INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb lauded the state’s economy during his state of the state address last night.
He mentioned the state’s 3.2 percent unemployment rate and said another 88-thousand jobs would be created by state incentives in the coming months.
But teachers hoping for a pay boost were disappointed with Holcomb’s commitment to waiting for next year before further boosting teacher pay. Holcomb told lawmakers he will recommend using 250-million dollars from the surplus in the next budget to prepay the state’s obligations to the Teacher Retirement Fund.
"In turn, $50 million a year will be generated to redirect to teacher pay."
The governor wants Indiana lawmakers to ban the use of cellphones in cars unless they are hands-free.
He also favors the raising of the legal smoking age to 21...something the federal government already did.
High infant mortality remains a concern in the state. It’s gone down to its lowest since 2012 but is still among the highest in the nation. Holcomb wants employers to provide accommodations for pregnant workers.
Democrats claim the state has resources now to boost teacher pay, but Republicans plan to use part of the surplus to pay cash for some higher education building projects.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick issued a statement saying she appreciates including teacher pay in his speech, she was disappointed Indiana continues to delay action. She said students can’t afford to lose more great teachers while Indiana decides if we can afford them.
Keith Gambill with the Indiana State Teachers Association says teachers can’t wait another year.
"Our salaries have been lagging behind for quite a number of years; that has been coupled with rising health-care costs. They are hurting now."
Gambill says with the average teacher salary of 51-thousand dollars, Indiana educators lag behind neighboring states.
"In order to attract and retain the absolute best, which is what our students deserve, we’re going to have be competitive when it comes to salaries. Other states aren’t going to mark time and wait for us to catch up. And the longer legislators delay, the further we get behind."
When adjusted for inflation, Indiana teacher salaries have fallen 15-percent since 2000.
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