This week, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a full committee hearing where we heard testimony from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the President's FY14 Department of Education budget proposal. As you are likely aware, the education of our young Hoosiers has been a contentious topic among families, educators, and elected officials in recent years.
On the surface, when we think about education funding, more money sounds like a good idea, the moral choice. Instead of just advocating for more funding, I am advocating for effective funding. As a father of two young boys, I do have concern for their educational journey as they grow up. As a taxpayer, I wonder if we're getting the most bang for our buck. As a legislator in the chamber of Congress that controls the purse strings, I often wonder where the billions and billions of dollar we spend on education are going, and what effect it is having.
Those thoughts went through my mind as my colleagues and I questioned Secretary Duncan this week and I found myself thinking back to two columns that John Stossel wrote recently, "The Blob That Ate Children," and "The Education Blob's Revenge."
Stossel pulls no punches in his first column and first few paragraphs when he says that unions are "a big reason kids don't like school and learn less." While I wouldn't consider myself anti-union, I do think Stossel makes some valid points about some of the dogmatic views many unions may hold.
Stossel refers to for-profit charter schools that were started by Ben Chavis in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Oakland. Chavis launched a series of charter schools and from all reports, produced higher quality students that went to college while nearby public schools yielded lower graduation rates and spent a lot more money. Many members of the school board are attempting to shut down Chavis's schools, but at what cost?
The "Blob," as Stossel writes in the folllow-up column, "...Revenge," makes it hard for schools to improve. For all of the flak Congress takes for being gridlocked, I tend to agree with Stossel and would say the education system is far more gridlocked. Many cling to platitudes and talking points instead of focusing on what matters most: the education of our children.
Stossel concludes by focusing on the union battles in Wisconsin two years ago. His fight against the union leadership and their forcing members to purchase monopoly-enabled union insurance reminds me of some of the recent stories in Indiana about the Indiana State Teachers Association abusing the trust of its own members. While unions were created to advocate on behalf of workers and raise the common good of employees, it seems that all-too-often, we see are seeing unions more interested in the union, and less interested in the mission of the professionals they represent.
In short, the takeaway for me can be summed it up in a phrase that seems to be going around lately, "are we funding the institution, or the students?" I think that's an important question we must ask when determining the education of our children.