Friday, May 22, 2015

Letters: We are not alone in our concerns about education in Indiana

NEIFPE member Ron Crosby wrote this letter to the editor reflecting on the NPE National Conference.

Letter to the editor: We are not alone in our concerns about education in Indiana

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the annual NPE (the Network for Public Education) Conference in Chicago.

The conference was enlightening. It also brought hope to all of those who care about the education of our youth. In attendance were many wonderful, excited activists from all over the country. Let me share what I learned.

The status of education reform as implemented by Indiana’s legislators and many other state legislators is frustrating. The legislators are more interested in the wants and desires of their donors than they are either parents of Indiana’s students or teachers.

Many teachers and parents feel that they should give up. Many have. That is what legislators want.

What I personally was able to extract from the conference is that there is hope, progress is being made and we are not alone with our concerns.

Although Indiana’s legislators (In Indiana, it is primarily the Republican legislators) are continuing to follow the lead of various corporations who are interested in profiting from public education dollars, there is hope.
  • • On a national level, many groups have helped our federal legislators to look at NCLB. They have revamped NCLB by eliminating many items that created impossible issues for public schools. The changes include no longer federally mandating the use of tests to evaluate schools and teachers. The changes also minimized how high stakes testing should be used to judge students. The most important change is not allowing Federal Department of Education leader Arne Duncan to bully the states into implementing his agenda.
  • • The Opt-Out movement has sent a strong message to leaders in state governments. These states include New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and even Indiana.
In fact in a CNN article: “We’ve heard from almost every state in the country there’s opting out going on,” said Monty Neill, executive director of the testing reform advocacy group FairTest. “Last year, we probably heard from half.”
  • • There are groups all over the country, including Indiana, that are forming alliances to promote and help public education. The NEA, AFT, NPE, various parent groups and other local teacher groups are forming alliances to work to a common goal of saving and improving public schools. This includes NEIFPE. I am always impressed with how a few people can accomplish great things.
  • • The industries profiting from our public education dollars are being “outed” in terms of dollars earned, the lack of any accountability and the resulting shady situations these companies have become a part of.
What we can’t forget is we are not alone and progress is being made.

What was wonderful from this conference was meeting people from all over the country with similar problems. Via discussions with others it was clear that solutions are being found to problems faced by many of us in attendance.

National educational leaders were present. These leaders included Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the NEA president; Randi Weingarten, the AFT president; and my personal hero, Diane Ravitch, education historian and voice of all of us against the educational reform movement.

It was interesting that only one legislator from Pennsylvania attended the conference. I guess they don’t want the opinions of teachers.

What I learned was energizing. Many people are doing many things.

We need to collaborate and form alliances to coordinate efforts. What is happening to us is happening to people in many other states. Solutions to the common problems for public education are being found.

The biggest most exciting thing I learned was “we are not alone.”

Ron Crosby


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