INDIANAPOLIS — “The educator shortage crisis is real.”
That’s how the president of state’s largest teachers union began his remarks on Tuesday as he laid out its legislative agenda for 2023.
Keith Gambill of the Indiana State Teachers Association ran down his priority list that includes improving work conditions, increasing respect for educators and preparing the next generation of teachers. But at the top of the list is more money for K-12 schools.
“We are calling on the General Assembly to provide significantly increased funding to public schools,” said Gambill.
The hope is that more money for schools equals more money for teachers and staff. An analysis of salary data by the job posting site Zippia found the average teacher salary in Indiana ranked 44th among all U.S. states.
There is at least some good news for the union where state lawmakers are concerned. Both House Speaker Todd Huston and State Senate President Rodric Bray have said they favor more school funding in the 2023 budget. What the Republican leaders have not disclosed is just how much more money schools may get.
That too is an area where Indiana does not compare favorably with other states. The Education Law Center out of New Jersey took a look at the amount money per pupil each state sets aside for K-12 schools. In that analysis, Indiana was below the national average, ranking 30th.
More money does not guarantee better student outcomes. But in today’s environment where the number of teacher vacancies far outnumbers applicants, non-competitive salaries in a state can lead to “teacher poaching.”
“If a state is approximate to other states that are paying their teachers better, then there’s a high likelihood that a lot of the teacher pool may be attracted to jobs across the state’s borders,” said Danielle Farrie, director of research at the Educational Law Center.