Thousands of Indiana teachers and their supporters rallied inside the State Capital building on March 9 to defend public education and demand adequate and just funding. The Indiana State Teachers Association, a union that represents 45,000 educational workers, organized the rally. The primary demands of the day were broad: increased resources for students and increased pay for teachers.
Venture capitalists, edu-business entities, charter schools, real estate developers and their politicians have put Indiana public education in the crosshairs going back 20 years. Currently in Indianapolis, the state’s capital, 28 percent of all students attend charter schools and in Gary, it’s over 40 percent. Charter schools are concerned with profits over education and numerous studies have documented their inferiority to traditional public schools.
Maria DeVries, an Engligh Language Learners teacher at Elkhart Central High School in the northern part of Indiana told Liberation News that she was there “because it’s important to make teachers’ pay fair.” Keith Skirts of Lafayette, Indiana, was there for his daughter and son-in-law. “We feel like teachers deserve more,” he said, “and we are trying to do our part. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a good teacher myself…. They are truly professionals.”
The March 9 rally was on the heels of another round of significant education victories won through the strike weapon. It came just days after teachers in Oakland, California won a seven-day strike that resulted in higher wages, lower case loads for counselors, resource specialists, psychiatrists and speech therapists, and slightly smaller class sizes. The victory also gave another push to legislation that would halt school closings and charter school development.
It’s obvious that teachers in Indiana are keeping a close eye on their fellow workers across the country. The rally’s overall spirit was considerably more militant than previous state-wide education protests. Chants of “Fight back!” and “We’ll do whatever it takes” echoed throughout the building, and several signs called for walkouts and strikes. The lessons of the educational struggles in the U.S. are clear: Fight if you want to win.