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Fort Wayne lawmakers react to Red for Ed rally

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INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA21) – The mass gathering of teachers and other school supports is designed to get the attention of Indiana legislators who have control over the state’s education budget.

State lawmakers are used to all kinds of groups and individuals coming to the capital to try and persuade them to take action on any number of issues, but you just don’t see demonstrations of this magnitude.

READ MORE: Indiana teachers make sea of red outside statehouse

Bright and early Tuesday morning, teachers lined up by the entranceway that lawmakers use to get in and out of the statehouse.

They carried signs and changed slogans, like “Fund Futures, Not Testing.”

Republican State Sen. Liz Brown from Fort Wayne told ABC21 the legislature has been fighting for teachers for years.

“I don’t think they realize or maybe remember what we just did… the 2 percent increase that we allowed,” State Sen. Brown said.

“And when you look at Indiana teacher’s salaries on average with their federal, state and local pay, and benefits,…because those numbers they often quote don’t include their benefits packages,…We’re in like the top 15 across the country.”

Democratic House leader and State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne says the general assembly could be doing so much more for public education.

“Where are the priorities in this state? We have the money to provide teacher pay increases, we had bills this past session that would call for a 5 percent increase over the next two years for teachers. We had bills that were filed that would have a minimum starting salary of anywhere between $40,000 to $50,000,” State Rep. GiaQuinta.

“There are all kinds of things you can do that we haven’t seen done at the general assembly.”

Tuesday is organization day at the legislature, which leads up to the 2020 legislative session.

One person not here for the rally is Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

He is in Florida for a Republican Governors Association conference that was scheduled months ago.

Holcomb hasn’t criticized school districts for closing the day of the union-organized rally, saying it was a local decision and that he applauds teachers for expressing their concerns.

We expect some of his staff will be keeping an eye on the sights and sounds reverberating in the State House throughout the day.

Teacher unions say about half of Indiana’s nearly 300 school districts will be closed Tuesday while their teachers attend the rally as legislators head to work.

Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools joined the list of districts closing their doors.

Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools plan to remain open and take part in “Walk-ins,” where teachers are encouraged to wear the color red.

RELATED: “More and more is being put on teachers’ plates”: Indiana teachers prepare to rally at Statehouse

Our coverage begins on ABC21 Morning News at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday and continues at ABC21 News at Noon, as well as our evening newscasts at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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