“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.“ – Nelson Mandela
Education is an important aspect of building and maintaining a healthy society. This truth has long been accepted and widely agreed upon regardless of party; however, the once mundane topic has become a hot-button issue.
The Republican-controlled legislature (including my opponent Denny Zent), has taken a well-orchestrated attempt by right-wing political operatives, and the conservative media, to bring school boards, and thus public education itself, into the crosshairs.
School board meetings are now venues for the coordinated airing of complaints on topics ranging from COVID restrictions/mandates to Critical Race Theory (CRT).
In late 2021, the outbreaks became so bad that the National School Board Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden requesting federal assistance stating that “malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased” and “these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
It is against this backdrop House Republicans introduced HB 1134. According to Russel Skiba, a professor in the school psychology program at Indiana University, “It (HB 1134 ) remains the greatest threat to civil rights, freedom of speech, and student mental health to come through the Indiana legislature this century.” (link)
The bill would, among other things:
- List a series of “divisive concepts” that would be banned from Indiana’s public school classrooms. These concepts are primarily those focused on race, slavery, and sexuality.
- Require teachers to post materials and activities used in the classroom on websites for review by an appointed panel.
- Create curriculum review committees made of parents and community members.
- Allow parents who allege a violation of the ban to file a complaint and, in certain cases, sue schools.
- Allow for the state’s secretary of education to “suspend or revoke a license of a teacher, principal, superintendent, or any other individual licensed by the department under this chapter for a violation “
The initial bill caused such outrage among parent and teacher groups that legislators passed several amendments to water down the bill, but their intentions are clear. Their sights are set on severely handicapping public education.
Rest assured, this is not coming from the concerned parents of Indiana. This is a concerted effort by well-funded conservative groups that will not end with just one bill.
Republican legislators in Iowa and Florida, for example, have proposed legislation to place cameras in classrooms to allow “concerned” parents to file complaints against teachers teaching curriculum that the parents find offensive.
The American Library Association has reported spikes in schools and libraries across the country of efforts to ban books concerning LGBTQ issues, the holocaust, and slavery.
These efforts make it harder to recruit and retain talented teachers, making it difficult for our state to be competitive. They also prevent Hoosier children from receiving a proper education.
Teachers play an important role in nurturing children. They inspire, build confidence, and open young peoples’ eyes to the world. Teaching is an admirable profession to be celebrated and properly rewarded, not demonized.
Pandering to the most vocal and extreme voices in your party to protect students from learning historical truths that make them uncomfortable is no way to govern. To thrive, we must learn from our history, good and bad.
If elected, I will work with Democratic colleagues, in association with parent and teaching unions/advocates, to strike down this legislation.
I will work tirelessly to ensure teachers are fairly compensated for their work and schools receive proper funds to insure success for Hoosier children.