INDIANAPOLIS — On Friday, Pike Township announced another e-learning day, citing problems with the bus service. This comes after the district canceled in-person learning twice last month because of the same issue.
Previously, the district said it's due to the national driver shortage, planned medical leave and illness-related absences. This time they believe it's due to recent discussions around compensation that may have led to "call-offs."
This comes after Thursday night's school board meeting where close to 100 teachers and bus drivers protested outside the administration center calling for better compensation.
Dozens also addressed board members inside the meeting.
"For 22 years I have been in this district, and I have worked hard like my colleagues. We deserve to be paid what we are worth," said one Pike Township teacher.
"As a teacher that makes all other professions possible, I shouldn't have to beg for a pay increase to comfortably support my family," said another teacher.
Pike Classroom Teacher Association (PCTA) said the district's compensation philosophy needs to change and does not value existing teachers, saying they fear students will not have enough teachers in the classrooms.
PCTA said based on volunteer data, a 10-year teacher makes just $1.90 more per hour than a new hire and a current 18-year teacher earns $7,000 less than an 18-year teacher did in 2006.
They also said Pike teachers are between $10,000 to $15,000 per year behind many other districts.
"There is a teacher shortage and quality teachers will go where they are paid comparably," said one teacher at Thursday night's meeting.
Bus drivers are also fighting for higher compensation, saying many drivers have been leaving because they can't afford to live off their paychecks.
"I have a car payment that is due. I have a cellphone that is due, and my mortgage is $1,150. I don't have all that to cover that, and I am not the only one that's a bus driver that has to deal with that," said a bus driver at the meeting. "I have been driving for 28 years and I am not going to stop but something needs to change."
PCTA said a lot of schools are experiencing turnover. Last year, 90 teachers left. Lincoln Middle School had about a 35% turnover and Eagle Creek Elementary School had about a 20% turnover.
Metropolitan School District of Pike Township released the following statement:
"MSD Pike Township and the PCTA (Pike Classroom Teacher Association) are currently in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. We will continue to focus our priority in investing in teachers to ensure that our district remains a top provider of high-quality education in this state.
We have reason to believe that recent discussions around compensation may have led to call-offs today, causing a disruption to MSD Pike Township's transportation services. Our students and families deserve to have instruction as they normally would and not to be caught in the middle of a labor dispute. We know that this negatively impacts our students and is an extreme hardship for many of our families and are doing everything we can to address it.
We are hopeful that while we consider the concerns brought forward, our staff will continue to serve our community and the children entrusted to them. We are so grateful for the vast majority of our teachers and staff, who continue to come to serve and teach our students."