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!