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Momentum gathers to counter school reforms
...The signs of reform pushback come as no surprise to Phyllis Bush, who retired from South Side High School as an English teacher and department chair in 1999. She became a vocal critic of the school reform movement about two years ago after attending a town hall meeting by an area legislator who seemed to know little about the bills being pushed on schools and instead deferred to one of Bennett’s assistant superintendents to respond.
“A roomful of teachers asked some pretty good questions about charters and vouchers,” Bush said. “I was completely appalled by his smugness.”
After attending a Washington rally for public schools, she mobilized a group of Fort Wayne residents to establish the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Energized by education historian Diane Ravitch’s appearances in Bloomington and at IPFW’s Omnibus Lecture, the group jumped in to help elect a new state superintendent. Since Ritz’s election night upset, they have continued to monitor so-called reform measures and kept up a relentless letter-writing campaign.
“Whether it’s vouchers or charters or ISTEP, people are beginning to see it’s all about money,” Bush said. “I think that’s where some are missing the boat. Hoosiers care about taxes. If you put the emphasis on the fiscal responsibility – how the reformers are sending money to out-of-state corporations, how they are using our kids to make money – that’s how you get people’s attention.”
Bush, the retired Fort Wayne educator, is involved in its undoing [market-based education reforms] at the national level. Her grassroots activism here caught the attention of Ravitch and Anthony Cody, a California educator and Education Week blogger, who asked her to serve as a director for their newly formed Network for Public Education, established to “protect, preserve, promote and strengthen public schools.”
...Instead of rejecting the concerns of experienced educators like Bush, Jacobson and many more who have pointed to flaws, state and federal policymakers would be better served by listening to and incorporating their ideas.
If they don’t, overreach by the reformers and the growing resistance is likely to stop all changes dead in their tracks.
Karen Francisco, editorial page editor, has worked at The Journal Gazette since 2000 and for Indiana newspapers since 1982. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by email, email@example.com.