One of the biggest items in the new state budget came together in just six days: a big increase ticketed for teacher pay.
The House and Senate budgets were both in the neighborhood of a 400-million-dollar funding boost for schools, and neither said anything about teacher pay specifically — Republicans shot down Democratic amendments attempting to add it.
But House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says House and Senate leaders and Governor Holcomb discussed teacher pay behind the scenes throughout the session, and were well aware of a December report from Holcomb’s commission on teacher pay, which calculated it would take 600-million dollars to make Indiana salaries competitive with surrounding states. When it became clear an updated economic forecast would add a flood of projected revenue to work with — an additional two-billion dollars — Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) says budget negotiators already knew what items were next on the priority list, and the 600-million for teachers was one of the first to be added.
The budget includes not only money for raises, but a step Republicans have long resisted: an order to school boards to spend at least 45-percent of their funding on teachers. It doesn’t require a minimum salary, but schools paying less than 40-thousand dollars a year have to explain to the Department of Education in writing.