EVSC, other teachers rally at Red for Ed in Indy for more support, funding

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Even as the rain came down on the chilly Tuesday afternoon, teachers continued to rally in and around the Indiana State House for the Red for Ed Action Day — that’s how important this was for them.

Thousands of teachers across the state, including about 500 from the EVSC, descended on Indianapolis’ Statehouse for the rally with a goal of increasing pay for teachers as well as other educational reforms. 

Upon arriving at the Indiana State Teachers Association led-rally, 17,000-plus Indiana public education staff and supporters wailed their chants, raised their signs and marched on the Statehouse campus in hopes of forcing the state legislature to consider making changes going forward.

“We’re not just sitting back waiting for things to happen,” Caze Elementary teacher Amanda Stratman said. “We are showing our legislature and our students that we take action when it’s needed. We came up here in this rain because it’s that important.”

Stratman said when she saw the number of people attending the rally, she realized how much value teachers’ voices have across the state. The collective effort to push for increased effort to solve the issues in public education isn’t just relegated to teachers and union members, community members statewide have also chosen to act.

Sadia Ragland, Reitz High School art teacher, said following the day’s activities she expects conditions to change because of the number of teachers that attended and the messages they provoked.

“I hope it makes a difference to the legislature,” she said. “The numbers speak for themselves. We made some waves.” 

Ragland, who brought her young daughter Jada, 11, to the rally, said it was important for her to see other educators and show her how to take effective action when addressing issues. 

Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb released a statement about the rally Tuesday afternoon:

“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. That’s why I created the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission and signed our recent two-year budget that included historic levels of increased funding for K-12. As we continue to seek systemic improvements, it’s essential we retain and attract great teachers to ensure Hoosier students receive the best education our state can offer.”

EVSC filled at least three charter buses that arrived in Indianapolis a little after 8 a.m. CT and were greeted by a sea of red shirts and sweaters. EVSC teachers had gathered before 5 a.m. at the Southern Indiana Career & Technical Center on Lynch Road donning their own bright red shirts and with handmade signs.

EVSC was one of more than 100 school districts closed for the day to allow teachers to attend the rally to support public education.

Harrison High School teacher Julie Trice got on the bus with her sign in hand that read, “Master’s Degree Useless Decree.” She was driven to attend Red for Ed to bring added attention to the issues educators endure due to the state’s reluctance to support Indiana teachers and students.

“I want the public to be aware of some of the issues facing educators and students right now in the state of Indiana,” she said. “I try not to be combative or one-sided, but I just think the general public doesn’t know a lot of the issues facing teachers and education right now.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association-led day coincides with Organization Day, the start of the 2020 legislative session when lawmakers begin to promote their legislative agendas and return to the Statehouse.

Trice’s main objective is for state lawmakers to consider appealing the law that discounts a teacher’s experience and education when considering their salary on a pay scale. 

“That should count for a lot,” she said. “Years of experience and having a Master’s Degree should count for your expertise in that area.”

Trice’s main objective is for state lawmakers to consider appealing the law that discounts a teacher’s experience and education when considering their salary on a pay scale. 

“That should count for a lot,” she said. “Years of experience and having a Master’s Degree should count for your expertise in that area.”

“The expectations are rigorous,” she said, “I’ve also seen a backlash by my students with special needs. It’s very disheartening for seniors who are trying to graduate and who have taken that test more than eight times and are still trying to pass. It’s very stressful on them. They want to pass these classes, graduate high school and be a success. And with a disability in math or English, those kids will never meet those expectations. It doesn’t mean those kids can’t excel or be successful, but right now it’s not helping students.”

When speaking to other rally members, Stratman said they had similar thoughts on how the state’s appeared reluctance to fund public education has impacted young students. 

While teachers’ salary increases are certainly an issue, Stratman said, she and others are more concerned about the state helping provide the necessary tools for students to gain quality education and experiences.

“I think that’s what most of us are here for,” Stratman said. “Yes, our pockets are something that’s on our minds a bit, but it’s more about giving our schools that level of money so we don’t have to dip into our own pockets to provide quality education and experiences for our students.”

Following members’ return to Evansville, Evansville Teachers Association President Michael Rust said there was a sense of accomplishment from the union members by expressing the union’s collective frustrations directly to the state’s representatives.

“I think we certainly had our voices heard today,” he said. “And we were heard across the state. It’s time for Gov. Holcomb to wake up.”

Despite the progress made Tuesday, Rust said there are still many steps to take going forward to provide immediate change. Rust said Holcomb doesn’t expect any changes until the end of 2020.

“That is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “We need something now. We can’t wait. For him to say that up front just shows his attention is not with public education and funding it fully. We need to fully fund public education now. We can’t wait another year.

“Our teachers, schools and children are hurting in this state. And it’s time for legislators to do what they need to do.”

The efforts needed are beyond one rally, Rust said, but the success of this year’s Red for Ed makes the goals of the union and state educators that much more obtainable.

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