IN Brief

Indiana teachers unions rally for more funding, a stop to “harmful” legislation

By: - April 13, 2023 2:40 pm

Hundreds of educators rallied at the Indiana State Teachers Association’s “Pack the House” event on Thursday, April 13, 2023, at the Indiana Statehouse. (Casey Smith/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Hundreds of Indiana educators — most clad in red t-shirts — rallied at the Statehouse Thursday, demanding increased K-12 funding and calling for lawmakers to cease “hateful attacks” on public education and the teaching profession.

The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), the largest teachers union in the state, hosted its “Pack the House” event in the midst of ongoing legislative debate over multiple contentious education bills.

That includes House Bill 1608, which mandates that schools notify parents when a student asks for name or pronoun changes. Rally-goers maintained the bill could put transgender children at risk of harm if they’re outed to unsupportive or abusive parents. The bill passed the Senate last week and is now under final consideration in the House before a likely send-off to the governor. 

“This legislative session, we have seen political attacks and attempts to weaken our public schools. Many lawmakers have been focused on culture war issues meant to divide parents and educators and harm our students,” said ISTA president Keith Gambill. “They wish to silence our voices. They want to siphon money away from our schools to private schools. And they want to prevent students from being safe and fully themselves.”

The rally was so loud at times it was hard to hear in the House chamber.

Collective bargaining concerns

Teachers also spoke out against Senate Bill 486, a “union-busting” bill that seeks to “silence teachers” by taking away their rights to discuss concerns over student learning with school administrators.

Specifically, the bill would no longer require school administrators to discuss topics like class sizes, curriculum and student discipline with teachers and their union.

Gambill said that effort will negatively impact students and worsen Indiana’s already historic teacher shortage.

Union members and education advocates said their goal Thursday was to get lawmakers’ attention and “ensure the defeat” of those measures — and others — that are “harmful to students or our profession.”

The event also drew members of the Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, a separate union with a significant Hoosier membership.  

Glen Eva Dunham, AFT Indiana’s president, additionally admonished legislators’ attempts to grow the state’s private school voucher program. 

House Republicans proposed a major eligibility expansion to the Choice Scholarship program earlier in the session, but the Senate GOP budget released earlier Thursday nixed that plan. Teachers said that’s a small win, but “there’s more work to do.”

“We have to let the students know that this is not acceptable. Public schools are being stretched thin,” Dunham said. “We, as educators, want what is best for our children. The state constitution says that they are to educate all children, but we know that’s not happening.”


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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.