FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – On Tuesday, Governor Eric Holcomb and the Indiana General Assembly announced the state’s all-time record investment for education.

Two years ago, teachers flooded the statehouse calling on lawmakers and Governor Holcomb to put more money towards Indiana’s education fund. Now, with the 2022-2023 budget, the state has answered these demands by putting $1.9 billion of new money to education.

During the 2019 State of the State Address, Governor Holcomb created the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission. The purpose of this board was to create a competitive wage for Hoosier educators compared to surrounding states.

“In 2010-2011, the then Governor Daniels took out what I think was $8 million from the school’s budget that was never put back. We have had some incremental changes along the way and we got knocked way back and we never caught up,” said Sandra Vohs, president of the Fort Wayne Education Association. “We were actually 51st in teacher pay, because they count Puerto Rico, that it was Indiana had fallen to. This money restores us. It brings us back up to where we should be, just so we are inline with all of our neighbors.”

“I am very very proud of that, which is about a 9.1 increase over the biennium,” said Rep. Dave Heine (R-Fort Wayne). “Hopefully what will happen now is all the local school boards, all of the 293 of them across the state of Indiana will take these dollars and get these dollars to our teachers.”

According to Rodric Bray, Senate President Pro-Tempore, the General Assembly adopted three concepts to ensure that the funds make it to the classroom and in the pockets of teachers.

The budget recommends that schools set a minimum starting salary of $40,000 for teachers.

“If the school doesn’t have a minimum salary for their teachers of $40,000, they have to send in a report to the Department of Education to explain that circumstance so we can better understand why that is the case,” Sen. Bray said.

To add more protection to teacher compensation, the budget requires at least 45% of schools’ tuition support goes into teacher salaries and schools will not be able to drop a teacher’s salary below the point it was the previous year.

“Under our state’s next two-year budget, K-12 schools will receive $1.9 billion in new state funding, in addition to the $3 billion from the federal government, culminating in a historic $5 billion investment in our schools,” State Senator Justin Busch (R-Fort Wayne) sent in a statement.

Andra Kosmoski, president of East Allen Educators Association, told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee this was a huge win. She said East Allen County Schools already meet those requirements, but there are several districts across the state that are no where near the 45%.

Kosmoski also applauded the statehouse for putting $600 million to help meet the commissions recommendations to increase teacher salaries.

“They definitely increased the budget for us, originally when they were working through, it would have only been an increase of around 3%, and then 1.4% the second year. Now the current budget is going to give us a little over a 4% the first year and a little over 4% the second year in tuition funding, so that is a great increase,” Kosmoski said.

Kosmoski said the next issue the union will tackle is the teacher’s bargaining rights. In the 2010-2011 Legislative Session, the Indiana General Assembly restricted the matters teachers can bargain. According to Kosmoski, teachers can only bargain for salary and salary related barging benefits. Educators aren’t allowed to barging for class size or working conditions.

“We don’t only bargain for teachers, we bargain for our students. If we can bargain class sizes, that’s a win for our students. Since they’ve taken away our bargain rights, class sizes across the state has increased and it’s a shame because that hurts our students.”