On Tuesday, Nov. 19, teachers from around the state of Indiana gathered to protest at the statehouse in Indianapolis for more funding for education. As Indiana State legislatures arrived to the statehouse for “Organizing Day” before the start of the 2020 legislative session, teachers and supporters clad in red met them at and around the entrance, holding signs and handing out pamphlets supporting their cause. With over 15,000 people estimated to have rallied at the statehouse on Tuesday, Red for Ed surpassed both the Women’s March and Right to Work rallies to become the biggest rally at the statehouse in recent years.
Though each teacher has their personal reasons for going, there were a couple main themes at play in this rally. Increasing salaries for teachers statewide is one of the commonly known, and certainly more controversial ones, with partisan support landing on either side of the argument. Indiana is currently ranked last in the United States for teacher pay raises. Lesser known are two other main points that the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) stated they wanted to address.
Standardized testing costs Indiana $100 million a year, and many see that as an unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental impact on students’ learning. In addition, the ISTA is protesting the new requirements for teachers to renew their licenses, which specifies that 15 of 90 teacher’s Personal Development hours be spent in certain activities, including a temporary training in a corporate business. ISTA argues that this is just providing an unnecessary burden on teachers already strapped to complete their job and the requirements to the best of their ability.
As teachers began to express in attending the event in Indianapolis, many school districts quickly realized that they did not have the substitute capacity to cover all the teachers. Half of all the school districts in Indiana closed down, including districts surrounding Delphi, such as Twin Lakes, Carroll, and Lafayette and Tippecanoe School Corporations. Rossville and Frontier, along with Delphi, were the only surrounding area schools who stayed open on Tuesday. However, Delphi Community School Corporation did have multiple teachers attend, including Mrs. Kinzie and Mrs. Brummet from the high school, each going for their own separate reason.
“When I went into education, I knew it was going to be a stable job,” stated business and information technology teacher Mrs. Kinzie. “I went into it for the kids. However, we’re seeing that the quality of teachers we need aren’t entering the classroom anymore because the increases in pay is such a stark difference from when I started teaching.” Pay increase wasn’t the only thing that was important to Kinzie though—things like mental health support helped make the decision for her to attend in Indianapolis. “So many students these days are coming in with baggage that to me is just jaw dropping. [The guidance counselors] simply aren’t able to take care of everything that needs to be done, with so much else on their plate.”
Tuesday’s “Red for Ed” activities didn’t stop after the rally in Indianapolis. After school, many Delphi teachers who weren’t able to make it to the state capital marched from Riley Park downtown to the courthouse, where they drew the attention of locals to what was happening in Indianapolis. “I was happy that we let our voices be heard both locally and at the state level. The Red for Ed campaign and rally has been effective in educating the general population about many important educational issues,” said Mrs. Tonsoni. “The support we felt from students and families was appreciated. There were more than just teachers wearing red and speaking up for teachers and students.”
Though the event on Tuesday has ended, many won’t consider it a success until legislation is finally passed, and they weren’t shy to remind Indiana lawmakers about it on Tuesday. Chants of, “We will vote!” and, “We will vote you out!” could be heard across the square in an effort to remind lawmakers that they’re job is to represent the citizens of Indiana. The 2020 session will reconvene in January.