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Indiana teachers union calls lawmakers to address staffing challenges, work conditions

While teachers unions can bargain for pay, they have not been able to do so for other things like class size, planning time and health and safety conditions.

INDIANAPOLIS — In classrooms across Indiana, most teachers are finally getting a pay raise. The state’s largest teachers union announced Monday that 212 public school districts will have reached the state’s starting teacher salary goal of $40,000. It’s a giant leap from just 79 districts in 2019.

But Indiana Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said pay alone will not solve a growing teacher shortage and burnout among educators who are already in the classroom.

“Our educators, already overburdened, are facing unsustainable levels of stress and stress-related illness,” said Gambill in a virtual news conference. “The shortage of teachers, compounded by a substitute teacher shortage, have teachers working even longer hours without time off and no time for planning.”

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Gambill was joined by teachers from across Indiana who talked about the need for items.

“Without daily planning time, teachers don’t get a chance to take care of their basic physical and mental needs,” said Lori Young, a high school algebra teacher from southern Indiana. “If you have ever encountered a teacher who hasn’t gone to the bathroom for four hours or more, you know what I’m talking about.”

“It has to be something more than just the money,” said Jessica Ramirez, a special education teacher from northern Indiana.

They all said they deserve to be able to bargain for more in their annual contract.

“Whether we work in a school, or a factory or an office, we should have the right to band together for working conditions that let us do our jobs safely and well," Young said.

Gambill explained that, since 2011, while teachers unions can collectively bargain for pay and benefits, they have not been able to do so for other things like class size, planning time and health and safety conditions.

“This has resulted in unmanageable class sizes, unsafe conditions and demoralized staff,” Gambill said.

And that, they said, should change.

“We have to do everything we can to make sure that folks want to come into the profession and want to stay,” Gambill said.

ISTA members said they will lobby state legislators in 2022 to continue progress on teacher pay and make changes to allow for additional collective bargaining items.

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