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Teachers’ group wants mandatory kindergarten, trauma-informed care

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana State Teachers Association published its 2018 legislative priority list Thursday, calling on lawmakers to make big changes for Hoosier students and schools next year.

The ISTA has 16 wishes for the new year ranging from changing teacher qualifying exams to making kindergarten mandatory.

“We are often accused of complaining about a lot of things but never offering solutions,” ISTA President Teresa Meredith said. “We have really been cognizant of solutions. We believe that educators are the ones who ought to be offering solutions and so we are.”

Meredith explained the lawmakers should adopt the same three priorities ISTA functions with: kids, schools and future. She began by addressing the $9.3 million deficit in the public education budget and called on lawmakers to restore the needed funds.

She also addressed the need to have schools implement trauma-informed care, a kind of counseling that could help change mindsets from “what’s wrong with this child” to “what has happened to this child.”

“You typically think of things like child abuse and neglect, but we’re also looking at things like students who have had parents who have been repeatedly deployed,” she said. “But also the opioid crisis that Indiana is experiencing right now. That is creating an even greater pool of students that we haven’t necessarily had to be superconcerned about in the past.”

The ISTA is also prioritizing improving the fairness of the state teacher licensing exam, which Meredith said disqualifies good teachers who simply can’t finish the test in the allotted time.

Also, being a kindergarten teacher herself, Meredith explained the ISTA’s position to lower the compulsory school attendance age from age 7 to age 5, making kindergarten mandatory.

“We have around 7,000 children in Indiana who don’t show up for kindergarten each year. They should, and they’re eligible, but they don’t,” she said. “And so when those children do show up in school, their experience is different than their peers. They’re behind from the get-go.”

While it was not a part of their 2018 legislative priorities, Meredith addressed the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s request to make computer science classes required for graduation from an Indiana high school.

“Depending on the kind of computer science class and how you want it supported, I think there’s a still a question. I don’t know that it needs to be a requirement for graduation, though,” Meredith said.

Here is the 16-point ISTA 2018 legislative priority list:

  • Provide our most challenged kids with the opportunity to earn a diploma.
  • Equip educators to help children who have been impacted by trauma receive the education they deserve.
  • Provide less testing, more learning for our kids.
  • Demonstrate importance of early learning by requiring kindergarten and lowering compulsory attendance age to five.
  • Reduce class sizes.
  • Preserve accreditation without added financial burdens to those who teach dual credit.
  • Prioritize our community public schools where more than 90 percent of all Hoosier students attend.
  • Appropriate additional school funding so that no school experiences reductions.
  • Require transparency and financial reporting from charter, virtual and private voucher schools.
  • Respect the rich history of educators’ collective action and recognize that the best decisions are made when all interested parties work together.
  • Suspend accountability consequences for schools, districts, and communities while Indiana transitions to its new state standards assessment.
  • Eliminate high-stakes consequences on teacher evaluations based on test scores.
  • Unblock highly qualified teaching candidates by improving fairness of the state licensing exam.
  • Respect the service of educators with a post-employment benefits system that keeps pace with the cost-of-living.
  • Recognize the importance of education support professionals by providing resources and professional rights.
  • Re-establish a teacher-led professional standards board.