Commentary: Teachers To Give Lawmakers An Education

first_imgBy Mary Beth SchneiderTheStatehouseFile.comINDIANAPOLIS— On Tuesday, Amber Seibert, a teacher at Westlane Middle School in Indianapolis, plans to go to the Statehouse with a simple message for lawmakers: “Enough is enough.”She won’t be alone. As many as 13,000 teachers are expected to pack the Statehouse to educate lawmakers who have given them little more than platitudes for the last decade or so.Maybe, this time, lawmakers won’t be able to ignore them.Maybe, this time, the sea of teachers wearing red for Tuesday’s Red For Ed Action Rally will be so memorable that lawmakers will do something more than appoint a commission to look at better pay.Maybe, this time, legislators will rethink linking teacher compensation to the ever-changing standardized tests Indiana administers with even worse results.Maybe they’ll rethink the goofy requirement that teachers have to work 15 hours at some other job to renew their license, the so-called “externships” that are a new part of the professional development teachers already do.And maybe, this time, they will start focusing on the traditional public schools the vast majority of Hoosier children attend rather than charter schools and vouchers for private schools.They won’t get answers at Tuesday’s one-day organizational meeting lawmakers hold annually to prepare for the session that starts in January. But maybe 13,000 teachers will be a lesson still heeded when they draft and pass the next round of laws.This won’t be Seibert’s first trip to the Statehouse. She’s come before as lawmakers debated such things as how to address school shootings.“I have seen first-hand the lack of empathy and respect legislators have” toward teachers, said Seibert, now in her fourth year of teaching language arts. “…Frankly, I believe educators like myself have had enough. If people who sit in comfy chairs at the Statehouse are unwilling to listen or use sound judgment, we are going to make them listen.”Sarah Martin, who teaches pre-school children at the Warren Early Childhood Center, will be there, too, hoping to draw lawmakers’ attention to the needs of pre-kindergarten students. A typical day for her means being at school from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., “and I still don’t get everything was done that is on my never-ending to-do list,” she said. That means bringing work home, where she’s also doing on-line course work from Ball State as she completes her bachelor’s degree to be fully licensed.That home, by the way? She’s still living with family because her pay doesn’t cover the typical rent in Indianapolis.She and the other teachers headed to the Statehouse chose their vocation with kids, not salary, in mind. But they also didn’t sign up for having the slowest pay growth in the nation or being judged by the results of a single test, rather than what they do in the classroom every day.And that pervasive feeling that “enough is enough” is why this is expected to be the largest rally at the Statehouse since 1995 when 20,000 labor union members jammed the Statehouse grounds and hallways to protest legislation that meant lower wages on public projects.Jennifer Smith-Margraf, vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said she’s hoping the size of the rally shows lawmakers “the seriousness with which educators are taking these issues across the state, and the real need for them to find a resolution to the issues we’re facing.”That includes those “externships” passed at the end of the 2019 session as part of a new, longer license renewal process.What’s the point of having teachers, many of whom already have second and even third jobs to make ends meet, working another 15 hours at some business that has nothing to do with their ability to teach, say, history?“That is something that I’d really like some of the legislators to explain to us,” said Smith-Margraf. “Educators were just very upset and I’d go as far as to say insulted by (the new requirement.)… It just shows that the legislators don’t understand that educators know what sort of professional development we need to improve our own craft.”Maybe 13,000 teachers can drive that point home.But just in case some lawmakers learn better with short reading lessons, teachers will be telling their stories on Post-It notes they will put up in the Statehouse atrium. Each will be only six words.FOOTNOTE: Mary Beth Schneider is an editor at, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img

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