Phyllis Bush is a member of the Board of the Network for Public Education. She is a retired teacher and a passionate fighter for better public schools. She is one of the leaders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. She has been outraged again and again by the actions of the Governor and the Legislature that demean public school teachers and show preference for charters, vouchers, and inexperienced teachers.

There was a hearing in Indianapolis to explore why there is a teacher shortage. Phyllis drove there with friends to testify, but the hearing lasted so long that there was no time to hear the public.

This is the letter that Phyllis sent to the Board of NPE:
FYI—six of us from Fort Wayne drove to Indianapolis yesterday to speak at the hearing about the teacher shortage. I figured that there would be at least an hour of “expert” testimony before there would be public comment. However, our “drunk with power” committee chairs decided that we needed even more expert testimony—five and a half hours more. To be fair, there were some members of the committee who pushed back, but because they are in the minority, their views were dismissed as well

I just emailed this to the members of the interim study commission. I was so wired when I got home last night that I couldn’t sleep, and when I finally did get to sleep, I was awakened by a leg cramp—and now I am even more livid about how Kruse and Behning wasted the time of the 40 plus would be speakers—most of whom did not stick around to talk because it got so late. The hearing ended at 8:40 last night.

I hope things are going better in your part of the world.

Phyllis (mad as hell and ready to smack someone upside the head)

Dear Senator ______

Because of the structure of the interim session yesterday, we were unable to stay for the whole marathon hearing. I spoke with Rep. Smith, who then spoke with Sen. Kruse about the length of the hearing. Since there were no assurances of when we might possibly be able to speak and since the “experts” were still testifying at 5:30, our group of six people (who care about public education) decided to leave.
I hope that in the future the Chairs of these committees will be mindful of the fact that many people who wish to have their voices heard come from other parts of the state at their own expense and on their own time. While I realize that it is important to have “expert” testimony (especially paid out of state experts), it seems disrespectful not to pencil in time to listen to the voices Hoosier taxpayers and Hoosier voters.

Thank you,

Phyllis A. Bush
I left a copy of my testimony with Rep. Smith, but just in case you didn’t receive a copy, here it is.
My Testimony for Today’s Hearing
Public education is so important; that is why I keep driving to Indianapolis to testify about various and sundry education issues. Sometimes it seems futile, but I won’t give up. If I don’t speak out when I see the consequences of misguided educational policies that are so fundamentally wrong, then I am complicit in the damage done to public education. Having said that, I will continue to speak out against what seems to be a legislatively orchestrated attempt to destroy public education. I’m tenacious by nature, so I’m in to stay. I’m in until Public Education is made whole.
Given the current teacher scapegoat climate both in Indiana and in the nation, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why there is a teacher shortage. When our legislators and policy makers continuously demean and disrespect teachers, is it any wonder that teachers are leaving the profession faster than rats leave a sinking ship? Is it any wonder that young teachers would not want to stay in a profession where there is little chance for a salary increase based on spurious and often inaccurate data? Is it any wonder that good teachers don’t want to continue spending a great share of their time preparing kids for tests and teaching to the test? Is it any wonder that they don’t want to carry out state mandates which they know are instructionally inappropriate?
If we are to look for the causes of this supposed teacher shortage, the finger should point directly at the feet of government officials in this state and across the nation who have scapegoated, demeaned, and devalued the teaching profession.
When people are belittled or told that they are worthless or inadequate, when the expectations are inappropriate and punitive, when the opportunities for expressing views are stifled, there is a toxic mixture of factors which border on abuse.
How many new teachers will be drawn to a profession where there is no respect, where there are few rights, and where they are viewed with the same lack of respect as minimum wage workers are?
Maybe this committee is asking the wrong questions.
Is there really a shortage of teachers or is it that teachers have fled the profession because of untenable working conditions?
Superintendent Glenda Ritz and her Blue Ribbon Commission have made a list of suggestions which target teacher retention and recruitment, and their list sounds much like what teachers have been asking for since the so-called reforms of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett. Our organization, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, is ready and willing to help by offering concrete suggestions.
Rather than discussing whether or not there is a teaching shortage, perhaps this committee needs to be discussing what is our legislature planning to do to repair the damage that has been done before it is too late?