On Tuesday, an estimated 17,000 supporters of public education rallied at the Indiana Statehouse in a display of solidarity over the perceived treatment of the way public schools are funded and teachers are treated in Indiana.

Opponents of public education simply tried to frame this demonstration as a “cash grab” by teachers or a way for the ISTA to gain power and influence. Many members of the Republican supermajority, simply echoed the same talking points that have been bouncing around since the Daniels Administration: “We are funding education at the highest level;” “Decisions on salaries should be reconciled at the local level:” “We believe ‘choice’ evens the playing field;” “Charter and private schools force Public schools to improve through competition;” or “Testing and ‘letter grades’ lead to better accountability.”

However, these talking points do not hold water when applied to day-to-day operation of public schools.

Our state legislature was behind “property tax caps” and now they own the blowback from that. They also own the funding formula for the distribution of state funds and seem perfectly happy to let “referendum” be the great equalizer. How has that worked out?

Yes, the public should have a say in determining the direction a school’s movement, however, that is called a school board. If taxpayers are allowed to vote on whether teachers will receive additional compensation, or money will remain in the referendum voters’ pocket, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the outcome of that vote.

One particularly unscrupulous talking point was that legislators showcase a 3% decline in enrollment with a 31% increase in administration costs, hoping to drive a wedge between administrations and teachers. The disconnect comes from the fact that “administration” means a lot more than principals and superintendent salaries. As the state has pushed unfunded mandates, many of these non-certified staff and program costs have now moved into the category “administration.”

Teacher evaluations and pay is still tied to student performance on standardized test, sadly these results seem to be invalidated on a regular basis.

Look the numbers don’t lie, over the next two fiscal years there will be an increase in school funding, however, Charter schools will receive 21.1% (10.3 and 10.5%) total increase, voucher schools will receive just under 15% (9.3 and 5.6), Virtual schools will get 14% (5.2 and 9.1) and public school will get less than 4.5% (2.06 and 2.07). This certainly indicates the direction the legislature believes education is going.

There needs to be an overhaul in the way schools are funded. The current methods are not working and 17,000 showed up on Tuesday to send that message to the statehouse. It is unknown if our representatives were listening, but one thing was for sure – they were seeing RED.

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