INDIANAPOLIS – A bill moving forward at the Indiana Statehouse would remove requirements for school administrators to discuss certain topics with teachers’ unions or other representatives.
Opponents of Senate Bill 486 argue the measure would silence teachers. It’s one of the bills that recently drew protest from hundreds of teachers across Indiana at a Statehouse rally organized by the Indiana State Teachers Association.
“Our members are saying we need greater voice in what’s happening,” said Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, which is against the bill.
Gambill argues the bill would reduce teachers’ rights and worsen the state’s teacher shortage. The required discussion topics that would be eliminated include curriculum, class sizes and school safety.
“When they recognize that their voices are being silenced in making a difference for their students, then they will find other places” to work, Gambill said.
The Republican-backed bill would make conversations about working conditions and educational quality optional, and those could take place with union representatives or employees themselves.
Advocates say one of the goals behind the measure is to put fewer regulations on schools.
“This will allow any teacher to go talk to… the principal, the superintendent about working conditions or any circumstances they have,” said State Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville), Senate President Pro Tempore.
Bray, who supports the bill, argues teachers would not lose the right to initiate those discussions.
“If a group of teachers wants to do the same thing, they’re free to as well,” Bray said. “So it’s not overly consequential in that regard.”
Not all teachers oppose the legislation. The Indiana Professional Educators, an organization of teachers against unions, is in favor of the bill, along with several groups representing school administrators.
The measure narrowly passed the Senate earlier this session, with Republicans divided on the legislation. In the House, State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) offered an amendment to remove the proposal from the bill, but most Republicans voted it down before passing the bill.
“They don’t, in my view, respect our teachers and respect their role,” DeLaney said of Republicans who support Senate Bill 486.
Because the bill was amended in the House, it has been sent back to the Senate for final legislative approval. The Senate has not yet held a final vote.
We reached out to State Sen. Linda Rogers (R-Granger), the author of the bill. She declined our request for an interview for this story.