MEREDITH: State can’t afford two school systems

June 24, 2017

viewpoint-meredith-teresaOn a recent visit to Indiana, former presidential candidate Jeb Bush appeared at a corporate education reform conference in Indianapolis, where he told attendees that teachers unions protect the economic interests of adults, not kids.

The Indiana State Teachers Association was founded more than 160 years ago on the premise that all children—no matter their gender, race or creed—had the right to a free education. The founders of ISTA believed an educated citizenry was essential to maintain and advance democratic freedoms.

ISTA continues that mission to this day.

No one cares more about the quality of public education in Indiana than educators, and no one is fighting harder for our kids.

Unlike Bush and corporate education reform groups underwritten by Wall Street, hedge funds and other corporations who seek to profit from the privatization of public schools, ISTA is an educator-run organization. We are our members—teachers, bus drivers, paraeducators, school nurses and other hard-working educators who ensure our kids get the best education possible.

There is a continued push for national privatization of our kids’ education through voucher expansion, which takes away already scarce resources from neighborhood public schools.

The growing financial cost of Indiana’s private school voucher program is impacting local school districts directly. Private and parochial schools, with this new infusion of taxpayer support, are expanding grade levels—creating a need for more funding.

Indiana’s controversial private school voucher program has grown to a record $146 million, operating at a loss of at least $53 million. A majority, 55 percent, of voucher recipients never attended a public school prior to getting a voucher—meaning taxpayers are paying for families who were likely already going to attend private schools.

Not to mention, research shows that private school vouchers have no record of improving student performance and may even be doing more harm than good.

Private voucher schools are also closing doors to children who have special needs, low grades or don’t fall in line with religious tests.

We have a responsibility to provide great public schools for every student in Indiana. Improving public schools requires more money, not less, and public money should only be used to help public schools. We should invest in public schools, where more than 90 percent of Hoosier kids attend.

At a time when the state’s budget needs to stretch farther, the last thing we should do is spend scarce taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools that lack accountability and transparency and handpick their students.

We simply can’t afford to fund two education systems—one private and one public—on the taxpayers’ dime.

A child’s opportunity for success should not be left to chance—securing a voucher or being accepted by a selective private school. What all children need are quality, well-equipped schools right in their neighborhoods, where they can learn, be inspired and thrive.

If we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works. This means resourcing our neighborhood public schools so that students have inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention and support services, such as health care, nutrition and after-school programs for students who need them.

Despite what Bush and his corporate reformer friends think of ISTA, we are the one organization standing up for kids, educators and families in Indiana. We believe every kid deserves a great public education, and we’re working every day to make sure that happens.•


Meredith is president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and has taught for more than 20 years in Indiana schools. 


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