The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:00 am

Parents' priority

Standing up for public schools when lawmakers won't

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

As a mother, I am fed up.

Someone once said that becoming a parent means deciding forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

My heart walks around in school laughing and learning with his fellow students and I trust his teachers, the staff and the principals to not only keep him safe and care for him but to help him learn and navigate the world alongside his peers. I know that, should some catastrophe occur, either manmade such as a shooter or an act of nature, such as a tornado, these people will not hesitate to protect my heart, to protect my child, with their lives.

What makes me so fed up and angry is that we as a state cannot offer them more in return for the small and large heroic acts they perform every single day.

How do we repay them? Indiana's teachers are at the bottom of the pay scale. There are teachers who make less now than they did 20 years ago. There are teachers who are working two jobs just to survive.

A budget reflects your priorities. When they can find increases for vouchers and charter schools, schools that don't have to accept and educate all children, but they can't find a meager increase of 3% annually to add to the budget of true public schools, clearly state legislators do not prioritize public education, our kids or our teachers. When they would rather pay for firearms training than pay for social workers, nurses and enough teachers to keep class sizes down, we know it's not a priority.

As a mother, I know that my son's learning conditions are his teacher's working conditions. In Indiana, those conditions appear to be worsening. Working with the stress of children living with trauma, kids whose parents are addicts, in jail, homeless or gone, kids who are hungry or sick or who just need to feel safe are intense needs beyond high test scores. But they are certainly foundational toward ensuring them. Public schools accept all children, and that costs money.

The fate of public schools as a whole is entwined with the fate of our teachers and their profession. That means that the fate of our children is dependent upon this, too.

The last straw for me was when I read recently that a legislator here thinks our teachers should be allowed to kneel down and be pelted with projectiles in a mock shooting so they can feel the “reality and experience the emotions and adrenaline.”

Here's the reality, and it's chock full of emotions and adrenaline:

We are not going to take this anymore. Teachers, we parents have your backs. Please do not kneel in front of this state legislature and allow them to continue to pelt you with mandates and ever-changing state standards, rising class sizes that match your rising health care costs, lower paychecks and lower funding for our children in poverty and their needs.

We will not kneel for the privatization of our public schools nor in front of the privatizers themselves. We, the parents, the teachers, the grandparents, are the ones who stand for children.

Please know that we, parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, are dedicated to standing up for you and saying enough is enough. While this supermajority continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on voucher schools and charter schools with no accountability or oversight, and continues to give them funding at the expense of our public schools, we will not stop shouting.

Don't kneel! Stand up! Stand up for yourselves, stand up for our kids, and stand up for public education.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer is a board member for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

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