Educators throughout the state of Indiana wore the color black as part of the #Blackout4Ed effort to protest school choice bills and advocate for teacher vaccine priority on Wednesday.

“Today we are wearing black to show our anger and sadness at the fact that we’re not being prioritized in the budget the way we should be,” said Jennifer Smith-Margraf, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) Vice President.

Smith-Margraf didn’t know the exact number of teachers who took part in this effort, but she said based off of her social media there was “clearly a widespread participation across the state.”

“I think it demonstrates the power that we have as a group. When we stand together and act, we’re acting on behalf of our students who deserve better,” Smith-Margraf said. “They deserve to have qualified adults working with them and providing them the support that they need to be the best that they can be.”

She explained that the bills many teachers are concerned about are House Bill 1005, Senate Bill 412, and Senate Bill 413.

If the bills pass, some educators worry that funding and resources would be diverted from public schools and given to private schools. According to the ISTA, 90% of the students in Indiana are educated through public schools.

However, Senator Liz Brown (R, District 15), who said she wasn’t familiar with the #Blackout4Ed effort, sees matters differently.

“I don’t necessarily agree its going to be an issue here but I think that if we’re concerned about our students receiving the best education tailored to their needs, then I think this is something we should look at,” Senator Brown said. “But again, the Senate held the bill in appropriations, but didn’t receive a vote so its just a concept out there right now.”

On social media many teachers encouraged supporters to call their state senators and representatives and ask them to vote “no” on each bill.

Smith-Margraf said she fears if these bills go through many educators would leave the classroom.

“That means that we are going to have fewer resources and fewer highly qualified teachers and other educators to work with students to provide the kind of one on one supports that parents, and others in the community have told us that they need and value,” Smith-Margraf said.

They also wore black to advocate for vaccine priority, as currently Indiana educators do not have a spot on the vaccine priority list.

Smith-Margraf said there will be other actions going forward to “make sure that we get the investment and public education that we need.”