Huntington County teachers call on state lawmakers to take public education funding seriously
HUNTINGTON, Indiana (WANE) – Huntington County educators are calling on lawmakers to “stop gutting public education.”
“We have closed two elementary buildings. We closed part of another building, the college part of Salamonie, and we cut funding. We have removed teachers. We have reduced the support staff, ”said Mandy Barnum, a member of the Huntington County Teacher Association and a teacher at the college. “We are in a situation where we need more money. We need more funding. We need more practical decks. We believe that if we continue to give these funds to private institutions, we must hold them accountable as public schools. ”
Huntington County educators met Wednesday afternoon at the intersection of US 24 and N. Broadway Street to raise awareness of the public education funding bills that are ongoing there while throughout the general meeting. The location of the information picket was chosen because it is across from Republican State Senator Andy Zay’s business.
The group, which consists of educators from across the county, began to gather around 4 p.m. and at one point grew to over 80 teachers, administrators and their supporters.
“We are here to protest for our families and to say that this is not what is best for our students, it is not what is best for the students of Huntington County,” said Mandy Stephenson, member of the Huntington County Teachers’ Association and elementary school teacher. “I think we are heard more now. But I think there is still work to be done to make public education the best for our students.
“We want people to know that teachers are not greedy individuals looking for more money to line their pockets,” Barnum said. “We have gone many years without increases. Our company is doing its best, but funding for schools has not kept up with inflation.
Indiana students in public schools make up 93% of the total traditional student body with the remaining 7% of students on the state bond system. The voucher system allows students to choose which school to attend.
The state gives money to schools for every student they teach and when a student changes schools or participates in the voucher program, the money follows the child. Since the program began in 2011, public schools have lost millions of dollars.
According to data from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, this year alone, the Huntington County Community School Corporation has lost more than $ 900,000. This number is expected to increase for all schools.
Several of the teachers who attended Wednesday’s rally also traveled to Indianapolis in 2019 for the Red for Ed Day rally. Since then, the rally school has received a financial boost. However, teachers told WANE 15 that the majority of the raises they received were only a few hundred dollars. The greater amount is $ 1,400.
However, this increase was paid to many classes of teachers and students. During the rally, a teacher even used the back of her poster to help a student with biology homework over the phone.
“Our day doesn’t end when the bell rings,” Barnum said. “We love our students and want them to be successful.
After a year of COVID-19 and new legislation under consideration at the General Assembly, several of the teachers WANE spoke to say they are not going anywhere until public education receives funding she received in 2011. They are also calling on lawmakers to “stop dumping, public education.” Huntington County Teachers Association officials strongly oppose the bill proposed by Bill 1001, the Senate Bill 1005 and Bill 413.
House Bill 1001 will provide more money for school voucher programs and includes several one-time investments. The plan gives Kindergarten to Grade 12 an additional $ 378 million over the next two years, but more than a third of that will go to the voucher program.
House Bill 1005 states that after June 30, 2022, parents of special education students, students with a parent on active military service, foster students, or emancipated students may be eligible for receive scholarships to use for non-public education or any education-related expense.
The bill further stipulates that program money cannot be spent on public education in order to prohibit “double deductions” in state funding.
Senate Bill 413 goes into great detail and explains that the Choice scholarship program would increase the amount a student could receive in funding to 90% of state tuition support. Income eligibility would also increase for siblings who choose to participate in the program.
The Huntington County Teachers Association believes the budget and the bills will disproportionately divert taxpayer funds from public educational institutions to fund private schools.
Educators say the rallies and discussions over public funding for education are not over. They ask if you are supporting them in calling your lawmaker and voicing your concerns.