I am happy to announce that I am one of the four candidates for the West Lafayette School Board who has been endorsed by the West Lafayette Education Association. I think teachers are the backbone of our education system, so having their support is extremely gratifying. As part of its endorsement process, the WLEA sent out a questionnaire to the candidates and then interviewed us as part of a process with the League of Women Voters. (With 15 candidates, that’s no small investment of time; even if not all of the candidates sought the WLEA endorsement.)
I may have started with a bit of an edge over some of the other candidates inasmuch as I’m a known quantity to the members. Obviously, I was on the school board for a couple of years. But I’d say I really got to know the union members after I lost in the 2016 election. They were instrumental in working for passage of the school referendum in 2017. I walked door-to-door with several members over the weeks of canvassing West Lafayette for support. Knocking on doors with someone is a great way to get to know them! There were also many teachers involved with the school strategic plan during the 2018-2019 process, and I had the good fortune of learning from and brainstorming with a number of them as we broke into work groups as part of the planning process. Additionally, I’ve offered my full-throated support for teachers on my blog over the years. Probably the entry that has received the widest circulation was the post I wrote in support of Red for Ed entitled “Some thoughts on Red for Ed, Caleb Mills, and Indiana’s School Policies.” Here’s a sample:
At root, there is a lack of appreciation as to what a world-class educational system provides and possibly a lack of ambition by policymakers. Can we afford one? We can’t afford not to have one. Opportunity is slipping away from Hoosiers because we’re allowing our foundation to erode. The high stakes testing and privatization approach that have been in place for the better part of a generation have put us in a downward spiral. Teachers have been scapegoats and their salaries have remained mostly stagnant as their burdens have grown.
When it comes to education, we are too often shrewd with our pennies but foolish with our dollars. This is an investment.
It bears mentioning that this was a post directed to state policymakers. I recognize that the power of a local school board is very much circumscribed by state law. Even in a community like West Lafayette that is very supportive of its schools, there are significant limits on funding. If elected as a school board member, I will work to make teacher compensation a priority but we will have to work within fiscal constraints and recognize that the school has other needs as well. I expect that the relationships I’ve made with the teachers outside of the school board will help on both sides of these negotiations. Because we know each other, we’ll all recognize that each party is advocating in good faith on behalf of the constituents they represent. Hopefully that will result in an amicable relationship that’s in the best interest of the school, the students, the teachers, and the community.
But, one step at a time. The first step would be to get elected. We have great teachers in West Lafayette, and I’m honored by their endorsement.