It’s a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while rarely kept, can be redefined as goals toward which we would strive had we the strength.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #5
- Be an Education voter.
Have you been teaching long enough to remember when
- there was enough time in your day to do things with your class like reading aloud, learning about dinosaurs, developing a science project, or playing a learning game…just for fun?
- primary grade students had a morning recess, a recess after lunch, and an afternoon recess?
- standardized tests weren’t administered in every grade level every year?
- standardized tests were used to guide your instruction, not punish your students, you, or your school, or to use as a template for teaching to the test?
- teaching experience was honored in the salary schedule for your school corporation? Each year you taught you received an incremental pay increase.
- your teacher’s negotiating team could bargain for class size, preparation time, and duty-free periods?
- the push to learn to read was more appropriately assigned to first-grade instead of kindergarten?
Over the last four to five decades — since I began my own teaching career — things have changed for schools and teachers. Classroom professionals are no longer trusted to make curriculum decisions for their students. The state tests have taken over curriculum choices as well as teacher evaluations. Students have less time to play. Teachers’ salaries have stagnated.
Since the beginning of the standards and testing craze which began in the last decade of the 20th century, we have let legislators strip the joy of learning from our classrooms. In 2001, No Child Left Behind, moved the wheel a bit further introducing punishment to schools which didn’t “perform” (read: couldn’t get enough students to pass “the test” despite the numbers of English language learners, the impact of child poverty, and students receiving special services). Then, in 2011, the Indiana legislature, under the direction of then-Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett, doubled down in their war against public education with laws providing for charter schools and vouchers, as well as other laws apparently intended to damage the teaching profession.
Since 2011 teachers in Indiana have lost…
- seniority and the value of experience or advanced degrees on salary schedules
- declining salaries (when adjusted for inflation)
- the right to collectively bargain things like class size, prep time, and supervision time
- the loss of due process
and, along with their students, administrators, and patrons, have had to endure…
- a constitutional amendment that gives the state legislature complete responsibility for funding schools.
- the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
- the diversion of public education funds to testing companies, charter schools and vouchers
- teacher evaluations and school grades based on test scores
- untrained laypeople taking teaching positions based on content knowledge alone
- and, beginning in 2020, Governor-appointed majority (8 out of 10) on the state school board as well as a Governor-appointed state superintendent of public instruction.
The challenge to the public school teachers and schools of Indiana continues. Our state lags behind neighboring states in teacher salaries. The General Assembly, while making noise about the amount of money spent on education, continues to fund public education at below 2008 levels.
[For a detailed look at funding and teacher salaries in Indiana see Education Funding and Teacher Compensation In Indiana: Evaluation and Recommendations.]
YOU ARE THE VOICE FOR YOUR PROFESSION
You know what to do…
- Write to or visit your legislators. Once you know the issues, tell your legislators how you feel about what they’re doing.
Indiana residents use the links below to find your legislators.
- Educate your friends, family, and neighbors.
- Promote public education and supporters of public education on Social Media.
- Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Write to national newspapers. Start your own blog and write about public education.
- Let your local school board members know about your concerns for public education.
- Testify at state legislative committee meetings and state school board meetings.
- Work for candidates who promise to support public education. Once they’re elected, hold them to their promises.
- Run for public office.
Family and work responsibilities might restrict what you can do. Personal finances might restrict what you can do. Physical limitations might restrict what you can do. But, everyone can do something.
Once you have the knowledge, teach others.
YOU ARE THE VOICE FOR YOUR STUDENTS
Teachers, you are the political voice of your students. Their needs and interests, as well as your own, are in your hands when you enter the voting booth.
- When you vote for candidates who skimp when asked to invest in public schools, then you vote against the interests of your students.
- When you vote for candidates who divert public school funding to private and charter schools, you vote against the interests of your students.
- When you vote for candidates who work to deprofessionalize teaching, exacerbating the shortage of qualified teachers, then you vote against the interests of your students.
This year, resolve to be a public education voter. Make sure you’re registered to vote. Indiana voters, you can register or check your registration online, here: Indiana Voter Portal.
Resolution #5: Be an “education” voter. Support your profession and public education. Support candidates who support public schools without regard to party affiliation.
- Read aloud to your children/students every day.
- Teach your students, not “The Test.”
- Educate yourself.
- Focus on developing positive relationships.