Our Year in Review: 2019
2019 was a year of leadership transition for us. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer stepped down as chair and Judy Maki stepped down as treasurer. In January, we voted in new officers: myself as chair, Keri Miksza as vice chair, Charlie Savage as secretary, and Pam Bessler as treasurer. In these new roles, we are buoyed by the support of our hardworking board. How fortunate we are to have this energetic team with deep and diverse experience in public education.
In June, Cathy became president of our state-level ICPE. We know the skill and vision she brings to advocacy and organization-building and are excited for the future.
How We Spent the Annual Membership Fees
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.
In addition, a large amount was spent on reimbursing the state for their costs in our lawsuit. Although we did not prevail, we are proud that we did challenge the law. We are deeply grateful to Alex Tanford, Bill Groth, and Janet Stavropoulos, the legal team who donated their expertise and time to our cause. Read more about the lawsuit.
Here’s a Quick Review of What We Accomplished Last Year
We Followed Legislation and Stayed Focused on the State Budget
The 2019 legislative session was a budget year—a year where the biennium budget for the next two years is set—and we called for substantial increases in public school funding. Despite our efforts, the budget bill gave increases of 10.3% to charters, 5.25% to virtual charters, 9.3% to vouchers, and just 2% to public schools (and 89 districts were projected to actually lose money).
Representative Behning wanted to require public school districts to share referendum dollars with charters (HB1641), but we participated in a strenuous, and for the time successful, resistance to that.
We Collaborated with Other Institutions and Organizations
In February, with MCCSC and the IU School of Education, we co-sponsored an evening with State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. In April, with the Community Committee on Educational Equity, we co-sponsored a screening of “America to Me”—a documentary about race in a big, diverse public high school in Chicago—followed by a compelling panel moderated by our board member Byron Turner. And we worked with Hoosier Action to urge voters to contact legislators about the budget to demand a 3% increase each year for public schools.
We Honed Our Message and Reached Out
In the winter and spring, our presentation committee met regularly to distill and organize our message, with the goal of producing a set of slides that we could use to present to groups in their own spaces. Cathy presented to the Rotary Club in the spring, and this past fall we visited many PTOs and several classes at IU. If you belong to a group that cares about children, education, and the common good, we would absolutely love to share the information that we have. Please let us know if your group would be interested.
In the summer, we showed the film Rise Above the Mark at the Buskirk-Chumley, followed by a panel that included producer Dr. Rocky Killion, Brown County Schools superintendent Laura Hammack, retired teacher Kathy Fox, and Indianapolis activist Charity Scott.
Our friendly volunteers at the Children’s Expo (one day) and at the Farmers’ Market (all season) were always eager to have conversations about public schools. Many thanks to those who took time out of busy schedules to staff our table.
Keri Miksza designed Vote for Public Education yard signs and drove across the state to deliver them in advance of the 2019 local elections. Be sure to get yours for the 2020 elections (May 5 and November 3) before we sell out. You can order one. Proceeds will go to pro-public education candidates in 2020.
Excitingly, our longtime (and founding) members Joan and Phil Harris are working on a documentary and have interviewed a number of state and local ICPE members for that project.
We Examined the Data
On our blog, we looked at the voucher dollars going to religious schools in Indiana (99.4%, it turns out). We graphed the connection between the free lunch rates of schools and their ILEARN scores…a consistent and strong connection that holds across public, charter, and private schools. And our newest blog post examines the startling rise in free and reduced lunch rates in south central Indiana school districts.
On November 19, 2019, 15,000+ educators and public education supporters rallied at the Indiana statehouse. More than half the school districts in Indiana closed for the action day. Among the demands was adequate funding for schools. So far, legislators are resisting demands to open up the budget. Will there be consequences in 2020?
2020 is a big election year. It is also a short legislative session (it’s a non-budget year). State-level ICPE has put out its legislative positions. Will any of them be addressed? We’ll be following the short session and issuing calls to action (follow us on Facebook to see alerts). Our state group grades legislators in election years, so we will be publicizing those grades at the end of August, following the annual state-level meeting where they are officially released. We’ll also host a school board candidate forum in the fall for the two public school districts in Monroe County.
WE NEED YOU
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, funds, or spreading the word to friends—we really need your help. You can renew or join, 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, 2019, to June 30, 2020, many thanks! If you joined in June or later, your membership applies to this current year. If you are uncertain about your membership status, our wonderful treasurer Pam Bessler will be glad to answer any of your questions. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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