Thursday, January 24, 2013

Letters to Legislators

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer over at Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana (ICPE-MCSCI) has a post today with sample letters to state legislators. She also gives a concise review of ALEC's participation in 1) the privatization of public education and the 2) deprofessionalization of teachers.

You can use our blog resources to contact Indiana House and Indiana Senate members.
Her letter to Representative Behning (Chair of the House Education Committee), included in the post, Let's Play Whack-a-Mole...And WIN! follows. Check out the original post for other examples. Great work Cathy!!
Dear Rep. Behning,

I am writing to you because I am greatly concerned about a number of house bills that have come to my attention. I know that you are intimately familiar with them as you have authored (?) or sponsored two of them: HB1309 and HB1342. House Bill 1251 is also of great concern to me; allow me to explain why.

I recognize that you invested both time and maybe even money in the movement to privatize education. I see from your record that you are a strong member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and that you were state chairman of ALEC for 8 years. It doesn't come as a surprise to me as I've noticed that the policies you follow in education align themselves completely with ALEC's vision of a system of education in which competition is the driving force and free markets reign supreme. I contemplate whether you truly believe this is best for children or whether you are only concerned with the few who will benefit. Perhaps you are discovering that this is a huge money-maker. You see, I've become cynical in recent years and you'll have to forgive me for that. I don't believe that schools run as businesses will ever put children first. It is antithetical to their purpose: a business is for profit, schools are a service for children.

As you know, ALEC and the corporations backing your organization have received a lot of press this past year. The shooting of Trayvon Martin exposed the many ways that ALEC can impose business interests and control aspects of our democracy at the peril of our citizens. The very act of wooing legislators, giving them model legislation and having this pass as law, is undemocratic in itself. What happened to representation of your constituency? And this brings me to my main point.

Glenda Ritz won. She won fair and square and against all the odds reflected in campaign finance studies (he who has the biggest coffers wins). She ran on a platform dedicated to education and she received even more votes than Governor Pence. That speaks volumes to her support. I would think that with this strong backing, your efforts to diminish her power and marginalize her position would be a very risky venture for you. When voters are made aware that you are trying to create a state school board made up of your own party (no longer requiring that there be no more than 6 of a party) and made up of non-educators (no longer requiring that there be employees of schools with teaching licenses) --HB1251--, I think that they will be very unhappy with you as their representative. Furthermore, when they discover that HB1309 creates a new position (vice chairman) for the board who would act in Ritz's stead and have an unusual amount of power over agendas, meetings,etc (HB1309) as well as ensuring a "majority" at the Education Roundtable (all appointed by the governor), I think that your constituents will stop and wonder why you would blatantly disregard their will/votes.

ALEC believes that corporations are people who can influence legislators to pass laws that benefit them. But I think most of America's citizens believe that legislators should represent the people who voted for them. This is, after all, the idea of a democracy. I hope that if you believe in our country and a democracy, that you will also believe in Indiana's constitution which gives every child a right to a free public education or "common school." If you can't get behind a system of public education, I would hope that you would get behind the idea that you are elected to represent the people. In this case, the people overwhelmingly voted for Glenda Ritz. Allow her to do her job.

Thanks for your time.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer


Unknown said...

U go girl! Keep writing and sharing. Did you cc the entire house and senate ed committees?

Unknown said...

No, Julian, I guess I didn't think of it. I was just concentrating on what to say to Rep. Behning. :) I have my own messages for them... but maybe I'll add his special letter as a P.S.