GUEST COMMENTARY: Cold winds blow from Mother Nature, Legislature

2014-03-02T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Cold winds blow from Mother Nature, LegislatureBy the Northwest Indiana Public School Study Council nwitimes.com

There have been two winds blowing at public education over the last several weeks. The first has been the very cold and snowy wind, which have caused many schools to delay or cancel schools. This decision, never an easy one, has been made by superintendents across Northwest Indiana to keep students and staff safe.

When a storm alert is received via the National Weather Service, it’s important to look at all possibilities. Are the conditions worthy of a delay or cancellation? Are there road conditions that would be dangerous for either buses that traverse main streets and subdivisions, for staff members arriving at school or parents bringing their children? We consider whether the wind chill would improve in the first couple of hours after buses begin their routes, and how hard the winds are blowing.

Certainly, a challenge this winter has been the number of days corporations have delayed or cancelled, which have cut into instructional time, which impacts the ISTEP+ and ECA.

The importance of having students in the classroom cannot be understated. Administrators and teachers have had great concerns about the loss of instructional time, making the decision to close or cancel school even more significant.

The second wind has been from Indianapolis, where the legislators continue their freeze out attack on public education, proposing bills that would allow vouchers in pre-kindergarten in a state where kindergarten is not required nor fully reimbursed. The legislature would have you believe it is when they fully funded the grant in the last session, but alas this is not accurate, as kindergartners only count as a half, when turning in pupil counts to the Department of Education.

We agree that pushing this through is not in the best interests of students. Further study on this topic and to make kindergarten mandatory is needed.

The bill that would have allowed private schools not to provide Americans with Disabilities Act services for Special Education students was modified by the House in 2011, but this provision was taken out by the Senate.

It’s important that all special education students are entitled to all services in all schools. There should not be two standards for these students who have greater educational needs. Private or voucher schools should be expected to have the same requirements as public schools if our schools are to be fairly measured.

Another bill that got the attention of public educators would give an award to public school teachers to move over to charter schools that pay less, allowing them a proper salary for jumping ship.

Charter and voucher schools in the state and across the country have not shown much progress in the years since they started. In fact, research tells us only a small percentage of all charter schools around the country have shown success. They may create competition for public schools, but they do not provide the type of first class education that one would expect from schools that have the ability to take the top students away from public schools.

Turnaround schools have had even less of a success rate. Unfortunately, although they offer choice, they also give parents a slight chance that their children will receive the education they richly deserve through public education. In this second half of the legislative session, contact your legislator to let them know of your support for public education.

Thus, we have to look at which wind has produced the coldest wind chills, the one from Mother Nature or the one from the Legislature.

The opinions are those of the the Northwest Indiana Public School Study Council.

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