The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 1:00 am

Stay educated

Public schools need our ongoing, vocal support

Donna Kaiser

As I sit down to write, I am filled with emotions – all of them negative. I am sad, angry, disappointed and frustrated.

I am a retired teacher with 27 years' experience in both parochial and public schools. I am the mother of two children who went to both parochial and public schools, and now I have three grandchildren who attend both parochial and public schools. When it comes to schools, I have been on both sides of the fence as a parent and as a teacher.

Even though I am retired, I watch and read carefully what is happening in the education world. My son, daughter-in-law and son-in-law are all teachers – in both parochial and public schools.

When my husband and I made the decision to send our children to an elementary parochial school, we did not expect anyone to help us.

We made the financial sacrifice on our own and felt it was our responsibility. I believe in school choice, but if you make the choice to go to a parochial or private school, I believe you should accept your responsibility.

My husband and I both attended public schools and knew that was the direction we would eventually go for our children's high school. We couldn't have been more pleased with the education they received, both parochial and public.

I know how hard teachers work in both settings. I have experienced the same discipline problems in both settings and the same range of learning challenges in both settings.

I know all three of my grandchildren are getting a great education from amazing teachers, so my issue is not with what is going on in the classroom.

My concern is with the lack of support our teachers are getting from the parents and grandparents of their students. What is happening with public education affects the education of parochial students as well. What is coming from Indianapolis is unacceptable. In Washington, D.C., we have a secretary of education who cares nothing and knows nothing about public education. The USA leads the world in public education spending and gets the least for it.

In the new state budget, Fort Wayne Community Schools – the largest, most diverse district in the state – will receive the smallest increase in funding. Lawmakers would have everyone believe this was a “historic event” with more than 90% of Indiana children being winners; this simply is not true.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency recently showed how the majority plans to distribute funding. Public schools will receive a 2.06% funding increase, virtual schools 5.25%, voucher schools 9.28% and charter schools a whopping 10.30%. How can our public school students be winners?

These voucher and charter schools continue to be funded yet continue to fail with no accountability.

One virtual school in Indiana has continually been rated an “F” yet saw its funding increase from 6.5% to 10.2%. None of this makes sense, yet we allow it to go on.

Noted educator Maria Montessori said, “...the children are the makers of men.” We cannot let our children and grandchildren down.

This battle is wearing teachers and students down. What was once one of the most respected of professions now seems to have little value. A master's degree means little today. Our teachers need us to stand up for them.

Competition between public education and schools of choice does nothing to improve education. It does just the opposite, just as competition between teachers based on evaluation, etc., does nothing to improve camaraderie. The teacher shortage is real with most buildings lacking substitutes daily or teachers having to cover or two or three classes at a time.

It should be easy to see their frustrations. While teacher appreciation days are certainly nice, what they really need is support from us when it comes to letting their concerns be heard in Indianapolis.

I agree completely with Jennifer Wells' April 27 letter, “Vote for legislators who defend public education.” We need to call and write our legislators and ask them to please support public education. Wear Red for Ed on Wednesdays. Encourage friends and family to do the same.

Our legislators need to know there are many people out there that support our overworked, underpaid and underappreciated teachers.

I especially urge parents and grandparents to speak up and show their support.

In 1880, President James Garfield said: “Next in importance to freedom and justice is public education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.”

Think about it.

Donna Kaiser is a retired Fort Wayne Community Schools teacher. 

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