ANDERSON, Ind. – It was an e-learning day Friday for Anderson Community Schools. The district says it’s due to excessive teacher absences.
We learned that teachers are outraged about ongoing contract negotiations that directly impacts their salary.
“It feels like a huge slap in the face to us,” said Ashley Loffer.
When Loffer isn’t teaching she’s working a second job to make ends meet.
“Many of us work second jobs, third jobs,” she said, “I personally work a second job throughout the week and on my weekends just be able to make bills and pay off student debt and credit cards and everything.”
Instead of being in the classroom with her kindergarteners on Friday, she met with Marisa Little to share and express her frustrations.
“We feel like we haven’t been treated like the essential workers and heroes that everyone screams,” said Marisa Little, the elementary vice president of the Anderson Federation of Teachers (AFT).
AFT is in the middle of negotiating a higher base pay with Anderson Community Schools that’s had little progress. With a deadline approaching and no agreement, teachers wanted to make a statement.
“It’s unfortunate that our children aren’t with us today (Friday),” said Little, “And we hate that, but we have to stand up for ourselves.”
Little says the district believes the money the teachers are asking for would put them in a deficit.
The AFT hired a budget consultant that, they say, proved otherwise.
“The facts are clear,” said Little.
Little believes the district should be using the millions it received through the referendum and federal COVID relief funds to increase teacher pay.
“This year in Anderson Community Schools we have the most money that we’ve ever had. We have been given ESSERS dollars from the federal government of approximately $40 million. We have a cash reserve that sits at $10 million, which is almost double what is recommended,” Little explained.
From that $40 million, Little says, Anderson Community Schools gave teachers a $150 stipend if they got vaccinated. She says that’s not enough and, if the district doesn’t act soon, they’ll begin to lose more teachers to surrounding districts that pay more.
“We have an insurance premium increase of 33 percent to our pocket,” said Little, “So the base increase doesn’t even cover that salary increase.”
Anderson Community Schools denied an interview request but sent a statement.
“We are currently in negotiations with the Anderson Federation of Teachers (AFT) on a new collective bargaining agreement for teachers and other certified staff. We stand committed to working with the AFT and will maintain open lines of communication with them until an agreement can be reached.”Anderson Community Schools
Stephany Stennis is a parent to three Anderson students.
“I’m so proud of them for standing together and standing up for what’s right,” she told us.
When parents learned of the e-learning day Thursday evening, many parents supported the decision, but others did not. Some parents were upset that children were sent home without their devices and would miss planned classroom Halloween parties.
“We have to, as parents, look at the bigger picture here and we have to support our teachers,” Stennis added.
“We cannot take care of your children if we are not being taken care of,” said Loffer, “At some point, the line has to be drawn.”
Monday is already a scheduled e-learning day for parent-teacher conferences. As of now, students are expected back in the classroom on Tuesday.
We’ll keep you updated if anything changes.