[r79] The Impact of Education Reform (3/17/2011)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Start Date: 3/17/2011 All Day
End Date: 3/17/2011
Every year I get together with my friends from high school where we enjoy local food and drinks reminiscing about the good ole days at South Adams High School.  Our conversations will start with 'remember the time when we.'  What you will not hear is - remember the metal detectors we walked through each morning or remember the gangs in our school or remember when the teacher told us they could care less if we learned anything.  Times have changed.

I know the initial reaction to these remarks will be "well, that's not happening at our schools", and I could not agree more.  The majority of the schools in district 79 are high performing and staffed by the best teachers and administrators in Indiana.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for all of the schools around the state. 

As I entered my second term in the General Assembly, I knew that education reform was going to be an issue to draw a lot of attention from constituents and media. However, I was not prepared for was the firestorm of misleading rhetoric and mistruths that ensued.  The mudslinging over education reform has misrepresented the actual impact of the proposed legislation on our school's corporations, families and students.  Public education is not broken and teachers are not the problem.

At the town hall I hosted over the weekend with State Senator Holdman, there was a very spirited audience with a lively discussion regarding the future of public education.  I heard there is no reason to address these issues because they do not apply in Adams County.  I consider the impact of every piece of legislation that will impact the 79th district and vote accordingly.  While the proposed education reforms will have minimal impact on the 79th district, the current changes proposed have the potential to impact the lives of some children that are entering through metal detectors, facing gangs and being taught by poor teachers.

Many of my ideals about education changed when I watched the movie "Waiting for Superman".  You will see an education system that is breaking apart in many areas of the United States.  You will see schools where 60% of the students will never graduate, where 1200 freshman dwindle to 400 sophomores and where in some schools only 3% will graduate readily equipped for college. Among the 30 developed nations, the United States ranks 25th in math and 21st in science, and the top 5% of American students rank 23rd overall.  It is not uncommon to see hundreds of parents apply to a school with only a handful of open spots available, all hoping their child will be lucky enough to be granted an opportunity for a brighter future. 

I hear some say the problem is we don't spend enough money on education.  In 1971 the average school received $4,000 per student.  Today, we spend approximately $9,000 per student and that is adjusted for inflation.  Some schools in Indiana receive around $12,000 per student and still graduate less than 40% of their students.  The amount of funding is not translating into high school graduates and test scores have remained stagnate.  Before you discount the movie as a right-wing propaganda piece, I encourage you to watch trailer and visit www.waitingforsuperman.com

In Indiana there are 3,500 children on the waiting list for charter schools.  There is not enough space to meet the demand for additional education options for Hoosier families. Currently, state law allows admittance to a charter school based on a lottery system.  In many areas of Indiana, we are placing our children and their educational future on the luck of a bouncing ball, a random slip of paper or a computer generated number.  Every child in Indiana has the right to a high quality education regardless of their socioeconomic standing, and the luck of the draw should not determine their future livelihood.