Advocating for public education is important to me because education is the only thing I know that can somewhat level the playing field in terms of opportunities for kids regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Public education is dear to my heart because I attended Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Despite circumstances that could have served as roadblocks to opportunity (I gave birth to my oldest child at age 15) the public school education that I received prepared me well for college.
As an advocate, what accomplishment have you found most satisfying?
I was very excited when I was able to facilitate a partnership between IPS and Teacher's Treasures, a local nonprofit which gives teachers school supplies on a monthly basis for a small membership fee. All IPS teachers are now able to shop monthly at Teacher's Treasures, at no cost to them. During my tenure, IPS has also begun giving universal free lunch to every student in the district, regardless of family income. I believe this eliminates a potentially stigmatizing situation for many of our students - as a kid I always had to hand over my blue lunch card, and everyone knew I got "free lunch."
What are some of your frustrations or obstacles that you have met or overcome?
Admittedly, it is difficult to be in a position where you are in a minority of one. Your voice alone is offering dissenting views, and while it is incredibly important for the public to hear ideas other than the mainstream, it can be frustrating to passionately believe something, share your opinions at public meetings, but have to watch those ideas constantly being voted down by a pro-"reform" board majority. It is also frustrating to constantly use your one vote to take a stand against privatization measures, but knowing that ultimately your one vote will not affect the overall course of events.
What keeps you going?
I'm inspired by the fact that more residents of Indianapolis are catching on to what is happening, and they seem ready to insist their voices be heard. I am also motivated by the fact that my four year old son is entering the IPS district this year. I want public education to remain strong for his generation and more to come.
What do you want parents to know about public education issues?
Public schools have taken a beating in the media, but if you look closely at what public schools have to offer, you will probably find a school that fits your child's individual learning style, needs, and interests. Don't believe the hype.
How can parents get involved in advocating of public schools?
Seek out relationships with the school, the parents, parent groups...attend board meetings, read and educate yourself about what happens at the decision-making levels of your district - because it ultimately will affect the classroom.