Warrick County schools closed Nov. 19

Standard photo/Marisa Patwa

Boonville Middle School educators participating in the WCSC sanctioned walkout on Wednesday, April 24 of this year.

Warrick County schools will be closed on Tuesday, Nov. 19 so teachers can travel to the Indiana statehouse for Red for Ed Action Day.

The announcement was made by Superintendent Brad Schneider last Thursday, Nov. 8, on behalf of the Warrick County School Corporation Board of Trustees and just a day after the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. also announced they would be closing their schools that day.

"[We] fully support the fight for adequate funding in public education," Schneider said. "Therefore, the Warrick County Schools will be closed Nov. 19, 2019 in an effort to support the needs of our students, teachers and public education as a whole. We want to give every Warrick County teacher the opportunity to participate in the Red for Ed day activities."

Red for Ed Action Day takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Indiana Statehouse and is being hosted by the Indiana State Teachers Association in hopes of lobbying the Indiana General Assembly for better resources for teachers and students in the state.

Schneider said there is no doubt there is inadequate funding from the state, which is causing lots of issues with teachers.

"Teacher pay is a big one and the problem is there is not enough people interested in going into the profession because there is such an unknown as far as salary and pay," he said.

This is something the Warrick school corp. has seen on the rise in recent years, with the need for filling positions each year growing. In order to help combat that problem and entice more teachers to join the WCSC, the board just approved a salary increase of almost $2,000 a year for new teachers, bringing the new starting salary to $40,000 as of Monday, Nov. 4.

"We've tried to treat our teachers fairly," Schneider said. "And we try to pay the best wage we possibly can, given the funding restraints we have."

The school corp. also let teachers participate in an approved protest earlier this year on April 24 while the state budget was officially voted on later that day. Those protests and walkouts took place all across the country last spring as a part of the Red for Ed movement.

Closing the schools on Nov. 19 for teachers to campaign at the statehouse is a new precedent for the WCSC thought, or at least during Schneider's 17 years as superintendent.

"We haven't closed for anything other than weather or emergencies before," he said.

It wasn't a decision that was taken lightly, but with over 150 teachers offering to use personal days so they could join their fellow educators at the statehouse, the WCSC felt there was only one right choice.

"Two things led to our decision: one was the tremendous response we had from Warrick County teachers wanting to participate -- 25 percent of our staff," Schneider said. "That would be impossible to find substitutes for all of those people and secondly and more importantly to me, I wanted to make sure the corporation and myself as superintendent were fully supportive of all of our teachers efforts to bring this problem to light to the public so they know just how dire this situation is."

The goal is that not just educators go to the statehouse, but family and friends as well.

"We hope for a strong showing of support for our teachers, students and public education in general," Schneider said. "We want our voices to be heard and I hope it's more than just teachers and administrators going up to Indianapolis. I hope we have parents and grandparents."

Warrick however will not be following EVSC's footsteps of using Nov. 19 as a virtual learning day for students, instead planning to use the first of their five allotted makeup days starting in January, which happens to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"We aren't convinced e-learn days meet the instructional levels of the regular instructional day," Schneider said. "We look at ways to do that, but at this point in time, we're just going to cancel school and make it up in January."

As for parents worried about figuring out what to do with their children or teens that day, Schneider empathizes with their concern, but said that is the reason why they announced their plan to cancel school on Nov. 19 as far in advance as they could.

"We understand that's an issue and that's why we're announcing here now, to give them plenty of time to make plans," Schneider said. "It's not that far out of the ordinary -- during extreme weather, we do ask our parents to have back up plans for their kids to be at home for the day, whether they are supervised by a neighbor, aunt, uncle, or whatever arrangements they can make."

The superintendent said he hopes there will be a positive impact on education due to the activities of Nov. 19.

"We're starting to see a groundswell of support not just from educators, but the public who want to see their teachers making a livable wage," he said. "We are hopeful this will lead to better funding for public schools."

For more information about Red for Ed Action Day, visit: https://www.ista-in.org/.

Schneider said one big problem currently with education funding in the state is the over $100 million of taxpayer monies spent on vouchers so kids can attend private schools.

"Not that I have issues with private schools, but they should not be funded by taxpayers," he said. "So, I am excited to get this conversation out to the public and at least have an adult discussion about the pros and cons of the negative impact legislation has had in the last ten years on teachers. And I am very proud of our teachers and their commitment to getting involved and having their voices heard."

Marisa Patwa is a graduate of the University of Evansville with a degree in journalism and minor in political science.

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