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.


  1. This is a FABULOUS post! It inspired me to write a similar one, from my perspective as a 20-year veteran of school public relations. Here it is:

    First The Corporate Education Reformers Asked . . .

    First the corporate education reformers asked why a traditional public school district needed a public relations executive, and I explained that the community needed to understand the challenges and successes of traditional public schools.

    Next they asked why traditional public schools were fearful of competition, and I explained that nothing could be farther from the truth. After all, traditional public schools have faced competition from private and parochial schools since the beginning of their existence.

    Then they asked why traditional public schools make so many excuses for failure, and I said that there is a difference between an excuse and a fact. It is a fact that children who live in poverty face more obstacles to success than their higher income peers. It is a fact that parental involvement in lower income schools is minimal compared to higher income schools. It is a fact that children who are hungry or in pain due to poor dental or physical health have a harder time focusing on schoolwork than their well-fed and healthy peers.

    Then they asked why traditional public schools seemed to hate the idea of giving parents school choice, and I shared that traditional public schools were on the front lines of parental choice thanks to magnet and specialty programs. I explained that opening schools that were supposed to offer a different curriculum from any found in the traditional school district – but that were in fact exact replicas of schools in the traditional district – would hurt the community by causing even greater mobility and instability in all of the schools.

    Then they asked why did traditional public schools fear charter schools, and I clarified that traditional public schools would have no problem with the entry of charter schools into the educational marketplace, so long as they were funded in a way that did not harm the traditional public school districts.

    Then they stopped asking questions, as they hired public relations executives to explain why the schools they supported achieved no better results with the students in their schools than the traditional public schools did, quickly pointing out the affects of poverty and mobility on achievement.

    Mary Louise Bewley
    Bewley Communications
    (formerly Director of School/Community Relations of Indianapolis Public Schools)

    1. Wow Mary.. that is great! Thanks for that perspective as well!