Commission calls to increase average teacher pay in Indiana to $60k

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The state says it will have to come up with $600 million to fill the pay gap and increase average teacher salaries to $60,000.

A report by the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission outlines ways they suggest that be done.

The report’s 182 pages contain 37 recommendations for both state leaders and local districts to consider to accomplish the goal to make teacher pay in Indiana more competitive. Teachers are worrying if they start making changes, legislators might note hold up their end of the deal.

It has been a year since red filled the Indiana Statehouse lawn for the Red For Ed Rally as teachers were demanding action in what was one of the largest protests in state history. Now, a step towards change as the state sets out to increase the average teacher pay in Indiana to $60,000 a year.

“That would put Indiana teachers at the third-highest average salary level in the Midwest, and it would be a substantial increase over the average, which is approximately $53,000,” said Michael L. Smith, commission chairman.

“We agree with the report’s goals of starting pay and average salary,” said Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Of the 37 recommendations outlined in the report, Smith says the top recommendations that have the most financial impact would be:

  • School corporations join the Indiana aggregate prescription purchasing program.
  • Redesign health plans to push spouses to participate in their own health plan rather than teachers’ plans.
  • Pass local tax increases.
  • Pay down teacher pension plan.
  • And make changes to 529 program.

“We hope all acknowledge it is going to take a combination of cost containment and incrimental revenue,” said Smith.

A lot of the recommendations for the school districts revolve around benefits for teachers and their families.

“The state cannot solve this problem by moving money around locally or taking health insurance away from educators’ spouses or retirees, or privatizing school lunch programs,” said Dan Holub, ISTA member and Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission member.

While ISTA says they are on board with the schools making sacrifices to meet the goal of higher wages, they worry about whether the state will deliver on its end of the deal to reach the $600 million needed to close the gap.

“If the legislature doesn’t step up, none of these efficiencies are going to go far enough to really make an impact here in Indiana,” said Holub.

ISTA says that a few of the recommendations they most favor are are putting caps on deficit financing and the pharmacy benefit plan risk pool.

“It is a daunting task, and it is going to require action and cooperation by all of us. That includes the General Assembly, the governor’s office, and local school corporations and other state associations and bargaining units,” said Smith.

The state detailed its findings on how Indiana fell so far behind the country in terms of teacher pay, as well as how each recommendation would impact schools financially in the report.