INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb’s commission on teacher pay, nearly two years after it was created, has provided 37 recommendations to better pay educators in Indiana.
The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission was created in February 2019, after Holcomb’s State of the State address.
The 13-member commission’s goals were twofold – determine what constitutes competitive teacher pay in Indiana and provide recommendations for how to get there.
What is competitive teacher pay?
On the first goal, the commission determined an average teacher salary of $60,000 in the 2018-19 school year would be considered competitive pay. At that time, the average teacher salary was $51,119, ranked 38th in the country and 18% below the national average.
Holcomb has said he wants Indiana’s teacher salaries to be competitive in the Midwest. Indiana’s $51,119 salary was fourth lowest in the Midwest and neighboring states, according to the National Education Association.
Over the last 20 years, Indiana has had the lowest teacher salary growth in the country. The average salary of a teacher in 2000 was $62,000, inflation-adjusted to 2019 dollars. That was more than $10,000 more than the actual pay at the time, meaning Indiana teacher salaries didn’t keep up with inflation over that timeframe.
A recent study suggests most Hoosiers support increasing teacher pay in Indiana. The 2020 Ball State Hoosier Survey showed 76% of respondents favor increasing teacher pay, with 72% of those who favor it saying the increase should come from the Indiana legislature instead of school districts using existing funds.
How does Indiana get there?
There are recommendations in the commission’s report for both the legislature and local school corporations.
For example, if school districts limit teachers’ spouses from participating in health care plans, there would be about $50 million in annual savings for the school corporations. Currently, 54 school corporations already restrict spouses of teachers from the health care plan.
Another recommendation for local school districts is rethinking the current teacher and staff ratios where appropriate, which could reduce employee counts but raise teacher salaries.
One recommendation for school districts is something many corporations have already done – pass an operating referendum, which could create an additional $80 million in annual funding.
One of the top recommendations for the legislature involves using $250 million from state’s reserves to pay down the pension debt. Holcomb introduced this plan at the 2020 State of the State address. This may not happen as scheduled, due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the reserves.
Other recommendations for the legislature include expanding Medicaid reimbursements for medical and special education services and allowing full state tax deductibility for private donations made directly to schools.
The commission also recommended simply increasing state revenue.
“Once it is economically feasible, the General Assembly should consider an increase in revenue through income tax, statewide referendum, per-parcel property fees, or another source,” the report states.
In a press conference after the release of the report, the Indiana State Teachers’ Association reiterated the commission’s stand that an increase of teacher pay can’t be achieved “through local efficiency strategies alone.”
“The legislature must raise new revenues and direct those to our schools to realize the promise made to schools over a decade ago when property tax caps were instituted,” ISTA President Keith Gambill said.
Click here to read the full report from the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission.