TERRE HAUTE —
Educational issues are expected to take forefront as Vigo County Public Library officials brace for a large anticipated influx of attendees Saturday as part of a crackerbarrel legislative event.
As many as 500 Wabash Valley teachers, educators and school workers could attend the 10 a.m. session to speak to state legislators on subjects such as charter schools, school vouchers and collective bargaining.
Shane Grimes, Indiana State Teachers Association Uniserve director, said educators, along with secretaries and even custodians from Vigo, Clay, Sullivan, Vermillion and Knox counties, are expected to attend the legislative event.
The agency has printed more than 500 T-shirts. The white shirts have simple type to get across a message, such as “Unions + CB (collective bargaining) = Middle Class Values.”
“This is the last scheduled crackerbarrel session and we have a large number of teachers who want to come and talk” with their elected representatives, Grimes said.
“The idea is that those folks were elected to represent their constituents and they are not listening to their constituents. Nothing is dead yet,” Grimes said of bills in the Indiana General Assembly.
Betty Martin, a member of the League of Women Voters of Vigo County, will serve as moderator, beginning the session with public comments first before the legislators speak.
Indiana Reps. Bob Heaton, R-Terre Haute, and Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, are expected to attend, along with Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, who represents Indiana’s District 28 and is a member of the House Education Committee.
“I asked Representative Thompson to come because as a member of the education committee, he is familiar with the school funding formula and has been addressing this around the state,” Heaton said.
Heaton said has talked to teachers at Owen Valley High School as well as teachers statewide, such as in Kokomo and Tipton. Heaton said he supports expanding charter schools.
Also expected is state Rep. Jim Baird, R-Greencastle as well as state Sens. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute and John Waterman, R-Shelburn. Two representatives who will not be attending include Reps. F. Dale Grubb, D-Covington and Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, a retired school teacher.
Kersey and Grubb are among House Democrats who left the Indiana Statehouse on Feb. 22 to prevent votes on labor and education bills.
“We are still working on trying to get an agreement with Republicans on several labor bills and several education bills,” Kersey said. “I think we are a lot closer now than we have ever been and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to come back to Indiana while those negotiations are still going on,” Kersey said Thursday in a telephone interview.
Kersey and other Democrat House members are staying in a hotel in Urbana, Ill.
To prepare, library Executive Director Nancy Dowell said she has moved the event from three meeting rooms in the lower level of the library to the main-floor lobby.
“The lobby can hold more chairs,” Dowell said. Lower-level rooms have a capacity of about 110 people, while about 150 chairs can be arranged in the main lobby, plus there are two extending rooms from that center lobby.
Dowell said she could not be sure that nearby computer rooms or other library activity will not be disrupted.
“It probably will be disrupted. I can’t guarantee there will be a lot of library work going on during those two hours,” Dowell said. “We have had this tradition of hosting the crackerbarrel. It was hard for me to move this, because where else do you move it where it is free?”
If moved to the campus of Indiana State University, there could be fees and parking can be an issue, Dowell said. The library has hosted crackerbarrel sessions since 1979, she said.
“I think it is just a situation where [educators] want to come and want a voice and that is OK. That is what it is for,” Dowell said of the legislative event.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.