By Jessica Wray
The head of a national teachers' union told protesters who
rallied outside the Statehouse on Thursday that Gov. Mitch Daniels' education
reform agenda would "destabilize" Indiana's schools.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of
Teachers, headlined an event that came near the end of the second consecutive
week of protests by union members who are supporting Indiana House Democrats'
decision to boycott the chamber, and lock down this year's legislative session
in the process.
She took aim at Daniels and State Superintendent of Public
Instruction Tony Bennett, another Republican who is supporting Daniels' efforts
to overhaul Indiana's education system, in part by expanding the number of
charter schools in the state and offering private school vouchers.
"I would love to have a face-to-face with you," she said, to
ask: "Why is it, when you tell Hoosiers that you have to cut their school
budgets, that you then use that money to destabilize education by creating
vouchers? If you do not have money for your public schools, how do you have
money for an alternative system that has never been shown to work?"
The protesters who gathered on the south steps of the
Capitol building were organized largely by the Indiana State AFL-CIO and the
Indiana Federation of Teachers (IFT).
The coalition of demonstrators is rallying against several
measures that legislative Republicans are advancing. In addition to charter
schools and vouchers, they oppose Daniels' proposal to limit teachers'
collective bargaining rights to wages and benefits.
They also oppose several labor-related bills, including
several that they say would drive down the wages of those who work on
public-sector capital projects.
After a shout from the crowd of, "Let's take them down," in
reference to legislators pushing the charters and vouchers measures, Weingarten
said, "the way, my friends, we do this, is we organize, we mobilize and we
Other speakers at the rally included Rick Muir, IFT
president, as well as union workers and teachers.
"Make no mistake, public education is under attack," Muir
said. "All working men and women are under attack."
Bob Warnock, president of the Teamsters Local 364 union,
said that Teamsters union workers had been at the Statehouse every day with
about 200 members protesting.
"We're all here to support workers - workers and teachers,
the middle class," Warnock said. "I've been up here every day since this
started. We're here for one reason: We care about workers, the middle class, teachers. We need jobs."
Warnock said he supported the Democratic boycott, which is
set to extend into its third week.
"They're doing what they have to do to protect working
people in Indiana," Warnock said.
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.