Report finds Indiana lagging behind neighboring states in education funding, teacher pay

Published: Apr. 8, 2019 at 6:41 PM EDT
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A recent study said Indiana is behind the national average on paying teachers and funding education.

CLARKSVILLE, IN (WAVE) – When it comes to funding education, Indiana is falling behind the curve.

A recent study found Indiana is below the national average and area states when it comes to funding schools and paying teachers. Some teachers in the Hoosier state say the impact of the pay scale is felt deeply.

“There’s a big gap between the amount of work a teacher does and the compensation for it,” said Rachel Overberg, a teacher in southern Indiana.

Overberg teaches math, science, social studies and writing in the fourth grade. She’s also her school’s math coordinator -- educating teachers on how best to teach math -- and an e-coach, supporting teachers integrating technology in the classrooms. After school, she works as a reading and literacy coach. For Overberg, that means working a total of four jobs within the education field to make ends meet.

“I make $38,000 and I’ve been a teacher for seven years,” she said.

The study also found Indiana is lagging behind surrounding states and the nation in funding public education and paying its teachers. The state would need to invest $1.5 billion in education to match the neighboring states. It would need to invest $3.3 billion to get Indiana to the funding level it was at just five years ago.

When it comes to teacher pay, the study finds Indiana is falling behind there as well. It shows the Hoosier state as having the lowest pay rate among its surrounding states. Many southern Indiana teachers say right now, there’s nothing to stop them from taking their degree and experience across the river and making more money in Kentucky.

“You can just cross the bridge, takes 10-15 minutes and you could make $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 more,” Overberg said.

A plan proposed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in his State of the State Address in January would use state funding to pay off a local pension liability for schools, which could free up some funding for teacher pay increases over the next two years. But there’s no guarantee that schools would use that money for teacher pay increases, and Overberg said teachers are in need of those raises.

“It’s not fair to ask teachers to live poor just because you’re not allocating money in the right direction,” she said.

Right now, teachers are wearing “Red for Ed” shirts on certain days of the week, considering walk-ins to take a stand for more while not inconveniencing students. And, Overberg said, they’re paying attention to teachers mobilizing in other states, seeing the ways they’re making their voices heard and demands met.

She said she believes teachers in Indiana are energized and motivated to demand change from lawmakers, as well as better living salaries.

“We deserve professional pay,” Overberg said.

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