John Krull Column: Todd Huston and the High Cost of Education | Opinion
Indiana House President Todd Huston, R-Fishers, just taught Hoosiers a valuable lesson.
Well, “expensive” might be a more accurate word than “valuable”.
He showed us how much money there is to be made in the education reform racket.
A few days ago, Huston resigned as senior vice president of the College Board. The College Board, among others, designs the Academic Aptitude Test – SAT – and Advanced Placement courses for schools.
When he resigned, Huston left behind an annual salary of at least $460,738. Given that he has been working there for nine years, he has made a significant fortune.
Education is not normally a route to wealth.
Huston and the College Board both insist his resignation has nothing to do with the president’s defense of Bill 1134. Both parties said Huston left so he could spend more time to focus on its legislative leadership responsibilities.
They said that even though Huston took the unusual step of voting for HB 1134. House Speakers normally only vote on measures if the ballot is close or – as was probably the case here – because they want to send a message that the action in question is a management priority.
HB 1134 became a focal point of national controversy and derision. That’s because Bill does his best to keep Indiana students from learning anything that might involve actual learning.
This limits teaching on “divisive” topics such as America’s tortured history of race. It crippled teachers by establishing onerous parent approval processes. And, because what is considered “divisive” is so loosely defined, it seeks to chill free speech.
In many ways, HB 1134 isn’t just anti-education.
But the varied and serious shortcomings and transgressions of HB 1134 are not the lesson Huston taught Hoosiers with this episode.
No, the speaker’s lack of education demonstrated how structurally corrupt the education reform movement has become.
Over a two-year period, the Indiana state government, with the general fund alone, will spend more than $35 billion. More than half of this expenditure is devoted to education.
With so much money at stake, it was only a matter of time before some people decided they were entitled to bigger and bigger slices of the pie. The only ones who rarely seem to get a piece are the ones doing the work.
The education reform movement began with a basic argument. They argued that introducing competition – making education a freer market – would boost innovation in classrooms and improve student achievement.
This gave rise to an abundance of charter schools and the most extensive and expensive school voucher program in the United States.
But a curious thing happened.
The often-promised improvements in student performance never materialized.
A well-established and well-funded network of enterprises supporting education reform has taken root, however, all drawing their sustenance from the fertile soil of taxpayer funding. Some of them were outright for-profit operations. Others were non-profit organizations made up largely of people earning large salaries.
Some up to $460,738 per year.
Some even higher.
As these educational reform entities entrenched themselves deeper and deeper into state budgeting, they began to realize that hiring or establishing other financial relationships with state legislators was a wise investment.
The Indiana legislature has always been vulnerable to such arrangements. Because this is a part-time citizen legislature, every lawmaker without substantial personal wealth must have a job — and a job that allows them to be off work for several months each year.
The idea behind part-time legislative work was that it would force legislators to stay rooted in their communities.
In fact, it has created enormous opportunities for companies that do business with the state or are regulated by the state to strengthen their positions by securing the services of legislators to carry out often vaguely outlined tasks. . Indiana’s history is dotted with legislators who have worked in their “private” lives as a loosely defined “advisor” or some other hazy capacity for one well-padded corporation or nonprofit or another.
If a teacher did something like this – a secure job that would conflict in any way with student service – the outcry would be immediate and immense.
But when does a lawmaker – even a legislative leader like Todd Huston – do it?
Well, it’s just another day at the office.
A well paid day.
In fact, a very well paid day.
John Krull is director of the Pulliam School of Journalism at Franklin College and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.