Fort Wayne, Ind. (WANE) — Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) says last year’s “historic unprecedented” education spending increase is just recently finding its way to teacher paychecks.

“Almost 99% of the schools that we’ve heard from right now increased pay for teachers,” Holcomb tells WANE 15.

“The urban, rural and suburban superintendents that came in, when we passed this historic unprecedented increase in funding to education, they said: we hear you. We’re going to get this to teachers. And they they lived up to their word.”

Holcomb says the raises were negotiated district by district between September 15 and November 15.

The challenge, Holcomb says, is trying to put money in teachers’ pockets yet preserve district autonomy.

Holcomb created his “Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission” to address that challenge.

“Thankfully, the Teachers Association (union) is at that table on that teacher commission,” says Holcomb.

“I want to make sure, once again, this is critically important that salaries are locally bargained.”

His goal is to put Hoosier teacher pay in the top three among Indiana’s neighboring “10 or 11 states.”

“Remember we’re not even a month out of when these local contracts were bargained,” he adds.

“I think what you’ll see is a lot of progress was made, thankfully, by that unprecedented increase and I anticipate, in order to meet the gap (with other states), we’re going to have the funding going forward.”

Democrats respond

In an email to WANE 15, House Democrats say they offered four separate plans to “ensure Hoosier teachers received a raise during the 2019 Legislative Session, but House Republicans didn’t support them.”

House Bill 1611 (Reps. Hatfield & Candelaria Reardon)

• The bill set the minimum teacher salary at $50,000 statewide.

House Bill 1001 – Amendment #9 (Rep. Porter)

• The motion increased teacher pay by 5% over the next two years. It would have been paid for by using the $1 billion the state made from the toll road.

House Bill 1003 – Amendment #4 (Rep. DeLaney)

• The motion would have established incentives for districts to set a minimum teacher salary of $40,000 and directed additional dollars to those districts willing to merge in order to drive costs down.

House Bill 1205 (Rep. Boy)

• Required school corporations to provide each classroom teacher a salary increase of between 2% and 5% to receive a basic tuition support distribution. Included an appropriation to help school districts provide the increase.

Challenges to re-election in 2020