As a young girl, I remember chanting "Nixon, Bowen," with thumbs pointed up, "McGovern and Welsh" with thumbs pointed down.
My family was Republican. I voted for Ford in the third grade mock election and developed a love for history and politics from Walter Cronkite and Time, when other kids read Mad magazine. I had a strong sense of patriotism and civic duty as the granddaughter of Italian immigrants from Gary. I grew up in the Reagan era, in a Republican county. Alex Keaton was my hero.
Becoming a history and government teacher was natural. I passionately taught about our nation, government, good citizenship, and the privilege to vote.
Now that idealism is gone because the Mitch Daniels/Mike Pence administrations have changed my life and community.
The first changes came in 2006. End-of-course assessments and funding cuts hit our small high school as my colleagues and I problem-solved to meet the new requirements.
The next school year, I had 30 students in every class. New teachers weren’t hired. I forfeited creative lesson plans because of the workload for 180 students. The stress mounted. I eventually left the classroom because my children needed at least one of its teacher-parents to not be grading their lives away.
I voted differently in 2008. I haven’t voted Republican since.
Yet, I consider myself a Republican. I don’t agree with Democratic ideology. But I’m consistently appalled at the integrity and decisions of Statehouse Republicans.
Then, Joanna King ran for Carlin Yoder’s Senate seat. I was encouraged. She has integrity, is a businesswoman, believes in local schools, and works for the good of community. As a public school board member, she was asked to run for office by parents and community members concerned about public education.
I advocated for Joanna, even though she was outside my voting district, because she represented those who feel helpless because of the debauchery that the American Legislative Exchange Council, Pence and other Republicans have made of education.
Unfortunately, I learned that Carlin Yoder hand-picked her opponent, Blake Doriot, and funded the majority of his campaign. I learned about phone calls Carlin made to influencers, chastising them for supporting Joanna.
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap. It worked. Joanna lost. The voice for change and integrity in the Republican Party is, again, silenced.
If Republicans continue in office, the corruption and greed that has ruined public education will continue.
Ten years ago, non-educators realized there was untapped money in public education. They’ve figured out how to receive those funds through legislating "education reform."
While Daniels promised that reform would bring good teachers higher pay, it never happened. Instead, great teachers perform unrealistic legislative mandates only to receive minuscule stipends. Years of experience? Higher education? Doesn’t matter. Since the teacher rubric model was implemented, teachers’ salaries stay around $35,000. Forever.
So the best teachers are leaving education for other professions. One colleague became a financial planner. Another started a business. One is a factory worker. Another is moving to Alaska to teach. I’m in mental health.
There’s a teacher shortage while current teachers deal with increasingly adverse student behavior, for which they’re penalized.
This spring, a student walked out of a computerized ISTEP+ test because he didn’t want to do it anymore. A fifth-grade student, with cognitive disabilities at the first-grade level, had to take the full battery of fifth-grade ISTEP+, even though he doesn’t speak or understand English. These students’ schools are accountable for their test scores, which affects school funding.
Establishment Republicans don’t seem to care about these students or others who need caring teachers more than they need six weeks of ISTEP+. They don’t care about the rural communities where schools are fighting just to stay alive. They don’t care about excellent teachers who do their best for the students they love.
They care about the money they can get from ALEC, Pearson and from being elected by the "voucher" bandwagon. Seriously, vouchers aren’t the issue anymore. Integrity, real needs, and change are.
This Republican will be casting her vote for Democrats in November. I urge you to do the same.
Brenda Yoder, a Shipshewana resident, is a licensed mental health counselor, public speaker, educator and parent.