Elkhart educators protest for higher pay at Red4Ed rally

NOW: Elkhart educators protest for higher pay at Red4Ed rally

ELKHART, Ind.-- "We’re all united in our desire to make sure that public education gets the funding it deserves. No more excuses from state law makers," said Elkhart Teachers Association President, Kerri Mullet. 

A crowd made up of over 100 teachers, administrators, school board members and community members gathered in front of Elkhart memorial High School Tuesday morning with one thing in mind.

“That is making sure public education gets the public funding it deserves," said Mullet. 

According to the National Education Association, below is how the Elkhart Community Schools starting salary from 2017 to 2018 compares to a few surrounding school districts. 

Elkhart Community Schools: $36,350.00

South Bend Community Schools Corporation: $36,000

Mishawaka City Schools: 38,000

The national average starting teacher salary is $39,249.

Special education teacher, Jessica Ramirez says it’s not just the lower starting wages that is the problem, but the lack of hope for secure steady raises, which she believes ultimately affects the individual student over time.

“It’s not because our schools aren’t willing to give us the money. It’s because they’re not receiving funds from the state. And because they aren’t receiving the adequate funds, they aren’t able to then trickle that down to teachers and then actually supports those kids in the classrooms. Changing class sizes, making sure we have enough teachers so our classes don’t grow larger than 30 kids," said Ramirez.

In fact, Elkhart Community Schools Superintedent Dr. Steve Thalheimer tells ABC 57 a government report conducted in April indicated that Indiana ranked last out of the 50 states for increases in teacher pay between 2002 and 2017.

Thalheimer mentions that just this summer, three potential teachers were offered employment and all three declined due to salary.

"It’s our job to stand up and speak out and let them know exactly needs to be done. We are no longer going to be quiet with the decisions they’re making in Indianapolis,” said Mullet. 

When asked to adress the concerns, in a statement to ABC  57 Indiana Governor Holcomb states:

"In terms of teacher pay compensation, I want it raised. I want to do it systematically. I want to do it in a sustainable way. I want it to be on a flight path of here's how we get teacher pay to be competitive with surrounding states. That's what the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is doing right now. It would be profusely appreciated if teachers supply us with input, because they're in the trenches, boots on the ground. They're doing it every day." 

“We’re here to support kids. We’re going to be here whether you give us the compensation or not. We just want to be treated like a professional like every other person going through the education process because i do know, bottom line, we’re here for the kids," said Ramirez.

The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is coming to Elkhart where they’ll be able to give direct feedback to the state at Concord junior high school on August 27th. 

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