House budget: More money for Indiana schools; no teacher raise

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House budget: More money for Indiana schools; no teacher raise

MARY KUHLMAN

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indiana House budget plan released on Tuesday includes a modest increase in school funding, but no pay raise for teachers.

The House plan calls for a 2.1 percent funding increase the first year, and 2.2 percent the second year, totaling $451 million. While budget money isn’t specifically earmarked for salaries, it could be used that way by schools districts.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith says she’s disappointed but notes the House is at least offering more than the governor’s education funding boost of 2 percent.

“Is it where I think we need to be? No way,” says Meredith. “It needs to be stronger in order to say to the teachers in the state, ‘We do believe in you, we do value the work that you do, and we’re working toward making compensation stronger and better.’ But this is progress.”

The House budget also sets aside $150 million to pay off a teacher pension liability, saving local schools $70 million a year that lawmakers say could be put toward salaries. The plan includes $30 million for teacher appreciation grants.

Once approved by the House, the budget goes to the Senate. A final budget must be reconciled and passed by the end of April.

According to the National Education Association, Indiana’s average annual teacher salary is about $55,000, compared to $63,000 in Michigan and $65,000 in Illinois.

Some Democrats contend the funding increases don’t surpass inflation numbers. But Meredith is optimistic Republicans will continue to work with groups like hers to address teacher pay.

“The governor and the speaker have indicated that they value teachers and they want to work on this teacher recruitment and retention problem,” says Meredith. “And that really begins with that school funding piece and with a serious focus on what it means to compensate teachers at a respectable level.”

Meanwhile, several bills in the House would support Indiana teachers.

HB 1003 urges schools to shift more money towards instructional expenses. HB 1008 would establish career ladders to help educators advance in their profession. And HB 1009 would create residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom.