Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be … teachers

The news was mostly positive from the 54th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Faith in local public schools reached its highest level in nearly 50 years. Most respondents said they trust teachers, even when it comes to controversial topics.

But one result was disturbing. Only 37% of people in the national survey said they would want their child to become a public school teacher in their community. That’s the lowest level in the poll’s history. It’s down from 46% in 2018, the last time the question was asked. In 1969, three-quarters of respondents said they would like their children to become teachers.

It’s hard to square the result with the continued strong support for schools and teachers. If we think schools are doing a good job and educators are trustworthy, why wouldn’t we want our kids to grow up to be teachers?

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Vouchers prop up private schools

I’ve always thought that one of the motivations behind Indiana’s school voucher program was to create a taxpayer bailout for private schools, especially struggling Catholic schools. If that’s the case, it seems to have worked.

Enrollment for the state’s Catholic schools has held steady for the past 10 years, roughly the period that vouchers have been in place. Overall enrollment in accredited private schools has increased by 16%.

Contrast that with what’s happened elsewhere. Across the United States, enrollment in Catholic K-12 schools declined by 21.3% in the past 10 years, according to the National Catholic Education Association. Catholic school enrollment peaked in the early 1960s at 5.2 million; it’s now about 1.7 million.

A recent story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows how this trend continues in St. Louis, where Catholic school enrollment has shrunk by half since 2000. The local archdiocese is embarking on a plan to close and consolidate schools, but that will be tricky, according to a community survey.

In Indiana, vouchers also cushioned the blow to private schools from the growth of charter schools. Indiana started charter schools in 2002 and greatly expanded them in 2011. They have grown explosively, especially in Indianapolis and Gary.

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School referendum language is ‘a lot misleading’

When I go to the polls this November, I will vote in a school funding referendum that – according to the language that appears on the ballot – will increase my property taxes for schools by 35%.

That would be a hefty increase if it were accurate, but it’s not. Not by a long shot.

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Detail from a Monroe County Community School Corp. referendum flyer.

The actual increase – the difference between the property tax rate that I now pay to the Monroe County Community School Corp. and the rate I will pay next year if the referendum passes – is about 15%.

But a 35% increase is what MCCSC officials have to advertise under legislation approved in 2021, and an interpretation of that law by the Department of Local Government Finance. Voters are getting misleading information, and school funding referendums could be harder to pass as a result.

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