The Journal Gazette
Thursday, December 05, 2019 1:00 am

Pay raise touted for educators

But no action to be taken in 2020 session, Holcomb says

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday he wants Indiana teachers to have salaries in the top three in the Midwest. But not any time soon.

“It's dollars and cents. I want to adequately and fairly compensate our teachers but I also want to steal some teachers from other states,” he said during an annual Legislative Conference hosted by Bingham Greenebaum Doll.

He said a teacher pay commission that is currently working on recommendations could have a report on how to fill the gap in the spring – after legislators have ended their session. Discussion could begin then for crafting the next two-year budget in 2021.

This is despite thousands of teachers coming to the Statehouse several weeks ago to fight for a number of initiatives.

Legislative leaders had already said pay would not be addressed in 2020.

Teachers and Democrats are pushing to invest about $300 million in unexpected excess revenue to teacher pay but Republicans have balked.

The GOP wants to use the money to pay cash for several university and state building projects instead of bonding it – which ultimately will free up money in the future.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said it is irresponsible to use one-time money for an ongoing obligation.

And he noted that would be the state directly giving money only for teacher pay – instead of sending overall dollars and letting local districts decide how to spend it.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane said if Republicans are willing to open the discussion in 2020 then Democrats will come to the table with proposals to sustain the spending in future years – such as increasing the cigarette tax.

“Are teachers underpaid? It's a resounding yes,” he said. “When there is a problem we find ways to solve it.”

Holcomb also said he would be pushing a hold-harmless provision so that teachers and schools would not be hurt by a recent drop in test scores due to a new standardized test.

His full legislative agenda will be unveiled Tuesday.

Holcomb said one area of priority is more work on workforce development – saying the linchpin to everything is having the workforce that businesses need.

“If businesses are growing in the state then we can allocate more dollars to solve more problems,” he said.

Holcomb also said a new issue that is creeping to the top – quality of place. He said this is necessary to attract skilled workers to the state. Indiana needs to do better about highlighting its diversity of place – from rural to urban to suburban.

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