The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 1:00 am

Indiana has yet to make the choice for children

Timothy Barr

Education is the future, but Indiana has set a trajectory to jeopardize that future.

Teachers are vastly overworked for disparagingly disappointing salaries. The average teacher's salary in Fort Wayne is $54,308, 17% lower than the national average.

Our high school students face a grim reality on graduation rates. In 2018, more than 10% of students failed to graduate from high school.

That statistic is even more pronounced in Indiana's 16th Senate District, where 39.4% of Hispanic males lack a high school diploma.

Standardized testing has proven time and again that it is less indicative of student progress and more reflective of the growing divide in student success.

As a state, we decided standardized testing is an adequate way of determining where our students should place. This is simply not true; our students aren't numbers to be put in categories based off generalized questions. Education shouldn't be determined solely on standardized math, English and rudimentary science questions.

Education is the silver lining. Our children deserve a future that isn't restricted by partisanship but based on the principle of Hoosiers coming together.

At the forefront of education are our teachers, who require the support of the community to succeed in guiding the next generation. Teachers in Fort Wayne are severely underpaid and overworked, faced with inadequate funding, and subject to oversight based on knee-jerk reaction to education issues. We expect teachers to perform optimally while at the same time subjecting them to suboptimal salaries. With Indiana ranking 36th nationwide in teacher salary, this is brazenly apparent. In addition to an already-meager pay grade, teachers often use their own finances to pay for classroom supplies.

On April 4, 2019, legislators passed a law allowing the governor to appoint the public education superintendent, as opposed to the superintendent being elected by the people.

This pushes partisan policies on teachers, forcing them to adapt to politically influenced regulations.

Education is where people can come together, and no one gets left behind. A statement that should be common practice has turned into a distant dream as graduation rates have dropped in recent years among high school students.

High school is the final stepping stone, the culmination of youth before entering adulthood. Despite this, there is a staggering percentage of Hoosiers lacking a high school diploma. In Fort Wayne alone, there are 4,447 Hispanic-Americans, 2,188 Asian-Americans, 4,126 African Americans, and 8,692 non-Hispanic white Americans without a high school diploma. We claim to put education first, but the statistics say otherwise.

Our students aren't numbers, statistics to be categorized for government reports. Education can't be measured by blanket questions that only serve as checks in the boxes for self-serving policy makers. Every student walks the path of knowledge in their own unique way; we should encourage them to embark on this journey rather than force them all on the same road.

Standardized testing such as ILEARN/ISTEP acts against this very idea. The current government believes that questions created by an analytical construct are more indicative of student success than trusting educators to do their job.

Indiana staggers behind in education, failing our students, our teachers and our community. As a community, we must work together to forge a future our next generation can be proud of. A future where the teachers have decent wages, a future so bright no student is left in the dark, and a future where our administration is reflective of the society they come from. The promise of an education system that guarantees equal opportunity for every child.

The situation we face may seem grim, yet the true measure of a people's determination is how we rise to face this challenge. With the hope and heart of all Hoosiers, we can provide a better future for our children.

Timothy Barr is a Democratic candidate for the Indiana Senate District 16 seat.

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