Our Holiday Party was back on December 3 at Showers Inn (Thank you Roger and family!). It was a great turnout of members. The most we've seen in a while. In case you weren't able to make it, here is the speech given by our chair, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer:
It’s appropriate that this party comes between Thanksgiving and the Holidays. Although I have frankly had a hard time finding my energy and motivation after these past elections, two things have kept me from burning out completely. One was looking back on our year and reflecting on all of the incredible things we’ve done. The second thing that has helped me move forward is thinking about these remarks that I give every year and looking for the silver linings in our current situation!
First, Thanksgiving: I want to give thanks for all of you. If you have written a letter to the editor in support of public education or a public education candidate, thank you. If you have volunteered on a campaign for a public education candidate, thank you. If you have contributed money to a public education candidate, thank you. If you’ve volunteered at our farmer’s market booth, thank you. If you have helped organize or attend one of our forums this year, thank you. Thank you for all you do.
We have had quite a year. We doubled our membership and had, at one time, we have had over 100 dues-paying members last year! We put on a forum about special education around this time last year and also co-hosted a conversation with Dr. McCormick about education policy. Since January of this year, we got in the news for a petition we started to support a bill eliminating textbook fees. We brought the film “Backpack Full of Cash” to our community which was attend by over 200 people and raised some money and awareness from that documentary about how “school choice” is undermining our public schools. In April, we hosted a follow-up meeting about how we can advocate for public schools in the face of this charter and voucher “competition.” Our board retreat in June was the launching of an endorsement committee for candidates as well as a committee working on a presentation (and they have been working really, really hard) to bring to new audiences. Our message is spreading. I spoke in Muncie to a very strong reception of citizens and also served on a panel in Columbus as well as the rally at the statehouse in February. We have had such a strong presence at the farmer’s market that people look for us now—and particularly want recommendations for the elections this past November. That shows that our issue is very important to many! We had a new legislative report card to show them of how the candidates/legislators measured up on public education. This fall we hosted 3 candidate forums, one of which was in Richland Bean Blossom school district—a first time ever for us! This fall we also saw a number of our board members represent us at the Network for Public Education conference in Indianapolis on panels and workshops.
In addition, several of us have been working hard to encourage and help our state-level ICPE become a growing and more effective organization. There are three new members on their board who are parents and activists for public schools in Indianapolis. New voices at the table with new perspectives will help us grow.
Speaking of new faces, public education really won in November across the country. Even if some of the excellent candidates we had in our area didn’t win, we need to look nationwide and even our neighbors in Indianapolis to see important victories.
Scott Walker is OUT. A former superintendent of public schools is now the governor in Wisconsin. In Michigan, a public education advocate also won the governorship. Where #RedforEd happened, so did many victories. Kansas’ new governor is pro-public education. Pro-public education candidate for state superintendent won in Arizona (teachers walked out there) and in California the public education candidate, Tony Thurmond, beat out the charter school proponent, Marshall Tuck, for state superintendent. Public education was a central talking point for Beto O’Rourke and so many others who ran (many who won) all over the country. Here in Indianapolis, despite the privatizer backing and big money, two public school proponents won their bids for school board race in IPS. It was a true grassroots victory for a city where school board members have been bought by powerful DeVos-like interests for quite some time. We are winning.
Honestly, though, I haven’t felt that victorious, but here’s where I think that it’s appropriate that we are about to celebrate holidays that celebrate light in the midst of darkness.
