Heart of the River hosts Protest Paddle


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.


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