Thursday, December 12, 2013

Letters: NEIFPE Member Responds to Oliver

This morning a letter appeared to the editor of the Fort Journal Gazette from Brad Oliver. Mr. Oliver is a member of the Indiana State Board of Education from Muncie. A link to the letter is below.

Here is a letter from NEIFPE member and co-founder Terry Springer in response to Mr. Oliver's letter.
Dear Dr. Oliver,

I am one of the NEIPFE members you met with in Fort Wayne in the fall. We appreciated your willingness to come to Ft. Wayne to meet with us and share your perspective on how the SBOE was operating and your view of the governor's policies and Glenda Ritz's role. I was hopeful that your appointment to the Board would bring a voice of reason and a champion for children, but I was a wary because of your comments about Ritz's lack of leadership experience. You asserted that your main focus is on what is best for the children of Indiana. Since that time, I believe your actions belie your words. You continue to accuse Superintendent Ritz of a lack of leadership and to blame her for the contentious atmosphere on the SBOE and for taking actions she deems necessary. Do you think anyone watching the behavior of the SBOE and listening to the meetings as they are live-streamed does not know that the problem is not just of Glenda Ritz's making? Do you think that anyone paying attention and watching those meetings sees board members as trying to make the relationship among the members work? Do you think anyone who listens to the governor's announcements and his creation of an unnecessary - and costly- education agency usurping the role of the DOE does not see that public schools dedicated to educating all children in Indiana are in jeopardy? Do you think anyone with an even limited understanding of politics does not see the political influence behind a governor's appointments?

As I think back on all that you told us at that meeting and your words and actions since that time, I now think that you are not truly a supporter of public education. You tried to convince us at that meeting in the fall that the new agency the governor created was not really an agency. Perhaps that is what you believed. Since that time, it has become pretty clear that it is an agency that is costing tax payers money and that it plays a role in undermining the elected superintendent and the DOE. The issues that you bring up in your letter to the editor in this morning's Journal-Gazette about Ritz's casting aspersions on board members or making unsupported claims fall on deaf ears here in light of the Board's behavior during meetings - evident in body language, tone of voice and words. As you note, the governor rejected the design for restructuring the governance of the SBOE; however, the email along with other actions including the governor's 2014 education agenda suggests that plans are well afoot to make significant changes - changes that threaten the existence of public education - changes that privatize education in Indiana - that will serve a few to the detriment of the many - changes that undermine the democratic process in this state.

Thinking back on all that you told us in that fall meeting, I now think you have left the public education arena in terms of the choices you made for your own children and for your career and that you stand with those who are willing to sacrifice public schools for privatized, parochial education in which tax dollars will support religious education in the name of parent choice. It now seems to me that you stand with those who "choose" a parochial education because they don't want their children to go to school with "those" children not like themselves. That you stand on the side of those who are willing to punish schools and teachers and also children by labeling them as failures in a system designed to do just that. Those of us who stayed in public schools and kept our children in public schools - even when everything was not perfect - believe that public education ultimately works for the common good and contributes to our democracy and that reforms should support programs in public education rather than deprive them of funding that makes the work they do only harder. From what I can see the SBOE is not focused on reducing the impact of harmful testing and labeling as you said you wanted to do. Instead, it works behind the scenes in emails to force distribution of grades from a flawed system and then accuses the Superintendent of not doing her job and overstepping her boundaries. I would assert that the SBOE, the governor, and the Republican legislators are more responsible for the dysfunction. I believe in the ability of intelligent, well-intentioned people to overcome challenges and to solve problems. And so I am both disappointed and outraged at the failure of SBOE to overcome political differences and find a common ground to work for all kids in our state.

Read Brad Oliver's letter HERE.

No comments: