Indiana News

‘Strong fiscal forecast’ means Indiana teachers could see pay increase

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new revenue forecast is projecting Indiana will take in $2.3 billion more than expected over the next three years, despite the pandemic.

That news has some calling on lawmakers to spend more money on teacher salaries.

State lawmakers Thursday said this exceeded their expectations and will make sure education gets its fair share.

On Thursday morning, lawmakers explained where that $2.4 billion increase would come from.

“Our strong fiscal forecast this morning is fueled by a number of factors, including increasing job stability and opportunities, higher consumer confidence, a successful vaccine rollout and an influx of federal dollars,” House Speaker Todd Huston, a Republican, explained Thursday.

Given this projected new money, state lawmakers promised education is a top priority and said education is 50% of the state budget.

“We’ve always felt like teacher pay, education funding has always been a priority in both our our caucuses to the administration. We have confidence that if we put more dollars toward K-12, that those dollars, like they did in 2019, will get in the hands of teachers. We will be very focused on that in the coming days,” Huston said.

The Indiana State Teachers Association called Thursday’s new revenue forecast very positive. The association is asking lawmakers to boost teacher pay in line with the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission report.

“The report estimates that $600 million is needed to make Indiana’s teacher compensation competitive. That is what we’re asking for. The current budget falls well short of this goal. With this new revenue forecast, Indiana is now well positioned to go big on K-12 funding and do what is best for our schools, educators and students,” Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, explained Thursday.

Thursday morning, ISTA pushed back hard on expanding our state’s private school voucher program.

“It seems the state’s private school voucher program is here to stay. But expanding vouchers even further — to families making six-figure salaries, while the state’s public schools, which serve more than 90% of Hoosier kids, remain underfunded — is unacceptable,” Gambill said.

Lawmakers said they’ve got to have some new conversations now and they will finalize the state budget over the coming days.

Statements from officials

“Indiana continues to significantly outperform national economic averages, providing our state a unique opportunity to accelerate our growth by investing in our people.

“Our next two-year budget will place Indiana in the enviable position to make long-term, wise and historic investments in our schools and education partners, market-driven workforce development programs, law enforcement officials, local community quality of life and place programs, transformational infrastructure projects, enhanced and expanded economic development tools, pay off debt, and pay cash for once-in-a-lifetime state facilities assets.

“Credit is due to many over the coming weeks, but Hoosier resiliency and all our healthcare workers who stood in the gap have powered our state’s success. They’re the reason we’re realizing the gains we celebrate today and more importantly, what they’ll lead to as we build one Indiana, for all!”

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Republican

“Here’s a golden opportunity to significantly improve K-12 public education funding in our state. Lawmakers have a real chance to improve the state’s standing on per-pupil funding, which in turn would allow our local schools to make major improvements in teacher compensation.”

Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association

“In addition to Indiana’s high workforce participation and growth in wages, a significant infusion of federal money is being pumped into our economy, resulting in a strong fiscal outlook. It’s critical for us to consider the short- and long-term impacts of this additional revenue, especially as we work on finalizing the state budget. At this time, all options are on the table and I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues along with Governor Holcomb to determine the best way forward for Indiana and Hoosier taxpayers.”

State Rep. Tim Brown, Republican from Crawfordsville

“For more than a decade, we have honestly balanced budgets and eliminated government debt. Pair that with our robust Hoosier resilience, and we are now in a place where we can make real, meaningful investments in Hoosiers’ futures. This isn’t a time for us to grow government, but rather to make investments that can eliminate debt and pay down pensions to free up money the state can use in the future.

“In the coming days there will be a lot of debate on what the right thing to do is in light of this forecast, and I think it is paramount to hold true to the principles that got us where we are today – we need to make responsible, prudent decisions that fund our priorities, like education, and that have the highest return on investment for Hoosiers from every walk of life. However, we must also be wary of the day when the economy begins to turn, because we dare not expect this economy to last forever.

“As we prepare to finalize this budget over the coming days, I am again grateful for the collaboration we have with our partners in the House, the governor and his staff, and our partners across the aisle.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, Republican from Martinsville

“The revenue forecast we received today is certainly good news, and comes on the heels of a decade of fiscal discipline that is paying off in a big way for Hoosiers. That our state is projected to see a large increase in revenue means we have more flexibility in crafting our next budget than we planned for, but we still need to make responsible financial decisions that will benefit Hoosiers in both the near and distant future. It will be critical for us to make investments that don’t create funding cliffs while balancing the current needs of Hoosiers, and that is the balance we will seek to strike with our colleagues in the House and the governor as we work toward the final version of the state’s next budget.”

