The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 1:00 am

State legislators listen, interact

Say local districts dictate how much they're being paid

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – LaGrange Republican Sen. Sue Glick proudly donned a red suit jacket Tuesday – the color chosen by teachers rallying for professional improvements at the Statehouse.

“I think they deserve my support all day, every day,” she said.

All around the building Tuesday, lawmakers like Glick interacted with teachers crowding the halls.

She said she hopes educators realize the amount of money passed in the budget this year hasn't yet had time to be reflected in their paychecks. And that the Republican General Assembly will do more in the future.

“I'm glad they're here and we can have productive discussions,” Glick said.

Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, talked intently with teachers from Triton School Corp. in Bourbon in the hall at one point. He even brought his daughter, who is in college studying to be a teacher, along for the day. Triton has students from Marshall and Kosciusko counties.

“I feel like he more understands where we are coming from,” special education teacher Jenny Mevis said. “There are misconceptions about what we see in the classroom versus what legislators are told.”

She specifically said Nisly thinks there is work to be done on Indiana's new standardized test ILEARN.

“It's devastating to see a fourth grader crying,” Mevis said of the high-stakes exam. “Any good teacher can tell you who will fail ahead of time.”

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne said legislators always pay attention when Hoosiers call, write or email their offices. Showing up en masse means even more.

“The numbers are striking. People are upset because it has been eight years of negative policies,” he said.

GiaQuinta said teacher pay isn't the only issue, and teachers have just reached a tipping point of frustration.

GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma applauded teachers and thanked them for their dedication. But he also argued the problem isn't the Legislature but local spending decisions.

He also said lawmakers will take a hard look at separating test scores entirely from teacher evaluations.

“In short, teachers, we get it,” Bosma said.

Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, said he is happy teachers came to demonstrate their concerns and noted lawmakers are ready to address some of them immediately.

“The others we can have that discussion in the long term,” he said. “The funding has been good and I do think it's more about engaging the locals in terms of pay. We can't control that.”

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, said pay is a local decision that is bargained by unions.

“Do we want state government to interject into those discussions?” he asked.

He said the rally was positive and admired the teachers showing passion for their concerns.

“We recognize we aren't done yet,” Carbaugh said. “There's more work to be done.”

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