How I got here: the sun in my eyes

The 2012 campaign proved to be a pivotal turning point in the history of Indianapolis school board elections.  As my good friend John Harris Loflin delineates in his guest blog post, pre-2012 IPS elections typically raised a couple thousand dollars at best.  The total raised in 2012 for all candidates was over a hundred times that.

Why has the local school board election, which used to cost candidates a few thousand dollars at most, turned into a cut-throat race garnering tens of thousands of dollars?

What happened between the 2010 election and the 2012 election that changed the political landscape?

Enter:  Special Interest Groups.

The heavy hitting funders in the 2012 election, by far, were Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform, which both exploded on the Indianapolis “ed reform” scene between 2010-2012.  You can see their involvement in my campaign finance by reviewing the report here.  A complete list of IPS school board candidates finance reports is also public information – available online.

Why did these Special Interest groups decide to set up shop in Indianapolis?

“The stars had aligned” (Eli Lilly, The Mind Trust, and the Mayor’s office, mainly) to make Indianapolis a very hospitable place for Charter Schools.  Charter Schools, as you know, are in direct competition with traditional public schools (IPS) for students.  Each student who chooses to enroll in a charter school brings more income for that school, so recruiting and advertising is very important…anyway, now that you have introduced this free-market approach to education, schools are beginning to be run like businesses.  Since each student brings in roughly the same amount of funding, if you are in a business, you start to think of things like overhead (rent, electricity, etc) and profit margin.

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The Indiana State Consitution – ARTICLE 8. Education

Section 1. Common school system

Section 1. Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.

(Hmm…I don’t think the Indiana State Constitution precludes Charter Schools, but it sure doesn’t sound like our forefathers intended for folks to be profiting off of educating our children.)

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Back to my 2012 campaign:

I decided to run in early 2012 for a variety of reasons.  I’m a die-hard eastsider, born, raised, and still here. I am a third generation graduate of IPS schools, K-12.  I sent my child to IPS.  From 2007-2011, I taught in IPS as a Special Education teacher.  Product, Parent, Employee.  I had multiple perspectives to bring to the table, but the most pressing one was the need for change I saw as a teacher in IPS elementary schools.  To highlight several of the most pressing issues:

  • The overarching need for our schools to have more autonomy, based on the fact that teachers and principals know the needs of their students better than folks at the district level (no more top down, one size fits all mandates)
  • Teachers need to be freed from constrictive pedagogy focused on passing tests – teaching at its best is an art designed to inspire young minds (UGH! no more Pacing Guides to tell me what to teach by the week, day, and hour)
  • Curriculum focused on teaching to the test ensures a failure rate of about half of the student population if you assume a normal bell curve distrubution
  • Parents, on the most basic level, have the right to choose where to send their children to school
  • In 2012, I felt that a change in IPS leadership was overdue and absolutely necessary

None of these principles which were a part of my campaign platform, have changed.  I still believe these things as I did in 2011-2012 when I campaigned for this seat.

What has changed:  I am no longer as naive about how this game called politics works.  After two years of connecting the political dots, I have come to realize that most of these people are in each other’s back pockets.  Now, hindsight is 20/20, and I’m seeing things for what they really are.  The IPS board has been purchased by ed-reform groups, most notably Stand for Children.  Some seats they didn’t have to purchase, because some people ran unopposed in 2012.  But the ed-reform ideology perpetuates all board members except myself…and Stand for Children has been the largest / most consistent campaign contributor.

I guess they tried to buy my vote.  They were not successful, if that was their goal.

I weigh every single decision I make on its own merits.  I have not been afraid to be critical of decisions that warrant criticism.  I don’t care if I piss you off…I’m really not here to make friends.  I will continue to advocate for the children and the district that I love, unafraid, until my time on the school board is over.  I will continue to think critically about decisions and when concerns arise, I will continue to share those concerns in a very public way.  I will serve in the capacity that an elected official should – not merely glossing over and rubber stamping everything the Superintendent wants – but truly striving to represent MY community.  After all, their votes elected me.  They are my constituents.  I am their voice.

As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email me:

gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

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Author: gaylecosby

Atypical politician: unconditional truth teller, seeker and conveyer of wisdom. Tell it like it is, shoot from the hip, can't afford to waste any more time. Let's go.