Local residents voiced support for teachers who converged on the Statehouse by the thousands Tuesday demanding higher pay and other education policy changes from lawmakers.
Dressed mostly in red coats or sweatshirts, a crowd of schoolchildren, parents, educators and other supporters stood in a cold rain for the midday rally outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, carrying handmade signs with messages like “25 is a speed limit, not a class size” and “My Lang[uage] arts teacher has to buy OFF-BRAND Cheerios!”
“Every day, our teachers educate, motivate and inspire. They deserve our support,” retired Crawfordsville schools superintendent Dr. Kathy Steele said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
As the “Red for Ed” rally got underway, teachers from across the state were making their voices heard in the seat of Indiana’s government.
High-stakes testing and new teacher’s licensing requirements also topped the list of concerns.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said lawmakers would take action to prevent the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers and schools after lower scores on the state’s new ILEARN standardized exam taken last spring.
Earlier, a Democratic lawmaker said he would introduce a bill in the coming session to eliminate the 15-hour externships that educators must complete to renew their teaching license.
About half of Indiana schools, including Crawfordsville, were closed so teachers could attend the union-led rally.
McCutcheon High School teacher Sarah Reed was among teachers who were given the day off. The Montgomery County resident joined supporters to make signs before the rally.
Reed, who spoke at the rally, said she wanted more funding for school counselors and social-emotional programs and less emphasis on standardized tests.
“They’re not a direct reflection on how smart the kid is,” said Reed, standing in the lobby of Dance by Deborah, whose owner, Deborah Kochert, opened the studio to residents preparing for the rally.
Mayor Todd Barton urged advocates to remain devoted to calling for changes to education policy.
“You must shift the naysayers away from their age-old argument that we simply can’t afford to address our shortcomings to a debate over how we as a community best utilize the limited resources we have available,” Barton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.