Indiana’s teacher salaries have been the slowest growing in the country according to a national think tank, and the state’s teachers union says it will take billions of dollars to make up for years of inadequate funding.
A recent report from the Indiana State Teachers Association says the state needs to invest at least $1.3 billion in public education to make up for years of shortfalls and bring Indiana to the average funding level of surrounding states.
ISTA President Teresa Meredith says it can’t all happen at once, but, she says, lawmakers still have time this legislative session to take strong steps in the right direction – like offering a 3 percent funding increase for education each year of the state budget.
“We felt that was doable, that it was realistic based on revenue,” she says. “We know there isn’t an unlimited pot of money.”
House Republicans proposed a school funding increase of just over 2 percent each year for the next two years, which lawmakers tout as the largest investment in education than ever before. The proposed increases go a little beyond inflation increases.
Meredith says that isn’t enough to calm restless teachers across the state, especially alongside a proposal to increase funding for the state’s voucher program, which allows families to use public money to pay for private school tuition.
“It would be just a symbolic thing for them to say you know ‘we’re going to freeze voucher increases until we get public school funding and teacher pay to a better level,’” she says, “but they haven’t done anything like that to even symbolize their commitment or dedication to public school teachers.”
Senate Republicans will unveil their budget proposal next week, and Meredith says it’s a crucial moment in the teacher pay and school funding conversation.
She says if the state’s revenue forecast shows promise, lawmakers should allocate those dollars for teacher pay.
“My expectation would be if that revenue forecast is a strong one, that that money be earmarked for teacher pay, and that school districts be expected to put it on the table for teacher pay,” she says.
Indiana ranks 35th in the nation for average teacher pay, and last among surrounding states. According to the national think tank Rockefeller Institute of Government, Indiana ranks last in the country for increases in teacher salaries between 2002 and 2017.