This Tuesday, November 19, half the school districts in Indiana will be closed as thousands of teachers from across the state rally in front of the statehouse. The rally has been organized by the Indiana State Teachers Association, which is one of the teacher unions in Indiana. Tuesday will be the first day of the 2020 legislative session which is why the rally was set for that day. The goals that the teachers are marching for are higher teacher salaries, a repeal of the 15 hour externship requirement for professional development, and a promise from the state to hold schools and teachers harmless from state standardized test scores.
“I’m participating because, as a teacher, I care about my students and I do not want my students just to be a test number and a lot of younger people are not going into education anymore because of the salary. Indiana ranks 51st in salary increases in the United States and because of that, we are having trouble getting teachers that are qualified and our kids deserve more,” social studies teacher Tricia Alpers said.
Lawrence Township has joined many other districts in closing schools on Tuesday. On Monday, Nov. 11, Dr. Smith and the Board of Education met to decide if they should modify the school year calendar in order to accommodate the Red for Ed movement. Several teachers in the district had already requested to take a personal day on Tuesday, which had led to some concerns about how the quality of education and the safety of the students might look. In addition, the Lawrence Education Association, Lawrence Township’s branch of the ISTA, contacted Dr. Smith and asked the school board to consider canceling school in order to allow teachers to participate.
“They felt that it warranted discussion at a board meeting to determine if it meant that we should change our calendar for the 2019-20 school year to accommodate this. Obviously considerations are around the quality of instruction that can take place when you have that many teachers out, safety and operations of the buildings, but really what prompted the conversation was the voice of the teachers saying that they want to participate in this movement,” Dr. Dana Altemeyer, Lawrence Township Director of Communication, said.
English teacher Elizabeth Masur hopes that the community will see the value and importance of these things through this movement. She believes that teachers would not be taking days off and away from the classroom unless there was something going on that was really important for them to be a part of.
“I’m hoping that the community responds recognizing that for most teachers, we hate to be out of the classroom and we know it’s disruptive and we wouldn’t do this unless we thought it was really, really important,” Masur said.
Many parents have responded positively to the cancellation of school on Tuesday because they understand the need for the movement. This cancellation has caused concerns for some parents in finding childcare, but the district is offering childcare to help them. The YMCA will be providing childcare for elementary age children at Mary Castle Elementary and Loving Care will be providing childcare for preschool and kindergarten age children at the ELC at Mary Castle for a fee.
“It has been very, very positive. Parents understand the need to advocate to our legislators to better fund education and to look at some of the evaluation systems and professional development systems that have been put in place, so they’ve been supportive,” Dr. Altemeyer said.
Community members interested in helping can join the teachers in the rally on Tuesday. They can also write or call their local legislators to show them the importance of supporting education.
“I would hope that the community would write their local legislature in support of these items for education and supporting our students to be able to have the best absolute education that they can have,” Alpers said.
Alpers hopes that because of the large number of teachers gathering that the legislature will recognize the importance of these things and will consider making changes.
“I’m hoping that, because of the grand scale of it, that the state legislators, as they go into session, are willing to act and make changes needed for our education system,” Alpers said.
While there is no guarantee that this movement will make any changes, it is showing the community and legislature that teachers are willing to stand up for what they believe in.
“It’s setting the right tone and making people aware that teachers are willing to take action. We, as teachers, we tend to be too nice sometimes, and we decided we need to stand up for ourselves,” Masur said.