I am tired of writing letters to the Indiana state legislature. I am tired of the robo-replies: "I am in receipt of your email." I am tired of thinking of what the right words might be to persuade a legislator or encourage a Facebook friend to write his or her own letters. I'm pretty tired.
Since the legislative session has begun, I feel like it has been one bill after another that we have been fighting--definitely a whack-a-mole game to protect public education. Public education advocates try to raise awareness around the general public about the effects this bills will have: more testing, larger class sizes, teachers losing power and control over the direction of their own jobs and of their ability to do what's best for our kids, etc. I am certain that it's not only the state legislators that see my name and think: "Oh no. Here she goes again!" I think there may be some serious fatigue among my Facebook friends and real-life friends for my pleas and posts and cries of alarm that the proverbial sky is falling on our public schools. I don't blame them. I'm sick of me, too.
But the sky IS falling...
The Indiana senate is about to have the second reading of House Bill 1003 which, depending on the amendments accepted or rejected, stands to drain millions of dollars from our public education budget. It will take those dollars and hand them directly over to private schools with no "accountability" at all. We don't know what those children are learning. Or IF they are learning. They don't have to accept any child that they don't feel is the right "fit". They also don't have to keep any child who is difficult to educate. All but six of the private voucher schools in Indiana are religious. Many of these schools teach extremist views from the Bob Jones or A Beka curriculum where they will learn that "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ" and "The majority of slaveholders treated their slaves well."
Perhaps even more troubling to me is that there is no oversight of what goes on in these schools. Only 5% (13) of the 260+ private schools are required to be reviewed/evaluated. The guidelines for becoming a "voucher school" are very broad and accountability is virtually nonexistent.
Meanwhile, our public schools are a pressure-cooker of "accountability." Show me the DATA! Prove that you are not "failing" with numbers and tests and tests to number those tests. Teachers are under a microscope to perform or lose their "effective" status, job, pay, etc. Kids have to compete with one another, schools against each other in this great race to keep from failing. As these politicians raise the stakes, push a sink-or-swim mentality for our public schools, they offer "choice" to parents to get out of this rat race. Shiny new charter schools with great packaging. Or take your "choice scholarship"to a small religious school with small class sizes and people who are just like you. Get out of that cold stressful atmosphere of public school and look at our warm fuzzy private ones. Maybe you will take a tax credit to keep your child at home with you where they will be protected from the grind. So many choices. These caring politicians are just helping the child. And their campaign contributors, the testing companies, the charter companies, they make their profits.
Enough of the hypocrisy already.
My friends, we have to write these senators today. We have to tell our neighbors and have them write. We need to share this information with our relatives and friends all across the state. They will vote next week. And depending on all of the proceedings, we will all be feeling the pain.
When our school boards and administration announces that they have to cut band and art, is that when we will speak up? When, like Center Grove, they announce that librarians are going back into the classroom and libraries will no longer be staffed by professionals, is that when we parents will organize? When our children start slipping through the cracks because the class size is too great and their teacher can't possibly keep up with the data collection as well as noticing that our son or daughter isn't getting long-division, will we blame her? Will we be angry at our school corporations for not addressing our kid's needs? Or will we then recognize that we let these legislators dictate all of this from Indianapolis while we ran carpool?
So many people, parents, teachers, and ordinary citizens are afraid to be "political." Political doesn't mean partisan. Political refers to your relationship to power. Our children and their teachers are caught in the crossfire of an exceedingly political climate focused on public education. WE are their power.
Speak up. It will take you only a few minutes to write an email to your friends and to write a note to the senate.
There are details on ICPE's website from Vic's latest statehouse notes.
Here's a link to the senators' emails (#6 is a link to ALL senators).
We only need 26 votes to kill this.
Remember the old adage: If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.