CLARKSVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Bringing in and keeping quality teachers in Indiana schools -- that goal was outlined by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb during his State of the State speech Tuesday night.
Part of that plan includes finding a way to help fund pay increases for teachers.
“One way to attract and retain more of those teachers is to make teacher pay more competitive,” Holcomb said.
He said his budget proposal calls for more K through 12 funding, providing increases of two percent over the next two years. Holcomb also said he wants the state to use its surplus funds to pay off a pension liability that local districts normally pay. That would provide an additional $572 million for education over the next two years, he said.
“I believe local school districts should allocate 100 percent of the $140 million to increasing teacher paychecks," Holcomb said.
The potential for increased funding for educators is welcome news for teachers statewide.
“To come into a field where they make less than $40,000 on average a year, and there may or may not be a chance for that salary increasing, depending on how the formula is set up with what we receive from the state, it’s a hard thing to sometimes deal with and that’s why we lose some of our folks,” Brian Allred, Principal and Director of Renaissance Academy in Clarksville, said.
Allred also serves as corporation testing coordinator for the district. He said a quality education for kids often comes from seasoned teachers. The risk of losing educators to jobs in higher-paying states or other fields can be a concern, but providing funding increases in schools can keep good teachers in classrooms long-term.
“You have to have the best people possible educating our youth, they are our future," Allred said. "If we’re going to be serious about that, we’ve got to make sure that we fund that. Being able to increase their pay and make sure we can retain them -- that’s a huge issue.”
That feeling is echoing throughout the district.
"Any time funding for education is increased we are excited and grateful,” Clarksville Community Schools Superintendent Tina Bennett said. “We would hope that any increase in funding would also come with an increase in flexibility in how we use funds so that we may make funding decisions that best meet the needs of our district.”
State Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Austin) said in a statement, “Everyone wants to see teachers in Indiana get paid more. They deserve it, and our children deserve the chance to learn from the best and brightest we can provide.”
“Now the governor has announced a plan to provide $140 million in ‘new’ funds that he wants schools to use to pay teachers. I would like to tell you how this system works, but all we have heard is that it would ‘pay off a pension liability that local schools currently pay.’ What does that mean? Who knows? The governor hasn’t explained it,” Goodin went on to say in his statement. “What concerns me about all this is that the Republicans seem to be heading down a familiar path here. They hope that people fixate on big numbers like $140 million for teacher pay, and not look at the fine print of how it will work, which often leads to bigger problems. Will this money actually end up with teachers? Who knows?”
“The easiest way to give teachers a pay raise is just that. Give them a pay raise,” Goodin said.