a superintendent. Daniels backed Bennett in the 2008 campaign, effectively forcing Dr. Reed out of the race. Bennett was elected in 2008, and, with his new soul mate in tow, Daniels again turned his gaze toward the teachers’ unions and their collective bargaining rights, but, alas, he could not yet make his move since the Democrats maintained their Indiana House majority in the 2008 elections. Without a majority in the House as well as the Senate, Daniels and Bennett couldn’t get their horsey out of the gate.
The 2010 elections gave Daniels and Bennett their dream come true – the Indiana General Assembly flipped – and heavily – to the Republicans. Now, Daniels had everything he needed to get rid of the collective bargaining in the public educational system. He had successfully forced out a bipartisan superintendent of education and replaced her with a clone of himself, and the Indiana General Assembly was now full of senators and representatives licking their lips and champing at the bit at the prospect of smacking down the teachers’ union through whatever means necessary.
While Daniels and Bennett have been on a crusade to convince the public, in general, and teachers, in particular, that the changes to be made really are to help the suffering public education system, a more than cursory glance reveals how the proposals actually undermine collective bargaining.
The real focus of Daniels and Bennett, though, is the push to establish new charter schools, which will have a major role in diminishing the role of collective bargaining. Charter schools can be created in one of two ways: either by converting an existing public school which has been forced to be abandoned by financial pressures, or by creating a new school.
A charter converted from an existing school (requires approval of 60% of teachers and 51% of parents to convert) must recognize existing collective bargaining agreements. However, new charter schools do not have to recognize any collective bargaining agreements. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which one will take priority. And, with the push to force existing public school corporations to “sell” an unused building for $1.00, creating a new charter school has a leg up on the a converted school. Talk about favoritism.
Legislation now winding its way through the General Assembly – aside from creating a charter school board controlled by the state, with members appointed by the governor and state superintendent – provides for the following:
- allows newly established charter schools to use under-utilized buildings in school corporations at the school corporations’ expense;
- requires charter school credits to be accepted at other public or private schools;
- allows up to 50 percent of teachers to be unlicensed; and,
- allows the charter to go into debt without having to pay it back themselves, forcing their debt to be paid by the common school fund.
Daniels has slashed the educational budget of the public schools forcing them to close schools, lay off teachers, cut services, and outsource service contracts. But his draconian budget cuts just weren’t enough. With the aid of the rubber-stamping General Assembly, Daniels and his yes-man par excellence, Bennett, have created additional avenues to completely weaken the public education sector and push toward the destruction of collective bargaining rights.