State commission report says $600M needed to raise Indiana teachers’ pay

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INDIANAPOLIS — A state commission charged with studying teachers’ salaries found that in order to compete with neighboring states, Indiana needs to come up with more than $600 million to increase teacher pay.

Indiana ranks 38th in the country for both starting and average teacher pay and last among neighboring states. The state’s teacher attrition rate also sits well above the national average, with more than one in ten Hoosier teachers leaving the profession each year.

According to the report, districts with higher pay have lower attrition rates among teachers. The commission found that to be competitive, Indiana needs to raise starting salaries to $40,000 and average salaries to $60,000. Currently, the average teacher’s salary is around $53,000.

“The recommendations in this report are not collectively a silver bullet. Teacher compensation is a very complex process and there’s no easy or one-size-fits-all solution,” commission chairman Michael Smith said.

The 83-page report, which you can download below, lays out 37 recommendations for school districts and state lawmakers. The commission recommended things like changes to healthcare plans, partnerships or even consolidation between districts, and revisions to state law.

Indiana State Teachers’ Association Executive Director Dan Holub sat on the commission. He said that while ISTA disagreed with some recommendations, like changes to healthcare coverage for teacher spouses and retired teachers, overall the association was glad the commission recognized the need for serious action to increase compensation.

“We need new, sustainable revenue. The time to act is now, we simply can’t wait any longer,” Holub said.

The pandemic could present a challenge to those advocating for higher teacher pay, however, as legislators face a decline in state revenue.

“We acknowledge that COVID-19 has had an enormous financial impact on our state that we did not anticipate when we started our work,” Smith said. “State government finances and local school corporation finances are not immune to this pandemic.”

The report concludes that about half of the $600 million could come from district initiatives, but the rest would need to come from state legislators. As the 2021 session begins, ISTA and other advocates will be pushing for more money for teachers, many who are now dealing with virtual classrooms on top of the already challenging field.

“Further delay will cause the state to lose good teachers and we cannot afford to let that happen,” ISTA President Ken Gambill said.

State leaders released the following comments after the commission released the report:

“Supporting our educators remains a top priority. Over the last few years, we have made historic investments in K-12 funding, directed more dollars to the classroom and found ways for teachers to earn more while still doing what they love. I appreciate the commission’s work over the past 18 months, and will thoughtfully consider their recommendations as we work through proposals to strengthen our support for Hoosier teachers.”

State Rep. Bob Behning, R- Indianapolis

“The efforts of the Teacher Compensation Commission are recognized and appreciated. The Commission’s report presents the challenges Indiana schools face in their effort to be a competitive option in the national and statewide workforce. Additionally, the report presents over a decade of known data that tells Indiana’s K-12 story. Most schools can take pride in realizing many of the recommendations in the report have already been considered and implemented. As we enter the 2021 Indiana General Assembly legislative session, Hoosier educators look forward to the additional state funding and state-level policy actions necessary in order for teacher compensation to truly move forward.”

State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick

“I am grateful to the commission for its dedication to developing these recommendations. The report provides a wide range of actions for all to review and consider moving forward. The options offer a base for continuing these important conversations about making compensation for our hard-working teachers more competitive.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb, R- Indiana

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