By: Dennis Tyler, Mayor of Muncie—
Editor’s Note: The following is a copy of Mayor Tyler’s statement to the Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee that was read on February 15th in response to House Bill 1315.
“Good morning Mr. Chairman and committee members. Thank you for allowing me to submit my testimony this morning. I apologize for not being here in person. Scheduling conflicts today would not allow me to attend.
“As you begin your Senate hearings today on HB1315 and its potential impact on Muncie Community Schools, I believe it’s critically important you hear what concerns I might have as Mayor of our great City. First of all, I want to make it abundantly clear my issue isn’t with Ball State University and whether or not it may or may not have the skills and resources to manage our public school system. We all know Ball State is an amazing educational institution with the resources needed to provide opportunities for our children in our community to receive a quality education.
“I’ve recently had opportunities to speak with students at the Ball State Teachers College to discuss special education in our public schools. It’s encouraging when I hear the excitement the students have regarding wanting to be a part of special education programs in our schools because of a family member who has special needs. This is just one area of expertise that BSU has to offer our children and community. So what BSU can bring to the table under HB1315 isn’t a question of education at all. My questions and concerns is the fast track pace on legislation that was offered on an amendment in a separate bill in the House. Legislation that now has the potential to have an impact to our public schools here in the State of Indiana as anything I’ve witnessed in years. Legislation that eliminates elected school board members.
“Legislation that has the potential to eliminate teachers’ collective bargaining rights. I think we sometimes forget that the issue isn’t that Muncie Community Schools is lacking a solid education curriculum. It’s quite the opposite. They are a consistently high performing school corporation on many levels on the education side. I don’t see anything in HB1315 that addresses the real issue of financial distress. I believe as you move HB1315 through the process these are important matters that need to be discussed for the future of all public schools in the State of Indiana. This legislation may and/or could be a model for all public schools in Indiana. That should concern everyone with the speed this is moving through the General Assembly.
“So, as you discuss HB 1315 I believe it’s important to remember this isn’t about Ball State University and their Board of Trustees. This isn’t about Muncie Community Schools and the Emergency Management Board. This isn’t about any possible disagreement between the General Assembly and how you all believe our public schools should be functioning. It’s about our kids who we want to have the opportunity to obtain a quality education that will provide them with opportunities as they move into adulthood. Nothing can be more important within this legislative process as the General Assembly determines the next steps in this difficult process.
“In my opinion, what has always been the common denominator in this process for our kids are our teachers. You can’t take our teachers out of the process. Quality teachers make all the difference in the world to these kids whether it’s in the classroom or out of the classroom. They are who the kids trust, believe, and look up too again in the classroom and out of the classroom. Nothing can be more important than the connection between student and teacher. And, teachers need to know that the system respects and honors what they do for our children.
“What I don’t see is where HB 1315 provides the respect and assurances for our teachers of their collective bargaining rights that enable them to continue to perform at a high level and not have to be continually looking over their shoulders afraid that they can be eliminated at any given time without due process. Again, in my opinion there’s a simple fix for this concern that would give teachers the belief that their collective bargaining rights will be respected and honored. That would go a long way in beginning to fix the concerns that many people here in Muncie have concerns with.
“I would encourage and suggest to your committee, Mr. Chairman, to discuss these suggestions for possible amendments as you move through the process. It’s my belief if issues that I’ve stated are addressed and other issues that may be included in HB1315 are addressed, this legislation may have an opportunity for people in Muncie to feel much better about the entire process. The concern on how this legislation was formulated and introduced should be concerning to everyone. Not just Muncie. This legislation is too important to be taken lightly and I believe this is only about Muncie. Muncie will somehow get through this. Muncie’s always had a history of working together to get things done and I’m convinced we will step up and do the same here if the General Assembly is ready and willing to address some of the concerns I’ve addressed this morning.
“Thank you again Mr. Chairman for allowing me this time to address this committee. You have a difficult task at hand and I’m confident you will make the right choices for our kids and our teachers. Thank You.”