Teacher Pay Remains a Hot Topic During 2019 Indiana Legislative Session

Posted on January 30, 2019

Indiana Statehouse

Over 30,000 teachers in Los Angeles stood outside in the pouring rain in early 2019 instead of walking into their classrooms. Their mission is not to negatively impact students and families in their districts, but rather to secure proper educational funding for their schools, smaller classes, and more support staff. Over 20,000 walked out in West Virginia in 2018, and similar walkouts occurred in Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Arizona.

As Indiana legislators begin their 2019 legislative session, the very same issues cited as reasons for walkouts across the country are up for debate as they begin to craft the next two-year state budget. Superintendents and administrators across the state of Indiana will inevitably have to contend with how best to fund our schools and how to allocate money in a way that doesn’t put a major strain on already tight district budgets while simultaneously meeting the needs of teachers and students. This is no small task.

Specifically, Indiana legislators are debating the best way that the state’s budget can accommodate regular increases in teacher pay. Some, like Governor Eric Holcomb, suggested eliminating teacher bonuses in favor of increasing general school funding. This would boost overall funding for Indiana public schools but would take away some of the only state money specifically allocated for teacher pay increases. This proposal was met with concerns from legislators and stakeholders alike, fearing that the only money specifically designated for teacher pay was going to disappear.

The backlash to this proposal led to Governor Holcomb announcing that Indiana would be tapping nearly $140 million from the state’s reserves in order to pay down pension liability. This theoretically frees up school budgets and allows them to allocate more funding to educators. However, the debate over teacher pay in Indiana is far from over.

In order to receive a 5% raise over the next two years for all Indiana public school teachers, Democrats estimate that it would take roughly $315 million in extra funding. Both Democrats and Republicans alike agree that $140 million is not enough to ensure proper funding for teacher pay. We are sure to see a more rigorous debate over this legislative session and beyond.

What does this mean for superintendents and administrators?

More than ever before, open and honest communication with the teachers in your district is essential. At IAPSS, we know that the primary priority of superintendents and administrators is creating the best possible environment for learning to occur. As our mission says, the public interest is best served through assuring the availability of quality education for all children; and knowledgeable, ethical, effective leaders are essential to achieving this educational excellence.

Educational excellence includes ensuring that your teachers are active and involved in your district or school’s decision-making process. The teacher pay debate isn’t going away, so having your teachers actively involved in district operations allows for open and honest dialogue. Here are some tips to engage your teachers and generate buy-in.

Encourage teachers to attend regular school board meetings to voice concerns, make suggestions and generally stay informed. School board meetings are a wonderful way to engage your teachers in district priorities. Creating a small incentive program for teachers who attend and participate may be an option for superintendents and districts if regular teacher participation is low.
Communicate how hard you are working on their behalf. We know you’re busy, but actively communicating the hard work that you’re putting in to make their educational environment better is a great way to increase teacher buy-in.

Host regular meetings with administrators specifically geared toward teacher satisfaction. What are your teachers saying they need? What can the district do immediately to make the educational environment better for both teachers and students?

With these small changes, your internal district debate on teacher pay might have more people at the table ready to work with you to make your schools, teachers, and students the best they can be.

For more coverage of issues in Indiana education, check out the Indiana Education Insight Podcast. On the podcast, we provide insight from innovators and thought leaders from the Indiana education community.