THEIR VIEW: Investing in teachers is investing in children

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Indiana should do more to make teacher pay raises a reality. Increased teacher salaries would be good for students, parents and communities.

According to the National Education Association, Indiana ranks 38th for average starting salary, at $37,573, and 42nd in average salary, $51,745.

When compared to its neighboring states, Indiana ranks below Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky in average salary and is second to Illinois in average starting salary. Unfortunately, it is not a close second, with Illinois ranking 22nd in the nation.

According to Business.org, the national average salary for teachers is $56,310.

This year, state lawmakers approved a budget that called for Indiana schools to raise starting teacher salaries to $40,000. Many school systems across the state have met or made progress toward that goal.

On Monday, the Kokomo Tribune reported that all Howard County schools except Taylor have done so with new contracts this year. Taylor officials plan to meet the new minimum salary next year.

Elsewhere in the state, teachers have lobbied hard for better pay in recent weeks.

Anderson Community Schools were forced to switch from in-person classes to e-learning one day and to cancel classes completely another day after about 20% of ACS teachers took days off (using accrued paid time) amid unrest over contract negotiations between the teachers union and the school district.

Anderson teachers worried that a proposed pay raise would be insufficient to make up for growing insurance premiums, effectively causing a cut in teachers’ take-home pay.

After the teacher call-offs in Anderson, union leaders met with district officials and agreed on a proposed contract that would provide teachers with a base salary increase as well as stipends over the next two years. The additional money would be more than enough to make up for rising insurance premiums.

Collective bargaining gives workers the power to demand fair and reasonable wages, and the state should continue to do its part to make Indiana competitive in terms of teacher salary.

In public school systems, widespread teacher absences impact not only students but parents who have to make last-minute babysitting arrangements or miss a day of work.

Public schools are such an important part of our communities that the state should be doing more to ensure that teachers are paid fairly and receive regular raises.

State lawmakers should make it their business to ensure that the Hoosier state is a place where teachers are appropriately compensated for the important work they do for our children.