This blog post was written by ICPE-Monroe County's former chairperson, currently ICPE state board member & MCCSC board member, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer
An aspect of public education that often flies under the radar and, yet, is very much under attack, is adult education. Despite a rather small shoestring budget, Indiana (and, even more so, Monroe County) is able to provide a highly successful program for adult learners--meeting academic and personal needs, graduating adults with diplomas, equivalencies and/or job or career training. Despite a graduation rate of around 74% (cohort, according to the data provided by MCCSC), we have another adult education, privately run, coming to town: the Goodwill Excel Center.
I was contacted last December by a friend who was on the Indiana Charter School Board asking what MCCSC felt about the Goodwill Excel Center coming to Monroe County with their adult education "high school." Weren't we concerned or upset?
I had no idea that it was coming up for approval. I had heard earlier (maybe even a year earlier) that this was a center coming to help with students/adults who had not finished high school, had addiction issues, had been in prison, and that Goodwill could provide wraparound services for them. I (wrongly) assumed that there would be a public announcement of a public hearing regarding this new charter school-- in which our community could weigh in on whether we would like to spread resources thinner on another adult education/career training center competing with our own.
Then in this past legislative session, a friend in Indianapolis told me about the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Indiana, Kent Kramer, testifying before the subcommittee on school funding this past March in which he said that Monroe County was excited to have them come to our area. I went and watched it (You can watch it around the 50 minute mark here: iga.in.gov/information/archives/2019/video/committee_school_funding_subcommittee/).
Mr. Kramer said he had waitlists for his program at every Excel Center. He was asking the legislature for approval for 300 new seats so that they could open in Bloomington. He said, "Monroe County is an example we’ve identified a school that could support 300 students. We know fairly early on there will be a waiting list once that opportunity is provided in the community.”
Senator Melton asked him: “How do you determine that there’s going to be a waiting list before…”
Mr. Kramer interrupts, “Because it’s based on numbers. 14,000 adults that don’t have a high school diploma. And it’s based off of 9 years of going into new communities here. This model has been replicated in 6 other states now. We’ve got a history of what happens. When we opened the first one, there were 300 seats and within 6 months we had 2000 on our waiting list.”
I was really surprised by this conversation because I had only heard from a couple of community leaders about one big meeting in which Cook, Inc. here in town, had invited people to tell them about how great Excel Centers were. I hadn't seen any of the decision-making process.
Cook has been working with our schools in a very supportive way for some time. Our adult education program partners with Cook for a program called My Cook Pathway in which we help adult learners receive their high school equivalency (HSE, the new name for a GED) and Cook hires them.
We have the Hoosier Hills Career Center here in Monroe County which serves multiple counties and provides adults and youth with career and tech training and a number of pathways into the workforce, not to mention helping them become creative, critical thinking members of our community.
We are a fortunate community to have these public school programs meeting the needs of all learners, young and old.
Yet, the state legislature has created a separate source of funding for the Excel Centers in which they receive close to $7000 per student, while public adult education programs receive about $800. Despite these major disparities, our students receive quality instruction and our adult education graduation rates are excellent. We graduate 74% of our graduation cohort. Excel Centers cohort graduation rates range from 7% to 35% of their cohort.
When I spoke to a friend in Indianapolis who works in adult education, she told me that the Excel Centers tell the public that employers don't want HSE certificates (GEDs), but rather, they prefer Core 40 Diplomas. So, Goodwill's Excel Centers provide instruction in those and not HSEs. According to one woman I spoke with (not at an Excel Center), they will take students who already have HSEs and give them coursework to get another high school education...of a Core 40 diploma. It puzzled me.
We held a work session in March in which we could discuss Excel and our own public education offerings with Cook's CEO, Mr. Pete Yonkman as well as Mr. Dan Peterson. They wanted to bring to town a service center in which low skill or simple jobs would be provided. I think it's like, if you are a company and you need some work done, you can ask it to be done at this center? I'm not sure.
