Hoosiers all-in on public education movement

Kentucky can learn from our neighbors to the north

A Crimson Tide continues to swell, as thousands of Indiana educators and supporters rallied at the Statehouse today in support of public education. They are seeking better pay, less testing, and better working conditions. The wave that began in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, has grown in strength as it swept through Kentucky, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and now it could wash away another governor. 

As Kentucky’s legislative session approaches, citizens must acknowledge the importance of public education, demand funding and new revenue, and avoid the mistakes made by other states and of the past. It’s time to right the ship and view public education as an investment, and not a cost.

Teachers mobilized and were a key part of governor-elect Andy Beshear’s grassroots campaign, which knocked on 1 million doors, helping defeat incumbent Matt Bevin in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race. Will Indiana governor Eric Holcomb be next in 2020?

Hoosiers have become emboldened thanks to success in places such as Kentucky. It was just a matter of time before Indiana educators stood up to fight for what’s right. They are among the lowest paid teachers in America, endure an extremely flawed merit-pay system that punishes those who serve low-income families and rewards those who teach in higher-income areas, are forced to administer a disastrous standardized test marred in controversy, and have witnessed public education funding fall dramatically.

Indiana governor Mike Holcomb could meet the same fate as Kentucky governor Matt Bevin.

According to Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill, Indiana has $2 billion in cash reserves it could direct toward helping schools.

“This crisis is now and we need action now,” he stated. “The issue is funding, and the state has the money.”

Another republican-controlled legislature refuses to fund schools, and according to governor Holcomb, the issue of funding Indiana’s school won’t be on the 2020 agenda. While Holcomb and his Republican colleagues seem to have learned from Matt Bevin’s mistakes and refrained from insulting teachers, they have shown their disdain for teachers and public educators through their legislation. With a session here in Kentucky approaching, there are lessons to be learned from the Hoosier state.

The sign was left behind for Holcomb to see when he returns from Florida.

Indiana has employed school vouchers for private school education for nearly eight years, at a cost of more than $150 million. Vouchers, or tax credits, rarely serve those which lawmakers claim to help. Fewer than one percent of the 35,458 voucher recipients qualified for the program in 2018 because he or she lived in a public school district with an F-rated school. However, 245 voucher recipients attended Horizon Christian Academy in Fort Wayne, which was one of about a dozen voucher schools earning an F in 2017. Much of the money went to faith-based schools and $13 million dollars went to private schools that earned a D or F grade.

While Kentucky lawmakers have tossed the idea of tax credits instead of vouchers, we can expect a similar trend to occur. Tax credits would only benefit those who can afford private school education, cut revenue, and leave low-income kids on the outside looking in. 

Nearly 2,000 students who attended one of Indiana’s six-virtual charter schools never earned a credit, yet received $10 million from taxpayers.

Then there is the charter school debacle. Nearly 2,000 students who attended one of Indiana’s six-virtual charter schools never earned a credit, yet received $10 million from taxpayers. In 2014, Indiana had 76 charter schools, half of which were doing poorly. Indianapolis had eight charter schools with a rating of D or F. 

As of 2018, Indiana had 93 charter schools that enrolled 44,444 students. As a whole, district students performed better on state tests than their charter school counterparts. Since 2011, 24 charter schools decided to abruptly close on their own or were closed by their authorizers. 

As Kentucky’s legislative session approaches, citizens must acknowledge the importance of public education, demand funding and new revenue, and avoid the mistakes made by other states and of the past. It’s time to right the ship and view public education as an investment, and not a cost.

Kentucky teachers are hoping Andy Beshear can reach across the aisle and persuade a Republican-controlled legislature to do right by public education and teachers and doesn’t have to veto detrimental legislation. Kentucky teachers are hoping they do not have to rally again in Frankfort, and the defeat of Matt Bevin is a strong enough message to lawmakers to halt their attack on our schools and teachers, and move Kentucky in a new direction.