It’s pretty dark in Indiana. But you all—and so many others—are the light. Candidates who worked non-stop this past year, speaking for our public schools and teachers and children living in poverty, who painted us a picture of what leadership could look like, what support for public education could be… people like Liz Watson, Penny Githens, Amy Swain and others, they may remind me of Don Quixote tilting at windmills—but how will we get anywhere if we don’t have the vision, the energy, the imagination or models to follow? They and the thousands of people who worked with them on their campaigns are bright lights in the darkness. Our lawyer friends Alex Tanford and Bill Groth who helped us try to take down a piece of the law that seemed an egregious breach of separation of church and state with the authorization of Seven Oaks—they are also our windmill tilters—pro bono but for the good of all. We are thankful for their light and the attempt to lift the rock and expose some creepy crawlies there. Then there are also our writers: People like Ray Golarz and Dale Glenn and others… who write to the newspaper or on our blog--and remind us of the beauty and promise of what public schools and teachers do every day: they are lights for us in this darkness. My friends at ICPE who work tirelessly for no money at all, keeping on top of the legislation and the news, creating the infographics and posters, keeping us on task and moving forward, “herding cats” through board meetings, retreats and committee meetings—you all are the lights in a time of darkness. And there are the people who work tirelessly for our public schools like Dr. DeMuth, our superintendent, and school board members —who help ensure that our schools are supported in what they need. And the teachers—the miracle workers who, despite all of the many things that weigh down this profession in our current time in history—rise above it all and find the joy and the love made visible through their work with our children. Lastly, the children themselves—any of us who spend time in their presence, we know that they are the brightest lights and it is our job to ensure that we are not too tired or too down to enable them to shine fully. It is our job to continue this work, to create a better world, so that they will shine.
Speaker Bosma has signaled that state funding for our K-12 students could be a disaster this year, the lowest since the Great Recession.
Public school advocates need to start talking to legislators now to prevent a budget debacle.
Speaker Bosma dashed prospects for an improved state budget for our K-12 students when, as the Indianapolis Star reported on 11-21-18 (p.2A): “Bosma said lawmakers may have as little as $50 million left in new money to distribute.”
He said the Department of Child Services “will require a $270 million a year increase from their current budgeted line” out of the “$350 million in new revenues” the state is anticipating.
Speaker Bosma is not even saying the $50 million available will all go for K-12 funding, but let’s assume it does. Where does that put funding for our K-12 public school students?
Study the table below to see the history of funding increases in the past six budgets:
INDIANA SCHOOL FUNDING INCREASES FOR THE PAST SIX BUDGETS
Source: The summary cover page from the General Assembly’s School Formulas for each budget
Prepared by Dr. Vic Smith, 12-2-18
When the school funding formulas are passed every two years by the General Assembly, legislators see the bottom line percentage increases on a summary page. Figures that have appeared on this summary are listed below for the last six budgets that I have personally observed as they were approved by the legislature.
Total funding and percentage increases were taken directly from the School Funding Formula summary page. Sometimes in the first year of two budget years, the previous budget amount was not fully spent and the adjusted lowered base was used by the General Assembly to calculate the percentage increase.
Three Projections for K-12 tuition support as the next line in the table:
Public school advocates need to go to work to speak up for a better budget than Speaker Bosma wants.
These figures show the crisis at hand if Speaker Bosma’s plan goes through to max out K-12 funding increases at $50 million.
Surely in the best economy we have had in over a decade, the parents of over 1 million K-12 students would be angry if the education of their children is shortchanged by an outrageously low budget.
Talk to or send messages to your legislators in the House or Senate now before they return to begin the long session on January 3, 2019. Everyone’s help is needed to restore a high priority to funding for our K-12 students.
Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.
Our lobbyist Joel Hand represented ICPE extremely well during the 2018 session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!
Our Annual Review
Another busy year has come and gone! As always, we are so grateful for our members! This year we are proud to say that we have had a record number of dues-paying members. Some of you have generously contributed your time and/or money; some of you have attended a program or written a letter to your elected officials; others of you donated quite a bit of time helping political candidates who support public schools. Whatever you have done to help in any small or large way, we are just so happy to have you with us fighting to keep education public!
How We Spent the Annual Membership Fees
Each year, we carefully spend the funds we obtain through membership fees and general donations. Here is how we spent your contributions between August 2017 and October 2018. Please keep in mind that $25 of every combined state/local membership goes to the state level ICPE to support them and our lobbyist, Joel Hand. He is our voice at the statehouse.
