EAST CHICAGO | An Ohio proponent of public education told a crowd of educators, ministers, politicians and community members they must gather together to stop the corporatization of public schools.
Jan Resseger is the Minister for Public Education and Witness, United Church of Christ National Office, Justice and Witness Ministries in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the keynote speaker at the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations Regional Education Summit held Saturday at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in East Chicago.
"State policies across the country are driving the management of public schools to private companies and charter companies," Resseger said. "These companies are not publicly accountable. This undermines our democracy and it drains money from our public schools," she said.
In Indiana, the state took over the operation of seven schools, including one in Gary. It assigned Tennessee-based EdisonLearning to operate Gary Roosevelt. The for-profit management company has a four-year contract, which began this school year, to operate the high school.
Resseger said state management is not the key to improving schools. She said political leaders from both parties push accountability-based school reform that focuses on standardized tests to determine whether children are learning.
However, Resseger says by privatizing education, states are punishing the "most vulnerable" public schools in the "poorest" communities rather than investing and supporting them.
Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who has gone on record before saying the city has too many charter schools, reiterated that charter schools are draining money from traditional public schools.
"Charter schools started off as an AFT (American Federation of Teachers) program organized by teachers but it has morphed into something else," Rogers said.
David Hatch, with the Illinois-Indiana Organizing Network (IIRON), challenged the crowd to organize and demand top quality education for students.
The Rev. Cheryl Rivera, executive director of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, said leaders must be "intentional" and create a community that empowers people and are concerned about schools and education.