INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Indiana legislators will likely encounter a sea red when they attend Organization Day November 19.
At last check, more than 7,000 Indiana teachers had registered to attend the Red For Ed Action Day at the Indiana Statehouse.
That's many more than Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) expected. And the event is still more than a week away.
"I underestimated the level of action that folks are ready and willing to take," Gambill said.
ISTA is organizing the event.
"It's important for (lawmakers) to consider the problems we're having with the teacher shortage and why we're not able to attract and retain teachers in Indiana," Gambill said.
While ISTA always holds rallies or action days at the statehouse, they're usually mid-session. This Red for Ed is meant to get legislators attention before the session starts. It's also scheduled for a school day.
At last check, 35 school districts across Indiana had cancelled classes or scheduled e-learning days to let teachers attend. Those school districts include Anderson, Beech Grove, Greencastle, IPS, Tipton and Wayne Township.
"We are supporting our teachers in the effort and trying to help them have their voices heard," said Wayne Township Superintendent Jeff Butts. He said canceling classes was the best way to do that.
"When have large number of teachers who want to participate, you also have to be concerned about the safety and education of students in the schools and the (substitute teacher) pool is not large enough."
IPS has declared November 19 a "professional development day," with the previous such day set for April 17, 2020 to instead be a regular school day. The district is also working out a plan to make sure student lunches are available at several schools.
Tina Ahlgren, an IPS math teacher for 15 years, plans to attend the Red For Ed Action Day with many of her colleagues.
"This is of critical importance," she said. "We've closed schools, we've (had a) referendum, we've cut back energy to be more efficient. We've done everything they've asked us to improve our financial situation but money is still not there to do what need to do for our children."
Ahlgren said teacher pay is another big issue.
"It's not just a teacher shortage. We have a shortage of positions that pay well enough to sustain a family and have working conditions that people are willing to go into," she said. "We need legislators to hear us."
"We are doing this for the future of Indiana because teachers see the future of Indiana every day in their classroom," Gambill said.
The November 19 event is set to run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It includes meeting with lawmakers, lunch, member stories and a march on the statehouse grounds.
Weather and other factors could certainly affect attendance, but Gambill said if even half as many of those who have registered so far show up, it would likely be the largest teacher rally in state history.
Districts closing for rally:
- Anderson Community Schools
- Beech Grove City Schools
- Carroll Consolidated School Corporation
- Concord Community Schools
- Crothersville Community Schools
- Culver Community School Corporation
- Elkhart Community School Corporation
- Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
- Greater Clark County Schools
- Greencastle Community Schools
- Indianapolis Public Schools
- Jennings County School Corporation
- Kankakee Valley School Corporation
- Lake Ridge Schools
- LaPorte Community School Corporation
- Lewis Cass Schools
- Logansport Community School Corporation
- Maconaquah School Corporation
- Madison Consolidated Schools
- Michigan City Area Schools
- MSD of New Durham Township (Westville)
- MSD Wayne Township
- Nettle Creek School Corporation
- New Castle Community School Corporation
- North Miami Community Schools
- Pioneer Regional School Corporation
- Richmond Community Schools
- School City of East Chicago
- School City of Hammond
- School City of Mishawaka
- South Bend Community School Corporation
- South Central Community School Corporation
- Taylor Community School Corporation
- Tipton Community School Corporation
- Union County College Corner School District