INDIANAPOLIS — The lights were shut off Friday in an Anderson elementary school library. It isn't open every day of the week because the school cannot afford a full-time librarian.
Randy Harrison, who teaches government at Anderson High School, said a lack of funding and constant changing policies are damaging public schools, and that is just one reason why teachers in Indiana are getting ready to go "Red for Ed."
More than 12,000 teachers and educators will be at the Statehouse beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday rallying for better education laws. Across the state, 133 school districts have already canceled classes or are having an e-learning day so teachers can attend the massive rally.
"It'd be nice to be able to afford textbooks and technology to supplement a whole classroom. Protect the arts, music, PE, a library," Harrison said. "It's more than wages and benefits for teachers. It's about adequate funding for para coverage for (individualized education programs), behavioral plans and improvement plans, bus drivers. Even Carmel is struggling to get a bus drivers."
So here is what teachers are asking for: Not to punish students and schools based on I-learning test scores. They want to repeal a 15-hour externship for teacher license renewal. They want to raise teacher pay to $60,000 a year. And they want to stop post-grad status as a way to grade schools.
"We spend $161 million or so on testing and we change the test every year, which is not a true measure of our students. It actually labels them unfairly and it's punitive," Harrison said.
Harrison said excessive and inconsistent testing isn't just hurting the teachers and school ratings, but more importantly, the students.
"The anxiety that we hear of our third graders. The days before the test, they are actually physically ill because they know if they don't succeed on that test, they may not advance to the fourth grade with their peers. And there are stories of students coming in and vomiting, defecating themselves, not eating, and these are third graders," Harrison said. "Sometimes, I don't think they're listening to us."
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he is listening, though. Holcomb said he set a goal of making Indiana teacher pay not just competitive, but leading the Midwest, and he plans to push for changes in mandatory testing.
"We need some continuity and consistency so that we're not in a hodgepodge year after year we are changing back-and-forth back-and-forth back-and-fourth. I mean what's next? And so I hear them loud and clear. I'm looking forward to January," Holcomb said.