Indiana lawmakers announced Tuesday record-breaking investments will go toward education in the state over the next two years. These investments passed both the Indiana State House and Senate Friday. Indiana House Bill 1001 says $1.9 billion will be dedicated toward K-12 schools, which are primarily public schools, but voucher programs and charter schools will also benefit. This new funding is possible because of the COVID-19 relief money Indiana received from the American Rescue Plan.
Of this funding, $600 million will go toward raising teacher salaries in the state, according to HB 1001. Lawmakers recommended a starting salary of $40,000 for state educators, which is $5,000 more than the current average starting salary of the 2019-20 school year. The current average starting salary is lower than all of Indiana’s surrounding states.
School districts with an average starting salary below $40,000 will be highly encouraged to use some of the funding they receive towards raising teacher pay, but it is not required. Schools that already have an average starting salary of $40,000 or above can direct the funding how they choose.
John Kenny, director of business operations for the Monroe County Community School Corporation, said starting teacher pay in Monroe County already meets $40,000, but the school system still plans on increasing teacher salaries with the funding this bill will provide.
“We're very appreciative of the state government,” Kenny said. “When they got that higher revenue estimate, they passed it on to school districts and teachers. We’re certainly a district that's committed to turning all the extra money into teacher pay that we're able to.”
Kenny said this new funding will not go to teacher salaries right away because the school district must enter a two year bargaining agreement with the teachers and teachers unions, but after that he hopes agreements will be reached for increased salaries.
Jeffrey Anderson, associate dean for undergraduate education at the IU School of Education, said he is hopeful state and local leaders will use these funds wisely by increasing teacher pay and prioritizing public education.
“Increasing salary can be expected to positively impede potential teacher shortages,” Anderson said. “I encourage state and local leaders to actively advocate for recruiting society’s best and brightest into teaching and also to fully commit to increasing the diversity of the teaching force by supporting the expansion of effective pipelines into the classroom.”
Anderson said those pipelines could include policymakers funding scholarships for people who want to become teachers so potential teachers don’t accumulate large amounts of debt. He also said he would like to see local governments pursue high-quality teaching methods and resources for all schools so this funding will benefit learners, their families and their communities.
While much of the money will go toward public schools, some funding will also go toward charter schools and expanding voucher programs. Public school advocates in the state said this is disappointing because they believe public school systems should be the priority.
Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, president of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, said she and the organization are glad more funding will be going toward schools, but they continue to be disappointed because public schools don’t appear to be lawmakers’ biggest priority.
“Public schools are a common good — it's what serves all children, and they don't turn away any children at the door,” Fuentes-Rohwer said. “Private schools and charter schools are allowed to discriminate against families. They don't have to open their doors to everybody. Our tax dollars are for all of us.”