On Tuesday, teachers, students, parents and community leaders gathered at West Lafayette public schools for a “walk-in” to support thousands of teachers rallying in Indianapolis.
The rally, called “Red for Ed,” was organized by the Indiana State Teachers Association. As previously reported, the rally led to the closures of over 100 school districts on Tuesday. While West Lafayette School Corporation chose not to close, it sent eight teachers to Indianapolis and held a local walk-in.
The priorities for the Red for Ed Action Day were to invest the budget surplus into teacher compensation; hold students, teachers and communities harmless from Indiana’s standardized testing scheme; and repeal professional development requirements placed on teachers, according to ISTA’s website.
Teacher pay, or the lack thereof, was highlighted at the walk-ins.
“When Indiana teachers are paid 79 cents on every dollar that other similarly educated professionals are paid, public schools are being ignored,” said Rahul Durai, West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School student council president. “When Indiana is ranked 36th in the country for teacher salaries, public schools are paying for it. When Indiana state budget increases public funding by only 2.5% while charter schools and voucher programs receive more than 10% increases, we are being ignored.”
Thomas Schott, a school board member, agreed that teachers were not paid fairly.
“I’ve been married to a teacher (and a coach). I see the time and the sacrifices that she chooses to make, certainly,” Schott said. “It would be nice if people are fairly compensated for those efforts.”
In a letter posted on the West Lafayette School Corporation’s website, Rocky Killion, the corporation’s superintendent, suggested reallocating money spent on standardized testing to teacher salaries.
“Quit spending over $100 million on standardized testing,” the letter said. “Standardized testing will not improve the education of students. Standardized test scores should not regulate student, teacher and school corporation effectiveness. ... Reallocate this resource to teacher salaries.”
Killion went on to ask that $10 million spent on Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment — a standardized test to assess reading — and $70 million spent on student vouchers be allotted to teacher salaries.
Alice Pawley, a parent and professor of engineering education at Purdue, pointed out that the local community has already done its part in providing better funding for teachers. She said it’s time for the state to do more.
“There’s a decision about where taxes go once they levy taxes,” she said. “Where do they go? In West Lafayette, we have had two school referenda. That is to say two public referenda that are trying to increase funding for public education in West Lafayette, and both times it has passed with overwhelming support.”
In 2010, 65% of West Lafayette citizens voted to support the West Lafayette School Corporation by raising taxes. In 2017, 94% voted again to increase taxes to support the corporation.
Kathy Parker, an English second language teacher at West Lafayette Elementary and city councilor-elect, also pointed out funding charter schools at the expense of public schools — through voucher programs — places an unfair burden on public schools.
“(Charter schools) are taking money from public education,” she said. “They don’t have to accept everybody. They don’t have to accept people with learning disabilities, language barriers, physical handicaps or emotional differences. They don’t have to. It’s a whole new twist on segregation in all its forms.”
As an educator, Pawley agreed with Killion on the issue of standardized tests.
“Learning cannot always be measured on standardized tests,” Pawley said. “(My son) is in second grade, and he’s already being taught how to fill in bubbles for tests. So instead of actually reading, they’re teaching him how they have to literally take a test.”
At the walk-in, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis agreed with the students, teachers and parents present.
“Teachers are the ones that made West Lafayette students great,” he said. “Teachers are the ones that show up early. Teachers are the ones who teach you how to kick a football, shoot a basketball, do math and do algebra.
“The sad part is that the teachers who teach are now being ignored.”