‘Red for Ed’ teacher rally draws 1,000 to State House


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Supporters of “Red for Ed” at a protest hosted by the Arizona Education Association at the Arizona State Capitol complex in Phoenix, Arizona.

Over 1,000 teachers and supporters staged a protest in the State House on Saturday to tell lawmakers to raise teacher pay.  The rally was organized by the Indiana State Teachers Association and may turn out to be the first step of many that Indiana teachers will take. Educators wore red at the rally, which has been the chosen color for many major teacher protests and walkouts nationwide, including Colorado, West Virginia, and Los Angeles, among other states and cities.  

According to the Indy Star, the state government had promised to make teacher pay a priority at the beginning of the legislative session, but their efforts have not come to fruition.  Back in February, a bill was shot down that would have set minimum teacher salary at $40,000. In January, a similar bill that would have raised the number to $50,000 was also rejected.  There has been language added to the budget that would raise school funding 2.1% next year and 2.2% the year after that, but there is no mandate that the money be spent on teacher salaries; school districts can spend it how they wish.  

Other teachers around the country, faced with the same low and often stagnant wages, have gone on strike.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Arizona educators went on strike for five days in February and March of 2018, which ended with major government concessions, as the teachers won a 19% pay raise.  Indiana has not seen a strike yet, in part because it is illegal in the state, but also because there has not been a flashpoint to strike against. In Arizona, for example, teachers were protesting budget cuts.  That tipping point could happen very soon, though, if legislators fail to come through with increased pay.

In other State government news, Senate Bill 471 has passed the Senate.  According to the Indy Star, the bill is intended to protect assets and infrastructure of oil and gas companies in Indiana.  It would be a felony to trespass on to, destroy, or interfere with what the bill calls “critical infrastructure,” such as refineries or pipelines.  Critics say that the bill allows for peaceful protests, like those against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, to be harshly penalized, potentially infringing on First Amendment rights.  Bills like this have been introduced in twelve other states, largely in response to the aforementioned 2017 protests.

Currently, the youngest age at which a juvenile can be tried as an adult is 14.  A new bill, passed by the Senate with a 45-3 margin, would lower that age to 12 if the child was charged with murder or attempted murder.  With so much clearance in the Senate, the bill is almost certain to pass. Some argue that the bill would unfairly target black children. African-Americans make up 12% of the country’s population, but 33% of the prison population.  The bill was written in response to the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, perpetrated by a 13-year-old boy. His sentence was five years.