(INDIANAPOLIS) — Governor Eric J. Holcomb offered the following statement on today’s education rally at the Statehouse.
“Today is a great opportunity for educators, families and community members to express their voice at the people’s house. I remain committed to finding long-term sustainable solutions to increase teacher compensation. That’s why I created the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission and signed our recent two-year budget that included historic levels of increased funding for K-12. As we continue to seek systemic improvements, it’s essential we retain and attract great teachers to ensure Hoosier students receive the best education our state can offer.”
Several thousand teachers wearing red surrounded the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday calling for better pay and more respect from the Republican-dominated state government in a protest that closed more than half of the state’s school districts for the day.
The union-organized rally represented Indiana’s biggest teacher protest amid a wave of educator activism across the country over the past two years.
Teachers chanted “Fund our schools” and “Put kids first” as hundreds of them lined entrances to the Statehouse, many holding hand-made signs with sayings such as “Less Money on Testing, More Money on Students.” Teachers with marching band instruments played “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from the Statehouse steps.
Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill told a few thousand teachers who covered the Statehouse lawn that the Legislature should direct money from the state’s $2 billion in cash reserves toward helping schools.
“The crisis is now and we need action now,” Gambill said to cheers from the crowd. “The issue is funding, and the state has the money.”
Teacher unions counted about half of Indiana’s nearly 300 school districts as closed while their teachers attended Tuesday’s rally as legislators gather for organizational meetings ahead of their 2020 session that starts in early January.
Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders touted the plan as making strides toward improving teacher pay. But they faced criticism for not directing some of the state’s $2 billion in cash reserves toward schools.
The Republican governor said he was waiting for a teacher pay commission he appointed in February to make recommendations on increasing salaries by the end of 2020.
Education advocacy groups estimated this year a 9% funding increase was needed to boost average teacher pay to the midpoint of Indiana’s neighboring states. Republican state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick has cited a study showing Indiana as the state with the lowest teacher salary increases since 2002.