Red For Ed and How You Can Make a Direct Impact on Education in our Community Today

What’s this Red For Ed thing all about?
As many of you have undoubtedly heard by now, this Tuesday, November 19th, is “Red For Ed” day in the state of Indiana. So far, about 13,000 people, the vast majority of them teachers, plan on descending upon the state capitol en masse to request that their concerns be addressed by the state legislators in the upcoming session. According to the Indianapolis Star, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) has listed three goals they would like to see met for this session – raising teacher pay, hold school districts harmless if they fare poorly on statewide performance tests and repeal recently enacted professional development requirements.

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Photo courtesy of the NEA.

Nationally, the National Education Association’s (NEA) Red for Ed movement encompasses a much broader scope. From reducing teachers’ out of pocket expenses to creating more conducive learning environments and offering better access to opportunities for everyone in the community, the goal of the NEA can probably be summed up as creating the optimal learning situation that benefits the community the most as a whole.

While the NEA’s scope for Red For Ed is wider to be in line with their larger membership, the ISTA has chosen to highlight areas of concern that matter the most to its membership. While the majority of us would love to see teachers paid more, we’re not sure how we can make a better impact. Beyond attending rallies, writing your representatives, sharing your beliefs with others and voting, you don’t believe there’s much else you can do to help.

That’s where you would be wrong. You can help teachers and educators today.

After my father passed away a couple years ago, I contacted the Kosciusko County Community Foundation (KCCF) and my family worked with them to create a fund in his honor. The Robert Westerhof Family Fund was created to help educators meet their material needs. Whether that was a teacher who needed supplies for a special project, a coach who needed soccer balls for his team or a club who needed a renovated space, the fund was created so they wouldn’t have to spend money out of their own pocket.

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“Everything that is real was imagined first. Don’t be afraid. Just throw your heart into it and the rest of you will follow.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

The fund was created for this specific purpose because we recognized a need. Citing an article from the National Center for Education Statistics, the NEA wrote that “94 percent of teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms with the necessary supplies and resources.” On average, teachers will spend almost $500 with 7% spending more than $1000.

That’s unacceptable and we can do better. Sometimes, you have to be the change.

A few weeks ago, I put out a post on Facebook that asked people to share information about our family’s fund with educators who might be able to take advantage of it. The response to it was overwhelming, so much so that the fund will soon have disbursed half of its available monies. Hence, this article.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

The educators of Indiana need your help. While you may not be able to give them a raise, you can help ensure that they don’t spend money out of their own pocket. Creating the best learning environment isn’t a burden educators should bear on their own. That falls on the community.

If you find it within your means, I would like to ask you to consider donating to the Robert Westerhof Family Fund. All of the money managed by the fund (minus minimal administrative fees charged by the KCCF which is usually made back and then more by their investments) goes to educators at school systems with a physical footprint in Kosciusko County. Not only does your money stay local, your donation is tax-deductible.

The fund is already making a difference now. You can help us make a bigger impact.

  • About 45 headphones in total have been provided to classrooms at Jefferson Elementary and Washington STEM Academy. Present and future students in those classroom will no longer have to provide their own.
  • A request has been submitted to provide time management clocks for 35 classrooms at Pierceton Elementary. Approval is expected soon.
  • A request will soon be submitted to purchase equipment for the soccer team at Jefferson Elementary. This is also expected to be approved.

Our fund can’t confront the problem on its own, though. We need your help. The numbers tell a tale and it’s a dire one in Indiana.

Key statistics to consider (Source – NEA):

  • The starting salary for Indiana teachers is $35,943. That ranks 36th in the nation.
  • The average salary for a teacher in Indiana is $50,614. That also ranks 36th in the country.
  • Here’s the clincher – per student spending in the state of Indiana is $8946. Out of 50 states, that ranks 47th. Our students – your children, friends and family members – and our community deserve better.

You can do something about it now. You can choose to …

Help educators today and help yourself tomorrow.

Donations to our fund can be made via the Kosciusko County Community’s website (donate – see further directions below). If you would like to send a check, you can mail it to them at 102 E Market St. Warsaw, IN 46580. Be sure to note “Robert Westerhof Family Fund” in the memo line.

For interested educators, the process to apply for the funds couldn’t be easier. There’s no long grant application to fill out. Simply send me an email at tomncole (at) yahoo (dot) com with your need and the school it benefits and I’ll review it. As the sole fund advisor, I choose whether or not to submit a fund disbursement request to the KCCF’s Board. It’s that easy. Public, private and home schools are all eligible along with any other organizations that offer learning environments. They just have to be a verified non-profit.

The children in today’s classrooms will become tomorrow’s leaders, decision makers … and parents. If we’re going to leave our future in their hands, shouldn’t we give them the best learning environment possible?

Create a better learning environment and the whole community benefits for generations.

To donate to our fund on the KCCF website, go to https://kcfoundation.org/donate/. Complete the information and under the “Fund Designation” section, type in “Robert Westerhof Family Fund.” You can also choose another fund by typing it in or clicking on the blue link to view a complete list of funds.

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If you choose not to donate to our fund, I implore you to consider one of the other funds at the KCCF that benefit education or another area of interest. You’ll feel better for it.

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