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Wisconsin saga -- Indiana version

The drama at the Wisconsin statehouse is fascinating to watch, but Hoosiers don't need to look to Madison to see the same scenario playing out. The only difference between the battles waged in Wisconsin and Indiana is the public support Wisconsin public employees are enjoying.

Public school teachers in Indiana are under attack as surely as their counterparts in the Badger state. The Indiana State Teachers Association outlines the assault:

House Bill 1585: Eliminates collective bargaining for public employees and prohibits payroll deduction of union dues

Senate Bill 575: Eliminates the bargaining of school hours and days, opening the door to longer work days and weeks without additional compensation

SB 001: Allows for outside agencies to be used to evaluate teachers without giving teachers the ability to provide input into the evaluation process and gives the superintendent of public instruction the ability to revoke teachers' licenses at will

HB 1003: Creates vouchers to allow public money to be diverted to private schools. If this passes, public schools will lose an estimated $110 million.

"Gov. Daniels is saying this legislation is about school reform, but none of it will improve Hoosier classrooms," said Nate Schnellenberger, ISTA president, "Instead of bills to provide full-day kindergarten or to improve classrooms and learning conditions, these bills silence the voices of public school teachers, remove their ability to speak up for what students need, and eviscerate teachers' right to bargain."

That's because the legislation is not about school reform. It's about stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees, as NPR's Steve Inskeep showed in this telling interview with the Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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