Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” and local teacher Courtney Hopf stands by that.
Red for Ed Action Day for teachers is today and teachers from all across the area are heading up to the Indiana State House to lobby for better school funding.
Math Teacher Tracy Gugtsell, Third Grade Teacher Jennifer Ashby, and English and Communications Teacher Courtney Hopf are three teachers that made the trip to the statehouse and are joining over 10,000 teachers from across the state for the Red for Ed rally.
While many national news outlets are reporting on teachers wanting higher pay, Tracy Gugtsell says these teachers are fighting for their students as well.
“The state of Indiana spends a lot on standardized testing. First, it was the ISTEP, then it was the ECA, then it went back to ISTEP, and now it’s ILEARN. Every time they change that’s money, millions of dollars that the state is spending” Gugtsell says. “That’s money taken away not just from teacher pay, but schools. We need nurses, we need social workers, we need classrooms supplies. We’re fighting for the kids.”
The teachers claim public schools aren’t receiving as much funding as charter schools. According to data given by the teachers, the state of Indiana has granted public schools a 2% increase in funding versus a 10% increase in funding towards charter schools. Also, based off of the Complexity Grant, charter schools are receiving 16 times more funding per student than their public school counterparts. Allegiant Preparatory Academy, a private elementary school in Indianapolis receives $2,773.87 per student, whereas a school like Northeast Dubois Elementary School receives $171.64 per student.
Another point made is that the State of Indiana spends $100 million annually on standardized testing. Jennifer Ashby says that standardized testing is hard to prepare for, not only for students but for teachers as well. Ashby points out that teachers have no say on what is put on standardized testing.
“Teachers are not a development of those assessments,” says Ashby. “By having them not a part of the process, I think it is not quite fair. If we don’t have a say in development, then how should we be graded or the kids be graded on that assessment?”
Due to the state of education in Indiana, fewer young people are choosing education as a career, creating a massive teacher recruitment crisis. Right now, 94% of Indiana schools are unable to fill open positions. Indiana currently ranks 51st in the country for teacher salary increases over the past 15 years.
In the end, these teachers are focused on the benefit of the children they are serving, and that is something that Courtney Hopf hopes the state of Indiana can see coming out of this rally.
“We have possibly an opportunity to better the lives and the education for students in the future,” says Hopf.
“We don’t become teachers because we want great salaries or better pay; it’s really not about that. What this is about is providing the best education so they can have curriculum and textbooks and teachers and all of those things. If we are being spread thin and teachers are leaving because they aren’t supported and they don’t have the funding and their jumping through hoops, then what is going to happen to our school system.”
Hopf continues by saying that investing in education is one of the best things one can do.
“It’s setting up our community, our state, and our country for great things in the future if we continue to go forward.”