The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 1:00 am

Public ed supporters return to Statehouse

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – About 100 public education supporters rallied at the Indiana Statehouse on Monday – a move meant to sustain pressure on legislators to support teachers and students.

“We need to keep the ideas present,” said Terry Springer, a retired Fort Wayne teacher who is a member of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.

It was a much smaller event than when 12,000 teachers flooded the capitol building in November.

The major issue still under debate is teacher pay, as legislators and the governor have refused to add additional dollars this year – instead waiting until a new state budget is drafted in 2021.

A state commission is also analyzing the best way to increase teacher pay in Indiana, which lags behind other Midwestern states.

“They are just postponing what needs to be done,” Springer said.

Joel Hand, lobbyist for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, told the crowd that legislators have made strides on other education issues, such as freeing schools from some regulations, holding schools and teachers harmless from a drop in test scores, and decoupling teacher evaluations from test scores.

But Cindi Pastore, who used to teach in Wells County, said those moves “are a way to look like they are doing something without doing much.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said funding isn't the only concern for public education, but it is a big one.

“Try to run a school without money,” she said. “Try to pay educators without money.”

McCormick also said she doesn't want to hear any more stories about who is related to a teacher. Legislative leaders regularly note how many members of their family teach and how important the profession is.

“No more stories. No more promises,” she said. “It's time to act.”

Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Phil Downs also spoke at the rally – noting the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been diverted from public education to fund vouchers for children to attend largely religious private schools.

He said that although K-12 funding has grown, it hasn't been keeping pace with inflation. School funding is $400 million behind 2009-10 dollars relative to inflation, he added.

Downs also said legislators should require that every penny spent by voucher schools be accounted for – the same way public schools have to report spending.

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