INDIANAPOLIS — The state's leading teachers union is not on board with Gov. Eric Holcomb's plan to delay teacher pay hikes up to four years to give the Republican-controlled General Assembly time to figure out how cover the cost.
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said Monday the multiyear study proposed last week by the Republican chief executive would only reveal what she said most Hoosiers already know: "Teachers need to be valued, respected and paid as professionals."
"Elected leaders must do more to declare teacher compensation a priority in this session," Meredith said. "This issue can't wait. We expect action in 2019.
"Many teachers have gone as many as 10 years without a meaningful pay increase, all while facing increased insurance costs, paying for their own classroom supplies and taking on second and third jobs just to make ends meet."
Meredith said she's discovered, after traveling to schools throughout the state over the past few months, that Hoosier educators have been inspired by recent teacher work stoppages in other Republican-led states.
She suggested it's not outside the realm of possibility that Indiana teachers might likewise take direct action to secure higher wages if the Legislature seems poised to ignore their needs.
"A walkout, a day of action in their home communities, any number of things could happen," Meredith said. "If that's what our members decide to do, then we will have to work within that."
According to the National Education Association, teacher pay in Indiana generally ranges between $24,000 and $90,000 a year.
The average annual salary for a Hoosier teacher is $54,308, which is $10,625 less than the average salary paid to Illinois teachers and $5,352 below the national average.
Meredith said low teacher pay is a primary reason why many Indiana school districts struggle every year to fill open teaching positions.
"We need to pay competitive wages to not only attract quality teachers but to keep them," Meredith said.
"Experienced teachers are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere, either in other school districts, other states or they're leaving the profession altogether — they just can't afford to teach."