We are so grateful for all of our 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. Whatever you have done to help in any small or large way, we are just so happy to have you with us!
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 2016 and July 2017. 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.
Here’s a quick review of what we accomplished last year.
We Engaged Voters on the Issues
Each year we depend on our volunteers to take an hour or two at the Farmers' Market all season long to staff our ICPE booth--highlighting issues and enabling us to have conversations with our community. We also host a table at the Children’s Expo where we had discussions with local parents about the strength and importance of our public schools! From protesting ALEC in Indianapolis to our August 2016 showing of the movie “Go Public” for discussion, from our September forum for state legislative candidates, to our report card for state legislators, we have continued to do our best to raise awareness and inform the public about the work our schools do, and how our representatives think and vote on issues like privatization, charters and vouchers, school grades, and standardized testing. Our lovely “Beyond the Test Score—the Value of Music in Schools” forum last fall featured an eloquent panel of music educators and highlighted the beauty of just one aspect of a well-rounded education. Focusing on the positive helped us remind voters that the depth and breadth of programming in our schools is dependent on funding and their votes.
We Helped Organize the MCCSC Referendum Campaign
Last fall we poured our time, energy, and money into the referendum campaign for the Monroe County Community School Corporation. ICPE-Monroe County board members served as the volunteer coordinators for the effort to renew the local property tax that pays for many teachers and school programs. Our members helped staff the “Yes for MCCSC” office, donated, canvassed, called voters, and stood at the polls to ensure that our schools would continue to receive this essential revenue for the next six years. Monroe County voters supported our schools overwhelmingly, with 81% voting “yes.” Go team!
We Resisted the Trump/DeVos Education Agenda
After November’s election, many of us felt despair at the losses for public education. But when we heard that Betsy DeVos was nominated, we got to work. We fought the nomination in early 2017 with numerous calls to senators and conversations with their beleaguered staffers. When the public wanted to know what DeVos stood for, groups like ours, who have been fighting her agenda for years, were able to inform the country. The widespread outrage at her nomination showed us that our messages resonate. Public schools have a mission and responsibility to serve all children; public schools are at the core of our communities; public dollars belong in public schools. In February, we joined public education advocates from all over the state to rally for public education at the statehouse, a gathering sponsored by state-level ICPE. Our chair, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, spoke to hundreds about public education’s role in “Defending Democracy.”
We Collaborated with Local Institutions and Organizations
As we have become more of a presence in our local community, we’ve enjoyed combining efforts with other groups. In January, we put together a workshop called “Defending Public Schools” for the Inaugurate the Revolution day of activism in conjunction with some faculty from Indiana University. Also in conjunction with IU’s School of Education, last spring we participated with the Social Foundations of Education program in a semester-long series on “What is Public Education and Why Does it Matter?” At the end of the semester, we partnered with Harmony-Meier Institute to honor one of our founders, Ellen Brantlinger, in two events, “Community Conversations about Democracy and Our Schools with Deborah Meier” and “A Public Conversation about Public Education.” In addition, our chair, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, was invited to speak at Democracy for Monroe County’s link-up, “Saving Our Public Schools.”
We Filed a Lawsuit Challenging the Constitutionality of Seven Oaks’ Authorization by Grace College
In April of this year, we filed a lawsuit against the state and Seven Oaks Classical School, a charter school in Ellettsville. That the state grants a religious institution, Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, the authority to decide how to use our public tax dollars is deeply concerning to us as an organization. We are fortunate to have attorneys Alex Tanford and Bill Groth working on this suit on our behalf, pro bono. Last June we culminated a semester-long effort of informing the public with a meeting “Children Before Profits: Fighting the DeVos Education Agenda” in which Mr. Tanford spoke to our group about the lawsuit. Many people were shocked to learn that the authorizing institution (in this case Grace College and Seminary) gets 3% of the public funds received by the charter school.
We recently heard a presentation from Molly Stewart of the Center for the Evaluation of Educational Policy (CEEP) about ESAs (Education Savings Accounts). ESAs are like vouchers on steroids: parents withdraw public funds for any educational service and there is essentially no oversight. For special needs students, the parent waives the child’s rights under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to receive a voucher. The bill which would establish this debit-card education policy in Indiana was withdrawn last legislative session. We fully expect to see it rear its ugly head sometime soon. Stay tuned for a program that will inform us further.
WE NEED YOU
Our committee for programs has been working on some ideas for this fall and next semester. We hope to put together a forum for late October or early November. We’re looking at another thought-provoking film on education that would make for interesting discussion. When the short 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 (like ESAs). And we always need volunteers to help with the table at the Farmers' Market. If you have ideas or passions that you’d like to focus on, please reach out. If you can spare some $, please send it our way! Whatever you can contribute--whether it's time, expertise, money, 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!
P.S. If you have already renewed for the membership year that runs July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, many thanks! If you joined in June or later, your membership applies to this coming year. If you are uncertain about your membership status, our wonderful treasurer Judy Maki will be glad to answer any of your questions. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.