2020 began as an ordinary year for us. We were watching education legislation, writing postcards to our representatives, working on scheduling an event, and holding our meetings. And then, of course, everything changed.
What We Accomplished
Now we can divide the year into a clear “before” and “after.” In the before—that stretch of time from January through early March—we met in person. We held a well-attended event about the struggle for school desegregation with historian Elizabeth Mitchell and education professor Stephanie Power-Carter at the site of Bloomington's first segregated school. A friend opened her house to us on a few Sundays so that we could write letters to legislators together. And some members attended the annual Rally at the Statehouse on President's Day.
In mid-March, that all changed, and like everyone else, we had to approach our work very differently. We met on Zoom and tried to get our bearings. And we did. We accomplished a lot in 2020—despite having a chair who was obsessively checking covid numbers every night.
ICPE–Monroe County members worked on several creative and collaborative projects this past year.
In the summer, our membership committee of Peg Smith, Wendy Marencik, and Janet Stake conducted a thorough and successful membership drive. We also collected donations for our “Vote for Public Education” yard signs. Keri Miksza designed them and drove them throughout the state. Proceeds went to public education candidates through the state ICPE PAC.
In July, we issued a call for metrics around reopening schools during the pandemic. This was cosigned by other ICPE groups and the Washington Township Parent Network. We certainly can’t take credit for this, but several weeks later the Indiana Department of Health did introduce its county metrics map and somewhat more specific guidelines for schools in different phases of virus spread.
As we geared up for the election in the fall, our member Heather Hundley organized phone banking for public education candidates.
In September, Bob Arnove and Debbie Fish participated on a panel about assessment organized by Democracy for Monroe County. And, with the gracious help of Sofia McDowell and Democracy for Monroe County, we hosted two school board forums, one for Richland Bean Blossom, and one for MCCSC.
In October, Keri and I presented at the Monroe County Children’s Summit sponsored by Building a Thriving Compassionate Community. Our topic was school funding and the importance of investing in our public schools. This session was recorded and is available for viewing on the BTCC website.
Lastly, in early December, we were able to hear from our outgoing state senator Mark Stoops and our incoming state senator Shelli Yoder about what we might expect in this upcoming session.
How We Spent Your Annual Membership Fees and Donations
Membership fees and general donations provide essential support for our efforts. Here is how we spent your contributions last year. 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. Joel attends education committee meetings at the Statehouse, gives testimony representing ICPE’s positions, and learns what bills may be headed our way.
This year, even though we spent most of the year operating remotely via Zoom, we did decide to put large chunks of our funds towards things we believed in. We brought in $2861, which was $739 shy of our goal of $3,600. While no one wants to be short a financial goal, it was a pandemic year. In total we spent $3,393 this year, pulling funds from our cash reserves to help make ends meet.
Special Thanks and Going Forward
In closing, thank you to all our members for supporting our work for public schools. Special thanks are owed to my fellow officers, Pam Bessler, Nancy Goswami, and Keri Miksza. Pam as our treasurer does the careful and meticulous work of keeping track of our budget, income, and expenditures. Nancy stepped up and took on the crucial role of secretary when we needed to fill it. And Keri has about twenty hats—among them, researcher, designer, data cruncher, maintainer of social media, writer, and builder of relationships.
2020 was also a year of change: Three of our long-time board members left our board during the course of this year: Charlie Savage, Janet Stake, and Debbie Fish. Also, Byron Turner decided to step back from the board after serving through December 2020. Each of them has given so much to this organization over the years and I cannot begin to thank them for all their time, creativity, and knowledge. Please thank them when you see them, either in the material or the virtual world. Lastly, I am thrilled that our amazing Keri Miksza is taking over as chair. Volunteer if you can—Keri will put you to work!
Here's to a healthy 2021.
Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County (ICPE–Monroe County) advocates for all children to have high quality, equitable, well-funded schools that are subject to democratic oversight by their communities.
We are a nonpartisan and nonprofit group of parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, and other community members of Monroe County and surrounding areas.
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.