Why is public education advocacy important to you?
I started out as a public school advocate as a parent many years ago. I served as president of the PTA where my children attended and then started working as an assistant in their school. It became abundantly clear how the public school was a welcome haven to many of these kids. They seemed to thrive with the opportunities offered to them. After two years, I returned to college to earn a degree in teaching. Through the PTA, and eventually onto FWEA/ISTA/NEA I have continuously worked for public school students and those that work to help them achieve.
As an advocate, what accomplishment have you found most satisfying?
Working with other educators across Indiana and the United States, to find solutions for issues similar to what we are experiencing gets me excited. Whether that means to promote research needed to improve our situations, or working with elected officials, the task is huge, but working together for a cause is exciting.
What are some of your frustrations or obstacles that you have met or overcome?
People need to be informed and VOTE! When I share information about what is happening to public schools, people are shocked. Too often, they have minimal knowledge about how their tax dollars are being spent. Unfortunately, we need to better educate our own teachers as well. That is a task our Association works towards daily. Too many people are unaware of the conditions facing our public school students and teachers. Even worse, they seriously don’t understand that it will affect them too!
What keeps you going?
The public school students and teachers that work so hard everyday, with little recognition of their hard work, are my real driving force.
What do you want parents to know about public education issues?
Parents need to know more about the tests their children take, and the impact it might have on their district and community. They need to know how their taxes are distributed around the state. They need to know how much of their taxes are shared with private interest groups.
How can parents get involved in advocating for public schools?
Parents need to be involved in their child’s school. They need to read, listen, and discuss with others about what is happening within our state. Attending PTA meetings, school board meetings, and becoming actively involved is vital. But the most important way to have a voice in this arena is to VOTE!!
What has been your experience in dealing with legislators?
I lobby with ISTA multiple times each year. Our association also attempts to introduce new educators to this process. It is sometimes difficult to get legislators to even come out and talk with us. It is incredibly disheartening to hear the lawmakers make statements that show they are not always well informed about what takes place in our classrooms, schools, or districts. I have been appalled by the actions of many Indiana legislators and their complete disregard for Supt. Glenda Ritz, who was overwhelmingly elected by the people of Indiana. Each time I meet a new candidate of either party, I hope for genuine interest to better our state and communities. Too often, I am disappointed with partisan politics that only benefit themselves.
I notice how the super-majority in our state regularly reach out to and visit private, charter, and parochial schools, ignoring the great work done in our urban district. They call it choice. I call it rewarding private interest groups, using our taxpayers dollars to enhance their individual cause. These entities do not have the same expectations or regulations put upon them that public schools must follow. And they certainly do not educate all children, with all needs.
Why are public schools important to everyone in a community?
Without great public schools, our communities will suffer. Unfortunately, every child of various demographics, will not be accepted or receive continuous service from nonpublic schools. How can society continue to prosper without educating all children to high standards? We cannot allow one individual to individual to fall between the cracks, or their community will suffer. Research has shown this to be true over and over again. Our future depends on the children of today!