INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – More than 15,000 teachers rallied at the statehouse in an effort to push lawmakers to make changes to education.
The majority of Indiana schools were closed on Tuesday for Red for Ed Action Day. The Indiana State Teachers Association calls it a historic day for education.
“The children of Indiana are counting on us, and we will not let them down,” said Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill to a crowd of people dressed in red from head to toe. “It’s time to respect teachers' time and professional knowledge.”
Educators at the rally said you can’t put students first if you put teachers last. The crowd of red showed up by the thousands to get lawmakers inside the statehouse to hear them loud and clear. Educators from more than 145 districts across the state say kids notice that teachers are being overworked and underpaid.
“I had a young sixth grader come up to me and say, 'Mr. Jones, something's wrong. You don’t look the same today,'” said Sam Jones, a social studies teacher.
“They can see when teachers aren’t made a priority. The kids can see that we don’t really care about their education, and that they’re not a priority,” said third grade teacher Sarah Jane Fenderich.
According to Gambill, Indiana ranks 51st in the country for salary growth in education and has the lowest pay in the region.
“We can no longer continue down this path to the legislatures in the statehouse today. We say pencils down. Your time is up,” Gambill said to the crowd during the rally.
Vice President of the National Education Association Becky Pringle also spoke before teachers marched outside the statehouse.
“You understand the importance and the power of your collective voices joining together and saying enough,” said Pringle.
“We’re here for the kids, and we’re here for ourselves,” said Kindergarten teacher Jessica Richardson.
Although teachers say there are many issues, there are three main items on their agenda this session, including teacher compensation, resolving issues with ILEARN and how it impacts teacher evaluations and repealing externship requirements for teachers renewing their license.
“They have to be lifelong learners,” said Jones, “and if they’ve already lost that spark at 10, 11, 12 years old, what good is it going to be for the future of our state?”
Educators say they’ll do whatever it takes because the kids rely on it.
“We must rise up and support public education,” said Gambill.
“Indiana says they’re a state that works, but if we don’t invest in our education now, we’re not going to be [a] state that works in the near future,” said concerned parent Ryan Trisler.