Bundled in jackets and hats, dozens of local teachers braved Tuesday's less-than-ideal weather conditions to speak up for public school funding.
The teachers, stretched along Main Street in front of the Allen County Courthouse Green, wore red, as many attendees dressed for the event's theme, “Red for Ed.” Many held signs, and group-led chants encouraged drivers to honk in support.
The “teacher work-in” was organized by the Fort Wayne Education Association.
Found in this enthusiastic crowd was teacher Brittany Rehrer, who put down her sign for a bit to sit and grade papers.
“We want to let the legislature know that we are here and we know what they've been doing,” she said. “We are in support of schools and students. And we were told to bring (school) work to do, and we just want to stay very positive and show a united front.”
The event's goal, FWEA President Julie Hyndman said, was “to bring awareness to the issues that face community schools as a whole, primarily the issues of funding,” which she argued “affect the community as a whole.”
Cheryl Keim, a teacher demonstrating not only for herself but also for her grandchildren attending public schools, echoed Hyndman's sentiments.
“I'm afraid (teachers) can't provide (students) with everything they need. We're losing money to charter schools and voucher programs,” Keim said.
“There is a teacher shortage, and it's not going to get better until something changes,” she continued. “I have a teacher friend who is a new mom, and she has to quit her job because she can't provide for her child on a teacher's salary. And I have another teacher friend who works at Menards at night to pay the bills.”
Preston Hamblin, a sixth grader, joined his mother, Lisa, to show his support for his teachers.
“It is nice to see that teachers care about education and are willing to fight for us,” he said.
“Especially in their off-hours,” added his mother, who is a teacher herself.
The “right of every public school student to have a quality public education,” as Lisa Hamblin said, was not the only thing the group was fighting for. The fact that the event was on what Rehrer called “easily the busiest intersection of downtown” was no coincidence.
“We want this community to understand the impact of what's going on,” Keim said. “We're trying to educate the community and tell them it's about their children and grandchildren, not just us (teachers).”
Though the event lasted from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., for Keim and the event attendees, the fight has only just begun. “We're just getting started,” she said.