State Sen. Ryan Mishler , Republican from Bremen and chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations

“Just one year ago, the pandemic entered the ring and seemed to deliver a knockout punch to our booming economy. In a short period, our near record low unemployment of 3% skyrocketed to a record-breaking high of 17%. Now, Indiana is not only bouncing back, but winning the fight.

“Today’s strong fiscal forecast is fueled by a number of factors, including an increase in job stability and opportunities, higher consumer confidence, a successful vaccine rollout and an influx of federal dollars into the economy. Our state’s fiscal health proved to be tremendously resilient over the last year due in large part to the conservative leadership and fiscal responsibility over the last 15 years. We are in a fortunate position as this additional projected revenue provides a wide range of opportunities. We will continue to make smart, strategic investments, and keep our commitment to fiscal prudence and limited government as we conclude the budget process. I look forward to continuing to work with my legislative colleagues and Gov. Eric Holcomb to make sure Hoosiers come out ahead.”

Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston, Republican from Fishers

“We know that economic growth is tied to educational attainment. This is an opportunity for us to invest in the people of Indiana, and bring more economic growth to our state by increasing investment in education and regional economic development opportunities. We are now within reach of implementing Governor Holcomb’s teacher pay commission recommendation to put $600M a year in the school funding formula. This is the time to pay down the debt we owe teachers and their students by increasing our investment in the school funding formula.”

Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton, Democrat from Gary

“The math is clear,” “Using the growth and sales tax revenue alone we could implement the Commission’s strategy to get our schools back in competition recruiting and retaining teachers.”

“Leadership across the aisle continues to tell us that education funds can simply be tossed out into the system and eventually trickle down to teachers,” DeLaney said. “We’ve been watching this strategy play out for over a decade now. It is plain to anyone watching that it’s not working.

“Fixing teacher pay in Indiana requires an intentional, targeted solution, not wishful thinking that funds will find their way to the right place. What is the supermajority’s solution to our teacher shortage? Earlier this week they told us it was lowering the standards for a teaching license. Our children and grandchildren deserve better than that. The answer is right in front of our faces.

“This new forecast is a second chance to fill the gaps left in the budget the first time around. We have to do this. There are no more excuses to hide behind.”

State Rep. Ed DeLaney, Democrat from Indianapolis

“The reality of these numbers completely dismantles the picture Statehouse Republicans’ have been painting of financial despair,” Porter said. “Their negotiators have argued the need for frugality as they finalize yet another biennial budget that favors corporations and the wealthy, instead of working class families and small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic. Projections show growth between 2 and 3 percent at the state-level alone since December, which does not even include additional federal stimulus dollars totaling $7 billion in additional revenue. Despite an astronomical increase in money for our state, Main Street is still suffering. It is quite frankly an embarrassment of riches.

“The State of Indiana continues to bounce back better than expected from the adverse economic impacts of COVID-19, giving our state the opportunity to invest in long-neglected initiatives. The decisions made for the next two years will show our values. It is time to start valuing the public K-12 education institutions, health care programs, essential workers and working class families that make the Hoosier State great.”

State Rep. Gregory W. Porter, Democrat from Indianapolis

“I proposed multiple amendments to our state budget seeking to improve our state’s quality of education and to fund crucial public programs. With $2 billion in new money, there are pragmatic, attainable line items that we can address,” said Sen. Yoder. “I hope Senate leadership does their part.”

“With this new revenue forecast, we can fully fund traditional K-12 public schools, fully fund public television, raise teacher pay and restore funding for our Arts Commission. After the governor’s own teacher pay commission suggested that making teacher salaries in Indiana competitive with the rest of the region would require a $600 million investment, it’s exciting to see that we can make that investment in our teachers and our students.

“Indiana ranks dead last in the country in teacher pay raises since 2002 and we pay our teachers lower salaries than Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. We have a tremendous opportunity to meet the recommendations of Governor Holcomb’s commission, it’s long overdue and it’s time Republican lawmakers stop kicking the can down the road.”

State Sen. Shelli Yoder, Democrat from Bloomington