EVANSVILLE, Ind. — This time last year, thousands of teachers from across the state converged on the Indiana Statehouse to demand higher pay and education reform.
The pandemic has made gatherings like that impossible, but it didn’t stop a handful of North High School teachers from staging a small rally of their own.
Before the start of school Tuesday, more than a dozen of them gathered by a flag pole outside the building entrance, holding signs and hearing remarks.
Previously: EVSC, other teachers rally at Red for Ed in Indy for more support, funding
Eric Hormuth, a North English teacher and Evansville Teachers Association building representative, organized the event. Not being able to follow up on last year’s Red for Ed rally in Indianapolis was disappointing, he said, but that work still needs to be done.
“I…wanted this to serve as a reminder to us that the fight isn’t over,” Hormuth said, “that just because we’re in the midst of a pandemic doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down around the legislation in Indiana concerning education.”
The rally coincided with Organization Day, the ceremonial start of the 2021 state legislative session when new lawmakers are sworn in.
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Teachers said they plan to continue lobbying their representatives on key education issues as the legislative session unfolds.
“We had a conversation with State Sen. Jim Tomes last year,” said Michael Kelley, a physics teacher at North and union official. “He reminded us that it’s not enough to just show up at the legislature one day a year, that legislators need the contact; they desire the contact, and they want the conversation to continue. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Hormuth said the pandemic has underscored the importance of teachers to the broader community.
“If we look all the way back to the beginning in March when schools closed, we saw a lot of kids that suffered greatly,” he said. “Not only their education suffered but also socially, emotionally.”
The rally also coincided with American Education Week. Each day, the Indiana State Teachers Association is asking teachers to wear a different color to highlight various issues in education reform.
Tuesday was green for the restoration of bargaining rights. Other priorities the union plans to bring attention to include raising teacher pay, protecting state funding to public schools and reducing standardized testing.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has made a number of commitments to the state’s teachers as he heads into his second term, according to the IndyStar.
He has promised not to cut education funding, and during a gubernatorial debate, he said he’d look into raising pay “so we get up to a competitive level, meaning $60,000 for the average teacher and $40,000 for the average teacher who’s just beginning.”
The average salary for a full-time teacher in Indiana is $53,463, the Star reported, citing the state’s collective bargaining report. The starting salary is below $40,000 in 220 school districts across the state.
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