I am a public school teacher and a proud member of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), and I know we can all affirm the importance of our public school system. All children should receive a quality education starting in preschool and continuing through graduation at a school in their neighborhoods, with enough instructional staff, and fully funded programming.
Having attended preschool is the single biggest predictor in kindergarten success. It introduces children to the basics: letters, numbers, colors, shapes, coloring, using scissors, not to mention social skills. This is how we set the stage for our children’s educational future. Currently, Indiana services low-income families in just 20 counties, reaching less than 10% of preschool age children. I believe that all children should get the opportunity to start their educational careers off on the right foot by attending preschool. We need to expand our current system to all 92 counties and increase the income eligibility level to one where all parents can afford to send their children.
Kindergarten is also an area that lacks support and funding in Indiana. Did you know that children in Indiana do not have to start school until they’re seven? We are one of a handful of states that does not have a starting age of five or six. This has lead to poor success outcomes for the late starters. In recent years, school systems have stopped their kindergarten programs as a cost savings measure. This is unacceptable and a disservice to all of our children. I believe we need to lower our starting age to five, adding in a waiver to extend to six if a child is not ready yet.
Anyone that knows a child in school can tell you about the amount of tests they have now. In my class alone students are pulled out from instruction for at least four sets of standardized testing per year. I hear from my own children at least monthly on the different assessments they have to take. All of this testing is taking away from instructional time, increases teacher stress, student stress, and is not an indicator of all areas of knowledge. We need to have a greater balance between the testing time and instructional time. We need to cut the ties between assessment scores and teacher evaluations, and we need to find alternative ways of assessing students to see a full range of their knowledge.
Finally, we need to increase the funding in our public schools. Indiana is ranked near the bottom for funding per student in public school. With the advent of the charter school boom, we have been rated as number one for charter school legislation - which is bad for public schools. Currently, charter schools are not subject to meeting state standards when it comes to curriculum, assessments, or anti-discrimination policies that public schools are, even though our tax dollars are now funding them. When we give governmental funding to charter schools, we are taking it directly away from our public schools and children. With the exception of the Virtual Academy, which has been given an “F” rating, there are no charter schools in District 32. That means that your tax dollars are being routed out of the one school in your school district and being used to fund sub-par institutions, at the expense of your communities’ education. Either we put an end to the voucher program that takes money out of our public school system or make charter schools subject to the same standards as public schools to continue to receive funding, and to expand services.
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