ANDERSON — During the upcoming General Assembly, the Indiana State Teachers Association will urge legislature to restore teachers’ voices about their working conditions.
“It is important, now more than ever, to retain our current teachers and one of the best ways to do this is by providing them professional pay,” Keith Gambill, ISTA president, said at a news conference Nov 15.
At the beginning of the collective bargaining period, ISTA had a goal of lifting the starting salary of all teachers to $40,000.
When the districts starting bargaining, only 79 districts met this goal. As of Nov. 12, 212 districts meet this goal. To see a map that details which districts meet this goal, visit investineducationin.org.
“However, professional pay alone isn’t enough,” Gambill said. “Additional action needs to be taken to attract and retain teachers to address our state’s teacher shortage.”
During collective bargaining, teachers cannot bargain for class sizes, health and safety protocol or preparation periods.
“In Indiana, the legislature has blocked educators from having a voice in these parts of their work since 2011,” Gambill said.
Renee Bynum, a functional skills K-2 special education teacher at Erskine Elementary School, feels that being able to bargain for class size would be beneficial.
“When they don’t limit class sizes, you don’t know what it’s like unless you’re in there,” Bynum said. “You put 15 kids in a classroom and it’s like, ‘That’s a good number.’ Well, not every classroom is designed the same exact way.”
In Bynum’s case, accessibility is something that she has to think about every day.
“I have students that are (wheel)chair users, so I think about them being able to navigate in the classroom with all that furniture and things like that.”
When it comes to preparation periods, this is one of the only times teachers have to complete necessary tasks.
“I have some friends that work in other districts that their prep period obviously was not bargained for. It’s not in their contract, so they are being forced to give up their prep period to cover classes for teachers that are not there,” Bynum said.
If teachers were able to bargain for their preparation periods, it would then be a part of their contract and could not be taken away.
“We always talk about as teachers, we always put in this extra time. I am always at school minimally an hour before the kids are there. I’m always there after the kids leave,” Bynum said. “If I were to go at my contract time, I would never get anything done.”
Gambill said that it is beneficial to both teachers and students when teachers have a voice in school conditions.
“That would be it for me, just giving us that opportunity to have a say in what goes into our daily operations,” Bynum said.