FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — For years Hoosier educators have been asking for competitive wages. This year during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s State of the State address many teachers received the news they were looking for.
“We heard what we were hoping to hear,” Indiana State Teacher Associate Vice President Jennifer Smith-Margraf said. “It was a commitment to increasing teacher pay.”
The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) is the state’s largest union of teachers and education professionals in the state. Before the spread of COVID, the state was dealing with a teacher shortage. ow that more than 10 months into the pandemic the shortage of teachers and substitutes is growing.
“Teachers all over the state, educators all over the state, our bus drivers, our cafeteria workers, and our administrators are just completely burnt out with all the extra requirements that have been placed on them in order to make schoolwork during the pandemic,” Smith-Margraf said. “We have people leaving the profession right now in the middle of this and we are very concerned that’s going to accelerate once this is over.”
Back in December, the state commission studying how to make Indiana’s teacher pay competitive found that Indiana’s average teacher salary of $51,119 in the 2018-19 school year ranked 38th for average teacher salaries out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The state’s teacher pay fell 18 percent below the national average.
On Tuesday Eric Holcomb delivered his fifth State of the State address where he discussed increasing funding. During his presentation, the governor laid out his agenda which included promising $377 million to K-12 schools, make sure they receive 100 percent of their funding for the second half of the school year, and an emphasis on improving teacher pay and recruitment.
“We will be one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay, and we’ll be better able to attract and retain teacher talent, including attracting more minority candidates,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said.
However, following the address, the Democratic leaders of the Indiana House and Senate said the governor’s “wait until next year” approach is an insufficient response to the 15,000 teachers who rallied at the Statehouse in November.
State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, (D-Fort Wayne), said he was “hoping for something a little bit more” from the governor.
“This is the third State of State in a row that I’ve heard the governor make promises to Hoosier educators and an increased pay,” GiaQuinta said. “Hoosier educators are tired of empty promises. The governor’s state commission showed that this was an issue years in the making and has been an issue since Republicans took control in 2011. Every year we continue to punt on this issue and every year it becomes more and more difficult to fix.”
Holcomb said it wasn’t a matter of if the state raises pay but when they do it. The Indiana State Teachers Associate understands the state is still battling COVID-19 and is willing to work with legislators and the governor to make sure it happens.
“We are going to hold him to it,” Smith-Margraf said. “Our members are going to work with their local legislatures and with the governor to ensure that happens going forward.”
When teachers receive raises officials hope that increase in pay will also happen for bus drivers, administrators, and others working in schools.