The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission met publicly for the first time Monday night. In January, Gov. Eric Holcomb tasked the commission with finding innovative ways to raise teacher salaries.
More than 100 people turned out for the night of public comment – including state teachers union officials, legislative and education leaders. Many in the audience sported bright #RedForEd t-shirts.
Low pay, lack of respect, limited financial mobility – these are some of the reasons people gave for Indiana teachers quitting. Twenty-five people – nearly all educators – spoke Monday night, they all voiced similar concerns that teaching has become an unsustainable career leading to high teacher turnover.
Commission member Katie Jenner says the night was to gather input to help the group recommend innovative solutions to lawmakers.
“Tonight we are not here to question if we should raise teacher compensation in Indiana,” Jenner says. “We are here, as a group of thoughtful people, to discuss how we will raise teacher compensation in Indiana.”
Many of the public commenters called for reinstating teacher pay scales, multiple people said they’ve leveled off at the same salary for years. Some said teachers have to switch school districts to receive a raise.
Others told the commission to raise corporate and cigarette taxes, dip into state lottery funds, and cut state funding towards private school vouchers.
“Indiana has pushed its teachers to the breaking point,” says Keith Gambill, Indiana State Teachers Association president. “More teachers are leaving the profession than ever before and pay is the No. 1 reason.”
Many teachers also pointed out rising healthcare costs.
Marydell Forbes teaches in West Lafayette. She says she’s passionate about the job but understands why fewer people want to be teachers.
“Who would take the job of putting up with crowded classrooms, standardized testing, all the mandates all the stress, the low pay,” Forbes says. “We’re not asking to be rich, we’re asking to be treated as the college educated professionals that we are.”
A debate around teacher pay was a major focus at the Statehouse last session. Ultimately, the legislature gave school districts funding they could use to raise salaries for high performing teachers, but didn't create funding specifically for teacher salary increases.
The commission has already received 2,000 online submissions, and anyone can submit recommendations online.
There are two more public meetings scheduled this month:
Saturday, August 24, 10:00 a.m. CT at
Central High School auditorium,
5400 First Avenue, Evansville, IN 47710
Tuesday, August 27 at 7:00 p.m. ET at
Concord Jr. High Cafeteria,
59397 County Road 11, Elkhart, IN 46517
The commission is expected to give recommendations to lawmakers for the 2021 budget year.