Members of the coalition and other interested groups had a few minutes to present information about their group and their plans. NEIFPE member, and People for the Common Good board member, Meg Bloom, spoke on behalf of NEIFPE. Here are her remarks.
Remarks to People for the Common Good Forum, May 2, 2017 from NEIFPE ~ Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education
We know that public education is one of the cornerstones of democracy, so we formed in 2011 in response to attacks on public education. We are tired of hearing the harsh statements. I am sure you have heard that public schools are failing. That is a blanket statement and too broad to be of any help in a discussion. Public schools are not failing. We hear that our test scores are lower than other countries. That particular sound bite is too simplistic to give you the whole picture. It doesn’t tell you that many countries only test select students while here in the U.S., we test everyone. Even more important, it doesn’t tell you that there is a high correlation between poverty and low test scores. The US poverty rate at almost 22% is much higher than most of the other industrialized countries who are part of that comparison. Our higher poverty rate lowers our average test scores.
Besides the effect of the negative propaganda, we have six other current concerns.
1. We are always worried when the Indiana legislature is in session because our state legislators are gullible and have made rash decisions that have had ill effects for our students.
2. Donald Trump is president and Betsy Devos, who has no public education experience, is Education Secretary. You have to be concerned about what they might have up their sleeves.
3. We are concerned about the voucher system. With vouchers, public education money goes to private schools and these are often religious schools. I want to emphasize that NEIFPE is not against parochial schools or religious education. Some of our members attended parochial schools and some have taught in parochial schools. What we are against is public funding for private schools.
4. Charter schools concern us. With charter schools, public education money goes to a private, often for profit, company with little oversight of how our tax dollars are being spent. The charter company then has the right to open a “public” school and make a profit on the education of the children.
5. We are concerned about the resegregation of our schools. Vouchers do not cover 100% of the tuition bill for private schools. This leaves out children from low-income homes. Not only that, voucher schools and sometimes charter schools can select their students and can refuse to accept students who are difficult to educate. With this, we are seeing a resegregation of American schools.
6. We are concerned about the emphasis on testing, on the expense of testing, on the amount of time spent testing and preparing for testing, and on the incorrect and punitive use of testing data.
Our current efforts are the same as our past efforts. We work to stay informed about education issues. We regularly contact our legislators with our concerns. We recognize the importance of explaining the situation to the public and so we write letters to the editor and op ed pieces for the paper. We give presentations to churches, civic organizations and college classes. Contact us if you would like us to speak to your group. This summer we will be cohosting a multistate meeting of public education activists.
How can fellow progressives support us? Follow us on Facebook and our blog to inform yourself about education issues. Support your public schools and help us elect candidates who support public schools. It would be helpful if we could organize ourselves and have an email list of others who are interested in public education issues. With this, we could send a quick email when legislation is in the works and people on the list could email or call their legislators with concerns about the effect the proposed legislation could have on public education. Many voices have a greater effect.