You can watch that session back here:
Before we came to the meeting, I decided to look into the situation. I called several Excel Centers and asked them about what they offered. I also asked if they had waitlists. No one had a wait list. The thing I thought sounded best was that they provided what they called daycare. They also said that they market to the community through block parties and ads and such. They had big mailers and advertisements. They went door to door in some communities to get students. Clearly there's money for marketing in a way that our public program can't provide. When I asked about the differences between Goodwill's Excel Center and the public adult education center, the woman at Excel said, "They do a GED and we do a high school diploma." She said that they offer Algebra 2 and Geometry. They do this by accelerating some classes to be 3 hours long, 4 days a week. She said, "That’s how they get all that you do in a semester. Last year the pathways changed.. so now they don’t need an ECA (end of course assessment/test) completion. Now they use the work-based project."
Then I called the public adult education or career centers in the area of Excel centers to see if having Excel there was helpful or harmful to their programs and offerings. Everyone said it was harmful. The trouble is, when we lose students, we lose precious funding. Excel Centers can market and advertise. Some adult ed centers questioned numbers and how one can get a 4 year high school Core 40 diploma in a matter of months. They talked about concerns with graduation rates.
During the work session, I raised these concerns. Ms. Christi McBride of our Hoosier Hills Career Center asked whether Cook/Goodwill would be willing to allow MCCSC to continue to do the adult education program as well as the technical training and certifications that HHCC offers, and just bring their career services center to town in order to provide those needed, low-skill manufacturing (?) jobs. They pretty much responded that it was all a package deal. But today in the paper it says that they don't necessarily need to be. So, clearly they wanted both.
After the rather contentious (and maybe I could have been more tactful?) work session, a few of us (Sue Wanzer, Dr. DeMuth, Mr. Rob Moore and Christi McBride) went to visit an Excel center in Decatur Township to check it out. Their superintendent essentially gave Goodwill the space for the center because their public schools were not doing adult education and it sounded good to them to have this company do it.
We saw classrooms and we met lots of nice people. That's the thing, it's not like people who work in this or other charter schools are not nice or competent or doing good work--although this record doesn't look good compared to our own---it's about a model of private... siphoning away from the public.
The day care was not really day care. But it's nice to provide a place for children of students. When we asked about what Path to Quality (Indiana's rating system for early childhood care), they said that, because the parents of the children are in the building, they don't have to be on that path. It's more like when you go to church and you leave kids in the nursery. Kind-of babysitting. Certainly not child care by the true sense of the word.
Nevertheless, we met some students who sang the praises of the program and some of the instructors in it. One man was grateful for being able to have someone watch his daughter. Another woman arrived in August (or September) and had had no credits with her... and she was already graduated with her Core 40 diploma and it was April! How can this be? All of high school math through Algebra 2?
Anyway, we met with the CEO of Goodwill and we explained that we already had an excellent Adult Ed. program and career center. We were concerned about losing the funding that would come with the loss of students and we were upset at the duplication of services. There wasn't really any resolution that I could tell. It was a voicing of concerns and we also spoke to the process and how we had not been involved in any decision making about whether or not Excel came to our county.
Excel is coming. Unlike other charter schools that have tried (and sometimes succeeded) to be established here in town, there was no public notice for a public hearing. There was no information given to the general public in which we could weigh in and say whether or not we thought this would be a good idea here in an area which already has much of this provided to our adult learners.
It grates on my nerves that the state legislature has created this competition for precious resources instead of a doubling down of efforts to help our public schools serve all students by providing the needed funding. It makes me angry that they prioritize the private at the expense of the public. Why should Goodwill receive $7000 per student while we get $800? Why do we not support the public schools that are already achieving on a shoe-string budget? Imagine what we could provide with that kind of money! We could maybe afford real day care and extended hours beyond what we have. We could maybe afford transportation beyond the bus passes we give and ways we help our adult learners get to school.
