House Republicans are proposing a budget with modest funding increases for schools, as well as some additional dollars they say should go to educators, but advocates say it still isn’t enough for meaningful boosts to teacher pay.
ISTA President Teresa Meredith says the House budget proposal shows progress, but the state’s increase in school funding needs to be higher. Because she says basic needs have to be met before districts can even consider pay boosts for teachers.
“Whatever minimal increases districts have in normal every day expenses like utilities – there has to be enough in the budget to cover that,” she says.
The proposal offers an additional $461 million – slightly more than a two percent increase in school funding per year. Meredith, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick say it should be closer to three percent.
“When those dollars are tight, you have to take a hard look at everything and decide what can wait and what can’t. And I would argue that this cannot wait – we are still in a teacher retention crisis,” Meredith says.
The House proposal keeps the state’s Teacher Appreciation Grant fund – which provides bonuses for highly rated teachers – intact. It also includes a one time payment of $150 million from the state’s surplus to the state’s teacher retirement fund.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has said the retirement payment should free up $70 million per year for Indiana’s schools, and that the money should go to better pay for teachers. But lawmakers have not proposed any measures to guarantee that those dollars go to educators.
Educator policy group Teach Plus said in a statement it remains optimistic based on the House budget proposal, but still plans to push lawmakers dedicate more funding specifically to teacher pay.
House lawmakers will vote on the budget bill in the coming days.