Thursday, January 16, 2014

First They Came for Our Local Control: A Parent's Call to Action

First the corporate education reformers came for our local control through tax caps, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't paying attention.  I didn't know that changing the funding from property tax to state sales/income tax would harm my schools.  I was running carpool.

Next they gutted the funding through "school choice," and I didn't speak up because I thought, "Sure. This is a free country. Everyone should be able to find the school that best suits their children." I didn't know that the vouchers would take tens of millions away from my kids' schools and make it impossible to fully fund the rich educational programs and extra-curricular activities for all children.

Then they took over and privatized some schools, and I didn't speak up because I thought, "That's an inner-city problem.  Why should I worry about that?" I didn't know that once these for-profit charter companies and special interest charter sponsors smelled money and a market demand, they would come to my town. I didn't know that when they wooed the families from my public schools, they would take with them the money for my kids' art teachers and librarians, the PTO volunteers, and divide us as a community.

Then they went after the curriculum, and I didn't speak up because I thought "Sure, we should have high, consistent standards. Kids should be 'ready' for college and career."  I didn't know that this was a money-making scheme unlike all others and that the testing involved would destroy teacher autonomy and the joy in learning.  I didn't know that laws like a grading system of schools based on one test score or laws tying test scores to teacher salaries and security in the name of "accountability" were designed to destroy public schools.  I didn't know that the maligning of schools through low letter grades (on a curve!) opened the market to charters and privates and further hemorrhaging of public school funding. I didn't know that kids would lose art, music, gym and library.  I just didn't know.  Did I mention I was running carpool?

And they came for the teachers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a teacher.  I didn't know that the destruction of teacher unions, collective bargaining and morale would effectively silence my teacher and keep her from advocating for my kids. I didn't know that the culture of fear would make teachers unable to say: "Hey! This initiative is absolutely developmentally inappropriate for these kids!"

Then they came for my children and my school, and I found my voice.

Other voices joined in...and I did speak up.  With one local "fire" put out, we can't rest.  There is an inferno surrounding us! In other schools and other towns they are fighting as desperately as we are to keep the data mania from infiltrating our schools, to retain the child focus, to have parent (and teacher) voices be heard. But in other districts, unlike our own, they didn't pass a referendum, and they have no music programs left to save.  They have no librarians at all.  They can't even afford buses.

As I type, the legislators in the statehouse are considering a law which will allow anyone with a degree in anything to be a teacher in the classroom. Consider a teacher who has no idea how a child learns, how to spot dyslexia, what methods work best for a hands-on learner, classroom management techniques, etc.  The mind boggles. But this de-professionalizing of our teachers, of the people we trust to care for our kids every day, continues unabated. 

It’s up to us to stop this legislative destruction aimed at our public schools and our public school teachers. Raise your voice.  Please joinus at ICPE and other grassroots organizations around the state and country.  Advocate for all children as the community just did here in Bloomington.  If we showed that kind of cooperative effort on a state and national level, we could stop these "reformers" who use our children to promote their own agenda of greed.  They are making money off of our babies... and in their name.  Speak up.