On Organization Day, and the Red for Ed rally at the Statehouse, State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) held a meeting inviting educators and parents from his district to share their concerns with him. The following are questions and subjects discussed by these individuals with Senator Melton.

(Warning: These are paraphrasing of the conversation, with added context where possible, not exact quotes from Senator Melton or the constituents in the meeting.)

  • Question: Did Senator Melton’s teacher pay proposal get a committee hearing last session?
    • Answer: No, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee did not give Senate Bill 399, Educator Salary Grants, a hearing in committee.
  • Discussion surrounding Senator Walker (Republican Chairman of Senate Elections Committee) and a redistricting bill that would allow Legislative Services Agency to draw district maps. Individual believes this is something Sen. Walker has said he agrees with in the past. Senate Democrats have advocated for an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission draw the maps in the past and will have a bill next year to do so again. (Either way legislature has to vote on the maps)
  • Comments from a PR professional and Kindergarten parent: Speaking to the amount of stress she feels as a kindergarten mother, even though the homework is optional. She had a parent-teacher conference and her concern is that schools are piling on all this material and it seems that things are being taught that aren’t age appropriate (she admits to not being a teacher but it least it seems like this is the case) so the student can pass a standardized test in the future. She believes standardized testing doesn’t teach critical thinking skills and kids are judged by one example – where there’s implicit bias in the exam making process. These tests are intentionally designed to set up for failure. Individual moved here from Houston and explained that education is about community and life-long learning, not just about getting a job after graduation.
  • Another individual who is a parent of a 25 and 27 year old discussed how students are not learning interpersonal skills today. She see a huge difference in how her kids learned vs how kids today are learning.
  • Parent of a high school graduate says the high school her son was attending boasted that they were preparing the students for college but the son used an expletive to describe that that wasn’t the case at all.  He did not feel prepared for college in terms of expectations of professors, what to do in your free time and time management.
  • In-depth discussion about the budget and how money is being allocated differently now than it used to be. Individual says that the state is not even funding schools at the rate of inflation, so several individuals are questioning how funding levels could be at an all-time high, which has been suggested by Republicans.
  • Individual acknowledges that a teacher shortage is imminent and teachers need higher pay to avoid that.
  • Discussion surrounding the $150 million used to pay down the 1996 teacher pension fund to free up money for locals to use how they like. Suggestion by Republicans was for that money to be used for teacher raises. Individual says it’s a shame that the $150 M was left up to the locals and just “suggested” to be used for teacher pay rather than made to be used that way.
  • Individual becomes very frank asking Sen. Melton “What’s their deal?” meaning, where is the disconnect with Republicans not understanding what education needs.
    • Senator Melton suggests that the individuals follow the money in terms of special interests. There are lobbyists in the building that represent testing entities and charter schools and they have the money to be here everyday. These lobbyists fund the legislators’ campaigns.
  • Question: What impact do you think today will have?”
    • Answer: Senator Melton says it has already had an impact. When the media starts to report, someone is reading that. It is about educating the public on the issues and today has begun that process of educating.
  • Question: Is it about flipping the narrative?
    • Answer: Senator Melton suggests that once you organize the business community behind you, they’ll start listening.
  • Discussion continues around the following question: Aren’t Republicans aligning with businesses to line their pockets? Senator Melton suggests its businesses such as manufacturers that need a prepared workforce and those are the ones that teachers should start having conversations with.
  • Question: Should we go to the Chambers?
    • Answer: Yes. Figure out where they are on this issue and encourage them to make that their legislative agenda.
  • Discussion about circuit breaker taxes and explaining what they are and how they were changed a few years ago.
  • Discussion about how exam grades are an unfair measure of accountability using the example of another school sending a student over that did poorly on a test but the new school is responsible for their scores and how this is not an isolated incident.
  • In-depth discussion about charter schools and voucher programs, one individual points out that the original promise was that kids had to attend public school first before they have access to charters.
  • Senator Melton describes how the momentum can’t stop here today, teachers need to continue to be involved and continue speaking up.
  • A superintendent points out the need to research candidates before voting to see who will support public education and taking opportunities to replace legislators who aren’t supporting public education with those who will.
  • Individual asks at what point sit downs are necessary or should teachers strike even though they’re not allowed to in Indiana. He asked this of Rep. Vernon Smith, who doesn’t think strikes are necessary but sit downs might be more impactful.