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Schools out for Statehouse

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Local parents may need to make plans to keep the kids home Nov. 19 – school might be closed or have an impromptu “eLearning day” because of the Red for Ed rally in Indianapolis.

The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) organized the rally outside the Statehouse to coincide with the annual organizational meeting of state lawmakers.

“Kids, educators and public schools need to be the top priority,” the ISTA stated on its website. “Let’s remind lawmakers that we are still here, activated and ready to advocate for our kids, our schools and our future.”

Henry County teachers appear to be heeding the call for the Red For Ed Action Day by requesting off Nov. 19 so they can attend. Enough have requested off, in fact, that several school districts recently announced school would be closed that day.

New Castle Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker announced the closure through a phone call and letter. In the letter to parents, Shoemaker said “dozens of our New Castle Teachers will be in attendance at the ‘Red for Ed’ rally at the statehouse.”

“With millions of Indiana’s public tax dollars increasingly going to private and charter schools, the adequacy of public school funding has been rightfully in the spotlight,” Shoemaker said.

He noted Indiana public schools received a two percent increase in funding from legislature while charter schools received a 10 percent increase in funding.

“This funding disparity is especially perplexing with regard to results,” Shoemaker said. “The traditional public school graduation rate in Indiana is over 90 percent, whereas the charter school graduation rate is just 40 percent and the graduation rate of virtual charter schools is only 27 percent.”

Shoemaker said the ISTA Red For Ed Action Day at the Statehouse will allow teachers and public school supporters to advocate for appropriate public education funding and address accountability issues.

Although New Castle schools will not be in session Nov. 19, lunch will still be available from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Parker Elementary and Wilbur Wright Elementary for all New Castle K-12 students, Shoemaker said.

New Castle teachers will also keep office hours for students on the eLearning day from 8-9 a.m. and again from 2-5 p.m.

Hagerstown schools will be closed Nov. 19 for the Red For Ed rally, too.

The Nettle Creek School Board, the Nettle Creek Classroom Teachers Association and the district administration said in a letter to families, “November 19 is an extremely important day for your child’s education. On that day, educators throughout the state of Indiana will be meeting in Indianapolis to make state legislators aware of many concerns their actions have caused.”

The letter pointed out $100 million is spent annually on testing in Indiana.

“If that $100 million was divided equally among the 289 public school corporations in Indiana, each corporation would realize an additional $346,000,” according to the Nettle Creek letter.

The letter also said fewer young people are choosing to be teachers because of the state of education in Indiana. This has contributed to a statewide teacher shortage and high turnover in Nettle Creek employees.

“Because of these reasons and many more, Nettle Creek School Corporation will be closed on November 19, 2019, to ensure that state legislators understand that our kids not only need better, they deserve better. This will allow our faculty and staff to attend the rally at the statehouse steps. We invite you to join us in Indianapolis,” the Hagerstown letter concluded. “This is for our kids. This is for our community. This is for all of us.”

Hagerstown students will make up the school day on Jan. 20, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

South Henry School Superintendent Wes Hammond announced Tri Elementary and Tri Junior Senior High School will be closed Nov. 19, as well. Hammond said the Titans will use an eLearning Day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make up the day.

Shenandoah School Corporation will be closed Nov. 19, too.

Charles A. Beard Memorial Schools Superintendent Jediah Behny said Thursday afternoon his office is monitoring requests for time off from Knightstown teachers. As of that time, Knightstown schools will be open and in session Nov. 19.

As of Friday afternoon, Blue River Schools will also still be in session as normal Nov. 19.