Indiana Democrats fight for more teacher pay in 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The fight to increase teacher pay is heating up at the Statehouse. Senate Democrats unveiled their plans Thursday morning while some House Democrats tried to tack the issue onto other bills.

Several amendments related to teacher pay increases were struck down on the house floor Thursday afternoon.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said he expects more of them to come this session.

“I’m sure we’ll get the chance to debate it,” said Bosma.

While teacher pay increases are not on the Republican agenda this session, Governor Eric Holcomb’s State of the State Address next week is expected to touch on the issue.

“The Governor’s proposal is going to be outside of this budget year,” explained Bosma. “So, he is going to propose a future resolution which I think is a very wise one.”

Democrats say addressing teacher pay now is better.

“Instead of being the can’t do General Assembly, let’s be the can-do General Assembly this year,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane. “And let’s make it that teachers get the pay increase and they get it this year.”

Senate Democrats have two plans to raise teacher pay. One would give $100 million each year for 2019 and 2020 to a Teacher Appreciation Grant. That money would come from the state’s surplus. The other proposal would free up $100 million each year from the Teacher Retirement Fund.

“They can’t forget what happened on November 19 on Organization Day when over 15,000 teachers were here,” said Democratic State Sen. Eddie Melton. “And I’m sure that wasn’t just a one day opportunity and I’m sure they’ve been contacted by their teachers across their districts. So, I’m hopeful that they not just listen to what we are proposing but they listen to their teachers within their own districts.”

When asked about these teacher pay proposals, Republican State Sen. Jeff Raatz didn’t say yes or no.

“Last session, the Indiana General Assembly committed more than $17 billion of our state’s two-year budget to K-12 education, including a $763 million increase over the previous budget. As a result of this increase, school districts across the state of Indiana have been able to provide their teachers with sustainable pay increases,” Raatz said. “Education remains a high priority for Senate Republicans and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and House to continue making education improvements for our state.”

We got a similar answer from Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray Monday.

“We have seen, I’m happy to report, most school districts across the state from the Ohio River to the Michigan line give teacher pay raises,” said Bray.

Democrats say that’s not enough.

“We still have not funded education at the rate of inflation,” said Melton.

Republicans plan to reopen the budget to pay for capital projects in cash this session. It’s a way to save on interest payments. But Democrats say if the state can reopen the budget for that, it should do it for teachers.

“Which do you think is more important?” asked Lanane. “Paying cash down on those type of projects or is it to make sure that our teachers are fairly paid and that they are done so this year?”

Governor Eric Holcomb’s State of the State Address is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 pm.

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