SOUTHERN INDIANA – Educators across the state are hoping to paint a sea of red in hope of more green flowing their way.

Teachers are asking for higher average salaries in addition to other asks. They plan to be heard and seen during Indiana’s General Assembly Organization Day, on Nov. 19.

“We are encouraging our members to either take a personal day or if they have the ability to take an association day to do that,” said Indiana State Teachers’ Association President Keith Gambill. “We certainly want a big turnout. We think that folks need to know that public education and funding for public education is important and needs to be addressed and has been neglected for over a decade.”

Mark Felix, educator with Greater Clark County Schools and president of their teachers’ union, said he will be among those there, fighting to be heard.

“We want them to know we have not gone away,” Felix said. “There are still some things we’d like addressed and one of them will always be teacher compensation. We would like the legislature to pass a bill that would hold us harmless from the ILEARN test, because it was such a disaster.”

The third issue, Felix said, is mandatory 15-hour externships, where teachers have to work in a community field to renew their teaching licenses.

With teachers being encouraged to miss school that day, some districts have already announced they will be closed or have an e-learning day, Gambill said, such as was the case when school districts throughout Kentucky had sick-outs when teachers were fighting to keep their retirement benefits.

“We’re supportive of raising awareness to legislative issues, but we’re not supportive of disrupting instruction,” said Superintendent Brad Snyder, with New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. “As of today, we’re business as usual. If the situation on the ground changes, and the numbers increase, we’ll have to do what we can. Even with that, we’ll just have to figure out a way to get coverage.”

Snyder said in addition to substitutes, teacher aids and principals can help in classrooms if needed. However, he isn’t thinking that will be necessary.

Felix said though he hopes for 50 teachers from Greater Clark be represented, he realistically thinks the number will be around 20-25.

Joy Loymeyer, educator and president of the NAFC teachers’ union, said she can bring 10 people with her, using teachers' association funds. She said she doesn’t expect NAFC’s turnout to be a shutdown situation, but she “can be proven wrong.”

Loymeyer said the fight is to raise the average teacher salary to $60,000. The average teacher salary in NAFC schools is $55,811 and in GCCS is $55,585.31, according to the respective school districts’ representatives.

Felix said he can see funds he feels should be used for public schools.

“Money is tight everywhere, but [private school] vouchers cost public schools $160 million last year. … the 529 tax credit, that’s like $70 million going to private schools in rebates. I don’t know how we justify that,” Felix said. “They don’t hold charter schools and private schools to the same standards to public schools, even though they are taking public money.”

He said the metrics using test scores to help determine funding is not used in charter or private schools.

Felix said fixing public schools will help the entire state, by providing an educated, strong workforce.

Gambill said the upcoming event is the only proposed teacher action day at this time.

“If we remain silent and do nothing, we’re doing wrong by our kids. We have to make the matter of properly funding our public schools our number one priority,” Gambill said. “And, to fail to do that, we’re failing to attract the best, we’re failing to retain our top talent and that’s not in the best interest of students.”

“They’re going to hear us,” Felix said of the Nov. 19 event. “Whether or not they’re going to move on any of this, we’re not really sure.”

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I cover education and government for the News and Tribune.

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