Spring 2020 School Referenda in Indiana
I first got involved in the fight for public education in 2010 when my community put a referendum on the ballot. The deep cuts of 2009 had resulted in the loss of some 70 or more teachers for our schools, as well as beloved programs that made school fun and meaningful for our kids. I had 4 children who enjoyed the depth and breadth of well-resourced schools: art, music, and P.E. certified teachers, certified teacher librarians in every school with great collections of books, field trips to places like a one-room school house experience, outdoor education experiences, plays and concerts, and, of course, robust athletics. Our referendum was successful that year—and the renewal of that referendum in 2016 was, too.
Every parent wants his or her child to have a school with resources and extracurriculars in order to ensure that there is plenty of opportunity for kids to find their passions and follow them. Every parent wants teachers who are happy in their jobs and well-paid because we know that our teachers’ working conditions is our children’s learning conditions.
Yet it is true that not every parent, or community member for that matter, agrees with how schools spend their money or prioritize their resources. Not every parent experiences a school where they feel their children are cared for or respected. Institutionalized racism is pervasive in our schools and there are serious issues that cause many schools to be contributing to the issue of the “school to prison pipeline” for students of color. Where do we turn with this frustration?
We need to organize as parents to fight for the public schools all of our kids deserve—because, otherwise, “reformers” like Stand for Children (funded by those who seem opposed to teacher unions, and who push for charter schools and test-driven accountability) will do it for us. In the name of “equity,” they will organize parents to support candidates who support their cause: privatization disguised as “parental choice.” We need informed communities who will #VotePublicEd.
The essential part of what makes public schools “public” is our democratically elected public school board members who guide policy and represent the community’s concerns. They create the vision which the administration is tasked with carrying out.
If your school district is failing to work toward fulfilling their promise of serving all children, the remedy is to vote for school board members who will make that happen.
If your school district is misusing your tax dollars or not prioritizing the right things, the remedy is to vote for school board members who will make that happen.
Here’s what you don’t do: you don’t take away that funding which ensures that schools can provide opportunities. You don’t punish children because you are angry at the adult deciders.
Some school districts are unable to vote for school board members. Some people go to privately-run charter and innovation schools and find that they have no influence or voice because those board members are not accessible and not elected. Some people try private schools and find that those schools are able to legally discriminate against children and families. Many families have found that non-public schools can say, “We can’t provide your child with that” or “Your child may not be a good fit for here.” It is outrageous that these schools get our public tax dollars when they don’t play by the same rules. This is a big part of the reason we have a funding problem.
Support your public schools, which serve all children. Know your school board candidates so that they will serve them well. Above all, we urge you to #VotePublicEd
We have compiled a list of Spring 2020 School Referenda for your information.