Indiana study committee discusses teacher pay

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana is looking at ways to increase teacher pay across the state.

An education study committee met on Tuesday afternoon to decide whether local property tax referenda could solve the problem.

Since 2011, some school districts have been able to increase teacher salaries through a local referendum. But some representatives are questioning if it realistic for every school district.

“I don’t think it’s the ultimate answer, if a local school goes in that direction, they’ve got the freedom to do it,” said State Rep. Jack Jordan.

State Representative Jordan doesn’t think the state needs to dedicate more funding to teacher pay.

“I think local school boards need to use more money for teacher pay,”

The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) said not all school boards have enough money to do so. ISTA President Keith Gambill said the state has enough to help.

“Even though it’s not a budget year there is a surplus from this past year, and we are sitting on over 2 billion in a surplus and we believe that some of that money can be used to assist our school districts in raising teacher base pay,” said Gambill.

We asked Rep. Jordan if he thought the state using the surplus to fund teacher raises would be likely this coming session.

“I hope not because I was actually on the school board in 2008 during the financial crisis and there was no reserve to help us out,” said Jordan. He said the surplus money needs to be saved for an emergency. He said since then, the state has given local school boards more freedom on what they can spend money on.

“My frustration is they’ve got all this freedom, and so really the teacher pay issue is at the local level and not really the state level,” said Jordan.

ISTA disagrees.

“We spent nearly a decade underfunding our public schools and we are at a crisis point because of that and now is the time to act,” said Gambill.

The ISTA would like to see the average teacher salary reach $60,000 by 2021. The current teacher salary sits at about $54,000.

“And we believe that that’s possible," said Gambill. "But the lawmakers are going to have to come together and really make that a priority.”

The education study committee did not make a teacher pay recommendation. This topic is expected to come up again this coming session.

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