Teachers Rally In Support Of Public Education

Hundreds Gather In Martinsville

Hundreds of teachers rallied in Martinsville on Monday in an effort to put a positive face on public education in the wake of a battle at the Statehouse.

Teacher unions object to several proposals from Gov. Mitch Daniels that are gaining traction in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, including restrictions on collective bargaining, merit pay for teachers and vouchers that would direct taxpayer money to private schools.

Justin Oakley, an eighth-grade teacher who organized Monday's rally across from the Morgan County Courthouse, said teachers want to be heard.

"Today's event is to get a positive message out, that our schools do work," he said.

Hundreds of teachers gathered last week at the Statehouse to rally against the GOP-led reforms.

In Morgan County, teachers and residents alike have been paying close attention to the ongoing debate.

"I think what's going on in the Statehouse is a travesty because we believe in our kids here in Martinsville," said resident Del Chafey.

"We want to show everybody that we want to support public education, that we as teachers care about other people's education, too," said Rachel Crabb, a fifth-grade teacher.

Rick Heacock, an assistant principal at Martinsville High School whose wife also teaches in the district, said he's concerned about more students choosing to opt out of public education.

"We don't want to lose them. We think we can impact those kids," Heacock said. "And with state funding, even if we only lose 10 or 15 kids, that funding could be a teacher."

Daniels issued a strong rebuttal to last week's rally through his spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski.

"As always, the union's demand is more money, no change. Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana," he said. "Their special interest domination of education policy from the local level to the Statehouse has hurt Indiana children for too long and, this year, change must finally come."