Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Presidents Day Rally, 2020

On Presidents Day, February 17, 2020, NEIFPE joined with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE) and other public education advocacy groups in a Public Rally for Education at the statehouse in Indianapolis.

NEIFPE member Terry Springer posted her thoughts about the rally on Facebook.

L-R: NEIFPE member Terry Springer, State
Representative  Melanie Wright (D-35),
NEIFPE members Cindi Pastore and Meg Bloom
After nearly a decade of advocating for public education, I came home from yesterday's Red for Ed Rally energized, somewhat hopeful, but realistic about challenges ahead. Here are my takeaways from the rally:
  • Rather small turnout for this annual rally and no ISTA presence suggests the need for more coordination/collaboration among public education advocacy groups.
  • Fewer people but passion and energy still filled the room
  • Every one of us – parents, teachers, students – represented those who weren’t/couldn’t be there. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each one of us provided a voice for at least 10 teachers, students, parents, citizens who weren’t there.
  • Some hopeful signs this session in legislation on reducing regulations and holding schools and teachers harmless, making 15-hour internship optional, decoupling test scores from evaluations
  • Still key issues ignored: teacher pay, lack of accountability for money going to charters and voucher accepting schools, and now providing one more pathway to qualify for a voucher
  • Legislators continue to put private school students before public school students.  
  • Thought-provoking ideas from speakers:
◊ Jennifer McCormick: We are who we vote for.

◊ Emony Calloway shared her experience of being a student in two schools that were closed. “Students in the neighborhood who look like me are getting shifted around. We need schools that do not open and close on a whim.”

◊ Michelle Smith listed the terrible and often horrifying life experiences her students (ELL) have faced before coming to the U.S. and asserts that testing required of these kids has no value for them and getting the test results eight months later is of no value to her as their teacher. She also asserts that legislators ought to understand that she doesn’t need an externship to learn about reality. Her students bring reality to her classroom every day – something I think is true for all teachers.

◊ Phil Downs, Superintendent of SWACS: Funding for schools has not kept up with inflation and schools have less money than a decade ago; public schools have to account for all money they receive – every penny. The same should be true of voucher accepting and charter schools. They need to show how public dollars are used: Every. Single. Penny.

◊ Dr. Ramon Batts, of Concerned Clergy: Schools are a part of the fabric of society. Teachers deserve to get paid for what they do. "If all you wanted was money, you'd do something else."

◊ Gleneva Dunham, AFT, called for all of us to know the position on education for each candidate before we vote.

◊ Cathy Fuentes-Rowher, ICPE: despite some positive movement in the legislature, there has been a great deal of harm done: 85 million dollars flushed down the toilet in Virtual Charter Schools; closing schools and disrupting student learning and siphoning public money to private schools.
  • There is an irony in holding schools and teachers harmless because the harm was the result of the actions of legislators.
  • We all have to keep contacting legislators – educating them – about the effects of their decisions on our kids.
  • We need to force legislators to listen to the professionals and to treat educators as professionals.
  • There are 16 teachers running for election and two running for re-election. We need to learn who they are and vote.
To everyone who attended the Red for Ed Rally in November, your work is not done. You need to take action; get informed contact legislators; talk to everyone - family, friends, colleagues; and vote. Those of us who represented you yesterday cannot do this work without you.

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