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On Tuesday, more than 16,000 Hoosier educators descended in droves upon the state capital for the Red For Ed Day of Action to tell their legislators that students deserve better.

The teachers had three main goals to share with the legislature: hold Indiana schools harmless from results of the ILEARN exam, repeal the externship requirements added in the final hours of the last legislative session, and fund our schools and teachers adequately.

I had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of teachers during the rally and sat down with a small group of them for an hour to really dig into the details of why they are fed up with their state government. Many of the discussions revolved around issues that have been around for years, but there is increasing desperation in the need to reverse course for education in Indiana.

I had teachers express to me how they feel an emphasis on standardized testing has forced them into teaching students to a test instead of teaching them the way they were trained to teach. They find that their students are constantly anxious and stressed. They told me that their students are beginning to lack critical thinking and interpersonal skills. And the one that hit me the hardest?

They said that students are no longer finding fun in learning.

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When our children don’t enjoy learning, they don’t succeed at learning. When our children don’t enjoy learning, they don’t pursue learning. What a shame that we have robotized our students into short-term memorizers of information to be used on a test one day, and the next forgotten. What a shame that our students no longer get to enjoy recess, P.E., art and music classes because funding is so low for schools that these were the first resources to be cut. What a shame that our students are being taught by teachers who are not respected by their government, who are not paid their worth by our government, and who are exiting the field faster than any other profession.

Tuesday’s Red For Ed Day of Action was the wake-up call Indiana Republicans should not have needed but heard loud and clear. Our students are suffering and it is past time something should be done about it. Misplaced priorities and empty promises will no longer be accepted by educators in this state.

I am a father of four wonderful children who span the spectrum of education from elementary school to middle school, high school and college. I believe in the power of education to change lives and communities and I stand in this fight with our educators.

Teachers, we need to turn this moment into a movement. Remember why you came to the Statehouse this week when we approach general elections in November 2020. Research your candidates and replace those who don’t support public education with those who will. Your vote is your power, use it.

State Sen. Eddie Melton represents Indiana’s 3rd District in the Indiana General Assembly. His lifelong career in social work and youth mentorship includes positions at the Legacy Foundation, State Board of Education, and President Barack Obama’s “My Brothers Keeper Initiative.” He serves as the Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee and in 2017 was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. Melton and his wife Crystal live in Gary Indiana and have four children. The opinions are the writer's.

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