As another new year of public school advocacy begins across our state and country, the words of Margaret Mead come to mind:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
The year 2014 was, like previous years, unfriendly to public education. Although Indiana has educational concerns unique unto itself, there are similarities that exist in education reform from state to state. NEIFPE, like many other public education advocacy groups, continued to speak up and speak out against education reformers and the deleterious effects of their reform.
As a public school advocacy group, NEIFPE’s mission statement is thus:
We are citizens, teachers, administrators, and parents united by our support for public education and by concerns for its future. Recent federal and state reform measures have created an over-emphasis on testing and have turned over public education to private interests. We believe that these reforms threaten the well-being of our children and jeopardize their futures. Our goal is to inform ourselves and to start community discussion about the impact of these measures on our public schools and, more importantly, on our children.In relation to our mission statement, here are a few 2014 highlights:
- We met with area legislators so that we could get to know them and to build working relationships. While we often didn’t agree on education policy, we feel that listening to one another is the beginning to understanding issues and solutions.
- We attended the screening of Rise above the Mark at Butler University in March, which led to our collaboration with the Fort Wayne Cinema Center for a screening in August. In September we partnered with ICPE (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) for a screening at IPFW (Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne).
- At the same time, several of us went to the Network for Public Education Conference in Austin, Texas where we were energized by meeting with nationally recognized public education advocates. This led us to write an op-ed about our experiences.
- Throughout the year we worked on messaging to parents, teachers, and concerned citizens about the issues concerning public education.
- As the primary election loomed, we began messaging about the importance of voting.
- Subsequently, we created a questionnaire which asked candidates about their positions on education issues.
- We met with Allen County Labor Council to broaden our outreach.
- We testified at the State Board meeting that was held at Ivy Tech in Fort Wayne.
- We attended the Moral Mondays rally led by Rev. William Barber in Indianapolis.
- We created a survey about the purpose of education, which we subsequently shared on our blog, our Facebook page, and with our mailing list. After we tabulated the responses, we wrote an op-ed about what we had learned.
As we continue to fight the good fight, we must always remember why we continue to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. In the words of educator John Kuhn,
"Public education is a promise we make to the children of our society, and to their children, and to their children.”