Manchester University
Oak Leaves

Gambill Schools Spartans on Politics in Education

Cass Ratliff

Keith Gambill, the vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, presented to Manchester University’s Student Education Association on different aspects of politics in education on Sept. 13, 2016, at 7 p.m. in Flory Auditorium.

Gambill, a 26-year educator in the Evansville Public Schools, is a middle school arts and drama teacher. Before becoming vice president of ISTA, he was the president of the Evansville Teachers’ Association. Gambill is also is the chair of the ISTA foundation. 

After garnering years of experience, Gambill wanted to emphasize to his audience of Manchester University undergraduates the importance of getting out and voting. “Regardless of what year you are, elected officials will be making decisions that affect your work in the classroom,” he said. “If you do not play an active role in making sure the right people are voted into office, then you have to live with the consequences.”
Gambill noted that there are four essential layers of politics that affect education as one considers voting. The first is the federal government. Laws that come from the federal government are the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act that most current college students went to school under, Common Core and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These are federal laws that schools across the nation must abide by. The president of the United States appoints the secretary of education and sets forth the agenda. “While I supported President Obama, I have been disappointed in his education policy,” Gambill said. “I think ESSA is the best thing that’s come out of that. In my personal opinion, he gave too much credit and investment to charter schools and did not invest enough in public schools.”

Following the federal government level, Gambill explained, is the state level. This is where the governor sets the agenda for each of the four years he or she holds office and works with the budget. Indiana is on a biannual budget system where the budget is effective for two years before it is changed again. January will be the next time when Indiana’s budget is reset.
Gambill told his audience how, this year, Indiana will be voting a new governor into office. He or she will set two budgets into place during his or her time, and education funding is a huge part of that budget. Indiana has received more funding in this area; however, due to a 300-million-dollar budget cut Governor Daniels made while in office, public schools are still six years behind where they should be. More money is also going toward vouchers and charter schools. ISTA is asking for a delineation to see where funding is going to.
Gambill also noted that committees that affect the jobs of educators are appointed at this level. There are the State Board of Education and the Indiana Education Employment Relations. The State Board of Education chooses the tests teachers will be given and sets the deadlines for those. This committee also deals with the ratings of teachers. The Indiana Education Employment Relations makes decisions that affect a teacher’s accrual work life in terms of hours needed to work and other extra duties outside of the classroom.
Following the committee appointments, Gambill said, the House and the Senate then receive the budget and add their own modification before they release it on the first of May. At this level there is a senator and a representative that get voted into office. “We will be electing a senator and a representative or someone on your behalf will elect because if you don’t someone will still be elected into that seat,” Gambill said. At this level, the House and Senate decided what tests to take and how and when to evaluate teachers.
Finally, Gambill noted the level of the local government, which involves the school board. The local government has a budget called SILA, which includes the general fund, capital projects, bus transportation, bus replacement and debt services. All of these funds previously came from property taxes until Gov. Daniels decided that the general fund, the fund that pays the teachers, would come from state sales tax. During the time Gov. Daniels made this decision, Indiana was in a recession, which meant people bought less and teachers got paid less. This is why schools can spend money on expensive updates and still have to cut teachers—they are two different funds. During this time, schools had to survive at the local level and made cuts everywhere, including using fewer buses and hiring third party food and janitorial services.
Gambill’s speech inspired students to make sure they pay attention to how politics affect their careers as educators. “I love how informational he was on politics that are personal to myself,” said elementary education major, Toni Papandrea. “I’ll vote for all of it. It’s not affecting us now, but it will later.”
Other students enjoyed how comprehensive Gambill was. “I loved how he knew to approach the subject to us as college students,” said SEA Sophomore Rep., Britanie Jernigan. “It’s kind of really scary because a lot of people our age don’t vote, and if the wrong people get into office we’re screwed for the most part…It’s not just the president, it’s also the governor who will affect our first day in the classroom.” 

September 23, 2016