On Tuesday, thousands of teachers, some with their children, educators and everyday citizens wore crimson in the ‘Red for Ed’ Rally. They converged on Indianapolis with a message.
Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd goes in-depth with Warrick County Schools Superintendent Brad Schneider to talk about the rally.
Brad Byrd: Teachers, students, parents and a school leaders. It is a mix that has so many different perspectives. One thing is clear. All are impacted by money that is sent down from the Indiana State House to keep the education process running. Is it enough?
Tuesday thousands of teachers, some with their children, educators and every day citizens wore crimson in the ‘red for ed’ rally. They converged on Indianapolis with a message. We’ve had it. Something has to be done now so teachers can do the job they so their students are not left behind.
Joining me tonight is Brad Schneider, the superintend of the Warrick County School Corporation, he’s held that job now for 17 years. It has more than 10,000 students. And they were not in class yesterday as the superintendent and school leader signed off on this rally. As a superintendent, Mr. Schneider, give your first gut reaction to what you saw yesterday unfolding in Indianapolis.
Brad Schneider: It was very impressive. I was very proud. Not just Warrick county, but all teachers throughout the state of Indiana to stand up and have their voice heard. It’s been a difficult 10 to 15 years for public education and teachers. So, we were very pleased with our teachers and support our teachers – in the ‘Red for Ed’ Day.
Brad Byrd: It’s estimated 17,000 teachers were up there at the statehouse in Indianapolis. It has been found that Indiana does not Indiana does not compare favorably to its five bordering states (Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) in terms of public education funding and teacher salaries. Why is this an Indiana issue especially what the perception is.
Brad Schneider: Well, Brad it’s a funding problem. Indiana ranks 47th in the nation in its expenditures per pupil. We think Indiana kids and schools and teachers are worth more than that, but they deserve better. The funding levels over the last 12 years has simply been inadequate.
Brad Byrd: There’s a perception that many people have they believe teachers are not appreciated because our kids spending most of their waking hours with their teachers. What are teachers telling you?
Brad Schneider: Well, teachers are frustrated. They – the vast majority of teachers – work extremely hard. They’re dedicated professionals, they care deeply about their kids, they work their guts out – I know people say they only work 9 months out of the year, but I assure you that’s not true. They take work home, they work weekends, over the summer, so, I think what you saw yesterday was that frustration boiling over. We’ve tried to talk to legislators, state leaders, about the need for increased funding, but that voice has not been heard. So, yesterday was a shout.
Brad Byrd: And you indicated that the roots of this problem were about 10 years ago. And it steadily got worse, in your opinion, for teachers. We have a teacher shortage now. Not as many students are seeking education degrees. Fair statement?
Brad Schneider: Very fair statement. Like every Superintendent in the State of Indiana will tell you there is a teacher shortage and the number of candidates for open jobs continue to dwindle. Again, that is all a result of low funding. We simply can’t keep pace.
Brad Byrd: What do you tell the governor and lawmakers? If you could sit down with the Governor of Indiana and your local lawmakers, what would you tell them?
Brad Schneider: I would tell them we’re at a critical point. And I would tell them that investment in our public schools, in our kids, it’s vital, it’s just as important as our infrastructure, it’s just as important as bringing in new businesses and retaining new businesses in the state of Indiana. And if we don’t have productive and successful public schools, educating our future workforce, that that’s going to be a problem. And to view education as an investment to our future as opposed to an expense.
Brad Byrd: And of course, Gov. Holcomb announced the 2% increase in the biennial budget, but did that really make a difference? Because we still see teachers who have to buy their own school supplies in order to do their job. What do you say?
Brad Schneider: Exactly. 2% – and that’s been one of the better budgets in the past 10 or 12 years. But it barely keeps pace with inflation. Indiana teachers wages over the past 15 years have actually decreased by 15% when you factor in inflation. And again, it’s all factoring in not enough funding, inadequate funding from the state.
Brad Byrd: Do you see a future ‘Red for Ed’ rally, especially when the legislature reconvenes?
Brad Schneider: I hope so. I hope we continue to bring our message. I don’t think the public really understands the position we are in and how critical it is right now. So, I hope we can open dialogue with state leaders and legislators – let them know where we are, how stressed our teachers are, because this is not just a teacher problem – this does impact kids. Class sizes continue to grow, salaries lag behind. That’s going to cause major, major problems if we can’t correct it and correct it soon.
Brad Byrd: Brad Schneider, superintendent of the Warrick County School Corporation, thank you for being here tonight.
Brad Schneider: Thank you, Brad.
This story was originally published on November 20, 2019)