By Victor Skinner
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Indiana State Teachers Association illegally used school time to distribute campaign emails and discuss politics with parents during the 2012 election, according to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Daniels believes their misconduct helped lead to the defeat of state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a reformer and union antagonist who was upset at the polls by Democrat Glenda Ritz, according to the Reporter-Times.
“If you are a fan of anything-goes politics, it was a creative use of illegal – but still creative use – of public resources,” Daniels said at the Foundation of Educational Excellence conference in D.C. last week. “We got emails sent out on school time by people who were supposed to be teaching someone at the time, all about Tony Bennett.
“We had parents who went to back to school night to find out how little Jebbie is doing and instead they got a diatribe about the upcoming election.”
Union leaders pointed fingers at others when confronted with Daniels’ remarks, and denied the illegal activity.
ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger said “the governor wasn’t in any schools to see any of those things happen,” according to the Reporter-Times.
Tippecanoe Education Association President Mary Eisert went on the offensive, claiming that teachers receive emails from Republicans, and it was parents – not teachers – who wanted to talk politics at back-to-school nights.
TEA members “have the use of (school) email for our purposes, and we understand that we can’t do political work at school,” she said.
Regardless of what Schnellenberger or Eisert have to say, there’s little doubt that some Indiana educators and union members crossed the line in their campaign to oust Bennett. Union officials fought bitterly against virtually every reform introduced during his tenure as state superintendent.
Teachers unions despise charter schools, private school vouchers, increased teacher accountability and the state’s new school grading system – all major tenants of Bennett’s education reform agenda.
The problem is that it would take far too long to investigate possible wrongdoing by teachers during the last election, much less to pursue punishment for those who broke the law. It isn’t worth the time or effort to quibble about who did what during the campaign, and it wouldn’t change the outcome, anyway. The union knows that.
That’s why we fully expect the union to employ the same tactics every election cycle, until someone gets fed up and files a formal complaint with evidence of illegal activity in hand.