INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI) - From Evansville to South Bend to Greater Lafayette, thousands of teachers and education supporters protested for public education on Tuesday at the Red for Ed Rally. The lawn of the Indiana Statehouse was filled with people of all ages in red shirts, hats and scarves, holding signs expressing their demands.
We are just weeks away from the 2020 session starting, and they want to make their concerns known to Indiana legislators.
"We're here because the state under-funds public education," said Scott Fields, a history teacher at North White High School.
"Class sizes are getting larger, socio-economic problems are getting greater," said Andrea Lawson, a 5th grade teacher at Mintonye Elementary School.
"It's hard for me to live on what I get, especially with student debt from Purdue," said Austin Beidelman, a physics teacher at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
The National Education Association said Indiana's average teacher pay is about $10,000 dollars less than the national average.
North White Schools, Tippecanoe School Corporation and Lafayette School Corporations were just a handful of the corporations closed in the WLFI viewing area for the rally. The districts will be making up the missed day of school either during a built in snow day or at the end of the school year. The teachers at the rally are ready for changes.
"This whole mass of people is letting them know that we are not just going to send emails anymore, we are taking action," said Scott Smith, President of the Benton Education Association. Fields and Smith said they are trying to advocate for the rural school corporations, who may not have the same resources as other schools.
As we previously reported, the teachers are trying to get an ILearn hold harmless. This would stop any punishments from coming down on teachers or schools for poor test results. The legislature will be voting on that soon. State Senator Ron Alting said he would vote in favor of the hold harmless. They also want to repeal the new rule that teachers have to do 15 externship hours, many saying they don't have time for it and that it doesn't add anything to their quality of teaching.
They say it all comes down to providing quality education for every child in Indiana.
"Now what we're dealing with is under-funded schools and the kids aren't getting what they deserve," said Tim Conner, an educator of 36 years who teaches 5th grade for Delphi Community School Corporation. "Our schools, our students are the greatest resource that the state of Indiana has."
"We are all very passionate about our students and that is what this is about," said Lawson.
Logansport Community Schools is one of more than 140 districts across the state that closed for today. Superintendent Michele Starkey was with her teachers on the statehouse steps.
"I think it's important to show our kids that we are standing up for something we believe in and what a great lesson for our students ultimately," she said. "Nobody wants to miss schools, but it's that important that we are here today to do that."
Once all the teachers got inside the statehouse, Senator Alting took time to meet with Lafayette area teachers one-on-one to hear their concerns. He said he has a plan to get them permanent raises.
"We don't tax much in Indiana, you seldom see new revenue coming in," he said.
But now, the state does have a new revenue stream thanks to the sports betting tax passed this year.
"This has never reached the general funds so this money can be dedicated to education teacher raises specifically for the next 50 years to 100 years," he said. The 2020 session is not a budget session, so he said he is going to start planting the seeds of support this year and then put the bill up for debate in 2021.
So that future generations of Hoosiers can thrive from the beginning.
"I have a grandson, he's three months old and I want vibrant public school system when Oliver gets into school," said Conner.
"That's our primary goal is kids first," said Fields. "We're training the leaders of tomorrow."