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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Don’t limit Indiana students

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I’m disappointed in the Indiana General Assembly.

In their effort to make things better for Indiana high school students, they may be doing the opposite.

This is a budget year in Indiana. That means the Indiana General Assembly is determining how our tax dollars will be spent. I don’t envy them. I imagine it’s not a fun job to figure out where to spend, where to cut, what’s important and what’s important but must wait. I’m guessing there are more than a few long, hard, headache-inducing choices — especially related to education.

Legislators are the ones who determine how much money to allocate to schools. School funding is always a tenuous and contentious issue. That hasn’t changed this year.

Right now, House Republicans want to cut school funding for vocational classes such as cosmetology, culinary arts, radio and TV — some of the very classes that keep children in school. Instead, they want to put that money toward careers that pay more such as biomedical science, nursing and welding. The intention of this effort sounds noble, but it’s not reality.

Just because a teen is into culinary arts or TV doesn’t mean he or she will be interested in biomedical science. It’s not an equal trade. The idea of offering a variety of career training is you want to capture a wide swath of students — some of whom may not attend college — and give them an option that will allow them to start adulthood on a good foot. By removing some of these classes, you’re effectively resigning some high schoolers to have nothing but a high school diploma or worse. Let’s be honest, it’s 2021 and students still drop out of high school. Cosmetology class or culinary arts class could be the only reason some students attend school. It’s their motivation. Yes, they could get that training after high school, but at a much higher cost that will then be paid out of pocket.

A large number of Indiana high schools have dedicated career centers and they’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into offering state-of-the-art facilities and quality instruction. According to an article published on in.Chalkbeat.org, 16,000 students are enrolled in these courses that are in jeopardy of losing funding. That’s not an insignificant number of students. House budget leader Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, wants to make it clear: Schools can still offer the courses; there will just be less funding from the state. School leaders will have to figure out how to keep the same level of offerings for their students. I’m critical of schools when I think it’s deserved, but we sure keep putting a lot on educators.

We keep asking more and more of them while providing less money and fewer incentives. Schools, more than likely, will move the cost to parents. Unfortunately, this means some students will be excluded because their families can’t afford the additional cost. Not too long ago legislators cut transportation funding for schools, and that meant school districts passed the cost of extracurricular transportation on to families.

These cuts hit home. My daughter wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. She’s always been artsy, crafty and creative, and she loves fashion. When she told me of her plans for the future, a fashion designer made perfect sense. With that goal in mind, she enrolled in the Family and Consumer Science program at her school. A junior now, she’s been in a fashion class since ninth grade. She learned to sew and embroider. She has a sewing machine at home. She made her dress for her Sweet 16. It didn’t turn out exactly how she wanted, but she did it. She’s sewn Christmas gifts for her brother and grandparents.

She’s a smart girl but sitting at a desk and listening to a teacher does little for her. Her favorite class is fashion. Her favorite teacher is her fashion teacher. I can’t tell you how much time or money I’ve spent in JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts (a lot), but it’s worth it because of her excitement. If she didn’t have this outlet, school would be a very different experience for her.

If the idea is to make Indiana students successful, why would we want to limit the ways students find success?

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