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Monday, June 17, 2024

‘RISE’ up instead of tearing down schools

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It’s much easier to tear something down than to build it up, or to throw stones than to lay a foundation with them.

Lately, it feels like there are plenty of folks throwing stones at our city at a time when we need more people who are committed to strengthening its foundation.

Three years ago, I started RISE INDY because I believe every student in Indianapolis deserves access to a quality public school. Social justice starts with educational equity. But that’s just the beginning.

In recent months, we have heard criticism from major employers that our workforce isn’t ready for next-generation jobs. We’re devoting resources to tackle the public safety crisis that swept the nation during the pandemic. We know we need to be healthier—both physically and mentally—as Hoosiers.

K-12 education is the foundation upon which all those things are built. If we want to build a strong city, it starts with great public schools.

That’s where our approach at RISE INDY comes in: We’re not here to tear down what’s already in existence. We also know we can’t do this alone.

Our organizing team, based in local public schools, spends each day working directly with parents and families to make sure they know how to navigate their child’s school and what resources are available to them.

Working directly in schools helps build bridges between educators and families that create opportunities for families to engage with teachers and other parents—the kind of relationships that exist in the district’s most popular choice schools.

Our advocacy efforts include recruiting, training and electing strong champions for quality public schools, while building grassroots support to ensure elected officials are listening to all community voices, not just the loudest ones.

Finally, we focus our policy work in six core areas of K-12 education:

Empowering caregivers to advocate for their students.
Best practices to improve literacy rates in local public schools.
The need for mental health support for educators and students.
Funding schools equitably and making sure resources flow to the classroom.
Training, recruiting and retaining teachers of color.
Ensuring schools and school leaders have flexibility to meet the needs of their students.

This three-pronged approach means we can support great work that’s already being done to advance K-12 education locally while ensuring the next generation of leaders is ready to act on behalf of our kids.

Don’t get me wrong: We know there’s plenty of improvement to be made, but if we focus on building up instead of tearing down, I believe more and more local residents will see that we can do big things together for every student who calls our city home.

And so, I ask you today, if you care about educational equity and making sure the foundation of our city is strong, ‘RISE’ up with me and get involved.

That could look like spending a few hours volunteering your time or attending an event where you can learn more about how the K-12 system functions. It could also be as simple as making sure you’re registered so you can vote this November in the IPS school board races that are on the ballot.

Whatever path you choose, we’re in this together, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for a stronger city built on a foundation of great public schools for all.

Jasmin Shaheed-Young is President + CEO of RISE INDY, a local nonprofit founded in December 2019 to improve public schools for all Indianapolis students.
Learn more about RISE INDY at riseindy.org.

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