The chairman of the governor’s commission on teacher compensation says Indiana got teacher pay right once, and can do it again, but it won’t be soon.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the formation of the commission in this year’s State of the State as part of his plan to address teacher salaries. Indiana teachers, on average, earn anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 less than teachers in neighboring states.
Chairman Michael Smith, a retired Anthem executive, says the commission has met around five times since it was formed this spring.
He says members have spent the past few months gathering information on the history of teacher pay in Indiana.
“What we’ve been trying to do is just get everybody level-set with information that might make us better able to review suggestions that are brought to us by others,” he says.
Smith says the commission will not be able to make “one-size-fits-all” recommendations.
He says Indiana teacher pay was on par with surrounding states until 2009, and the commission is trying to discern what has changed since then.
This year, lawmakers added $539 million in school funding to the state’s budget and offered schools another $150 million to pay off some teacher pension debt. Lawmakers, including the governor, have said the additional funding should help pay teachers more.
Some have criticized the commission’s lack of teacher representation. While there are no Indiana teachers on the commission, the advisory council includes an executive from the largest teachers union in the state.
State Sen. Eddie Melton of Gary says without teachers in the room, the commission can’t make good recommendations.
In a statement, he wrote, “I am not sure why the governor would appoint people to a commission that don’t have direct experience working in a classroom or living on these low salaries.”
Smith says he rejects the idea that the commission is operating in secret. He says he wants the process to be as transparent as possible and that the commission will hold public meetings soon.
The commission expects to submit its report by summer 2020. Governor Holcomb did not provide a hard deadline.
This story has been updated.