In the work session, we were reassured by Mr. Yonkman and Mr. Petersen that there was room enough in our area for both programs. But now the "My Cook Pathway" has been pulled from MCCSC and, presumably, will go to Excel instead of our adult education program. It should be that we can work together to provide the services and education that will make our community strong. I wonder why this program (Excel) could not be established in areas that do not have the resources that we have here. Why not some of these counties and rural areas where people are unable to get to such programs?
I hope that we will continue to partner with Cook in the many other ways that they help and support our public schools. They have been lovely partners for our public schools in so very many ways. I do hope that Excel becomes a good neighbor and is a responsible source of education and support services. I wonder what accountability there is, however, now that they are already coming.
But mostly, I hope our community will recognize the vital importance of public education and the need to keep public dollars in our common public schools, open to all, for the benefit of all.
Several years ago, many Monroe County residents, including many members of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County, wrote letters and spoke against a proposed charter school at three public hearings in three separate application cycles. Despite our efforts, charter authorizer Grace College and Seminary, of Winona Lake, Indiana, granted a charter to Seven Oaks Classical School in Monroe County in January 2016.
In April 2017, with the generous help of pro bono lawyers, our group sued the state of Indiana in federal court over its practice of delegating authority to religious entities (in this case, charter authorizer Grace College and Seminary) for the spending of public money. We felt, and continue to feel, that having a religious college able to decide how public funds were spent in our community violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. We also objected to Grace College as a religious entity collecting up to 3% of the tuition support going to the schools it authorizes, as charter authorizers are entitled by law to do.
In addition to state entities (the state superintendent and the head of the Indiana Charter School Board), our lawsuit initially named local charter school Seven Oaks Classical School. Seven Oaks asked to be dropped from the suit; we agreed, but then Seven Oaks reversed course and intervened.
Our case was never heard on its merits. The judge assigned to our case decided this past fall that we did not have standing to bring the case. (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of standing: it “is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case.”) At the time we filed suit, our group included parents of students in the Monroe County Community School Corporation and Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation; teachers in both school corporations; and community members who were neither parents nor teachers, but who were invested in the health of our public schools.
After the judge’s decision, we considered filing an appeal. This appeal would have gone to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. If the 7th Circuit disagreed with the local judge, she would be asked to consider the merits of our case; if she ruled against us on that, we could appeal again. This process could stretch out over five or six years, and at every stage, there would be expenses for filing and printing, even though our lawyers were donating their considerable time.
On the recommendation of our lawyers, based in part on the judge’s wording of her decision, our board decided not to pursue an appeal, but to channel the energy and funds in our organization in other directions.
The state of Indiana has now asked the judge to require us to reimburse the state for its costs in the suit, $1,491, and the judge has agreed. One of our lawyers says this is a highly unusual move for a constitutional challenge such as ours. Our group’s funds are contributed by our members, overwhelmingly Monroe County residents, to support advocacy for public education—and the state is taking those funds to pay for its defense of privatizing decisions about public money. Something is wrong with this picture. We will pay, but we will not be deterred. If you believe in the principles we are fighting for and would like to contribute to the lawsuit charges from the state, we have set up a DonorBox page: https://donorbox.org/help-us-pay-for-our-lawsuit. If you prefer U.S. mail, our address is P.O. Box 5056, Bloomington, IN 47407.
On behalf of our board, I want to thank all of our members for their support of us as we launched our lawsuit. We are deeply grateful to Alex Tanford, Bill Groth, and Janet Stavropoulos, the legal team who donated their expertise and time to our cause.
In the long run, we will only be successful in the courts if we are successful in the court of public opinion. We know that throughout Indiana, conservative and liberal residents value their public schools. Public schools are the heart of rural and urban communities. They have historically been important employers who provide stable middle-class jobs (though with years of underfunding, that status is under threat). They are where we care for and educate our children and they are legally obligated to educate all kids regardless of family income, religion, ability, or race. The quality of our public schools cannot be separated from the resources we invest in them, or from the prospects for Indiana’s future. Will our state continue to undermine its public education infrastructure?
