Dozens of educators from across the state today joined a protest of the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council despite blistering July heat.

The meeting, being held at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Indianapolis this year, brings together state legislators and business leaders from across the country. The group is known for pushing for new laws, including changes to education, in Indiana and other states.

The educator-led rally was organized by the Indiana State Teacher’s Association, one of Indiana’s teachers unions, and joined a march that included protesters who objected ALEC’s policies on other issues including campaign finance, collective bargaining and more.

Joining ISTA’s rally were members of Indiana’s other large statewide teachers union, the Indiana Federation of Teachers, and other advocates for public education. Most of their complaints focused on the state’s private school tuition voucher program.

“What the voucher program is doing is that it’s expanding middle class availability of scholarships to fund their children’s religious education,” said Teresa Meredith, ISTA president. “Everyone has a right to choose, but when it comes to how it’s funded, we’re not OK with public tax dollars that fund parents’ choices to fund religious education.”

Protestors march down Washington Street in Indianapolis, protesting ALEC and education reform policy.
Protesters march down Washington Street in Indianapolis, protesting the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual meeting and education reform policy.
PHOTO CREDIT: Meghan Mangrum

ALEC is a not-for-profit organization helps legislators craft laws that support their favored conservative positions. This week’s agenda includes sessions on fiscal policy, business regulations, education and workforce development. Gov. Mike Pence, who has joined the national Republican ticket as Donald Trump’s running mate, will speak to the group on Friday.

Indiana state Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, argued the group’s efforts hurt schools.

“For too many years this organization has destroyed the character of public education in the name of choice at the detriment of our community,” Shackleford told the crowd. “Under their Indiana education reform packet several items damaged our education system.”

Protesters marched from the Statehouse lawn to the hotel and back to the statehouse displaying signs and shouting chants such as “Dump ALEC” or “our children are not for sale.”