By Donna Griffin
Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn I filed to run for the Indiana General Assembly as a State Representative for District 88. My family has already chalked it up to genetics since my grandfather was a Marion County Commissioner in the 1950s.
To my teacher colleagues – this is what I promised when I was in the trenches of public education – I would tell our story of what is happening to public education – in the classroom.
Why now? I resigned from full-time teaching in June 2021, but I’m not done being an educator. There’s too much to do. In the midst of the pandemic, the fundamental inequities, arbitrary micromanagement, and downright unfairness of the education system were on full display when classroom and home merged. Teachers were praised, how did they do it? Get kids to focus? To listen?
Then the world needed to get back “to normal.” And that meant kids back in school. I was there when that happened. Teaching to 20 “circles” on a laptop with five to eight students on computers, sometimes working, but most of the time like all of us, weighed down by uncertainty, lethargy, and self-protective apathy.
Calls for a return to school and normalcy during the pandemic ignored that fact that there was no going back and that very few teachers wanted to return to a situation where they were underpaid, unfairly evaluated, blamed and judged for results and issues outside of their control.
Give teachers opportunity, respect, and resources and you will have innovation and motivation which leads to empowered students who thrive – yes – even in a pandemic.
But Indiana teachers know that so much of the time they are not respected – HB 1134 tells them that. So does taking the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s position from elected to appointed (thanks Mike Pence). And average teacher pay that ranks 38th nationally. Not to mention an average of about 12-hour (or more) work days, (according to a Scholastic/Gates Foundation study).
And while teachers were designated “essential workers” in Aug. 2020 to pressure them back into the classrooms; Indiana did not put them on the vaccine list until March of 2021.
Running for political office remains a deeply-held and long-time buried desire to participate in the democratic process for two reasons:
- To be represented by my local officials
- To be able to address inequities and lack of innovation in education policy in Indiana
And I did it! – Got in my car, drove to Downtown Indy and threw my hypothetical hat in the ring. I’m running for Indiana State Representative for District 88.
As I was driving down I-70, I thought about how everyone says it’s so easy to run for office, file a few papers and you’re done, but it truly takes a team effort. I’m lucky to have found my team on this journey with Hancock County Democrats.
This is an opportunity that I don’t take for granted – even as it seems that all the signs are pointing me toward this path. As I turned onto Washington Street, I looked up to acknowledge the mural of African American trailblazing cyclist Major Taylor. While I went to the Indiana Government Center parking garage first, I quickly backed out when I saw the rates started at $15 for 30 minutes. At that moment I felt down-deep gratitude and a tug of privilege that I had a car and the means to travel Downtown and park. I just chose to follow my Near-Eastside frugality and not.
As I came down West Washington Street again – behold – a car pulled out as I crossed the intersection and I was able to pull into a metered spot right in front of the Capitol.
It took another five minutes or so to realize you had to put your card in and then slide it out before you could finish the transaction. Now on to my destination, with a quick stop to pay a moment of homage to those who paved this way.
This will not be the last time I talk about these Hoosier women.
#suffragettes #Indianasfirstwomensrightsconvention #Dublin1851
Or this road that remains a directional anchor throughout my life. #WashingtonStreet #US40 #NationalRoad #MainStreet
But my ultimate goal called and I really just wanted to officially start this journey. So thanks to the help of the State Government staff and security officials I made it to the Election Division and met Matthew who looked over my paperwork and informed me I hit a snag – probably not the first challenge I’ll encounter. Wrong financial paperwork – he sent me on my way to the House Clerk to get and file the correct paperwork which basically said I’m self-employed, do not have financial interests in major stocks or investments or connections with lobbyists.
No worries – I’m just focused on paying my bills and saving for retirement – simply a regular person who wants have a say in my government.
The significance of this process became evident as I headed to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office to file the final candidate paperwork.
And I realized I was definitely a government geek as I stopped to take a deep breath in front of what I hope will be the next stop on my career destination:
When I signed my name it reminded me that words on paper have power. If you think about it, our government is essentially words on paper put into practice by people with diverse interests and perspectives but common goals. Over the course of my career, I put many words on paper, covering local, state, and national issues, but I’ve tried to stay out of the fray. I’ve channeled my efforts into providing opportunities for young people to use their voice to make change. Now it’s my turn and my time to step up. To provide answers as well as ask questions. To listen, collaborate, and lead.
I’ll hope you’ll join on my journey in 2022 by sharing ideas, asking questions, supporting our communities and above all voting! Let’s work together to reimagine education!
Contact me to find out more how to be a part of this project.