EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Indiana teachers could see their salaries increase by thousands of dollars, if a certain bill passes through the state house this session.
Evansville’s State Representative Ryan Hatfield is sponsoring the bill.
House Bill 1611 would raise the minimum salary for a full-time teacher to $50,000. To put that into perspective: the average starting salary for an Indiana teacher is $35,000.
Hatfield says the pay raise is possible because this is a budget year.
With current teacher salaries, Hatfield points out that Indiana teachers are choosing to leave the profession or work in another state. And in order to attract and keep good teachers, Hatfield says they need to be paid what they deserve.
In return he says retaining those quality teachers will improve schools and better prepare students.
“We’re losing really talented people in the education field because we’re not respecting the work that they do," explained Hatfield. "Our educators aren’t just educating anymore. They’re parents, and they’re mentors, and they’re protectors and caregivers. These are the folks on the front line of every problem that we have. So when our kids enter the classroom, we need the most talented people.”
So how will this affect local teachers?
EVSC and the Evansville Teachers Association say it is a step in the right direction. They hope it creates more conversation about the support teachers need.
“It’s great that the conversation about teacher pay in our nation and specifically in the state I think has changed over the years. It’s an acknowledgement of the important work teachers do each and every day,” says EVSC Superintendent Dr. David Smith.
Dr. Smith says it is vitally important that teachers feel supported, and a starting wage of $50,000 could certainly help with that. To put it into perspective, the average starting salary for an Indiana teacher is $35,000.
“We have teachers that come out of college and they have student loan debt and they’re struggling to make a living wage and pay their bills,” says Evansville Teachers Association President Michael Rust.
Rust says often times young teachers are ready to start families but face difficult financial decisions that sometimes lead them to a different career. Current teacher salaries are affected in part by decade-old changes in education funding.
“If you would carry the funding from 2009 forward, just keeping pace with inflation, we’re down $88 million, more than $10 million this year. $10 million dollars for our budget would equate itself to about a $5,000 raise for every teacher, which would be a great start,” says Dr. Smith.
Rust says this is an excellent starting point, but he would like to see incremental pay raises across the board for all teachers.
“Teaching and public education is a pillar of our democracy. If that goes away, our country is going to struggle and be in trouble,” says Rust.
Hatfield will be asking that it go to a hearing within the next 30 days. At that time we should know more about its potential to move forward.
Teacher pay was a major topic during Governor Eric Holcomb’s State of the State speech this week. Holcomb says his budget would increase School funding by 2 percent.
It also calls for the state to use surplus money to pay pension liability-freeing up some funds for local districts to increase teacher pay.