Superintendent Mark Daniel had an urgent assignment for the Facebook users watching his monthly Fort Wayne Community Schools update Tuesday – call state lawmakers to oppose proposed bills that would hurt public schools.
House Bill 1005 would expand Indiana's school choice program and create a more generous education savings account system. It has an estimated cost of $202 million over the next two years alone.
It is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee at 3:30 p.m. today.
Along with reducing funding for public schools, the changes would lead to more tax dollars supporting programs lacking fiscal accountability, Daniel and other FWCS leaders said during the Facebook Live session.
“I truly believe that parochial and private schools have their place,” Daniel said. “I think they serve the needs of kids in their own, unique way, but at the same time, I still believe strongly that public schools have to be strong because they are the backbone of the greater community.”
As FWCS shared contact information for two lawmakers, Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend assured the virtual audience that those answering the calls won't engage in debate. They will record the call and report it to legislators.
Daniel said he's already made his calls and sent his emails. He encouraged the audience to make theirs once the Facebook Live session ended.
“They're getting our perspective, as educators,” Daniel said, “But you as parents, you as voters – you will make the difference.”
The rest of the hourlong session addressed multiple topics, including plans for the rest of the academic year. FWCS will continue with its current setup of in-person, hybrid and remote learning.
Returning to 100% in-person learning isn't feasible because of the logistics involved with bus routes and middle and high school class schedules, district leaders said.
Parents upset that recent weather-related school closures resulted in remote learning days rather than traditional snow days will remain disappointed. That's the new practice, and it comes with the benefit of knowing the scheduled last day of school will be the last day of school, Daniel said.
Some Facebook users noted other districts handle weather-related e-learning days differently. Instead of requiring direct student-teacher interaction throughout the day, some districts post assignments for students, giving students more flexibility. FWCS parents asked why the district can't operate like that.
“I realize that there may be some districts that are seeing this as a different mode on that particular day,” Daniel said. “I don't see the distinction.”