Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

February 18, 2013

HEINIG: Is Indiana’s new governor a new Old Deluder?

Giving families ‘school choice’ only ignores the problem

— Is Gov. Pence’s attempt to expand “school choice” a potential disaster? As a long-time teacher and principal in public and nonpublic schools, I see both sides of the question, but I am apprehensive. Nonpublic schools help many elementary students, but that does not make them better than public schools. Nonpublic secondary schools prepare their students very well — if those students want to go to a traditional four-year college. They can seldom adequately prepare them for vocational and technical careers. Could our self-professed moderate leader be leading us in the wrong direction? You bet!

We may be moving too fast to evaluate school choice. We need a longitudinal study comparing the academic achievement of public and nonpublic school students. Doing that properly takes 10 to 12 years — too long to help today’s kids to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities. Even then, our ability to compare public and nonpublic schools would be limited.

Most nonpublic schools are religious schools. I was a Catholic school kid from first grade through high school. I later spent 15 years as a Catholic school teacher and principal. I was blessed to know and respect talented nonpublic school educators from many Christian faiths. We had different religious beliefs, but we all wanted our students to live and learn in a thoroughly Christian environment. One of my colleagues, who was principal of a Lutheran school, said, “I don’t even like to talk about secular subjects. We try to teach every subject from a Christian perspective.”

Our faith defines us. It is the fundamental difference between Christian schools and public schools. Parents of prospective students must accept that difference. Once, I responded to an article that claimed public schools did a better job than Christian schools. I replied that Christian schools don’t claim to do a better job. They do a different job. Originally, our public schools were also religious. Their nonsectarian character emerged later.

In 1647, the Puritans enacted the Old Deluder Law. They believed that reading the Bible helped Christians identify the deceptions of Satan, “the Old Deluder.” The law required communities to have teachers and schools. It provided a precedent for other colonies and territories. In 1852, our Indiana General Assembly called for a tax-supported public school system, although years passed before it was fully implemented.

How quickly and extensively should we change an institution that has taken our Hoosier predecessors a century and a half to create? Many problems have yet to be addressed. A few of them follow.

Filling vacant seats by lottery does offer equal access, but it doesn’t add even one more seat to any classroom. How does a school determine the number of vacant seats? I taught in one school district that used portable classrooms to handle growing enrollment. May out-of-district transfer students occupy empty seats in those rooms?

Portables usually provide temporary space while building permanent space. What happens to the transfer students when the construction is complete and the portables are no longer needed? Are they sent back to their home school districts or must the new construction have enough space for them, too? Voucher dollars pay for instruction but not construction. That comes from the school corporation’s building fund. How many Hoosier taxpayers want to pay higher taxes to build space for nonresident students?

Allowing students to attend nonpublic and out-of-district schools ignores the real problem. Moving kids around sometimes helps, but it does nothing to improve ineffective public schools. Hoosiers have demanded better schools for decades, but the politicians and bureaucrats in Indianapolis are content with the same old response: more standardized tests!

So what! We were doing that in 1968, when I began teaching. Since then, we have collected mountains of data that we haven’t used. The only new elements are performance-based incentives and penalties for public schools and teachers. We’re giving more money to schools and teachers that are already doing well and taking it away from those that are struggling and need it the most. Is that an example of good old-fashioned Hoosier common sense?

Moving money is no more effective than moving students. We won’t see significant improvements until we use our test data to develop newer, more creative ways to teach. However, the data do confirm what we already knew: Lower pupil-teacher ratios improve student performance. Will packing more kids into high performing schools increase their pupil-teacher ratios and decrease performance? Absolutely!

Despite evidence to the contrary, I still hope that Gov. Pence takes a more moderate approach to education than his predecessor did. We expelled Satan, the Old Deluder, from Indiana public schools generations ago. Our new governor needn’t become a New Deluder to take his place!

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana teacher and principal. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.     

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • STATE SEN. JIM BUCK: Changes pave way to a brighter future In recent legislative sessions, Indiana has enacted substantial policy reforms that resulted in greater economic freedom and stronger economic growth. Economic growth has real implications for Hoosier families: jobs for those unemployed; promotions f

    April 24, 2014

  • JEFFREY McCALL: U.S. networks struggle to cover economic news Network television newsrooms often must cover stories for which they have no internal experts. That's why aeronautic engineers and pilots are put on the air to analyze airplane emergencies. Judges and lawyers are paraded out to discuss whatever sensa

    April 24, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: You've gotta keep 'em separated

    In my career as a journalist I have served my time reporting on city council, county supervisor and state regulatory meetings, to name just a few. Whatever else they might have been, they weren’t holy places. In the many, many hours I spent there I never felt the presence of anything that might be described as transcendent or spiritual.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ANDREA NEAL: A committee of 10 picked Ind. capital Editor's note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016. Anyone who's ever served on a committee can relate to the old laugh line: A committee is a group of people who keep minutes a

    April 23, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Judge in gay marriage decision is no activist When U.S. District Judge Richard Young recently ruled in favor of a lesbian couple seeking recognition of their out-of-state marriage, opponents of same-sex unions called him an activist judge who was unilaterally trampling the law. The label didn't

    April 22, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Turner ethics case tests bounds of 'citizen legislature' When a legislative ethics panel meets this week to review the case of House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, members could have trouble finding clear-cut answers, in large part because of the Indiana General Assembly's status as a "citizen legislature."

    April 22, 2014

  • Cleaning up Indiana could be as easy as a bottle deposit Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two. Or two dozen. Or 200. Drink bottles have become our litter du jour. They compose an estimated 40 to 60 percent of all litter, according to the Mich

    April 21, 2014

  • Wolfsie: High-tech got you down? I love where I bank. It’s a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 21, 2014

  • Vasicek: Celebrating Easter I have shared a few bits of Easter humor over the years, so I thought I’d start with a new one. Joseph of Arimathea was the wealthy Pharisee who is famous for helping to bury the body of Jesus. He procured the body, asking Pilate’s permission, and, w

    April 20, 2014

  • DAY: God trusted us with them Well, you heard about my wife and I, and our families from the past, so it is time for me to tell you about two of the prettiest girls I have ever known. They are our daughters Debbie and Patty. They are the greatest gifts from God that we have had i

    April 19, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents Obama Reassures Japan on China Raw: Car Crashes Into San Antonio Pool Time Magazine Announces Top Influencers List Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials Bigger Riders Means Bigger Horses Out West Yankees Pineda Ejected for Pine Tar Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller