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ISTA members attend education listening session with governor

More than a dozen teachers from across the state were invited to participate in a listening session with Gov. Eric Holcomb this summer. Six ISTA members were in attendance and shared insights on the challenges and opportunities facing educators, public schools and K – 12 education.

“It wasn’t the governor telling us what he wanted,” said ISTA member Abby Taylor, teacher at Geist Elementary. “Even though we were all from different areas – we all had the same issues. He was really listening and realized that there were common impacts statewide.”

Gov. Holcomb asked the educators to share their thoughts on school safety. The governor recently launched a program for schools to request handheld metal detectors. Educators in attendance said that it’s a start, but not the solution. They shared that schools needed programs and supports – stressing the importance of professional counselors, providing more than career and college readiness guidance – to help kids facing trauma or mental illness.

“He seemed genuinely taken aback by some of the concerns brought up including the prevalence of mental health issues facing our students and the impact of under staffing,” said ISTA member Adam Marlatt, teacher at Manchester Intermediate.

Rural educators were represented and expressed concerns that school choice was impacting them along with suburban and urban districts. Overall K – 12 public education is impacted by the funding of charter and voucher schools, but there’s increased competition between school districts for funding that follows the student – who now employ marketing staff to compete with school choice options, but also other public-school districts.

“Current trends are forcing schools to be in competition, rather than collaborative,” said ISTA member Kelly Hollinden, teacher at Tell City Jr./Sr. High School. “Our district leadership was having to make decisions to spend money on advertising contracts as opposed to program funding, teacher raises, etc.”

The educators in the room felt the money spent on marketing could be better served in the classroom.

Additionally, Indiana’s teacher shortage and salary stagnation were an important topic. Mid-career teachers said they felt the squeeze. Efforts to attract and retain new educators don’t apply to them, while they haven’t been able to progress on the salary scale similarly to their more veteran colleagues.

“I’m not willing to play the game and move from school to school in order to climb a scale” said Hollinden. She much prefers to dedicate her career to the same high school from which she graduated.

ISTA Vice President Keith Gambill noted the governor’s interest and willingness to continue listening to educators.

As the governor plans his education platform for the 2019 legislative session, the governor, “sounded like he wanted to continue engaging with educators or even this same group,” said Gambill.

ISTA will remain connected with the governor and his office to ensure your voice is heard.