Fully fund our public education system
Support local teachers
Accountability for any school receiving taxpayer funds
Here in Indiana, we have three issues facing public education: funding, our treatment of teachers, and standardized testing.
Fully funding our public education system
Every budget session of the Indiana legislature, millions of dollars are shaved off the public education budget to pay for school choice. No one is going to argue against actual school choice, that is, the choice that parents have to send their children to the school of their choice. The problem is that what we're currently doing is subsidizing middle and upper income families' decision not to use public education using public education dollars.
The original intent of the voucher system in Indiana was to give a better option to students who could not afford private education but were not served well in public schools. Thus, part of the law stated that in order to qualify for a voucher, the student had to enroll in public education for at least one year. It makes sense: if the point is to catch students who aren't served well by public education, you had to at least attend public education to show that it wasn't a good fit. That is, until the legislature did away with that part of the law. So, what's happening now is our tax dollars are being used to fund private education for upper middle class families who have never spent a day in a public school.
We must immediately fully fund public education. If we want to continue the voucher experiment on Hoosier children, I am open to working on that, but I am not open to using public education money to do it. We have a $2 Billion dollar surplus in Indiana's budget. If "school choice", that is paying for the private education of families that can more than afford private education, is so important, let's use some of that surplus to pay for it.
Support local teachers
It is an unfortunate fact that teachers in Indiana have lost control of their classrooms but it's not their fault. We've forced them to give up all the knowledge that they learned in the 4 years they spent in college in order to teach to the test. This not only hurts the teachers by constraining them, it hurts students. It's time that we started treating teachers like the experts in their fields that they are. Teachers deserve respect. We should not be making policy decisions regarding education without first consulting educators currently serving our schools. I have known and talked to multiple teachers who want out of the teaching profession, not because of the children, but because of the administration and education policies instituted by lawmakers who've never taught a child to read or never taught high school English. Let's return the power to the teachers!
While we're at it, let's raise teachers' pay to match their importance in our economy and the importance of the work they do. Teachers should not be paying for their own supplies. Our tax dollars should be paying for the needs of teachers in order to effectively educate our children.
ISTEP was a disaster. It cost millions of dollars, it took an inordinate amount of time, and the results weren't even available to teachers until the next school year. If adjustments needed to be made, it's not possible because the students have moved up to the next grade!
What we need is a test that gives immediate results, so adjustments can be made, but not a "be all, end all" test. We should be testing growth, not proficiency. Teachers' bonuses and evaluations should not be solely based upon it.