Indiana educators say the stakes for schools are particularly high in this year's election – especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Election Day nearly here, teachers say their advocacy includes extending their role as an educator beyond the classroom.
Thousands of teachers gathered at the Statehouse last fall to make their needs known to state lawmakers, but a core focus was this year's election.
Indianapolis Spanish teacher Sarah TeKolste was there.
She said she wants to see more policies to grow and diversify the teaching workforce, and has been helping organize and engage teachers on local policy issues. But she says the presidential race is important too – specifically, she said, because of how what leaders say affects her students.
"On a federal level we're seeing a massive failure in regards to empathy, in regards to compassion and in regards to just plain niceness and decency," TeKolste said.
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Others, like science teacher Ronak Shah say, racial justice is top of mind for many educators.
But Shah said he worries that the oversimplification of education discussions around different types of schools – like charters and traditional public schools – can lead to even further division. It's something he said makes transparency in local school board races particularly vital.
"I think in the past, decisions have been made, people haven't been engaged, neighborhoods haven't been involved – and so there's resentment there. I think even now that is a bit of a poison in the water for our school board elections that has to be leached somehow," he said.
Other teachers are pushing for more transparency too.
Kristien Hamilton is a math teacher in Greencastle. She said part of her efforts to advocate for more support of public education means educating people on different, complicated issues being talked about by candidates.
"Opening up people's eyes to kind of show them how these policies and bills are formed and then reiterate we can't just complain about things we have to actually do things about them," she said.
Hamilton said she also worries about the future of school funding, and the future of assessments.
Lawmakers write the state's next two-year budget in 2021.