Moving forward, we are working on outreach to local community groups (Cathy spoke to the Rotary Club Tuesday, April 16) to show how Indiana’s education policies are affecting our school system. We are at the Farmers’ Market. We are planning a regular book club/social hour. We are beginning to plan a summer movie/event and a membership drive. In all of this, we can use your help—your membership, your passion, and your knowledge. Membership alone is so valuable. If you have time as well, can you take an hour to stand at the market, come to a book club meeting or one of our business meetings, connect us with a group that may be interested in our presentation, or help us organize an event? Our power is people power—ordinary people talking to their neighbors and friends, examining information, and showing up for what we value.
Chair, Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County
Speech given by Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer
Location: Rotary Club in Bloomington
Thank you for having me here today.
I first got involved in advocating for public schools in 2010 when the state had just slashed $300 million from the public education budget and we here locally had to put a referendum on the ballot--working hard to bring back teachers & programs that had been cut. I had four children in MCCSC at that time and so, when asked to represent one of my kids’ schools, I agreed to go to a meeting about the referendum and wound up being a canvassing coordinator for the campaign. That referendum campaign of 2010 was a beautiful community effort—people from all walks of life came together in whatever way they could, to restore funding for our local public schools. We were very successful and much of what we are able to offer our students in MCCSC today is thanks to that effort and the generosity of the community and the continued referendum dollars.
Why did people, many of whom did not have children in the schools, work for and vote for giving this funding to our community schools? This is important to think about. Maybe it’s because people recognized that great public schools help make this area a great place to live. Maybe some people recognized that vibrant public schools also help improve home values and real estate healthy. I’m sure many either work or have a spouse, neighbor, relative , child working for the public schools. Our public schools are big employers in our communities. Or maybe people just recognized that all children should have the right to a great education.
As a parent, I have seen firsthand how four very different individuals have benefited from a well-resourced school system. My oldest went from being too shy to hardly talk to a kid in the marching band, to being given two leadership awards at the end of his senior year. My next child, the one who struggled with his emotions and temper in middle school, got through that time thanks to patient teachers and principals who understood adolescent behavior—and he is graduating with honors from IU next month. My daughter loved the peer tutoring class where she worked with kids in the self-contained special education classroom. She loved feeling helpful and every day she looked forward to being with the friends she made there. My middle schooler is a book worm thanks to his elementary school librarian who Skyped with authors and encouraged the love of reading.
I tell you these stories to illustrate the depth and richness of the educational experience for my kids because it is reflective of what all kids should have access to in our public school system in Indiana. Every child should have access to the extracurriculars like marching band; every child should have certified licensed, experienced teachers who understand child development; every child should be in an integrated setting and learn from others who are different than they are; every child should have a school librarian with a well-resourced library. Sadly, this is not always the case. Where my kids have benefited from a teacher librarian at their schools, our neighbors in surrounding districts only have the state-mandated one librarian to the entire school district. Other neighboring schools have just one social worker to share between two small rural school districts. There are schools that are crumbling in Indiana and others are not able to afford enough nurses. We have large disparities with what our public schools are able to offer to children from town to town…and it’s growing. The funding for our community public schools has not kept up with inflation in Indiana and we are feeling the effects. While the urgency around supporting public schools in our area may not be felt as keenly as it was back in 2010, the need to support our public schools is no less urgent now and the threat is continuing to grow.
This is because, following the $300 million budget cuts felt in 2010—(money which the legislature, I must add, despite sitting on a surplus of over $2 billion dollars, has never put back) …a set of bills was passed in 2011 that dramatically changed the teaching and learning environment in Indiana. Our Indiana legislature adopted the educational reform policies of charter schools, vouchers for private schools, and high stakes testing. They all came to the forefront of educational policy all at once under Governor Mitch Daniels and then state superintendent Tony Bennett. Pointing to public education’s so-called failure as justification, these measures of the “money following the child” or “school choice” created the situation we find ourselves in today of competing for dollars and resources, with tests used as the stick and carrot to control what goes on inside our schools.
