By Dave Stafford
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Teachers in Anderson Community Schools today will place chairs outside some schools that will be hard-hit by teacher layoffs. Each chair will represent an educator who will lose his or her job at the end of the school year.
At Anderson Elementary, 33 chairs will be placed outside, and each will bear a pink heart as part of the Anderson Federation of Teachers’ participation in a nationwide effort called “Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips.”
“At Anderson Elementary, 62 percent of our staff has been laid off for next school year,” said Traci Gossett, a fourth-grade teacher at the school who is in the minority and will keep her job next year. “Nationwide, more than 300,000 teachers are expected to be laid off.”
Teachers also are wearing the pink hearts this week as a show of solidarity with their colleagues who face layoff. It also takes place on National Teachers Day, during Teacher Appreciation Week.
“Morale is not too bad,” Gossett said. “We’re telling each other to keep positive minds. We’re still in school and trying to do our best for students because ultimately that’s what it’s all about.”
Anderson Federation of Teachers vice president Marisa Graham said the effort will continue at the next school board meeting on May 18. Pink hearts symbolizing teachers the system will lose will be taped to the bleachers.
The nationwide effort also aims to collect signatures on an online petition that supports two pieces of federal legislation — Senate Bill 3206 and House Bill 4812 — that Gossett said would stabilize dwindling education budgets and help avoid some teacher layoffs.
Those bills would provide $23 billion in federal money to support an estimated 250,000 education jobs.
“We’re basically just trying to bring awareness to this huge problem our nation is facing,” Graham said.
She said that experienced and highly trained teachers will face the most difficulty in finding new employment if they are victims in layoffs that school systems typically refer to as reductions in force.
Anderson Community Schools has sent out more than 200 notices of reductions in force, though it remains to be seen how many teachers will be laid off at the end of the school year.
“It directly impacts the quality of education we can provide across the state and across the nation,” Graham said. “It’s a very, very sad time for us, our children and families across the country.”
Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250, firstname.lastname@example.org