Bill would raise Indiana teacher starting pay to $50K

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A state representative wants to raise minimum teacher pay in Indiana to $50,000 a year.

Indiana teachers currently start out at around $35,000, according to the National Education Association.

"I looked around my country and looked at what other states are paying their teachers and looked at the states that had good teacher retention rates. I asked what it would take for Indiana to keep up with the states that were producing the best teachers, and we arrived at $50,000," bill author State Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville, told WTHR.com in a phone interview Friday. He called the House Republican budget bill "mostly smoke and mirrors" when it comes to education, saying it doesn't include a real increase in teacher pay.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Eric Holcomb called for a two percent increase in state funding for K-12 education each year for the next two years. He also proposed using state surplus money to pay off a pension liability, freeing up some local funds for districts to increase teacher pay.

State Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville
State Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville (official photo)

HB 1611 would require all public schools to pay their teachers no less than $50,000. That represents a more than 40 percent increase in starting pay. Private schools would be exempt.

"I'm calling on the budget writers and the governor to step up to the plate...so that when someone decides they want to go into this profession they're still able to provide for their families," Hatfield said.

That spike in teacher pay would require local school corporations to find an extra $271 million a year based on this year's salaries. HB 1611 does not provide for an increase in state tuition support for local districts. The increase would have to be addressed separately in the budget or would be left up to local districts.

The bill hasn't yet been scheduled for a hearing. Hatfield said he hopes State Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who chairs the House Education Committee, will hear the bill in the next 30 days.

WTHR.com reached out to Rep. Behning for comment, but a spokesperson said he hadn't had a chance to review the bill yet because it had just been assigned to his committee recently.

Teacher pay isn't just an issue in Indiana. The National Education Association reports that the average classroom teacher salary nationwide dropped by 4 percent over the past decade when inflation is taken into account.

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