Downtown Indianapolis will be a sea of red on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Thousands of teachers from across the Hoosier State are expected to assemble around the Statehouse that day in a show of solidarity for the Red for Ed movement. This growing movement has been gaining steam for months. Many teachers have been wearing red to school each Wednesday in a show of silent unity.
At the center of the issue is teacher pay. Due to the fact that many thousands of educators across the state have gone years and years without a proper pay raise — or none at all — Indiana teachers (particularly the younger ones) have had a hard time keeping up with the cost of living.
Indiana has fallen into the bottom third in the nation in total teacher compensation. I know a lot of young teachers — and an ever-increasing number of older ones — who’ve had to take on second jobs just to pay the bills. That doesn’t seem fair in a profession that requires at least a bachelor’s degree (most teachers have at least one master’s degree). All that schooling comes at a cost. Most teachers start out in a huge financial hole, carrying student loan debts in the high five figures into the six-figure range. I’ve taught for 19 years and, while I make a comfortable living, I am still paying off student loans — that’s a fact.
Indiana is not alone. There have been teacher strikes happening all around the country, most recently in Chicago. Nobody wants a strike.
I’ve been pleased to see that a lot of school district administrations in Indiana have been very supportive of their teachers by taking matters into their own hands. Many teachers have recently gotten pay raises in their latest contracts in part because of referendums passed by their communities.
While it’s wonderful to see communities coming together to support teachers financially, it shouldn’t have to come to that. The success of referendums is spotty at best. Many districts have tried and failed to pass them.
That’s why you’ll see so much red in Indy on Nov. 19. The time to fix this problem at the state and national level is well overdue. Scrapping our current way of tying teacher pay to unfair standardized test formulas is one of the first things that needs to be done. Those completely ineffective tests cost millions of taxpayer dollars that could be much better spent.
I’m also pleased to see so many school districts supporting teachers’ ability to protest on Nov. 19. Anderson schools were among the first of several districts in the state that have scheduled an e-learning day on Nov. 19 so that teachers can be freed up to attend the rally. Students won’t have to miss a day of school, they’ll just work from home.
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
Sadly, it also seems to take a village to raise a teacher’s pay.