Today’s editorial on the News Sentinel page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about Governor Holcomb’s Teacher Pay commission is generally favorable for an increase in salary for the state’s teachers. They argue that Indiana’s teacher salaries are generally lower than neighboring states and that there is a big variance in the pay of different Indiana districts.
Indiana’s average pay is $50,218 a year, which is between $2,000-$10,000 less than teachers in neighboring states. Starting pay for teachers at some school districts in Indiana is less than $35,000. It is believed low pay is one reason there is a shortage of qualified teachers at many schools.
The highest average pay in the state was Hamilton Southeastern Schools at $64,983, while the lowest was Medora Schools at $37,221.
The chair of the commission is a retired Anthem Insurance executive, Michael Smith. The commission is filled with business executives, school administrators…oh, and one teacher. Hooray.
Indiana teacher pay was comparable to surrounding states until 2009, [Smith] said, and the commission is trying to discern what has changed since then.
What’s changed since then? Let me think…
This reminds me of the statements in 2015 of Bob Behning and Dennis Kruse, at that time chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, respectively, questioning why there was a teacher shortage in Indiana.
Indiana legislative committee to study teacher shortage (August 16, 2015)
The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees had asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.
Why is there a teacher shortage? Teachers know why.
Why have Indiana teacher salaries failed to keep pace since 2009 (actually much longer than that, but who’s counting)? Again, teachers likely know why.
CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, BUT…
What has changed since 2009?
I admit that correlation does not imply causation but just consider Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and the 2008-2012 Daniels administration…
As Governor, Mitch Daniels, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, a Daniels-heavy State Board of Education (run by Bennett), and a Republican supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate, declared war on public schools and public school teachers.
During the Daniels administration (and since) Indiana has seen bills and policies which,
- required teachers to be evaluated in large part based on the achievement test scores of their students
- establish an A-F grading scale for schools and school districts which had the effect of blaming teachers for all low student achievement without any attention being paid to out-of-school factors on student achievement.
- restrict teacher collective bargaining to money only. No more bargaining for class size, teacher prep time, or hours of work.
- weakened teacher job security. No longer did a teacher have due process if a district wanted to fire him/her. No longer would an impartial arbitrator listen to both sides and make a judgment.
- allow anyone with a college degree to teach their subject in high school with no previous pedagogical training. Apparently, the State Board of Education believes that child development and classroom management skills taught in education schools aren’t necessary to begin the year teaching a group of teenagers.
- restrict teacher contracts to a maximum of two years thereby imposing repeated bargaining on school districts at least every other year.
- changed the funding of public schools through the passage of a Daniels supported property tax cap which shifted school funding responsibilities to the General Assembly. Equitable funding of public schools was now up to the whims of the legislature.
- reduce the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries.
- expanded the 2001 charter school law making the increase of charter schools easier.
- opened the door to, and regularly increased economic support for, vouchers…public tax dollars diverted to private schools.
In 2011 the initial school voucher program in Indiana passed while Mitch Daniels was governor. In 2013 the Indiana General Assembly passed HB 1003, which amended the school voucher program by creating tax credits for those already enrolled in private school and expanding voucher eligibility.Mike Pence was governor and supported the changes. 
The number of charter schools in Indiana has grown rapidly since a 2011 state law passed expanding authority to approve and oversee them to new sponsors, and the acceleration looks likely to continue over the next two years.
THE ANSWERS ARE IN PLAIN SIGHT
What has changed since 2009? The Teacher Pay Commission can find the answer in plain sight…though perhaps they could use a few more actual teachers at the table.
Why haven’t teacher salaries kept pace with our neighboring states?
- When you have one pot of money for education, and you try to support three separate, and often competing school systems, something is going to be underfunded. In Indiana, it’s public schools and teacher salaries.
Why is there a teacher shortage?
- When you underfund a profession, take away job security, and ignore the voices of actual practitioners, young people will choose other careers.
Now, what should we do with a nearly half-billion-dollar budget surplus?