INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Statehouse Republicans haven’t come up with more than modest proposals
toward boosting Indiana teacher pay even as they continue touting that step
as a top goal for the new state budget.
from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb seek about $210 million more in education
funding for next school year, although a new report from education advocacy
groups says $658 million is needed to boost average teacher pay to the
midpoint of Indiana’s neighboring states.
The steep price tag
- which would amount to a 9 percent increase in state schools funding -
stems from average Indiana teacher salaries dropping 15 percent since 2000
when adjusted for inflation, according to the report from Stand for Children
and Teach Plus.
executive director of Stand for Children Indiana, said the state is facing a
“crisis” that developed over many years leading to declines in new teachers
entering the profession and struggles for schools in finding qualified
teachers for vacancies.
question there’s a significant gap that needs to be addressed,” Ohlemiller
proposed roughly a 3 percent increase in school funding for each of the next
two years and is creating a teacher pay commission to make recommendations
for legislators to consider in 2021 on how best to boost salaries.
Leaders of the
Republican-dominated Legislature say they are looking for additional school
funding increases but haven’t given specifics. House Republicans will
release their budget proposal within the next couple of weeks, with the
Senate then taking its turn before the deadline on a final agreement by late
House Speaker Brian
Bosma said all steps to close the teacher pay gap can’t “all be done in one
fell swoop, but our goal has been to get more money to the most important
professionals in our state for the future - and that’s our teachers.”
Bosma faulted the
advocacy groups’ report for not taking into consideration Indiana’s lower
cost of living, saying that such calculations put Indiana teacher pay in the
top 10 states.
“I don’t think it’s
a fair presentation to say that we want to be sure to have more than
Illinois, because the Illinois cost of living and tax burden there for
residents and teachers, especially, is significantly higher than here,” he
But a Federal
Reserve Bank of St. Louis study released last year found that Indiana’s
average teacher salary of $50,881 ranked 31st among the states when adjusted
for cost of living differences - behind Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and
suggested tapping into the state’s $1.8 billion reserves to give additional
funding to schools. Holcomb and Republicans argue maintaining that surplus
protects the state’s credit rating and attractiveness for business
Rep. Greg Porter of
Indianapolis, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said
the governor’s education funding plan is disappointing and not even helping
schools keep up with inflation.
“Those, to me, are
recession-type numbers,” Porter said. “They are not even giving
The pay issue comes
amid teacher activism that has roiled legislatures in Kentucky, West
Virginia and other states over the last year. Teachers in Oklahoma won an
average $6,100 raise following a nine-day walkout last spring. Los Angeles
teachers staged a six-day strike in January, securing a 6 percent raise and
promises for smaller class sizes, and more nurses and counselors to benefit
Teacher strikes are
illegal in Indiana, but teacher unions are trying to keep attention focused
on the issue and say they are working with Holcomb and Republican
legislative leaders to make progress.
The Indiana State
Teachers Association, which has about 40,000 members among the state’s some
70,000 teachers, is planning a Saturday rally at the Statehouse on March 9,
union President Teresa Meredith said.
“I don’t want to
call them out of school yet, I don’t know that’s going to be needed,”
Meredith said. “I think it’s good for the public, the community to come
together and support public schools and rally for strong public school
Stand for Children
and Teach Plus are supporting other Republican-sponsored proposals, such as
one creating a “career ladder” program in which teachers could receive extra
pay for leading teams of teachers. Supporters say that will help keep
experienced teachers in the classroom rather than having to leave for
administrative positions to improve their salaries.
Stand for Children director, said he doesn’t think any school advocates
believe the state’s lagging teacher pay will be solved in a single two-year
“This has to be a
goal, a priority over several years,” he said. “But we have to have a true
north in terms of where we’re heading and a plan to elevate the profession