How You Can Advocate for Teachers and Better Education in Indiana

You may not believe it, but YOU can be an advocate, an everyday hero, for teachers and public education in Indiana.

Many people want high-quality public education for all, but don't know how to support and advocate for it. Educators, parents, and community members must be empowered to act and speak out for public education.

Why become an advocate? To get a better education for your children. To improve society as a whole. To feel good about the difference you’ve made.

In your journey to become an advocate, or a better advocate, we’re here to help guide you with a simple, 5-step plan of action, so you can make a lasting, positive change for Hoosier teachers, students, and families. 


Table of Contents




What are the challenges for Educators, Schools and Students today?

As Hoosiers, we are up against many challenges and forces that are holding back progress.

  • Public policy
  • Testing
  • Funding and economics
  • Teacher shortage
  • School safety
  • Mandates

What is the #1 thing we as individuals can do to combat these challenges? 

We have to support teachers—throughout their careers and through retirement.


classroom children studying



What are the important issues for teachers?

  • Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) that protect pensions from erosion due to inflation and improve the purchasing power of older retirees.
  • A commitment to annual appropriations designed to reduce the unfunded accrued liability of the Indiana State Teachers' Retirement Fund.
  • Monies deposited in the Teachers' Retirement Fund or the Pension Stabilization Fund, a sub-fund of the Teachers' Retirement Fund, must only be used for the sole purpose of paying teacher pensions.
  • A military service credit policy that treats all retired teacher veterans equitably.
  • The funding and integration of comprehensive elder care and long-term care programs.
  • A program that will require full state support for the post-1995 teacher pension fund.
  • A program that will shelter a significant portion of any state pension from state taxation.
  • And continued careful monitoring of legislation that impacts the quality of life of retired educators


The Plan: 5 Practical Steps You Can Take to be an Advocate


Step 1: Educate Yourself & Get Involved In Your Local School

The first step is to understand the issues. Take time to educate yourself on your local school issues. Visit your local school board meeting. Ask questions. Read news articles and opinion articles. We list 10 things you can do to be an education advocate in this article. Just remember: You don’t have to do it all. Find one area of advocacy that suits your talents and that you enjoy. 

Read 10 Things You Can Do to Be An Advocate For Your School



Step 2: Be a Vocal Advocate for Active and Retired Teachers in the State

Mentor Young Teachers — Sadly, 33% of new teachers leave the profession within the first three years of employment. In an effort to stem the high attrition levels, retired educators and other community members are encouraged to support new teachers and administrators as they begin their careers. Learn more about NRTA's Educator Support Network here and how you can be a mentor for young teachers.

Speak Up, Stand Up—Simply by sharing your support for teachers through social media and your daily conversations, you can influence those around you to care more about education issues in Indiana.

IRTA Membership & Contributions — as a member, your contributions provide the following support for active teachers:

  • A Hand UP Assistance—This program provides financial assistance for an immediate need of an IRTA member who is undergoing a temporary or emergency hardship. The help is intended for a one-time, short-term need and not for extended support. Examples of needs include, but are not limited to: housing expenses, health care, transportation, legal assistance, nutrition, etc. 

  • Scholarships—What better way to perpetually advance Indiana's education of young people than to develop and support more great teachers. Each year, IRTF awards at most 10 scholarships (one in each Area) to help promote our profession and assist college students who have a passion for the classroom.

  • Active Teacher Grants— IRTA understands the importance of helping teachers fulfill their classroom missions. That is why we provide assistance through the generosity of our members and partners. If you know of someone in Indiana who would like to apply for an active teacher grant, or you want to learn more about the program, click here.

Learn more about Giving to the Foundation





Step 3: Join Associations and Organizations That Advocate for Teachers

Join forces with organizations that are already doing the work! Your membership, support, and involvement in one or more of these organizations shows our elected representatives strength in numbers.

