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Associated Press
Traditional public school supporters take part in the March 19 rally in the Indiana Statehouse.

Education for everyone

Public school boosters making voices heard

On March 19 I participated with hundreds of other advocates in a rally at the Statehouse for public education. In my speech I outlined the reasons why we were there.

Most people don’t know the big picture of corporate greed and the desire to privatize public education, but they do know we have been headed in the wrong direction. That’s why Indiana citizens worked so hard last fall to elect our state superintendent, Glenda Ritz. It’s the reason why Ritz received more votes than most of the elected officials last fall, including our governor – the vast majority of us support our public schools. We wanted an educator to lead us because we believe in our teachers and believe that they know best how to reach our children and help them grow.

But we must tell our state legislators: “Enough is enough.”

We have had enough of politicians and businesspeople using their money and power to make decisions in education.

We have had enough of the scapegoating of our teachers and the disrespect for their authority and expertise. We want the professionals who know and care for our children to direct their educational experience, not politicians who know nothing about education.

We have had enough of the incessant high-stakes testing of our kids; they are children, not data points on a graph. While the testing companies rake in the profits, our children are learning in an increasingly pressured environment with an increasingly narrowed curriculum. As a mother, I want so much more for my children than can be found on a test. I want them to love learning, to act out stories and to explore their interests. I want hands-on science projects, not bubble sheets of test prep.

We rallied because we are sick of the constant bleeding of our funds to private interests through these vouchers (or, as George Orwell would call them, “choice scholarships”). The fact is that our public schools are not failing. Miracles on shoestring budgets occur there every day.

Unlike private schools, public schools accept every child who walks through their doors. It doesn’t matter what color, what religion, what socioeconomic background, what needs that particular child has; the public schools’ mission is to meet every child’s potential.

We rallied because we think it is wrong that our PTOs have to hold bake sales and put baskets up for auction while politicians redirect millions of our tax dollars to private schools with their talk of “school choice.”

We in Indiana have already made our choice. It is called public education, and it is in our state constitution. To support public education, we must fully fund our public schools. During one of the hearings on vouchers, I heard a state legislator say, “The government should not have the monopoly on schools.” This is not a business franchise we are talking about. It is not a game of Monopoly for Chambers of Commerce to play. It is our children’s places of learning and growing. Public education is not only their constitutional right, but the cornerstone of our democracy. Speak up and protect our kids’ future.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer is a public education advocate and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education-Monroe County and South Central Indiana. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.