It was in response to these reforms, that the Indiana Coalition for Public Education was formed at the state level in 2011. Recognizing the threat to the funding stability of public schools, a group of retired educators and community members organized together to fight for the funding and to inform the community. Several months later, we formed our group, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County. Some of our first founders were retired educators, many of whom some of you would recognize: Harmon Baldwin, Mike Walsh, Ron Jensen, Phil and Joan Harris, Carl Zager, Ellen Brantlinger and Roger Fierst to name several. I had met many of these folks on the referendum campaign and was happy to come to learn as a parent and concerned citizen. Eventually, we brought more parents and community members in and our fledgling group grew as we worked to support our local public schools, inform the community about legislation that affects funding, and continue to try to empower our citizens to act and vote in support of public education.
We are a nonpartisan group because this is a nonpartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike have love their public schools. Republicans and Democrats alike have gotten behind some of these reforms like charters and high stakes testing. But we not nonpolitical. Politics is about our relationship to power and public education’s future is caught in a major power struggle.
In order to understand the threat to our public schools, it’s important to understand the major reform issues because they can be confusing.
Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country. A voucher goes to the student to attend a private, almost always religious school. It doesn’t always cover the cost and, unlike how they were sold to us in the beginning, more than half of voucher recipients have never set foot in public school and likely never intended to do so. You can make $90,000 for a family of four and still qualify for a partial voucher. Schools that accept vouchers do not have to accept all students. They can refuse to accept students who identify LGBTQ or whose family does. They can refuse students who have special educational needs or behavior problems, or who are often those with lower test scores. This is why the “school choice” policy really is about schools choosing and not the other way around. There is no auditing of their budgets required by law so most of it goes unchecked. Since their inception in 2011, we have spent well over half a billion tax dollars to vouchers. The trouble is also that the state legislature has no line item for this cost and has never added to the budget to offset the expense. It is like a hole in the overall bucket of our education funding and it is steadily draining out as it continues to expand.
Another way in which public funds have been redirected from public schools is through the expanding charter schools in our state. Charters are often referred to as “public” schools because they are publicly funded and free to families. But they are not accountable to the public through a publicly elected board. They have different requirements and do not have to adhere to all of the education laws that public schools do, including having licensed certified teachers. We also don’t get choices about whether they come to our town taking students and, thus, funding away from neighborhood public schools. They are approved or authorized by a number of different entities in Indiana, places like Ball State, the mayor’s office in Indianapolis, and even the religious institution Grace College and Seminary. Every authorizer then gets 3% of the per pupil state funding going to the charter school. Charters were originally begun in the 90s as a way to provide some innovation and cut some red tape in order to bring back cool practices and ideas to the whole of all public schools so that all might benefit. But now that is no longer the case. Charter schools remain separate school systems in and of themselves. Every time a child leaves the neighborhood public schools to go to a charter, his or her per pupil amount of state money goes with him or her—the money following the child.
Now, some charters are very good, some much worse, but as a whole, their performance generally shows them to be about the same as public schools. But charters require there to be someone in the child’s life looking for options, filling out forms for a waitlist, and providing transportation and often lunch. Sometimes they have mandatory parental volunteer hours. That means that the kids whose parents are working two jobs or who are in some of the most dire situations are not going to the charter schools. We also have to ask ourselves, do we want kids to have excellent public schools only if they win the lottery? Why are we destabilizing public community schools who lose funding and often engaged families to give a few kids a separate education? Do we have the money to fund separate systems of education adequately?
Virtual charter schools have been in the news lately as a glaring example of a lack of oversight. The online charter model has grown rapidly in Indiana such that there are now about 13,000 students statewide who login (or not) from home to go to school. Well, it turns out that last year, across 6 virtual charter schools, 2000students never earned a single credit of school despite being enrolled for nearly a year. That means $10 million went to educating students who never did any work or failed in every class. The state legislature is thinking about adding some accountability measures to these online schools and capping their funding at $80 million. One of the accountability factors they’ve been tossing around is requiring that all students actually live in Indiana because, apparently, that’s been a problem. Remember that bucket of money? This is another hole…
These are the schools you hear about when the legislature talks about “school choice” and creating a marketplace of competition for schools which they believe will create a better product. Remember: competition involves winners and losers. Do we really want a six year-old to be on the losing end of equal educational opportunity?
