‘Pencils down, your time is up’

Public education earns a huge show of support in downtown Indy


A crowd estimated at 15,000 gathers outside the Statehouse Tuesday morning at the RedforEd rally.

Anna Eggers, co-editor-in-chief

When Indiana State Teachers Association president Keith Gammill addressed the state legislators Tuesday, it was a direct shot.

“Pencils down, your time is up,” Gammill said during a rally of support for public education at the Indiana Statehouse.

That simple phrase earned him a rousing response from an estimated crowd of 15,000 who came to downtown Indianapolis to make a statement.

“We are looking for true and lasting change for our students,” Gammill said. “We must rise us and defend our children’s rights to a proper education.”

Tuesday’s statement was simple: Support public education.

Statewide, 147 school districts took the day off Tuesday to allow their teachers to attend the rally. Wayne Township was one of those townships and its teachers were there to support our students.

“We are rallying to gain support for the future,” career center teacher Marci Royalty. “This is an important day.”

There were three important messages the ISTA was trying to send with the rally:

  • Education needs more funding. The states ranks from 46th to 51st in the nation in average teacher salary nationwide and public funding has been redirected toward charter schools and vouchers in the past decade.
  • Do not hold teachers and districts accountable for the failed iLearn test administered statewide last year.
  • Take away the externship requirement for license renewal that requires a teacher to spend 15 hours in a business internship related to their content. 

State legislators must have been listening. Later in the day Tuesday House Speaker Brian Bosma, a republican from Indianapolis, conceded that the externship component of licensing  renewal will likely go away during the 2020 state legislature.

iLearn? I say ‘you learn’ to those legislators. It is not OK that Indiana ranks 51st in teacher pay and it is not OK that public education keeps losing funding. Our children deserve more.

— Becky Pringle

Statewide tests and the education budget will be big topics in the 2020 legislative sessions, although the current education budget is ending the first of a two-year cycle.

Tuesday’s rally was the biggest rally in downtown Indianapolis in more than 20 years. The crowd began gathering before 8 a.m. and by the planned 10:30 a.m. speeches the crowd had grown to 15,000 plus.

A teacher band entertained the crowd, who chimed in in unison with shouts of “Red for Ed”. After the speeches — one by Gammill and one by National Education Association vice president Becky Pringle — the crowd marched around the statehouse.

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to support our children,” Pringle said. “iLearn? I say ‘you learn’  to those legislators. It is not OK that Indiana ranks 51st in teacher pay and it is not OK that public education keeps losing funding. Our children deserve more.”

After the march, the rally continued inside the Statehouse in front of a crowd estimated at 6,000. That rally included testimonials by teachers from around the state and a talk from Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“The demands of teachers across Indiana really are not that absurd,” McCormick said. “They are fighting for the basic foundation that makes education great. Today was a great display of that passion.”