State teachers union focused on raises for educators during 2019 legislative session

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - As lawmakers prepare to return to the Statehouse, there is a focus on what will be done to keep strong teachers in Indiana classrooms.

While the state teachers union is pushing for raises in 2019, it is unclear whether the governor will support action on this right away.

Governor Eric Holcomb outlined his legislative priorities last week. His list includes increasing K-12 funding, but there is no specific mention of teacher compensation. On Monday morning, the Indiana State Teachers Association  president shared what their group will be aiming for in the upcoming session.

"We need to pay competitive wages to not only attract quality teachers but to keep them," said Teresa Meredith, ISTA president and teacher. "Right now, that’s not happening."

Meredith said teachers are leaving for neighboring states where salaries are better.

"This issue can't wait," Meredith said. "We expect action in 2019."

Gov. Holcomb share similar concerns during his press event last week but stopped short of calling for immediate change.

"We look to over the next two biennium, 2019 and 2021, get the state of Indiana in a place where we can provide a significant increase to our teacher salaries," Holcomb said.  "We want to do it right and it’s a big number. We have some ground to make up here."

But, Meredith emphasized educators feel a sense of urgency with this.

"Elected leaders must do more to declare teacher compensation a priority," Meredith said.

According to the National Education Association, Indiana teachers had an average salary of $54,308 in 2017. Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois all have higher average salaries. Indiana is ahead of Kentucky when it comes to teacher pay.

But, the request for teachers raises from ISTA comes at a time when the state is also hoping to address the finances of the struggling Department of Child Services.

"We do know there will be serious pull in addressing those needs in DCS," Holcomb said. "We can’t look the other way."

The ISTA president said they will take the lead from their members when it comes to any demonstrations like walkouts, depending on how things develop at the Statehouse.

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