Wednesday, November 23, 2022

So, What do kids need?

The Indiana General Assembly's Organization Day was yesterday, Tuesday, November 22, 2022. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, president of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, spoke to members of AFT Indiana at the Statehouse.

She has graciously allowed us to reprint her comments, here. We urge you to support public education in Indiana and support the ICPE. Click the link below to join:

So, What do kids need?

As we head into a budget session this January, we must ask ourselves how we can best support Indiana's children and prepare them for a bright future. As all good educators, we must start with where the child is and go from there.

Indiana ranks 31st in the country in terms of children's overall wellbeing. The American Academy of Pediatrics sounded the alarm last year when they declared a national mental health crisis for our children. Indiana is 26th in the nation in terms of mental illness rates and access to care. Our domestic violence rates are above the national average. Our child abuse rates are twice the national average. We know that these overall well being statistics are disproportionately affecting our children of color and children from other historically marginalized communities. We also know that the effects of the pandemic had a serious and continued effect on these many concerns for our kids.

It was during the pandemic that our country discovered what we public education advocates have been saying: our schools are the heart of our communities. Our public schools were and are on the frontline of care for our children. The people who work in those schools are the first responders for our kids’ health, education and overall well being. We need to support this system of community public schools.

Instead, Indiana is still faced with a real teacher shortage. Our rural and small schools are struggling to provide kids with the advanced courses and experienced, well paid teachers that all children deserve. Other school systems serving some of our most vulnerable kids are in the same boat. Our public schools are for all and serve all kids–and yet, increasingly the state legislature is siphoning away resources and precious tax dollars to those private and privately run schools that can select their few. Last school year alone, we lost around a quarter of a billion dollars to vouchers alone.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education will be pushing for more funding in this upcoming legislative session for our public schools. The cost of inflation and the attack on public education, the failure to provide enough funding for the complexities of the burdens of poverty on children's learning and well being, the shrinking pool of teachers with experience and education to meet the needs of our kids, is creating a sustained crisis for Indiana's children.

Here is what we don't need: We don't need another reimagining of high school. You have messed around with how and what our kids need to accomplish before they graduate enough. Let teachers inform policy. Let teachers teach.

Here is what we 
don't need: an increase in public funds going into private hands through charters, innovation schools, private schools, ESAs (education scholarship accounts), or whatever the next best way of cutting public education is. Public schools have kids who are medically fragile, who are houseless, who are new to this country, who are dealing with situations that most of us can't imagine–and “school choice” will not help them. They choose public schools where they are all accepted and served. Fund PreK, not discrimination.

Here's what we also 
don't need: adults getting bogged down in absurdity, accusing our teachers of horrible nonsensical things, looking for litter boxes and porn in the classroom. Let teachers teach. Let educators inform policy. Let them teach truth in history.

Our kids need for the policymakers in this building to stop the attack on their schools, their communities, and on them. Kids need acceptance and love and to continue to walk into schools that accept them and are welcoming. They don't need this continued opening and closing of schools with the market, the revolving door of teachers, the continued loss of funding and resources into private hands that are unaccountable, to all this: STOP!

Public funds belong in public schools..where all children are accepted and cared for. Your budget is your priority: will our kids be prioritized? We will be watching. We will keep the public in public education.


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