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MARC CHASE: Teachers deserve respect, support, voice
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MARC CHASE: Teachers deserve respect, support, voice

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Revering teachers and the work they do isn't just important to me.

It's in my DNA.

And there's no doubt the Hoosier state — and its hundreds of school districts — needs to do a better job of fairly compensating teachers for their work.

The Times Editorial Board, of which I am a member, published an editorial earlier this week that left some local educators with the impression that we don't appreciate teachers.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

The editorial specifically took issue with a third of school districts in Indiana canceling school Tuesday because of the thousands of teachers participating in a rally at the state capital. State educators used the rally to highlight the important need for better teacher pay and other educational resources.

It's important to distinguish between the editorial, which is an opinion piece, and our news coverage of the Red for Ed Day of Action, as it was called. Our news coverage leading up to and of the actual event was vast, was largely featured on the front page and included objective accounts of Red for Ed and its many issues.

While the editorial agreed Hoosier teachers deserve better pay and the tools to better enrich the learning of our children, it also questioned a demonstration that would offset classroom instruction in order to pursue that argument.

It's key to note we can reasonably disagree in society — and still manage to keep it civil.

To that end, today's Sunday Forum section is largely dedicated to a diversity of opinion on this topic.

It's essential to our society and the future of our children's education for all sides of this issue to have a voice and be heard.

My appreciation for the role of teachers in our society doesn't just exist because of the exemplary role they've played in the lives of my children, three of whom are making their way through Crown Point public schools.

Watching my children grow, learn and succeed in their evolving awakenings as human beings has been due in no small part to the heroes who preside over their classrooms and the administrators who bring it all together into one tapestry of excellence.

I learned of this importance from a young age.

My mother, now retired, was an elementary school teacher in West Chicago, Illinois, for nearly 40 years. Her mother also was a teacher.

My little brother, not so little anymore, is a high school history teacher in the western suburbs and a decorated educator.

So teaching is synonymous with family in my household.

Support for teachers must remain high throughout society.

The state did take an important step in supporting teachers and their important mission during last year's legislative session.

Last year, the General Assembly grew funding for public school education by $753 million, including $539 million in additional student tuition support, $140 million for schools to spend as they see fit and $74 million for statewide grant programs, including for the purposes of teacher appreciation and school security.

Is it enough?

No, challenges persist, including the challenge of keeping teacher salaries competitive with other states so we can attract and retain the best educators for our children.

But last year's legislative appropriation was a good start.

One of the points made in the editorial earlier this week is that local public school boards, not just the Legislature, deserve scrutiny in the determination of teacher salaries and the allocation in how public school money is spent.

In fact, the Legislature has little to do with how local education resources are spent.

Public school districts may require more money and resources. Teachers at those districts certainly deserve better than they're getting.

But school boards and other local officials also must be scrutinized regarding how they're spending the resources they're receiving, including the additional $140 million in discretionary funds the Legislature provided last year.

The Times Editorial Board will continue to advocate for improved education.

We've doggedly done so in our support for past school referendums and many other key issues.

We will continue to value the voices and concerns of our Region's teachers, parents, students and taxpayers — even when opinions and editorial viewpoints collide.

Today, we thank all people who took the time to write to us and express their opinions, whether for print or just to be heard. The Times and its employees, most of whom are members of the greater Northwest Indiana community, are learning from all of you.

Considering a diversity of opinion helps us grow as a news organization, and it helps all of us grow as a people.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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