A new report released Monday puts pressure on Indiana school districts to foot a significant portion of the estimated $600 million a year needed to increase teacher pay, but it acknowledges the state must also substantially increase funding in order for salaries to be more competitive.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s teacher pay commission has been working on the recommendations for nearly two years. The report, which includes 37 recommendations, says Indiana school districts should make cuts to healthcare spending, ask voters for more funding through property tax increases, and direct more money to teacher pay.
The report calls for increasing average teacher salaries to $60,000 per year, from about $51,000. To achieve that goal, the state will also need significant new revenue, which could come from strategies such as reducing tax breaks and increasing income taxes.
The recommendations could serve as a blueprint for lawmakers to increase teacher pay in Indiana, which has lower average pay than neighboring Midwestern states. But the report’s ultimate impact could depend on how much political weight the governor puts behind the effort and its reception from legislative leaders.
“I am grateful to the commission for its dedication to developing these recommendations,” Holcomb said in a statement. “The report provides a wide range of actions for all to review and consider moving forward. The options offer a base for continuing these important conversations about making compensation for our hard-working teachers more competitive.”
The recommendations come at a time of economic uncertainty for Indiana, as the state grapples with the financial consequences of the coronavirus. Indiana faces having significantly less revenue because of the economic devastation wrought by COVID, making the chances of dramatically increasing school funding unlikely in the upcoming two-year budget.
Since 2000, Indiana has seen the largest decline in teacher pay adjusted for inflation of any state, according to the National Center on Education Statistics, and comparatively low pay makes it harder to recruit new teachers. Last fall, so many educators went to a statehouse rally for increased teacher pay that districts across the state closed because they couldn’t staff schools.
The commission was created by Holcomb at a moment when teacher activism was on the rise around the country after West Virginia teachers went on strike for nearly two weeks. It was tasked with developing long-term strategies for addressing teacher pay in Indiana. Because pay is set by local school districts rather than the state, some advocates and Republican politicians argue that boosts in education funding may not be directed to teacher salaries.
This story will be updated.
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