NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WAVE) – It's back to school in a few weeks for many school districts in southern Indiana.
Or Monday, for students in New Albany-Floyd County’s district.
But with lower pay than their counterparts in many surrounding states, many Indiana teachers worry their salaries won’t be enough to make ends meet.
School being out for the summer means a break from work for students. But for teachers like Rachel Overberg, time off is something she can’t afford.
“Over the summer, I took up tutoring in math and language arts,” Overberg said.
Whether you’re working one job teaching within the school district or multiple jobs just to make ends meet, many teachers say just paying the bills is often a concern on their teacher salary.
“It’s very frustrating that I need more than one job,” Overberg said. “My salary has only gone up about $500 since I started teaching seven years ago. Yes, I have not received what you would call an actual raise.”
Pay for teachers, even experienced ones, is so low, many teachers are leaving the profession or even the state.
“In our district, we’ve had, and I’m sure in other districts, we’ve had teachers leave over the summer, taking jobs in Kentucky and Illinois where they can make up to $15,000 more,” she said.
A post to Facebook made by the state superintendent (see below) called attention to that issue, showing the Hoosier state at the bottom of percentage increases to teacher salary. These concerns have been erupting on a state level over the past year with teachers calling for change, leading Gov. Eric Holcomb to create a commission to address the problem.
“It’s very obvious that Indiana teachers, their pay is low compared to surrounding states but actually, compared to all the other states,” said Becky Gardenour, NAFC school board member and Indiana Teachers Compensation Advisory Board Member.
The state sits last in teacher pay increases in the nation since 2002. And those who leave the profession cite low pay as the reason why.
Gardenour said she’s met with members of the commission, saying many feel it’s time for a change -- and a raise -- for educators.
“In talking with all the members of the commission and the advisory board, they want to have the average pay approximately $60,000,” Gardenour said. “Right now, it’s $40,000.”
There are ways to pay for the increase both through funding that can be allocated by local school boards, but also, on a state level. Tax increment funding could be released on a state level, freeing up millions, if not billions, in available funding that could be used to pay teachers more, Gardenour said.
“The commission and advisory board will be making recommendations to the governor, and then he will be presenting that,” Gardenour said. “And obviously, there are some things that will have to be done by the state legislature, especially in regard to TIFs, there’s going to have to be something done legally with state statutes in regard to TIF.”
Gardenour said the commission hopes to get a plan to the governor quickly, hopefully by the spring. Holcomb will then present the data and plans to lawmakers, pushing for a change ideally before the next round of budget talks.
Teachers say they’re hopeful lawmakers can get something done. But until that happens, they’ll continue to call for change.
“We’re going to continue to fight for our students and what’s right,” Overberg said.