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Statehouse Republicans Promise Teacher Raises, but Many Questions Remain

Holcomb says state won't dictate how schools spend extra money, but hasn't explained how to guarantee it goes to teachers

(ZIONSVILLE, Ind.) - Republicans and Democrats say they'll work to give teachers a raise, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how:

The state doesn't set teacher salaries -- local school boards do. And Governor Holcomb says the final bill to raise pay won't change that. Neither he nor legislators have explained how they'll guarantee schools spend any extra money on teachers without ordering them to.

And Holcomb says he expects this session to focus on drafting the plan for raises, with the actual money waiting for the next budget in 2021. School money is divided among five separate funding streams, including general operations, construction, and debt service. Holcomb, legislative leaders, and the Indiana State Teachers Association have been discussing where money for salaries could come from. Holcomb says he wants to be "methodical" in analyzing the options, and says the upcoming session should be about setting a "framework" for how to deliver raises, with the money coming in the next budget in 2021.

It's also undetermined how big those raises will be. Holcomb says Indiana is losing teachers to neighboring states, and says Indiana salaries need to be "competitive." The National Education Association, the ISTA's parent organization, says the average starting salary is lower than any neighboring state. After the first year, Education Week says Indiana teachers surpass their peers in Kentucky, but earn 14% less than the average in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, a difference of about $7,500.

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) says Democrats will support raises for teachers, but says he's skeptical Republicans will stand by their announced endorsement. And he argues there's no need for a study -- he says legislators should give teachers raises right away.

(Photo: Jetta Productions/Thinkstock)

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