The Indiana State Teachers Association—the largest teacher’s union in the state—called on state lawmakers to increase teacher pay to compensate for the overwhelming workload and staff shortages.

Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) President Keith Gambill said at a news conference on Monday that they’re “slowly making progress” with teacher pay, but that more is needed to retain teachers. AP News reports that ISTA is urging state lawmakers to act during the next legislative session, which isn’t until January.

“It is important now more than ever, to retain our current teachers,” Gambill stated. “We are now going into the third consecutive school year impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Our educators, already overburdened, are facing unsustainable levels of stress and stress-related illness.”

The ISTA is asking for more-flexible contracts for teachers that take into consideration health, safety, prep periods, and class sizes. 

The association has already managed to increase teacher pay across the state through Red for Ed, a program that encourages teachers to demand better pay. The union’s goal was to have salaries at $40,000 statewide. Since Red Ed, the number of districts meeting that goal has gone up from 79 to 212.

According to ISTA President Gambill, member teachers work 12 hours or more each day because of staff shortages, in addition to working second or third jobs. They’re also not getting time off or having time to prepare for class.

Most of all, Gambill said that teachers don’t feel respected—hence the teacher shortage. 

Indiana’s problem with staff shortages and teacher burnout is not isolated. Several other states across the U.S. are in the same situation. 

One mother in Oregon became so concerned about the staff shortages that she pulled her daughter from public school

“It came to my attention last week that the staffing shortage […] is so bad that there are times they don’t have substitute teachers and nobody’s watching students,” says the mother, Cheri Shrake. “We entrust [the district] with our kids to teach them and if they don’t have the staff to do that, what are our kids doing in school?”

According to Shrake’s daughter, there have been 10 occurrences when no teacher or administrator was present in the classroom. Overall, Shrake says she wants the district to be more transparent about what’s going on. 

School districts have even been canceling school days because of staff shortages, leaving parents unhappy.

“They care about themselves more than they care about the kids,” explains one parent from a Pennsylvania school district that’s canceled school days.

A school in California planned to cancel school for the Friday after Veterans Day, but quickly changed course when parents complained. 

“It would have been great if it would have been on the calendar from the beginning,” shares one parent in the district, Jen Boynton, who wasn’t aware of the school’s plan to close until the week before. “The parents I talked to all felt like ‘here we go again’ with just that regular stress of trying to manage childcare.”

Through this time, parents are calling on school districts to be more transparent and to plan ahead.

Do you think parents have a right to be frustrated with the school staff shortages? How might schools find a way around this problem?

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