Public schools are succeeding. Our graduation rates are better than ever before. The opportunities we can provide to students are more diverse, exciting and interesting than ever before. Yet, it is the narrative of failing public schools and the need to quantify success that has brought about the third reform that has changed the overall climate and that is testing.
The state has changed the test so many times in the past decade that one can hardly keep track. This year they are rolling out a new test and I think they hope we parents will be pacified by the fact that it is no longer the ISTEP, they have renamed it the I-LEARN. It’s not really the test itself that most parents and teachers object to, it is the fact that high stakes are attached to it and that makes it become more of an emphasis.
It used to be that tests were used as a temperature check to just get an overall feel for where we were in education. But now testing is tied to punishment: things like the teacher’s pay, job security and evaluation, and the stigma of a letter grade on your school. Add to that the threat of a state takeover if you get four F’s in a row, and you have a pretty stressful situation.
Also: consider the fact that the highest correlated factor for a test score is the child’s family’s socioeconomic and educational background, and we can guess that the lowest grades will tell us more about the wealth of the students in that school than the effectiveness of teaching or quality of learning.
That’s not to say that kids in poverty can’t learn, but it is true that a child who was sleeping in his car last night is not as concerned with long division in the morning. Children do not learn in a vacuum. In fact, almost half of all children in public schools qualify for free and reduced lunch. These numbers are increasing. Children living in poverty need more resources. When we talk about the problem of public schools, we can pretty much guarantee it’s related to poverty. These kids come to us hungry or sick. They often deal with moving from place to place, violence, addiction, and all kinds of trauma. Success for these kids involves meeting their basic needs for safety and health so that they are ready to learn. Kids can’t eat tests.
But what happens when success is only seen as reflected by a score on math and reading? Well, if you’re not careful, many children can lose social studies, history, art and music, they lose time to play at recess and explore and do projects and put on plays and go on field trips. You create people who are wondering “what do I have to know for the test” and not interested in learning for learning’s sake. High test scores should be a by-product of excellent teaching—not its purpose. Most schools here are not solely fixated on tests. We have a community that expects us to educate the whole child. Other communities are not so lucky.
I know that as a parent I want far more than can be found on a test score. I want my children to be lifelong learners, curious, kind, to think outside of the box, to know how to express themselves and get along with others. The funny thing is, this is what the business community wants to.
When you look at the what the World Economic Forum came out with recently as the top skills they see as will be necessary in the workforce to thrive in the year 2020, their top ten list is:
1) Complex problem solving
2) Critical thinking
4) People management
5) Coordinating with others
6) Emotional intelligence
7) Judgement and decision making
8) Service orientation
10) Cognitive Flexibility
But instead of looking at these goals and going to decades of educational research and instead of listening to EDUCATORS THEMSELVES regarding how best to teach and enhance these skills, our legislature has taken it upon itself to assume that these things can be found on a test and has continuously sought to change the standards and pathways and tests and requirements to try to get us there, disrupting education continuity and frustrating kids, parents and teachers alike.
We need to stop and listen to our educators. They are the experts in education and they can get us there. There is a reason that teachers are leaving the profession. It’s not just that they are wildly underpaid in Indiana (we are dead last in the country for how much we’ve increased teacher salaries since 2002 and we are 35th in the nation for average of teacher pay), it is that increasingly the state has taken away the local control over what is taught in classroom and how and when it is taught…by mandating all kids to be on the same page at the same time developmentally with regard to test scores. Teachers are the professionals who know how children learn and when they learn and how to reach them. But we are not respecting them in pay, we are not listening to them. The state gives no money for teacher professional development to learn the latest practices, but they will, apparently, pay for them to be trained in firearms (a bill this session).
