Indiana teachers join nationwide movement to save public education
: Indiana teachers packed the State House to the rafters on Saturday afternoon. | Jason Jones / PW

INDIANAPOLIS—Thousands of teachers and community allies wearing red—the color of the public school movement—filled the Indiana State Capitol Building on the rainy and cold afternoon of Saturday, March 9. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), led by their president, Teresa Meredith, called on legislators to increase teacher wages and provide adequate funding for public education this legislative session.

Indiana has seen its public school funding gutted in recent years, with tax money diverted to a competing charter school system that the Indiana Department of Education’s own evaluations continually shows fail to perform as well as public schools.

In February of this year, the Republican-controlled Indiana Legislature voted down a proposal to raise the starting wage of teachers to $40,000 a year. Indiana’s teacher wages rank lower than all the other states bordering it. In some school districts, teachers start out as low as $30,000 a year.

Indiana teachers are ranked 37th in the nation, according to a USA Today report from October 2018. Teachers in states such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona have made progress in their fights for pay increases and funding for public schools, and now Indiana and Kentucky are joining the movement.

Becky Pringle, the National Education Association (NEA) vice president, quoted Bishop Desmond Tutu when she told the thousands of teachers, “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t and I won’t!” As she addressed the crowd, she told them “It’s time for a change,” and reminded everyone to call on their elected officials to make significant investments in public schools and teacher pay. Although the halls of the Capitol were empty this Saturday, legislators return Monday.

The Central Indiana Labor for Our Revolution Public Education Committee participated in organizing the rally, calling members to turn out. Eric Brooks, a member of the committee, said he attended to “support all public education workers in their struggle to be paid a living wage.” He continued, “School books and other needed resources should be provided free of charge to public school students and teachers from the state and federal budgets.”

Wayne Township School Librarian Crista Carlino told People’s World that she is in her ninth year of teaching. She explained that she often faces shortages in funding for her classroom and library so she has to turn to local nonprofits for help. In order to meet the needs of her students, Crista has to apply for grants to fill in the gaps that federal funding does not. Crista also struggles to support a family on a salary that has not kept up with the cost of living.

As a teacher in a township school, the Wayne Township Classroom Teachers Association represents her. She said she is standing with her union and will be looking for action from the state legislature this session. But, if that does not happen, Crista is not discouraged. She told People’s World that this fight is not going away and neither is she. Although there are no statewide elections this year, there are many local races occurring, and Crista is running for Indianapolis City-County Council.


CONTRIBUTOR

Jason Jones
Jason Jones

Jason Jones is a social worker writing about Indiana. One of his favorite quotes is “I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will." -Antonio Gramsci. Jones is a fan of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Beisbol Cubano.

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