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PITTSBURGH, Pa.–More than 3,000 members and leaders of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) came together in Pittsburgh for their biennial national convention in Pittsburgh July 13-16. 

The theme of this year’s event was, “We care. We fight. We show up.” 

It’s a theme that fits Indiana teachers, according to American Federation of Teacher President Randi Weingarten. 

“I’ve seen an amazing determination, grit, and a depth of compassion from teachers in Indiana,” Weingarten said.  

That determination has had to make its way through some financial difficulties. Weingarten says the state needs more funding. 

“In order to get back to 2008 spending levels, you need about half a billion dollars in Indiana. That’s what educators are trying to fight for. They’re trying to fight for the money that kids need, so that kids can seize their world,” Weingarten said.   

When thinking of a particular area in the state that’s struggling, Weingarten highlighted the challenges schools in Gary deal with. 

“The city of Gary has fallen on hard times. We need to be able to kids who have the least the most. Education is much more of a state function than a federal function. There needs to be more state funding for a place like Gary,” Weingarten said. 

But Gary is not alone in the education struggle. 

“Half the public schools in America are poor. So our country has become grossly unequal in terms of the differences between rich and poor,” Weingarten said. 

She also talked briefly about Mike Pence’s tenure as Indiana Governor before he became Vice President of the United States. 

“He was not terribly supportive of public education,” Weingarten said. 

Weingarten said Pence’s lack of support led to Indiana teachers being the punching bag at times, but that didn’t affect the their resilience. 

“They’ve been really valiant because it doesn’t matter if a public official supports them or not. Those teachers know their job is teaching kids,” Weingarten said. 

The AFT spoke about ways to champion fairness, democracy, and how to give high-quality public education to students at the conference. They also used it as an opportunity to engage members in their union before the November elections.  


(PHOTO: Classroom_Thinkstock_JettaProductions)