Behning: Hoosier educators deserve more support, higher pay

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, January 11, 2019 9:19 am

Educators are a vital part of student lives and our local schools. They are the nation builders of our country and the foundation of our communities. To elevate the teaching profession and provide more dollars to educators, I collaborated with the Indiana State Teachers Association, Teach Plus and Stand for Children on several pieces of legislation to attract and keep highly qualified professionals teaching kids. 

In order to bring the best and the brightest to Hoosier classrooms, we must ensure educators are paid competitively. In 2017, the average public school teacher salary was $54,308, according to the National Education Association. When adjusted for cost-of-living, Indiana had the 9th-highest teacher pay in the country; however, we lose out to neighboring states. While salaries and benefits are determined at the local level through collective bargaining and budget decisions, money to pay teachers comes from taxpayer dollars distributed to schools by the state. Indiana spends more than $7 billion annually on K-12 education. Unfortunately, overhead costs have ballooned at many schools, and in some cases, less than 60 percent of the funding makes it to the classroom, taking critical dollars away from educators’ paychecks.

Under legislation being considered, House Republicans set a target for schools to spend at least 85 percent of their funding on instructional expenses. This new goal could free up millions of dollars and schools could drive funds to Hoosier educators and classrooms, potentially giving teachers statewide a 5 percent salary increase.

In addition to ensuring educators receive competitive pay, teachers should have access to support and opportunities to grow professionally. For many, they see the only way to advance in their career is to become an administrator. To keep experienced educators in the classroom doing what they love and meeting the needs of students, I authored legislation to establish career ladders in the teaching profession and provide stronger incentives for schools to implement these programs.

These proposed career ladders would provide critical support to new teachers and give veteran educators a chance to earn more while taking on leadership roles. Lack of support during the first years in the classroom is often cited as a reason for leaving the profession. As I’ve met with teachers, they have shared with me their desire for additional support along with more opportunities to advance in their careers.

It is my hope these proposed laws will help bolster the teaching profession, encourage young Hoosiers to pursue a career in this incredibly rewarding field and current educators will continue teaching. To stay up-to-date with these bills as they move through the legislative process and more, visit iga.in.gov. Sign up to receive my regular e-newsletter at www.in.gov/h91 and share input with me on any topics discussed this session by emailing h91@iga.in.gov or calling 317-232-9648.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 91,

which includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.