Thousands of teachers are descending on the Statehouse today for the legislature’s ceremonial first day of session, in a landmark show of force by the state’s teachers unions. Teachers pressured more than 130 districts to cancel classes when many of them asked to take the day off to rally at the legislature. They plan to make their cases to lawmakers for increased school funding, higher pay, and less emphasis on standardized testing. They’re also asking to remove what’s been criticized as an onerous requirement for renewing their licenses.
Check back here for updates from our reporters covering the rally throughout the day.
2 p.m. Inside the chamber, talk of an ILEARN ‘hold-harmless’
Inside the Indiana Statehouse, teachers who filled the chamber gallery got a standing ovation from lawmakers. “You are the closest to our greatest national resource, our children,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, sporting a red tie — a nod to the Red for Ed movement the teachers had come to the state capitol to support. “We appreciate you, truly.”
Addressing the chamber, Bosma said adopting a hold-harmless to protect teachers and schools from potentially negative effects of low ILEARN test scores was a priority. He also cited the shift to ILEARN, from ISTEP, as one of the state’s education accomplishments, which was met with “boos” from teachers standing in the hallway.
Bosma also announced Tuesday that he would not be seeking re-election in 2020.
Our Emma Kate Fittes has the latest from inside the chamber. You can follow along here.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma is wearing his red tie. He welcomed teachers, lawmakers gave those sitting in the chamber gallery a standing ovation. pic.twitter.com/0x5mANJe9V— Emma Kate Fittes (@IndyEmmaKate) November 19, 2019
While teachers filled the statehouse, Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is not in attendance, issued the following statement: “Today is a great opportunity for educators, families and community members to express their voice at the people’s house. I remain committed to finding long-term sustainable solutions to increase teacher compensation.”
He also touted his teacher compensation commission and recent increases to the state education budget. In past remarks, the governor has emphasized that it’s up to local school districts to decide how they want to spend the dollars they are allocated.
12:30 p.m. The stories of Hoosier teachers
Stephanie Wang met a lot of Indiana teachers at the rally today. Here are some of their stories:
Jim Pearce, an English teacher with 22 years of experience at Noblesville HS, is also married to a teacher. For years their salaries stagnated, making it hard for them to plan for their own two children. “It’s silly that an educator can’t put their own kids through college.”
Desiree Tyson, a first-grade teacher in Wayne Township, wants to ask lawmakers to spend the budget surplus on schools. “I think it’s unfair to taxpayers to have to keep passing referendums for more funding.”
Monique Chatman, a special education teacher from South Bend, had a student transfer part way through the year from a private school with behavioral issues stemming from trauma. He needed support from a social worker and an IEP evaluation. “Kids come back, but the money doesn’t come back.”
Brie Irey, a teacher from New Prairie schools in northern Indiana, raised the issue of class sizes. Her four sixth-grade English classes have about 30 students each, she said. “If I could clone myself 10 times, that would be wonderful.”
12:15 p.m. ‘Ignored, dismissed or discouraged’
Randi Weingarten, the National President of the American Federation of Teachers, said Indiana is seeing thousands of teachers rally because they have been “ignored, dismissed or discouraged.”
“Just like in West Virginia, just like in Kentucky and just like in Oklahoma and Arizona, where you couldn’t do more with less anymore, teachers now understand that the only way that children’s needs will be championed is if they descend on the capital,” she said.Teachers gathered in the statehouse, hanging over second and third-floor balconies, to hear Weingarten speak. She called on lawmakers to fully fund schools, saying the $2 billion state surplus can help the 94% of Indiana schools that report a teacher shortage.
One day isn’t enough, she said to media afterward, but stopped short of calling on Indiana teachers to strike.
“Strikes are always a last resort … because … those who don’t actually want to listen to our voice will immediately try to demonize us,” she told our Emma Kate Fittes. “Frankly what we are seeing across the country is that when teachers speak, communities listen.”
