“Pay increases for Hoosier teachers could be on the horizon.” This was the headline accompanying coverage of the long-awaited recommendations of The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission. That sounds fantastic if you stop reading there.
Unfortunately, I downloaded the report and was astonished. I’m not sure that is the correct word. Nothing seems shocking today when reading about the systemic starving to death of public education in Indiana. The Next Level Teaching Compensation Commission provides a roadmap for a continuation of hacking away at the benefits provided to educators as well as threaten the quality of their workplace environments. I was disgusted. I was disappointed. Among the recommendations, you will find gems such as taking away spousal health benefits. Another is “right-sizing” staff. I don’t know any educators who are teaching in sparsely populated classrooms. Nothing screams, “this meager take-home pay increase is fantastic” like not being able to afford routine medical care for your family or increasing their rosters of students already bursting at the seams.
The most offensive of the recommendations, I suppose, is the suggestion that school districts seek funding through operating levy referenda. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea has clearly never worked on a referendum. They are expensive. It costs thousands of dollars to make even the most modest attempt to reach voters. It requires thousands of volunteer hours to disseminate information to the voting public. To add injury to insult, the law is such that those employed by schools are limited in how they are able to advocate for referenda success. Referenda are a faulty tool, built to fail. They are an option of last resort and benefit only those lucky enough to live in communities with the resources to run aggressive and consolidated campaigns.
Our teachers, our kids, our communities deserve better. I cannot imagine living in a time where it’s been clearer how vital public education is to our overall wellbeing. Public schools keep communities afloat. It’s time that we get to work to demand better. Public schools in Indiana should be fully funded. Educators should be compensated in a manner that is commensurate with the level of education, skill, and professionalism that they bring to the classroom. The most obvious recommendations to reallocate funds to do so should begin with, stop siphoning public education dollars away from our public schools through school choice programs. Another would be to stop wasting such incredible amounts of money on standardized testing that penalizes schools, restricts our teachers from using their unique and individual skills to educate our children, and provides no useful measurement of academic success.
We can and should do better. I urge anyone reading this to take a glance at the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) 2021 Legislative Priorities and then contact Governor Holcomb and your legislators to ask them to work to meet each of those needs.
Misty Ronau, grateful NAFC parent, New Albany