On Saturday August 20th we held our annual all-member meeting in Washington Township. It was a jam-packed agenda full of information to digest–some of which made many of us nauseous! We had around 50 people attend in person, and somewhere near 30 who were online via Zoom. We are so grateful for everyone’s support and interest! To watch the entire meeting (highly recommend!) click here.

Our Board member and former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick and our lobbyist, Mr. Joel Hand, started us off with a review of what happened the last legislative session–and what to expect in the next.

Remember that it will be a budget session and we need to be prepared to fight for full and adequate funding for our kids in public schools!

  • We can expect to see the Public-schools-must-share-referendum- dollars-with-charter-schools bill back.
  • We expect to see more push for book banning and control over what teachers do in the classroom next time.
  • Also, we have deep concerns that they will expand “education savings accounts” very broadly and create a universal voucher program like Arizona recently did.
  • The concern for continued dilution of teacher licensing and certifications is another expectation for the next session.

Marilyn Shank, our vice-president, gave us a preview of the dashboard we plan to use to show how legislators line up with or against our priorities and stances on public education bills/issues. More on that to come. We must be informed voters.

Next we had a panel of excellent representatives from very different school districts. Our Board member, Dountonia Batts, framed the conversation for us and introduced the panelists.

  • Brian Henry, president of the Washington Township Parent Council, gave us a shocking view of what it looks like when privatizing entities put your school district in their crosshairs and begin a campaign to divide your community, build distrust and dissent, as they hope to take over school board seats to promote an agenda of chartering or outsourcing or ”innovation” of your schools.
  • Christy Wessel Powell, a parent in Zionsville, gave us a snapshot of what “Moms for Liberty”and “Purple for Parents” have done and continue to do in their local school board meetings. The bullying of Board members, the lack of civility and the targeting school board seats in their district and in suburbs around Indianapolis are cause for concern.
  • Lacy Hawkins, a teacher and lifelong resident of North Lawrence County talked about how the closing of two schools, due to the lack of funding, enrollment, and teaching staff to maintain them, resulted in the turning those two schools into privately run charter schools–further defunding their public schools. Lacy asked, “How does this help kids?”
  • In the end, we had our longtime friend, Anne Duff, of Fort Wayne, who has helped start a new “chapter” of ICPE there, give us a story of hope. She told us the story of how their community was able to organize, circle around their public schools, and stop the opening of a new charter school in their area. It gave us all some inspiration and reminds me of that quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Our small group will continue to try to grow networks and expand, until, hopefully, one day the tide can be turned. Until then, we remain committed and we hope you will support us by being members and getting involved: https://indianacoalitionforpubliced.org/join/

Look for a follow up meeting to our panel along the lines of “They’re Coming for Your School District: Now what?” sometime in September. Until then, onward.

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