Teachers marched around the Indiana Statehouse for more than an hour, with the march growing so large that police closed off a block of Capitol Avenue.
Is today’s rally just the start? On the south lawn, National Education Association Vice President Becky Pringle alludes to bigger #RedForEd action. “What are you prepared to do? … whatever it takes,” she says, and later gets the crowd chanting, “We will vote you out of here.”
Rallygoers have been taking to social media to share their perspectives on the demonstration. Here are a few posts that caught our eye:
The large crowd is still outside the Statehouse but #RedForEd rally participants are starting to make their way inside. Hearing cheers as @suptdrmccormick walks out of her office to say hello. pic.twitter.com/YurElNl82e— Emma Kate Fittes (@IndyEmmaKate) November 19, 2019
9:46 a.m. Where do state leaders stand?
We took a look yesterday at uphill battle teachers may face to get their demands met, particularly increased salaries. House Speaker Brian Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican, said he bought a new red tie to wear in support of the Red For Ed movement but held firm to his stance that, “The issue of teacher pay is a local issue.” Gov. Eric Holcomb, meanwhile, is in Florida today for a previously scheduled governors association event.
9:30 a.m. The state superintendent speaks to the crowd
“Our kids deserve to have adequate and equitable funding”— Emma Kate Fittes (@IndyEmmaKate) November 19, 2019
Now hearing from State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick as she rolls out her 2020 priorities in front of a #RedForEd crowd. pic.twitter.com/ByKBkLquk9
“It’s a shame that it takes this type of advocacy to get what you deserve,” McCormick told the teachers. She said her office will continue to fight for teacher pay even though it’s “clearly not a budget year.”
9 a.m. ‘Today is truly historic’
The rally-goers have a busy itinerary for the day. There will be speeches, press conferences, and a march. Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill and national union VP Becky Pringle are among the first up.
“Today is truly historic,” Gambill said. “We hope to hear from lawmakers that they are ready to take bold action. If they don’t, elections are coming in 2020.”
The rally led 130 school districts to cancel classes. So how are students spending the day? Stephanie Wang visited IPS School 27, where parents were dropping off their kids for childcare while school is closed. “I hope today helps the teachers,” one parent told her.
“Educators are the lifeline of society,” parent Anibel Menifee said. Think about the teachers who influenced your childhood. “Anything we as parents can do to support them in the classroom or today” is important. This student, wearing #RedforEd today under her coat, is using a map of average teacher pay in Midwest states as a bookmark.
Here’s what I’m seeing outside the Statehouse, more than an hour before this thing kicks off. It’s chilly out here! pic.twitter.com/Jl6AOXEJQu— Emma Kate Fittes (@IndyEmmaKate) November 19, 2019
8 a.m. The youngest rally-goers
Some teachers who are parents decided to make the rally a teachable moment. This is Karoline Worrel. She’s here with her mom, Deon, a teacher in Anderson. Why bring her 4-year-old? Deon wants to show her to stand up for what she believes in. “I want what’s better for her,” Deon said.
7:30 a.m. Crowds descend on the statehouse
More than an hour before the kickoff of the rally, teachers donning red hats, backpack, and other attire begin showing up at the statehouse. Jill Weaver, who has been a teacher for 39 years and works in Rochester Schools, told our Emma Kate Fittes that she woke up at 4 a.m. to drive two hours with two young teachers this morning. She wants public education fully funded.
“Students are the silent sufferers here,” she said.
As many as 12,000 educators are expected to descend on the Statehouse today for the legislature’s ceremonial first day of session, in a landmark show of force by the state’s teachers unions.
Teachers pressured more than 130 districts to cancel classes when many of them asked to take the day off to rally at the legislature. They plan to make their cases to lawmakers for increased school funding, higher pay, and less emphasis on standardized testing. They’re also asking to remove what’s been criticized as an onerous requirement for renewing their licenses.