Hoosiers: Wake Up And Fight For Public Education In Indiana

Hoosiers: Wake Up And Fight For Public Education In Indiana

“For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education” – Eulogy of Robert Kennedy, by his brother Ted

Recently, I was on a plane sitting next to a young woman from Argentina. She told me she loved America, particularly because any young person can go to school and learn, for free. This women told me that because everyone in America could get a free public education, you were not doomed, like people (according to her) in Argentina to occupy the same socio economic status as your parents. One example of an American who used the public education system (and the public higher education system) to go from the son of poor immigrant labors to Nobel Prize winner was Milton Friedman.

I have been living in Indiana on at least a part time basis since 1999. The more I learn about public education the more shocked and saddened I become by the lack of support for public schools from fellow Hoosiers. “Wealthy” districts like Hamilton Southeastern charge $3,700 for tuition for all day kindergarten. Most school districts charge hundreds of dollars a semester for text book rental, even for elementary school children. School districts are doing away with buses, arts programs and above all, teacher salaries are alarmingly low across the state. Indiana is one of the least educated and poorest states in the US. (41st in persons of over 25 with Bachelors degree and 40th in personal income per capita http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/rankings.html).

All of these facts are alarming, but they all pale in comparison to the recent voucher bill that was enacted and implemented in the 2011-12 school year. Financed by the Milton Friedman’s foundation (http://www.edchoice.org/) Republicans pushed through legislation that will divert the billions of tax-payer dollars earmarked to fund the public school districts in Indiana into the hands of some of America’s richest corporations to operate for profit schools. Meaning that if the state gives IPS $10,000 per student and a student’s parents send him to a private K-12 school and that school can “educate” him for $5,000 the school gets to keep the “profit”. The incentive is for the school to profit, not provide the privilege of education that allowed people like Friedman, to attend Rutgers and Columbia and go on to win the Noble Prize.

I shudder to think of “public” education available to my children and grandchildren. If Indiana has any interest in raising the per capita income of its citizen, then it would not implement a voucher plan which guts access to the best vehicle for upward mobility in any society: a quality education. As one of the privileged people of the world, I will not sit by ideally while future generations of Hoosiers are robbed of the opportunity to receive a quality public education.