The General Assembly will meet for a special legislative session on May 14 to discuss at least four bills that were not resolved at the end of the general session.
While these bills focus on various issues, public education advocates who follow state politics are more than a little dismayed about the reappearance of House Bill 1315 with its controversial contents. Gov. Eric Holcomb had recommended a non-controversial loan to Muncie Community Schools as part of the special session, with the rest of HB 1315 to wait until the next session. However, the leaders of the General Assembly appear to be ignoring the governor's request and plan to proceed with the bill in its original form. Two of the more troubling aspects of the bill are the loss of local control and the disregard toward teachers with the loss of collective bargaining.
HB 1315 focuses on the Muncie and Gary school corporations, which are in fiscal distress. This bill would replace the elected school board of Muncie schools with a board appointed by Ball State University and exempt said board from adhering to a host of laws affecting student learning. By setting a dangerous precedent of state takeover, this bill potentially concerns any public school district that might be in fiscal distress in the future. This bill has the potential of negatively affecting local control, teacher input and protections for students in many communities. This is not just about Muncie and Gary. Your school district could be next.
Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education's concern is that legislators are not listening to the voices of their constituents and are not considering the far-reaching consequences of bringing this bill back in a way that is outside of normal legislative procedures. Add your voice.
Please encourage legislators to oppose HB 1315 in its present form.
We NEIFPE members invite people across the state to join us in collective actions to make our voices heard. We will start actions on Monday and continue through May 14. Here are our suggestions:
• Host Postcard Meet-Ups to reach out to our legislators. You can create your own meet-up in coffee shops, homes, libraries or wherever you and your friends are comfortable. NEIFPE will provide postcard templates to help you get started.
• Host a “Tweet-Up.” For those of you who are new to Twitter, we will provide information on how to tweet and on how to schedule tweets at your own convenience. We will also provide sample tweets. All you need is a Twitter account and internet access.
• Send emails and place calls to legislators; these are also effective.
This is your opportunity to host your own gathering. Let our state legislators know you are paying attention. Show them you care about the issues on which they will be voting. Tell them you a want thorough discussion of the proposals.
These Meet-Up/Greet Up/Tweet Ups will be statewide actions and will tell our legislators, our friends and neighbors: “We are watching this, and we are proud to advocate for public education.”
All we need is you. We invite you to find a time when your friends, neighbors, or colleagues can make your voices heard. If you would like, please let us know (email@example.com) where and when you are planning to host your action, and we will post that information on social media. We encourage you to take lots of pictures to post on social media and to tweet to your legislators.
Or instead you could join in with Advocates for Kids' Education, a public education advocacy group, who have already planned meet-ups in Fort Wayne.
This special session is serious business. Those of us at NEIFPE hope that you will use this time not just to voice your concerns but also to meet others who are like-minded so you can continue your advocacy together.
For more information, check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NEIFPE/ or sign up for our newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phyllis Bush, a retired teacher, is a founding member of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.