"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

NEIFPE Answers Reformer's Questions

I'm a member of NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (Facebook page: HERE and @NEIFPE on Twitter).

Last week we received an email from someone who is "not a public school teacher," but "works in a public charter school" and is taking a "class" delivered by the Institute for Quality Education (affiliated with Hoosiers for Quality Education), an "education reform" group in Indiana. The writer asked us to answer three questions. He correctly answered the first, using the group's mission statement. The other two he phrased in "reformy" ways implying that we were for forced attendance at local public schools and that we want to strip privately run schools (charters and parochial schools) of their funds.

To his credit, he did ask us to clarify whether or not we agreed with his answers. We did not agree with two of them, of course, and below are the three questions he asked along with our answers.

Thanks to the NEIFPE team for their work in composing this response.

NEIFPE: Who We Are

From time to time, people have asked us who we are and what we do. Recently, we received a letter asking us to answer the following questions about our organization. Here are the questions and our responses.

What is the goal/vision for the organization?

NEIFPE's mission statement outlines the goal of support for public education.

We are citizens, teachers, administrators, and parents united by our support for public education and by concerns for its future. Recent federal and state reform measures have created an over-emphasis on testing and have turned over public education to private interests. We believe that these reforms threaten the well-being of our children and jeopardize their futures. Our goal is to inform ourselves and to start community discussion about the impact of these measures on our public schools and, more importantly, on our children.

How is this organization working to improve education in Indiana?

NEIFPE advocates for a strong public school system that serves all children in the state. We believe education will be improved when education policy is back in the hands of educators rather than in the hands of politicians and their supporters. We believe that the tax dollars for public education should be distributed equitably to fund schools that are accountable to their communities. We believe that education is for ALL students, regardless of ability, race, and religion, and we believe public tax dollars should not be used for schools that exclude children. We also believe we should use our tax dollars towards the actual education of children rather than for testing and test preparation activities. We believe parents have always had a choice to send their children to public or private schools but taxpayer dollars should support public schools.

We advocate for a system that supports schools in addressing the needs of the students to prepare them for citizenship. We advocate for accountability that focuses on the progress students are making rather than one based upon high stakes testing, test preparation, and data collection. We advocate for developmentally appropriate instruction based upon research driven methods. We advocate for teachers who are knowledgeable in both content and pedagogy.

Is this organization a resource for teachers?

NEIFPE is a resource for information on local and national education policies, not an instructional resource. We try to help teachers make the connection between education policies and the effects of such policies on their classrooms and the teaching profession. Our mission is to inform and engage the general public so that they will understand the impact of current education policies on our communities, our neighborhoods, and our children. We would like the public to understand how their tax dollars are used in education. The resources we provide help others gain a better understanding of education policy, the political agenda in education, and how to defend our public school system. In addition to tracking current legislation, we provide research and evidence for people to use in advocacy efforts. We also provide information to our state legislators to help ensure they have a balanced perspective and understand how legislation will affect public schools, teachers, and students.

Our agenda is, quite simply, the support of public education.


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