This Past Year’s Accomplishments
Here’s a quick review of this past year’s accomplishments. Click on the month to see our highlights!
We hosted a forum on special education and had a diverse panel that included a parent, teacher, clinical professor, program specialist, and special education law expert. The panel covered topics such as how to advocate for your child, how proposed policy may hurt students, and the importance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Along with MCCSC, we co-sponsored a conversation with Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. She discussed the new graduation requirements, celebrated the diversity of public schools in Indiana, and addressed questions about teacher shortages and the financial stability of districts, among other pressing topics.
We gathered together at our co-founder Roger Fierst’s beautiful B&B, the Showers Inn, to kick off the holidays and celebrate our group and our advocacy efforts.
ICPE-Monroe County members started a petition to encourage legislators to hear a bill to eliminate textbook fees. Over 7,200 people signed statewide. It drew the attention of the press; the petition was featured in a few news articles statewide and Keri and Jenny were interviewed for Indy channel RTV6 news.
Cathy participated on a panel in Columbus, Indiana about education policy. We made some contacts there with people who are interested in starting their own ICPE chapter. She also spoke in Muncie on behalf of the state ICPE about the attack on public education. A group of citizens there are also interested in starting their own chapter. (link to the talk)
In addition, members joined the annual Rally for Public Education at the Statehouse on President’s Day. Cathy spoke on democracy.
Several of our board members worked amazingly hard to bring a screening of Backpack Full of Cash to our community on March 1st. This documentary examines the harm done to public schools by policies that support “money following the child” right out of the public schools into private hands—through charters and vouchers. Showing this movie helped make more people aware of our fight for public schools, but also helped folks learn about our group and what we do. Special thanks to our sponsors and to the ICPE members who really made this happen! We raised some money and awareness.
In April we held an all-member meeting at the library, "Taking Action: How to Protect Our Public Schools," and saw some new faces there. This meeting served as a follow-up conversation to the movie in March. Hosted by Cathy and moderated by Deb, we broke up into groups and discussed topics from the film such as “What do you see as the impact of charter schools on your local public schools?” and “Where do you have influence to support public education?” Great conversations were had and lots of ideas were shared by a diverse group of participants: educators, retired educators, public school parents, charter school parents, and grandparents.
April also kicked off our annual Farmers’ Market booth that wrapped up in November. We are so grateful for Nancy and Peg Smith and all of the many volunteers who have helped answer questions and provide information about the state of public education in Indiana, most especially during election season.
At the end of the month, Molly Stewart of Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy presented the voucher program transparency index the center has been working on to our group. It was fascinating to learn how transparency differs state-by-state and that Indiana does not require audits of the schools receiving vouchers to ensure that the voucher is being used on public education.
In May, state legislators met in a special session to vote add necessary funding to the K-12 budget (it was deficient because they had underestimated the number of students who would be attending public schools). In addition, they passed HB1315, a dangerous bill which ICPE—at the state level as well as our local group—had been working hard to defeat. While we were fortunate that the legislature fixed the funding error (although the budget is still woefully smaller than it should be), we were sorry to see HB1315 pass. As a result, the Muncie school district was taken over by Ball State and their school board is no longer elected. In addition, the district will not have to follow all the laws that other public schools must follow across the state. The district now only has to follow 29 laws, 8 more than charter schools. To quote, Vic Smith, ultimately “HB1315 undermines Article 8 of the Indiana Constitution, which says the General Assembly has a duty ‘to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition will be without charge and equally open to all.’ It is no longer a ‘general and uniform system’ if all public school districts must follow hundreds of education laws except for Muncie which must only follow 29.”
We hosted a full-day member retreat. In the morning, board members reviewed the mission and vision statements. Then other members joined the board for lunch and took a deeper dive into shaping the future direction of our organization. From the retreat, we secured an improved mission and vision statement, as well as the creation of two new committees: an endorsement committee (our first time endorsing candidates based on their public education support) and a presentation committee.
