Governor Eric Holcomb, Chairman Mike Smith and members of the teacher pay commission deserve our thanks and praise for producing a report that details the big challenges and tremendous opportunities we have as a state to elevate the teaching profession. We can’t solve our education crisis, where tens-of-thousands of Hoosier students are not getting a fair shot at a great public education, unless we train and retain many more excellent teachers. That’s why we’re pleased to see the Governor’s commission lay out in stark detail the substantial gap we’re facing as a state when it comes to teacher pay – a gap that was highlighted in the 2019 report Stand Indiana published in partnership with Teach Plus Indiana.
It will take an annual $600 million investment to make Indiana competitive in teacher pay, and we agree with the commission that this investment will be one that requires multiple budget cycles to address. However, there are steps that can and should be taken this upcoming session to ensure that we are achieving meaningful progress towards Indiana coming more in line with its neighboring states on educator salaries. This includes revisiting the formula for complexity funding to assure that traditionally underserved students are receiving the additional resources that they need, and that districts serving these students have the money necessary to attract the best teachers.
We also believe the Governor’s commission recommendation on expanding teacher career pathways can be a priority in the 2021 session. We can’t elevate the teaching profession without retaining great teacher leaders, paying them more and establishing career ladders for younger educators to gain experience and increase their salaries. When lawmakers convene next month, they should consider acting on the recommendation to remake the Teacher Appreciation Grant program into a more robust program focused on expanding teacher leadership roles in districts across Indiana.
Indiana must have a plan to elevate the teaching profession overall, and the recommendations by the Governor’s commission are a very solid framework to kick off this work. We look forward to working with Governor Holcomb and the General Assembly to create and enact a bold, multi-year strategy that will truly address the teacher talent crisis in the Hoosier state.