Holcomb shares teacher concerns, doesn’t criticize closings

Teacher unions say at least 107 school districts with more than 40 percent of Indiana’s students will be closed Tuesday while their teachers attend the rally.

Posted: Nov 13, 2019 2:25 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 6:24 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb isn’t promising any quick action in response to educators who want more teacher pay, but says he shares their concerns and respects the decisions of school districts calling off classes for a Statehouse rally next week.

Thousands of educators will be calling for the further boost in pay Tuesday.

Teacher unions say at least 107 school districts with some 460,000 students — or more than 40% of statewide enrollment — are expected to be closed that day while their teachers attend the event.

Holcomb said it is fully up to school districts if they want to close the day of the union-organized rally.

“Those are local decisions that are being made school corporation by school corporation,” Holcomb said Wednesday. “I do applaud teachers for expressing their voice. I share their concern.”

Numerous school district officials say they’ve decided to shut their doors because so many teachers requested personal time off for the rally that they wouldn’t be able to find enough substitute teachers to cover classrooms. But they also say they support the push by teachers for a bigger boost in school funding and their grievances on other issues.

Leaders of the state’s two main teacher unions project that 10,000 or more teachers could attend the rally dubbed “Red for Ed Action Day” as members of the Republican-dominated Legislature are gathering for organizational meetings ahead of their 2020 session that starts in early January.

Jennifer Smith-Margraf, the Indiana State Teachers Association’s vice president, said teachers know some parents are upset over the school closures, but that educators want more urgency from state officials.

RELATED: PARENTS SUPPORT INDIANA SCHOOLS CLOSING SO TEACHERS CAN ATTEND RED FOR ED RALLY NEXT WEEK

“We’ve been doing all the steps that we’re supposed to be doing — writing emails, sending postcards, calling our legislators, meeting with them individually, going to town halls and asking about education in public forums,” said Smith-Margraf, a high school Spanish teacher from Lafayette. “We’ve been doing all of those things and we haven’t seen resolution to these very serious issues that we have.”

Large protests have come elsewhere amid a wave of teacher activism that began last year in West Virginia and spread to other states, including Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona. The American Federation of Teachers national president is expected at Tuesday’s Indiana rally, according to the union.

Indiana Democrats and teacher unions panned the new state budget approved by Republicans in April that boosted base school spending by 2.5% each of the next two years.

Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders touted the plan as making strides toward improving teacher pay. But they faced criticism for not directing some of the state’s $2 billion in cash reserves toward schools.

The Republican governor said he was waiting for a teacher pay commission he appointed in February to make recommendations on increasing salaries by the end of 2020.

“We are going to have a gap, still, to fill,” Holcomb said. “That teacher pay commission is what I am going to be paying very close attention to, that menu of options on how to bridge that gap.”

Education advocacy groups estimated this year a 9% funding increase was needed to boost average teacher pay to the midpoint of Indiana’s neighboring states. Republican state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick has cited a study showing Indiana as the state with the lowest teacher salary increases since 2002.

RELATED: MORE NORTHEAST INDIANA SCHOOLS CLOSE FOR RED FOR ED DAY

Districts closing Tuesday range from urban ones in Indianapolis, Evansville, South Bend and Hammond to small rural districts such as the 380-student Tri-Township Consolidated Schools in northern Indiana’s LaPorte County.

“A strong show of support for our local teachers and all educators across our state is certainly a worthy cause,” Tri-Township Superintendent Kelly Shepherd said in a letter to parents. “Our students will benefit greatly in the long run if a cohesive and united message is presented to our state legislators.”

School districts looking to continue with classes Tuesday are struggling with how to cover their classrooms. Fort Wayne Community Schools had day-off requests from about 650 of its 1,825 teachers as of Wednesday afternoon but still planned to keep schools open, district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

The teacher unions are also pushing for a rollback in the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers and schools after lower scores on the state’s new ILEARN standardized exam taken last spring. They also want the repeal of new license requirements pushed through by Republican legislators this year requiring teachers to log 15 hours of professional development regarding the needs of local employers.

Holcomb said he would detail legislative proposals in early December and that he heard teachers “loud and clear.”

“One thing I hear from teachers and agree with, quite frankly, is we need some continuity, some consistency, so that this is not a hodge-podge year after year where we’re changing back and forth, back and forth,” he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108902

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287491467
Cuyahoga1158082211
Hamilton814091250
Montgomery525571043
Summit484351001
Lucas43359820
Butler39018606
Stark33338929
Lorain25675505
Warren24595303
Mahoning22376603
Lake21211388
Clermont20124253
Delaware18856136
Licking16663222
Fairfield16576204
Trumbull16551482
Medina15612271
Greene15284248
Clark14237306
Wood13292200
Portage13251215
Allen11914239
Richland11607211
Miami10849225
Wayne9146223
Columbiana9034230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8650250
Marion8642138
Erie8056165
Ashtabula7161179
Hancock6999132
Ross6945161
Geauga6838151
Scioto6534106
Belmont6157174
Union584649
Lawrence5732102
Jefferson5679158
Huron5546122
Sandusky5442126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5320109
Athens523960
Auglaize502187
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4572112
Madison444366
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4040110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3856105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359865
Williams348278
Champaign344859
Guernsey324953
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin275365
Henry273467
Holmes2702101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243256
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148440
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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