In addition, we published a blog post about ads for the Indiana Virtual School that were targeting parents on Facebook. We also examined the large marketing budgets some charter schools have, such as the Indiana Agriculture & Technology School, with a whopping $148K budget for marketing alone.
In July, our members marched with the Reverse Citizens United float in Bloomington’s 4th of July parade. Bob Arnove and the Robinson family represented ICPE—and our members Tara and Rob Deppert with son Chandler were there on behalf of Democracy for Monroe County, while RCU organizer Susan Davis, an ICPE member as well, walked twice the length of the parade spraying other marchers down with water in the heat. Other organizations helping with the float included the League of Women Voters, the Limestone Post, Planned Parenthood, and CWA Local 4730. Raising awareness about money in politics and privatizing our common good is essential to our fight.
Members attended the state-level annual ICPE meeting at the end of August. Legislators Joe Donnelly and Matt Pierce presented as well as State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. ICPE (state level) also released the Legislative Report Card, which gives grades to state legislators based on the way they vote on specific education bills that hurt or benefit public education.
Our members dove deep into election season. We hosted a political candidate forum as well as two school board forums (MCCSC and RBB).
In addition, we learned with sadness and indignation that our lawsuit was dismissed by Indiana Southern District Court Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson. Our legal team was stunned how fast it was dismissed as were our members. In October, the board voted to not seek an appeal based on information provided by our legal team. We are incredibly grateful for the hard work of our pro bono legal team: Alex Tanford, Janet Stravopoulos, and Bill Groth. You can read more about the lawsuit here.
We released our first-ever endorsement choices in October. The committee created criteria and conducted research to find the most public education–supportive candidates. We also released a local version of the state’s report card for legislators.
The presentation committee has been meeting for well over a month and has been carefully crafting a set of slides to help members with presentations to raise awareness in our community.
We were fortunate to co-sponsor the First Thursday Nikole Hannah-Jones event at the Buskirk-Chumley, organized by the College Arts and Humanities Institute at Indiana University. Hannah-Jones’ presentation was titled, "Understanding School Equality and Modern Day Segregation.
We grieve the loss of members Ann Heath who died in February and Victor Harnack who passed away in April. They made a lasting impact on our group through their activism and passion.
We were also sorry to say goodbye to our friend Jennifer Livesay as she and her family have moved to Ithaca, New York. Jennifer was a member of ICPE-Monroe County since its inception and we are all the better for her help! We miss her!
Unfortunately, this past election in Indiana, not without a few wins for public education, still produced a supermajority supporting the privatization of public education. We don't yet know what the upcoming session will hold for our teachers and public schools, but it is a budget year and that means we need to push for funding. Indiana's teachers are some of the lowest paid teachers in the nation. The governor has said that he is not interested in giving our schools more funding and is considering taking away the (ridiculous) "bonuses" for "effective/very effective teachers" and giving it to them in the form of a tax credit for their out-of-pocket school expenses. With the cost of living going up, and teacher pay not rising, this is an absurd suggestion. Stay tuned.
WE NEED YOU
Board elections will occur on Sunday, January 13, 2019. We hope to see you there as everyone is able to vote on these positions. We also hope you will consider volunteering for a position. Our meetings will be switching to once a month on a Sunday afternoon in hopes of roping more of you in! All are welcome. We are hoping to start a newsletter to better inform our members. When the long legislative session begins, we’d like to get together some letter writers to make a concerted effort to raise awareness and protect public education from further attacks and have folks who might be willing to follow the bills. We will be hosting forums (fora) and a movie this upcoming year. We always need volunteers to help with the table at the Farmers' Market as well as other committees. If you have ideas or passions that you’d like to focus on, please reach out. If you can spare some money, please send it our way! Whatever you can contribute—whether it's time, expertise, a financial contribution, or spreading the word to friends—we really need your help. You can renew or join here, or just reach out to get in touch. The greater our membership, the more we can do.
Here’s to another active year!