UPDATE: Red For Ed Is A Wrap - Here's A Look Back

Nov 19, 2019

Red for Ed rally outside the Indiana Statehouse on the morning of Tues., Nov. 19, 2019.
Credit Jennifer Weingart/WVPE

(NEW: WVPE's Jennifer Weingart filed this update as she boarded a bus in Indianapolis following the Red for Ed rally.)

The biggest cry among educators at the Statehouse today was for more funding. Teachers are asking for higher pay. Sherri Nelson teaches third grade at Concord Public Schools.

“We’re not getting paid enough money. Fourteen years and new teachers are making about what I make after 14 years,” Nelson says. 

Indiana teachers rank 36th in the country for pay and 51st in the country when it comes to getting pay increases over the last decade according to the National Education Association.

Educators are also asking for more funding for classrooms and schools. Natalie Wenzel teaches at West Central School Corp in Francisville, a small rural district in Pulaski County. She says rural districts have an even harder time getting enough money.

“We have bussing problems. We have kids that don’t get enough food, I mean we keep food in our classrooms so kids can get a snack or whatever because they don’t have enough to eat at home. We have 70 percent poverty in our school,” Wenzel says.

 

Teachers say upping their salaries and funding the schools better would help attract more teachers to the state. They say this would then lower class sizes and help with a slew of other problems. 

Ann Reverman is a fourth grade teacher at Concord Public Schools. She says teachers are having to juggle all types of learners in the classroom.

“I may teach fourth grade but I have kids that read at a first grade level in my classroom, kids that read at a fifth or sixth grade level in my classroom. And how do you reach and teach those level of kids when you’re a fourth grade teacher? But we have to do that,” Reverman explains.

Another big call at the rally was to overhaul the state’s standardized testing. Felicia Adamson teaches fourth, fifth and sixth grade at Marquette Montessori in South Bend. She says the testing stresses kids out.

“When you have kids having literal meltdowns, physically throwing their test across the room then you know there’s something wrong with the testing. No test should make a kid that stressed,” Adamson says.

Last year Indiana switched to a new test the state had commissioned called ILEARN. The scores on the new test were  lower across the state than those previously seen with the ISTEP. The test scores impact teacher bonuses and school letter grades.

Concord High School Special Education teacher Troy Bontrager says the tests aren’t an accurate picture of student abilities.

“It is no measurement of how our kids can perform, at all. Not even close. And we spend millions and millions and millions of tax dollars and it’s ridiculous. It’s a waste of everybody’s money and time,” Bontrager says.

Educators at the rally say many teachers are leaving the profession, or leaving the state for higher pay elsewhere. 

Anne Napoli teaches art at Discovery Middle School in the Penn-Harris-Madison School district.

“I think a lot of our teachers are leaving for other areas, especially in Northern Indiana, Michigan’s right there. If you’re in Northwest Indiana, Illinois is right there and they both pay better,” says Napoli.

Ben Yoder is an Orchestra Teacher at Hamilton South Eastern in Fishers. He also graduated from Concord Community Schools. He says despite all the issues, he wouldn’t leave Indiana.

“But I also believe in the power of the Hoosier public education. I think that we have some of the most amazing students and amazing communities in the country here. Having such a positive public school experience myself, when I was looking for jobs and found the one I have at Hamilton South Eastern and I used to teach in Goshen there was no reason for me to leave, I love it here and I want to make a difference here and that’s why I’m still here,” Yoder says. 

Many of the teachers at the rally echoed that sentiment. They say they showed up because they’re hopeful that education in Indiana can get better. 

Some educators did get the chance to make it into the statehouse to speak with their legislators, and some legislators came out into the crowd. But for most the point was to stand, red-clad, with more than 15 thousand of their peers to show lawmakers that the state’s educators are not backing down.

 

ORIGINAL POST:

Teachers from all over Indiana are rallying at the statehouse today. WVPE’s Jennifer Weingart rode a bus to Indy with a group of educators from Concord.  By creating a sea of red, educators are  hoping to show legislators that teachers want change.

One of the things teachers are calling for is better funding, both for the classroom and in the form of higher salaries for teachers and other school staff.

That’s something Anne Napoli says is a bigger problem at the edges of the state. Napoli teaches art at Discovery Middle School in the Penn-Harris-Madison School district. “I think a lot of our teachers are leaving for other areas, especially in Northern Indiana, Michigan’s right there. If you’re in Northwest Indiana, Illinois is right there and they both pay better,” Napoli says.

More images of Red for Ed outside the Indiana Statehouse on Tues., Nov. 19, 2019.
Credit Jennnifer Weingart/WVPE

Teachers are also calling for changes to standardized testing. Troy Bontrager teaches Special Education at Concord High School.

 “It is no measurement of how our kids can perform, at all. Not even close. And we spend millions and millions and millions of tax dollars and it’s ridiculous. It’s a waste of everybody’s money and time,” Bontrager says. 

Many districts are off today to allow teachers and other school staff to join the rally.

Red for Ed takes to the steps of the Statehouse in Indianapolis on Tues., Nov. 19, 2019.
Credit Jennifer Weingart/WVPE

WVPE's Jennifer Weingart will continue to update this story throughout the day. 

Contact Jennifer at jweingart@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @jen_weingart 

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