Sunday, February 17, 2013

Letter to the Legislature

Here is a powerful letter to Rep. Jim Lucas from our friend and public education advocate, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer. Check out her blog at the Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana. Follow them on Facebook HERE.
Dear Rep. Lucas,
I have watched some of the proceedings in the hearings on the school voucher bill (1003) and others. In these meetings, I keep hearing you repeat the question, "Shouldn't parents have a choice of where their children should go to school?"

Let me just assure you that, yes, I do believe parents should have a choice in the schools they attend. I don't, however, believe that we should pay for their choices in schools. If public schools, our children'sconstitutional right, are not providing an adequate or high-quality education for their children, then we have an obligation as a society and you have an obligation as a representative of our demos, to ensure that they do. You should not be crying out "every man (child) for himself!" by enabling people to abandon ship and take a chunk of the public school budget with them. What about the children left behind in those schools with fewer resources and parent advocates abandoning their community?

I listened sympathetically to a young mother at the hearing say that she was worried that the public school was too big for her shy, sensitive kindergartener. As a mother of four kids in public schools, I understand her concerns. She was happy, however, to have vouchers help her pay for a private religious (and they almost all are) school with a smaller class size. What about my shy child who, as a result of vouchers draining the overall budget (along with the massive 2010 state cuts), may now be relegated to a larger class size?

I have heard school choice advocates acknowledge that this draining of funds will, indeed, hurt the public schools. They say that this will force public schools to improve their performance. The trouble with this is that, when we admit public schools are being hurt, we must also acknowledge that we are talking about damaging children's lives! Are they the sacrificial lambs to your free market philosophy? While we wait for this magic pill of free markets and competition to improve education for all, are we willing to sacrifice these kids' futures while the "markets" fluctuate?

I, for one, am not. I imagine their loved ones are not, either.

The fact is that the schools receiving vouchers and the charter schools, get to make the choice. They get to decide which kids walk through their doors to stay. Public schools' mission is to educate each and every child, no matter his or her needs. This should be the land of equal opportunity, but you are clearly relegating us to a land of opportunity for some.

If you are truly about results, then I beg you to read these two articles. I heard you at the hearing question whether the amount of money reallocated to private schools was significant when compared to our overall state education budget. The first article I am sending here is from Michigan and this financial expert lays out the multiple ways these reforms you have voted for will hurt us financially (he lays out the human cost, too.) Please just read it: The other is Reuters piece revealing that studies across the U.S. are showing that this is not about helping children, it's about making money: ( Please read these two articles, Rep. Lucas.

Thank you again, for your time. It's hard not to come across as hostile when I feel so passionately about children and public schools. I am sorry if I offend you. Assuming, as I do, that you truly have children's best interests in mind, I hope that you will read these two pieces. My deepest hope is that you will stop voting for expanding vouchers, giving tax credits to home schoolers and private schoolers in materials, while you don't do the same for public school parents, and all the myriad of ways you've been undermining this cornerstone of our democracy: public education.


Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer


Aubrey said...

One thing the two articles you cite does do is highlight the great displeasure people have with their local public schools. While these articles point out problems in the charter schools, etc., I don't see how they illustrate your point.

Merry Juerling said...

The displeasure parents of public school children have had and continue to have deals directly with the robbing of public tax dollars that were meant for public schools by ALEC model legislation introduced by Rep. Lucas, et. al. It is time to say, "Stop harming our children, the public school children of Indiana." Great letter...for accountability goes both ways.