Indiana Retired Teachers Association—retired Hoosier educators or those thinking of retiring can join IRTA to support our efforts advocating for educators in the state. Even if you are not a retired teacher, you can join as an Associate Member at a low, annual rate. Donations and memberships are vital to sustaining these organizations.

Learn More About IRTA Membership



National Retired Teachers Association—Members of NRTA are dedicated to continuous educational opportunity, advocacy, and service as a means of safeguarding the economic security, work opportunities, and future well-being of all generations. Learn more about AARP's Educator Community here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT NRTA MEMBERSHIP



Local Retired Teacher Association—Find your local chapter here. While the state office staff and committees work as your voice in the General Assembly and secure discounts on goods and services, our local chapters carry out our mission of volunteering for communities and advancing local education initiatives.

FIND YOUR LOCAL CHAPTER



National Education Association—The National Education Association is another wonderful resource for advocacy. Consider joining "Raise Your Hand"—a national initiative to mobilize educators, parents, and community leaders who share a commitment to ensuring the success of all students. The website is full of advocacy information, action steps, statistics about public education, and other resources to help you educate yourself and others.



Step 4: Register to Vote, and go VOTE!

This one speaks for itself. Learn about the candidates and vote for those who have a strong record on education. It’s important to vote in every election, but especially in your local elections and special elections.

Learn more about upcoming elections, polling locations, who is on the ballot, and get registered to vote here: https://indianavoters.in.gov/

You can even text to Register to Vote:
Text: 2vote (28683)



Step 5: Contact Your Legislator

Call, write letters and send email to legislators to ask support for our legislative programs and to thank them for their support.

Tools that make this easier:

  • Countable—This app makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering. They also streamline the process of contacting your lawmaker, so you can tell them how you want them to vote on bills under consideration. Get the Countable App here.

  • Indiana General Assembly — The Indiana General Assembly website has information about your elected representatives in the statehouse, as well as live webcasts. https://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/ 


What else can I do to be an education advocate?


- Listen to our podcast, read our blog and follow us on Facebook to learn more about the issues that we at IRTA are advocating at the state legislature.

- Write letters to local newspaper editors urging support and/or thanking legislators for supporting our legislative program.

- Maintain personal contact with your state legislators.




- Donate to classroom projects—help by donating to special projects using a wonderful website called DonorsChoose.org.

- Simply volunteer your time. Whether you are a busy parent, or a retired educator, you can support and advocate for public education by volunteering your time. Schools desperately need parent and community involvement. Tutoring is just one way to give back and help support high-quality education for all. Ask your child's classroom teacher or your local public school how you can volunteer.



Get Connected




IRTA Member Specific Actions:

If you are an IRTA member, you can do all of the above, plus...
  • Establish email and/or telephone lists so that contacts can be made on vital legislative issues.
  • Continue state, area or local luncheons or breakfasts to discuss our issues with legislators.
  • Attend local information sessions at your local IRTA chapter.
  • Download the IRTA Advocacy Kit


IRTA Advocacy Kit

This kit is for IRTA Members and Local Chapter Leaders who want to arm their members with information specific to advocating for IRTA interests. It includes documents, templates, and talking points that will help members be effective advocates.

DOWNLOAD THE KIT HERE



Conclusion

Be encouraged by this list of actions you can take to become an advocate! It only takes one step to make a difference. You might set a goal to do just one of these things. That's great! We wish you luck in your efforts to be a voice for children and an advocate for a strong public education system in our country. The work is important.


About IRTA Advocacy

The Indiana Retired Teachers Association promotes and protects the pension program provided by the Indiana General Assembly. Likewise, we support local and statewide initiatives that improve educational opportunities for Indiana's teachers and students. Here are just a few examples of

  • 13th Check every year since 1983
  • Stopping Defined Contribution only retirement plan for new educators
  • Supporting/passing Pension Supplemental Reserve Accounts legislation

For more information or to join as an Associate Member of IRTA for a very low fee, click here.