Teachers have rallied at schools and the Statehouse all year to push for better pay and more respect for their profession, and last month teachers throughout the state flocked to the governor’s teacher pay commission input meetings to reinforce an idea: Indiana’s education policy doesn’t respect public educators.
Commission members started each of the meetings telling the audience it wasn’t a matter of whether or not the state should increase teacher pay, but instead how that could happen.
Yet, teachers at the meetings spent a significant amount of time telling commission members their stories and why better pay is so crucial. They talked about what compensation for teachers looks like compared to other jobs that require the same amount of – or even less – training and education. Many said their insurance costs are high, money to buy classroom supplies and other learning materials comes from their own pockets, and pay remains stagnant despite years they’ve spent in the classroom and earning higher degrees.
Much of the input from educators highlighted their concerns about ongoing issues plaguing Indiana’s schools, like low pay leading to a shrinking pool of future teachers, a flawed school funding system, and a state legislature they say is actively complicating their jobs.
John Hurley ran for a seat in the General Assembly last year. He says lawmakers could find money for teachers by phasing out the state’s voucher program and capping funding for charter schools – a popular notion among public educators.
“We have the money to do this to help. We just have to make that decision,” he says.
Several teachers say the state needs to change its school funding and tax structure to support schools more equitably, and gather more data about funding. Other solutions teachers pointed to at the meetings: funding unfunded state requirements to ease financial burdens on districts, cutting back on the millions of dollars Indiana spends on standardized testing for students, and giving teacher unions more bargaining rights to address their working conditions.
The commission will send lawmakers recommendations to boost teacher compensation before the 2021 legislative session.