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Indiana State Teachers Association members protest education bills, demand higher pay

Sevearl groups of people in red colored T-shirts line the balconies of the second and third floors of the Indiana Statehouse to support public education.
Kirsten Adair
IPB News
Indiana State Teachers Association members gathered at the Statehouse on Thursday to demand higher pay and express discontent with legislation introduced in the 2023 session.

Indiana State Teachers Association members gathered at the Statehouse on Thursday to demand higher pay and express discontent with legislation introduced in the 2023 session.

Discontent with legislation

Several education bills this session received dissent from educators.

This included a bill many compared to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. HB 1608 would limit the teaching of human sexuality in classrooms and require teachers to notify parents if students request a change in name or pronoun.

Jenny Noble-Kuchera is a teacher from Bloomington. She said recent measures, like this bill, and lawmaker discussions will make navigating this profession more challenging – especially for those just entering the field.

“How do we tell our 21- or 22-year-old or non-traditional new teachers when the law tells them they can’t be kind to students?” she said.

Noble-Kuchera said those that aren’t in support of this legislation need to advocate for change and push this to lawmakers.

ISTA president Keith Gambill echoed these concerns, and said this type of legislation is likely driving teachers out of this profession.

The problem is as the legislature continues to demoralize and deprofessionalize our profession,” he said. “Fewer candidates are willing to come into the profession.”

Jon Bordeaux is a history teacher from Huntington. He said Indiana is “failing to attract the next generation of teachers” with these kinds of bills.

“We actually have a legitimate problem with public education in Indiana right now, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the litter boxes or library books,” he said.

Allison Haley is a freshman English teacher from Noblesville High School. She said these types of measures leave a gray area for teachers when deciding what to put in the curriculum.

“We’re inconvenienced when we have to change our lesson plans to appease anti-education groups,” she said.

Collective bargaining 

Another bill educators spoke against was SB 486, which would limit the ability for teachers to participate in collective bargaining.

Haley said there were several administrative groups that oversee teachers that have supported this bill in committee hearings.

“The superintendent association and the school board association supported taking away your discussion rights,” she said.

She also said only a small group of superintendents who support the bill are trying to make decisions for the bigger group.

Bordeaux said taking away collective bargaining is taking away a fundamental right from teachers.

“In rural Huntington, I've seen a lot of administrators come and go,” he said. “And yet the right of teachers to bring our concerns about curriculum and policy to the administration in order to improve conditions for teaching and learning has been consistent and impactful. And Senate Bill 486 is poised to take that right away, perhaps even today.”

SB 486 is up for third reading in the House. If passed, it would return to the Senate to vote on changes made in the second half of the legislative session.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.

Teacher pay 

ISTA has consistently pushed for increased funding and it was their number one priority for this legislative session as well.

Bordeaux said lack of pay is what is largely affecting this teacher shortage.

I could be doing a lot more for my students if I had proper funding and proper resources,” he said.

Haley echoed these sentiments in her speech.

“We're inconvenienced when we have to work three jobs to make ends meet,” she said.

The Senate version of HB 1001,the state’s budget, was released today. Senate Republicans said they’re increasing K-12 school funding – which can be used for teacher pay raises. However, many school districts say, with inflation, costs are rising too much to provide significant pay increases.

According to Indiana’s Department of Education job board, there are more than 1,700 open teaching positions – that’s an increase from November 2022 with around 1,500 open positions.

The legislative session will end the last week of April.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misquoted Jon Bordeaux as saying, "little boxes." He actually said, "litter boxes."

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.