Indiana Chamber of Commerce Damaged Teaching Profession

MUNCIE, Indiana BLOG – We came across an interesting editorial from a Jay County newspaper, Commercial Review, holding the Indiana Chamber of Commerce accountable for destroying the teacher profession in Indiana. We could hardly believe it came from an Indiana newspaper. We were pleasantly surprised to have some company in East Central Indiana though we’d like to help them connect more dots since they had the courage to point at one of the main culprits for damaging our educational system.

First off, what is the motive for the Indiana Chamber to negatively impact the public educational system?

Let’s look to many of the recent polls circulated for clues. Business leaders claim there is a shortage of “qualified workers” in our state. We post many such polls on our Facebook page, so Hoosiers can relate/not relate to the surveys based on their experience. In our opinion, we’ve been experiencing intentional wage suppression since the 1980’s forcing to keep wages down for average workers, except CEO’s.

Let us explain.

A most recent survey from CNBC ranked Indiana’s workforce 42nd. From the surveys we’ve read, businesses say they can’t find qualified employees in Indiana. We’ve heard the rumors about employees not being able to pass drug tests, but large corporate employers say they cannot find qualified workers to fill available jobs, so many go unfilled. We find this really hard to believe considering our existing unemployment, and underemployment rates, coupled with plenty of colleges and universities across our state.

To be honest, we believe a more realistic statement would be, “We cannot find qualified employees at the wages we’re willing to pay.”

The labor market is a basic marketplace. If employers are running low on qualified labor, all they have to do is raise wages and guess what will happen. Qualified workers will leave existing positions, and will apply for higher paying jobs. It’s basic supply and demand. What they are really seeking is highly qualified candidates who are willing to work for low paying jobs. Any wonder they are struggling to find staff.

Meanwhile, they complete surveys from the Indiana Chamber saying qualified labor is hard to find in Indiana. Then our Chamber blames our educational system. Conservative politicians jumped all over this in the 90’s and started scapegoating teachers for all the problems in the school systems, including the “unqualified employees” who weren’t willing to work for low paying jobs.

Take a look at this meme compiled from Bloomberg, EPI and US Labor Department:

wage oppression

If the labor market was operating as a real marketplace where workers and capitalists trade wages for experience, all workers should have experienced an increase, especially if the meme would have added the significant productivity gains over the same period. Progressive presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders, has pointed this out on his campaign trail, and Americans can relate.

When our international test scores (PISA) showed our students falling behind other countries, pundits and capitalists seized the moment to declare our educational system as broken. Teachers were blamed and teacher unions were accused of protecting ineffective, highly paid teachers. Time to bust up the teacher unions. You know the right-wing conservative politicos jumped all over this. So did billionaires who had plenty of cash to spend on ending a socialized system of educating our children.

Don’t forget about the venture capitalists who get really excited when they see a multi-billion dollar annuity stream of money (dollars following students) and figure they could run schools cheaper than a unionized public school system. Charter schools will be the solution. Politicians pushed charters as free market fixes to a failing education system – competition would solve all the problems experience in our public education sector.

At this point, the agendas just started piling on including the Evangelical base who support Pence and want to protect their private religious schools and daycare facilities.

This editorial does point out how bashing the teaching profession has unintended consequences. According to the article:

“But guess what? Thanks to the message that has been conveyed, those young teachers willing to work at a lower salary are in smaller supply. According to The Associated Press, the number of first-time teaching licenses in Indiana has dropped by more than 60 percent in recent years.”

The Indiana Chamber has dirty hands on this one and school administrators across the state will be facing a real problem as the more experienced teachers retire and/or leave the field completely. We’ve already heard that Teach for America programs, the train a teacher in 6 months program, is facing shortages as well.

They never thought to ask teachers and parents why there was a problem in Indiana schools. The politicians listened to their suburban base and worked to shift resources from urban schools to suburban schools, but beyond that, nothing.

Let’s face it, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce blew it and needs to be held accountable for the damage they’ve done to the public educational system. And, so does the Lilly Foundation for funding low performing charters to replace public run schools. Just because you wear a suit, or have lots of money, doesn’t mean you should be making decisions on important matters such as educating our young children.

We absolutely agree that our education system required updating – it was an old assembly line model created during the industrial revolution. We were manufacturing widgets across a linear assembly line and after 12 years of school, we produced the end product.

Probably the most frustrating part is our state ignoring poverty figures. When you consider over 40% of Hoosiers are asset/income impoverished, than learning becomes secondary. Our schools are part of the community system and any red flags coming from the schools are signals we are having sociological problems within the family/student/educator/community.

We got no discussion about these red flags from our governor or state lawmakers. Nothing from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. As the editorial points out:

A generation ago, teaching was viewed as one of the most valued and meaningful career paths a student could take. Today, that’s simply not the case.

Young people see what their own teachers have to go through. They see their teachers’ contribution devalued and undermined by politicians. And they hear retiring career educators advise them to seek another path.

How are we going to turn this negative trend around when lawmakers are paid very well to continue down their current path? Education is what made this country great. Even more upsetting is we still have the original problems of high poverty and wage oppression.

Now we can add a shortage of teachers throwing our educational system into a downward spiral.

The editorial concluded by making one point very clear, and we agree, “The Indiana Chamber has a lot to answer for.”

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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