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'Trust us': Educators say controversial bill undermines their expertise, ability to teach

A large group of teachers gathered at the Statehouse, wearing red t-shirts and masks.
Alan Mbathi
/
IPB News
Several teachers at the Statehouse Monday said they would rather be in their classrooms, but felt it was necessary to share their concerns about HB 1134 with lawmakers.

"Trust us" – that was the message some teachers wanted to send to lawmakers as they gathered at the Statehouse Monday. It's part of an ongoing effort from several groups to push back against a controversial school curriculum and parent oversight bill.

It's the second consecutive week with educators from across Indiana converging on the Statehouse to talk with lawmakers about their concerns.

For many, House Bill 1134 is top of mind. The bill would limit how schools talk about things like race and politics, and require teachers to post more of their classroom materials online.

Kayla Wilhelm is a third grade teacher from Fort Wayne, and said the bill makes her feel like lawmakers don't trust her to do what she's trained for.

"We trust you to do what is best for our state," Wilhelm said. "They're elected officials – we trust them – and I need them to trust us."

READ MORE: Here's how lawmakers changed the House curriculum bill before sending it to the Senate

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues. Trying to follow along with our coverage of the legislative session? We've compiled all the stories our reporters have published by bill number and topic here.

Other teachers agree, and said state legislation isn't the right response to some parents' local concerns.

Tyler Davis is a high school history and psychology teacher in Columbus. He said he wants lawmakers to know how many tools teachers already use to share classroom content with students and their parents, which has become essential during the pandemic.

"We don't need the government creating more obstacles and more hurdles for us to jump through that aren't needed – it won't make our classrooms better, it won't make education better," he said.

Davis said if parents want to know more about what's being taught, they need to work with their child's teacher.

Many educators worry the bill will likely become law. Davis and Wilhelm said regardless of whether it does, the bill is already further straining the dynamic between teachers and the General Assembly, despite lawmakers' attempts to soothe educators' frustrations about pay and school funding just last year.

A group of teachers from Fort Wayne said the bill is prompting more discussions among their peers about leaving the profession or the state entirely.

House Bill 1134 is scheduled for a committee hearing Wednesday.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

Jeanie Lindsay