The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 14, 2021 1:00 am

Teachers see slight raises in state

Educators say more can be done, legislators say wait

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – As school districts around Indiana finalize new teacher contracts, a state report on the 2020-21 school year showed overall modest pay growth for teachers.

In 2021, teacher pay rose by $91.6 million statewide – an average salary bump of $1,791, according to the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board summary of collective bargaining reports.

But that growth was less than in 2020 when $126.6 million in new salary dollars went to teachers – an average increase of $2,215.

Indiana State Teachers Association Vice President Jennifer Smith-Margraf said last year saw only minor progress on the minimum salary while health insurance amounts being paid by teachers increased, reducing take-home pay.

“The state of teacher salaries in this summary justifies ISTA's concerns this past legislative session about stagnant or, in many cases, backward movement on pay increases. The report confirms the need for significant funding increases,” she said.

“Our local bargaining teams have worked hard over the past weeks to make progress on teacher pay increases – for all experience levels,” Smith-Margraf continued. “With more than a decade to catch up for, work remains in making Indiana's teacher salaries competitive with our neighboring states.”

Statewide numbers for the 2021-22 school year won't be known for several months. Districts have until Monday to finish negotiations.

But the Indiana Legislature gave them plenty of money for raises – almost $2 billion in new education funding over two years. The K-12 tuition support provided by state dollars grew 4.6% this year and 4.3% next year.

“Obviously, we are headed in the right direction. We have been receiving high-fives on what (school districts) have been able to accomplish this year, which as you know isn't all done yet,” said Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond.

The chair of the Senate Education Committee said whatever raises are given this year, there is still more coming in the second year of the state budget.

“It will always be in the eyes of the beholder – whether it's enough or not,” Raatz said.

He added he is perplexed by ISTA complaining and asking for more, saying, “let this thing play out and get the money into the system and see where we land.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he is seeing lots of media clips coming across on pay raises that should lift the average pay of teachers in Indiana. The average currently is $53,997 – up more than $530 from $53,463.

The governor has said Indiana's average pay should be $60,000.

“I'm grateful that so many superintendents told me directly, 'We hear you, we want to do this. We need the resources to do it.' And they're living up to their word,” he said.

“Our work will never be done,” Holcomb said. “And the competition is fierce – not just, you know, in the Midwest, ... but globally. So it's gonna be a fun next few years.”

The four Allen County districts have approved raises and higher base salary ranges in recent weeks with multiple officials thanking lawmakers for providing the funds.

Fort Wayne Community Schools – one of the state's largest districts – is investing almost $21 million to give most employees 4% raises this year and next. Depending on how educators progress on the salary schedule, some could see a total 14% increase, officials have said. That's based on teacher evaluations and education levels.

East Allen County Schools will use more than $4.3 million to boost teachers' salaries under a new two-year contract. Together, the $2.6 million to be distributed this academic year, and the almost $1.8 million to be distributed next year is $2.4 million more than was awarded under the previous agreement.

Andra Kosmoski, president of the East Allen Educators Association, said last month that lawmakers don't deserve all the credit. Teachers' advocacy efforts warrant it, too.

She specifically referenced Red for Ed. In November 2019, EACS teachers were among thousands of educators from across Indiana who gathered inside and outside the state Capitol for the Red for Ed Action Day rally to plead for more money and less bureaucracy.

The state budget – in addition to dollars – also included some new requirements for schools.

The first sets $40,000 as a recommended teacher salary minimum. If a district doesn't comply, it has to send notice to the state explaining why. It also requires that 45% of tuition support dollars to a school district go to teacher pay and that districts can't reduce how much they spend on salaries from the prior year unless the district is losing enrollment.

All four Allen County districts meet the minimum salary. The 45% calculation is still being completed, but they all met it according to past data.

Ashley Sloboda of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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