Consider the purpose of public education. Public schools were created so that kids could learn what they needed in order to be able to participate in our democracy. Not only does that mean they should be able to find what they are moved by and passionate about and good at in order to make a living and contribute to society, but they should also learn to get along with others who think differently, believe differently, look different than they do and respect and value those differences. We thought long ago about creating a system in which all children had an opportunity to learn and succeed. We worked as a country to ensure that that system of education was open not only to landowners, but the poor as well. We made sure it was also available to women, to people of color, to immigrants, and to the differently abled. It was about trying to ensure that all children had a equal chance at a piece of the pie. This is the promise of public education that, while never fulfilled, is deeply American.
Instead of a concern for the common good and a focus on ensuring that all of our public schools are supported, the narrative surrounding public schools has become about competition, free markets, and “my child, my choice, my tax dollars.”
Those tax dollars are put toward our common good. We don’t ask firefighters or police officers to compete for better services. We don’t take our tax dollar vouchers from the library because we want to buy our ownbooks. We don’t get a chunk of tax dollars to put towards a country club membership because we don’t want to use the public parks or pool. We recognize that there is great value in providing good roads, libraries, parks and services so that everyone can be better off and live in community with one another.
It’s not about just my children. It’s about all children. It’s about creating a world in which all children can succeed because the stronger they are, the healthier they are, the more able to create and produce and work and innovate and share---the better off we will all be.
Public education is a public good and a social, civic responsibility. We all benefit from its strength. The budget is being discussed right now. Ask your legislators to increase the foundational support for public schools to 3% annually for the next budget biennium to give all public schools a helping hand.
ICPE–Monroe County is volunteer run. We host a farmer’s market booth, put on forums for political candidates and forums about issues that surround public education—issues like testing, teaching, and literacy. We believe that our public schools are the heart of our community. We encourage you to learn more, volunteer for your local public schools and support them.
Our children depend on it.
The future of our country and our democracy does, too.
At a recent legislative update in Bloomington, a local GOP state representative downplayed the effect these bills would have. He said that guns are already allowed in Indiana schools if a school corporation okays it—that HB 1253 just ensures that any teacher carrying will have training. About HB 1643, which would allow guns on school grounds if the school is co-located with a church facility, he said it would be up to the school. We talked with Rachel Guglielmo, a leader with Moms Demand Action in Indiana, to get more information.
ICPE–Monroe County: How bad are the gun bills, HB 1253 and HB 1643?
Rachel Guglielmo: These bills are a big deal; they represent the latest steps in a steady march to dismantle existing gun safety regulations and protections; with these two bills, the aim is to remove or loosen prohibitions on guns in school settings. This week, the Senate also voted to advance a bill —HB 1284—that will expand Indiana’s existing “Stand Your Ground” legislation to provide civil immunity for people who claim they were shooting someone in self-defense.
[The legislator is] being disingenuous about the intent and impact of both of these bills. Right now, you CANNOT carry a gun onto school grounds, period, and where a church has a school attached to it, you cannot carry a gun anywhere on the premises. HB 1643 changes that—if it passes, the default setting will be that guns ARE permitted in church schools—even daycares—unless the church or school specifically prohibits this. And the burden will be on these churches and schools to enforce that prohibition. Much different. Big change.
Allowing public funds to provide handgun training for teachers (HB 1253) sends a message that this is an advisable/acceptable method for enhancing school security, which it is not. There is no evidence to support this policy, and quite a bit of evidence to show that arming teachers/school staff introduces significant safety risks rather than reducing them, which is why school safety experts and law enforcement—not to mention all state and national teachers' associations—oppose the policy.
HB 1253 now includes an amendment that will allow teachers to agree to be shot at with projectiles during active shooter drills.
Action people can take to oppose both bills: call or email Senator Rodric Bray, President pro Tempore of the Senate, and ask him to oppose all policies that introduce or incentivize guns into school settings.
Phone: 800-382-9467 or 317-232-9400
Legislative Assistant: Kayla Caviness, Phone: 317-232-9416, Email: Kayla.Caviness@iga.in.gov
P.S. This is a useful resource—it examines whether even armed resource guards are effective in stopping school shootings—let along teachers.