April 8, 2013 8:42 pm

Indiana Grassroots Member Writes Her Senators

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This letter was written by North East Indiana Friends of Public Education co-founder, Donna Roof, who will be sharing ideas this coming Saturday (April 13, 2013) about how to organize a grassroots group. Please join us. You can find more information here.

Here is a moving letter to our senators from NEIFPE .

Dear Indiana Politician:

I am a public school teacher. I am a breast cancer survivor. I dreamed as a little girl of the day I would be a teacher. I never dreamed as a woman that I would one day be a cancer survivor. So now I am both and proud that I am.

I write to you today as both, for you see there are times these days that my role as an educator are more challenging, more stressful, more worrisome than my days as a cancer patient/survivor. I never ever in my wildest imagination dreamed that I would one day be in a fight for my life. I also never ever dreamed I’d be in the fight of a lifetime to save my students’ joy of learning, my public schools, my profession.

I didn’t just wake up one day, and my lump was there. It had been there all along, undetected. The same holds true for vouchers and their expansion. They have been there all along, mostly undetected. But now, they have metastasized at unparalleled speed.

With my cancer diagnosis I worked closely with my team of doctors, my cancer experts. I always felt as though my input mattered. Together we made sound decisions.
Yet the educational reform (and all that it encompasses) rages across our country out of control without many, if any, educational experts weighing in. Those educational experts valued by teachers are dismissed by those making legislation in favor of individuals with business savvy and big bucks but no expertise—no experience—in the classroom. Why would educators be left out of the decision-making process?

Even clinical trials are observed to see how well they are working. Yet the voucher program expansion of HB 1003 goes unchecked, willy-nilly, into unchartered territory without regard to how it will affect public education, financially or otherwise. What started out as a way to afford impoverished children an educational opportunity they may not otherwise have had seems to have become lost in this whole process. Today voting constituents feel that the focus is more on profit, not students. Communities are no longer buying into the façade that public schools are failing. They are beginning to follow the money.

I have seen how my having cancer affects those around me. I have seen and, sadly, continue to see how the siphoning off of public funds from public schools affects my students, my colleagues, my district, my neighborhood, my community, my city. More choice for students receiving vouchers results in less choice for my students.

The lessons learned as a cancer patient/survivor are plentiful. Perhaps the most important lesson is that I learned not to let the cancer define who I am.

In the same manner I will not allow all that is happening in education define who I am as a teacher. I know what kind of teacher I am, for I hold that belief in my heart. Teaching is much more than my career; it is my passion. Everyday I enter my classroom believing I am a master teacher, for if I didn’t hold true to that claim, I shouldn’t be there.

Even more importantly, I refuse to let all that is happening in education define my students, my school, my district, my community. My students have so much potential. My students’ lives are more complicated than I can ever begin to imagine. They overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and are successful because they meet their challenges. If you could see my students, you would know what I mean.

It is time to exam how well the voucher program in place is working before expanding it even further. Every dollar diverted from public schools is another blow to public education upon which this great country of ours is founded. When public school funding is lost, my students lose out! It is not a fair and level playing field. When public schools lose, we all lose. The public is becoming aware of the injustice of what is happening to their public schools and their students.

My physicians saved my life. Be a Hoosier politician who saves public education—not one who dismantles and helps privatize it. Give all students the same educational opportunities. Our future, our democracy, depends on public schools. It’s time to bring back the joy of learning for all students! I applaud those of you who have taken a stand in support of public education even it has meant that you must face the ire of your political party. I know that can’t be easy.

Please vote NO! on HB 1003. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Thank you,
Donna Roof