Happy Reformation Day

Recently, I read a scathing letter from a public-school principal voicing his anger over the various reforms that have occurred here in Indiana. His arguments centered around outcomes and strategies he called "agenda" education. He views the educational reforms of Indiana (which elsewhere are seen as the nation's best) as nothing more than thievery and deceit.To him, public education is the only way to address diversity, to teach collaboration and cooperation, and to create a better world. In his eyes, public education is the only way to address the needs of Hoosier kids, and the only way to make our state strong. In his view, private education is just "agenda" education, filled with bias and partiality.Frankly, the assertion that the public-education lobby has no agenda is absurd -- deception of oneself and others. As the principal's letter demonstrated, there's plenty of bias and partiality to go around. And some special-interest groups have bigger pocketbooks than others.Strong teachers can be found throughout Indiana's public schools. However, special-interest influence on policy and practices in Indiana public schools trickles into the classroom and hamstrings great teachers. Maybe the best reform in Indiana would best be done in the model of parochial schools, which are locally owned, locally governed, and locally operated.Local public schools have boasted that they were in front of education reforms happening at the state level. Good for them. That's a great model--as long as the reforms prove successful. But it also would behoove public schools to consider a less combative and more collaborative posture toward their private-school neighbors. Catholics and Lutherans founded the first schools in his region; those schools still deliver quality education, and they are trusted and loved. Making them out to be "enemies" through attack ads and opinion pieces doesn't make sense. That strategy will only alienate and separate our community--and that's not good politics.A public-school monopoly on education will not save the day for Indiana. School reform, including Indiana's groundbreaking school-choice legislation, has made its mark. Hoosier school kids are the beneficiaries. Many public schools have experienced an uptick in ISTEP scores. (It's amazing what a little competition can do!) The benefits of school reform should be celebrated, not condemned.Nearly 500 years ago today, the sound of a reformer's hammer rang out at the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 theses signaled a transformation in the institutionalized Church that had not occurred since the first century. His bold action would challenge the status quo for years to come.Educational reform is doing the same today in Indiana--and nationwide. The status quo is being challenged with whys and hows.While we as a Lutheran-school community do not and will not promote one political candidate over another, we do advocate for principles that need to be part of our schools. If those principles can be served through a state or federal program, we will cautiously use those resources. However, when state or federal programs jeopardize principles of the faith, our schools will part company.As election day approaches, consider the benefits that school-choice legislation has brought to the families of Indiana, and vote appropriately. Your vote counts, and is needed.Happy Reformation Day.