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ISTA asks lawmakers to address teacher shortage with pay, benefit improvements

"That shortage has become unsustainable," said the organization's president.

INDIANAPOLIS — On Tuesday, the Indiana State Teachers Association announced its legislative priorities for next year. 

One big concern is a shortage of teachers in Hoosier classrooms. 

But a national study cited the shortage is not due to the lack of qualified teachers, but rather the number of qualified teachers willing to work at current wages and under current working conditions.

ISTA President Keith Gambill says Indiana has an "educator shortage crisis."

"That shortage has become unsustainable," Gambill said.

Members called on the General Assembly to increase funding for teachers and support staff.

"We know the leading reason that folks leave the profession is low pay," said Gambill.

And benefits. According to the National Education Association, Indiana ranks 41st in the nation with an average teacher salary of $53,072, nearly $3,000 more than the "minimum living wage." But the national average public school teacher salary for 2020-21 was more than $65,000.

Gambill said there are currently about 1,500 educator job openings, positions that can impact more than 35,000 students on any given day.

"If that isn't compelling enough for legislators to recognize they have to do better in increasing the pay and do what is needed to make sure we are able to fully staff our schools, then I don't know what it would take to convince them," Gambill said.

Gambill said progress was made two years ago, with nearly $2 billion in new K-12 education funding in the 2021 budget.

"That has to be sustained and increased," he said. "If we're going to work to meet the goals that the governor and the commission that he established set forward, then we can't stop with where we are."

ISTA plans to continue pushing forward.

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