NEW ALBANY — Officials from the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. have taken two steps toward aligning itself with the needs of teachers in the district.
At Monday's NA-FC Board of School Trustees meeting, members unanimously voted in favor of two resolutions supporting educators.
“Anytime we can do something to support our teachers, I think we should," board president Elizabeth Galligan said. "As a public education board, we need to do everything we can to support them, not just monetarily, but also like working with committees at the state legislature. That’s not a direct dollar amount, but it will hopefully result in some."
Both resolutions were crafted and brought to the board by the New Albany Floyd County Education Association, headed by president Joy Lohmeyer. The first of the resolutions, Lohmeyer said, essentially guarantees the support of the board in the association's efforts to create change at the state level.
“It’s basically asking them for support if we were going to the legislature next spring to make changes in how they’re cutting up education money," Lohmeyer said. "What used to come all to public education from tax dollars or from the state revenues are now divided between public schools, private schools, charter schools and vouchers. Part of it is supporting whatever we have to do to increase that public school piece of it. If they’re going to keep some of the rest of that, fine, but you still need to fund public education fully. That’s our message, and we’re taking [the board] with us we hope.”
The second resolution, and the more concrete of the two, relates to teachers' salaries — a particularly hot-button issue in the district, and the state as a whole.
Earlier this year, Forbes published an article quantifying and ranking the average teacher salary increases for each state from 2002 to 2017. The average of all states was roughly $16,670, with Alaska's increase of $27,688 leading the way.
Last in the country was Indiana, with a recorded increase of just $6,904.
In an effort to free up more money for districts to apply to teachers' salaries, lawmakers passed House Enrolled Act 1001 at the 2019 Indiana General Assembly. The budget bill called for state funds to be used for corporations' retirement funds that would otherwise be paid for by the districts themselves.
Gov. Eric Holcomb called for the savings to be applied to teachers' salaries. For NA-FC schools, that total was $712,158.
"I think a lot of school corporations are going to be conservative in what they want they do with that particular part of the money," Lohmeyer said. "The percent increases we know can go on the base salaries. That’s really what we need. We’ve had less increase on our base salaries. We were 51st in average teacher salary increases over the last decade, and we’re feeling it, obviously."
Board members have now made a commitment to use those funds as the governor called for — teachers' salary increases — with the passage of the second resolution.
Lohmeyer said the resolution was specific in ensuring the money goes to the district's more than 700 teachers. Though the resolution is binding, the exact details of how it will be divided up and used won't be decided until bargaining begins in September.
“It will be up to us when we sit down with administration in actual bargaining sessions to figure out how to best use that money," Lohmeyer said. "We won’t know what our increase in funding might look like. We’ll have that $712,000, but we’ll have some kind of percentage, too. We’ll be spending time trying to figure out the best way to use that to get the best salary raises we can on base salaries in particular.”