Thousands of public education advocates swarmed the sidewalks and greenspace surrounding the Indiana Statehouse on Nov. 19 to pressure lawmakers to put more funding into public education.

Most attendees at the “Red for Ed” protest were teachers, but the large crowd also included other school employees, along with some parents and children.

More than 15,000 people were expected, and more than half of Indiana students were out of school as districts closed to let their teachers attend.

They marched laps around the Statehouse and waited in large lines to get through security so they could pack the building.

The Indiana State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) that boasts nearly 40,000 members, organized the protest.

According to NEA data, Indiana’s starting salary for teachers ranks 37th in the country. Indiana ranked 47th in per-pupil spending for the 2016-17 school year, according to the NEA.

Teachers are also upset about a new law passed this year that requires teachers to complete an externship or professional development as part of the process to renew their licenses.

The Recorder interviewed teachers at the Statehouse about how a lack of funding has affected them and their classrooms.

Bernade Flournoy, art teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools #79

Bernade Flournoy, Red for Ed protest

Bernade Flournoy

“You continue to make it. You do without some things. You ask family and friends sometimes for some things for the children. Our community partners, some of them do an excellent job of helping to support and give different supplies for some of the things that we need. For me personally, you put your head down and you just keep moving forward. You don’t let anything stop you. You’re here to work with the children. We show up every day, and we give our best. We just want the people in government to know that we really do need them to support us, not just continue to place blame on us. We’re here trying to work with the children, and some of the children need more help than our school system is able to provide. They’re not made for the box. Some of them, they’re supported by their families. Some families have to work so much, and they’re not really able to make the investment of time with their children.”

Wannie Taylor, Spanish teacher at Pike High School

“They are constantly expecting us to do more with less. For example, they want us to stay after for tutoring. They want us to give up all this extra time. Then, in addition, you’re adding things like the externship, which is not paid. It’s free labor. It’s as if they don’t even respect our profession. Not to mention, we don’t get paid anything. No raises in years.”

Trudie Ingram, science teacher at Gary Middle School (Gary)

“It’s a great hindrance for science because we don’t have the equipment and the technology that we use in order to keep students up to date on those things that are required for them if they’re going to go on to higher education to become science-related majors.”

Alex Lewis, music teacher at Andrew J. Brown Academy

“I’m always looking for an opportunity to purchase more instruments, to purchase more materials and the things that the students can use so I can be creative, and they can be creative. The lack of funds stops us from being able to do that, at least in my arena.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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