Letter: GOP legislators shirking responsibility to education

To the editor:

I read with interest Suzannah Couch’s article of April 7, 2021, on the Brown County school board’s Resolution to Oppose the Expansion of the Indiana Voucher Program and to Oppose the Creation of Education Savings Accounts, two actions currently being supported by the Republican supermajority in this session of the Indiana General Assembly. Both actions are likely to pass as a part of the new two-year budget for Indiana.

To Senator Koch and Representative May, I will say as a retired public school educator of 40+ years: BAD GOVERNANCE! BAD IDEAS! REMEMBER YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO ADEQUATELY FUND PUBLIC EDUCATION.

I list herein several facts for our elected legislators to keep in mind:

1. Over 170 duly elected school boards in Indiana have passed resolutions opposing this very bad precedent that you are about to establish.

2. We have recently read of the cutbacks being made necessary by the funding policies of the supermajority. Brown County is closing a school, cutting staff and programming, and generally reducing educational opportunities for our boys and girls. And yet, the supermajority, of which Senator Koch and Rep. May are members, wants to send over $140,000,000 in new voucher funding to families who are already sending their children to private schools and paying tuition because they voluntarily choose to do so.

3. Over 93 percent of Indiana’s school-age children attend public schools. Under the budgetary policies of the supermajority since Governor Daniels was in office, virtually all of the rural schools and urban schools in Indiana are under financial stress and are being forced to cut staffing, programming and increase class size. The Republican solution to this issue is for school districts to go to the public and request additional funding through the referendum method, which we did in Brown County in 2016. It is the CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO ADEQUATELY FUND PUBLIC EDUCATION. As a footnote, the supermajority is also likely to pass a requirement that successful referendum campaigns will have to be SHARED WITH CHARTER SCHOOLS LOCATED WITHIN A GIVEN DISTRICT.

4. Governor Holcomb promised teachers a significant salary increase during the last session of the General Assembly. It seems apparent at this point that this promise is being pushed aside for the initiatives to support vouchers and educational savings accounts.

5. The concept of giving tax money to parents whose students attend private schools or in the form of educational savings accounts carries virtually no accountability with these payments.

6. By action of the General Assembly in the last two sessions, Indiana voters NO LONGER GET TO ELECT THE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION. This office was made a gubernatorial appointment during the last two sessions. BAD GOVERNANCE!

7. We have an acute teacher shortage in Indiana. When there is a shortage, there most certainly is also a shortage of high-quality educators. Senator Koch, Representative May, Governor Holcomb and the Republican supermajority need to fix this by ADEQUATELY FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION, their direct duty as provided by the Indiana Constitution.

I would urge readers to call Senator Koch and Representative May and urge them to vote against these provisions which hurt over 93 percent of our K-12 boys and girls who attend public schools. Closing schools, cutting staff, reducing program offerings, increasing class sizes and underpaying our teachers are hurting the education of our Brown County children, and I, for one, resent that.

David Shaffer, former superintendent, Brown County Schools

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