By James Polston TheStatehouseFile.com INDIANAPOLIS—The state’s largest professional education organization unveiled a legislative agenda Monday that calls increasing teacher salaries, which are the lowest in the region and among the lowest in the nation. The Indiana State Teachers Association, in announcing its 2019 legislative agenda, said results of a recent survey show that Hoosiers agree that teachers need more money in their paychecks. ISTA President Teresa Meredith said the state ranks in the bottom third for teacher pay in the country. [caption id="attachment_37288" align="alignleft" width="364"]
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, announced her group's 2019 legislative agenda. Photo by James Polston, TheStatehouseFile.com[/caption] “We’d like to see Indiana teachers moved up to at least the top third,” she said. The survey conducted by Emma White Research found that 72 percent of Hoosiers believe teachers are paid too little, 70 percent say public schools in the state need more funding and 86 percent support increased funding for classroom instruction. EWR is a public policy-oriented opinion and market research company located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The poll also showed bipartisan support with 91 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans supporting an increase in funding. The survey reached more than 600 registered voters by phone from July 30 to Aug. 7, with an oversample of Hoosier parents. The margin of error for this poll is plus or minus four percent at a 95 percent confidence level. Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick used her Twitter account on Friday to advocate for an increase in teacher pay. “At a time when IN is losing 35% of our teachers in the first 5 years of experience & 88% of them are telling us it is due to pay, IN must respond now,” McCormick wrote in a tweet. “Kids deserve & depend upon excellent teachers.” Lawmakers of both parties and Gov. Eric Holcomb have joined the call for more money for teachers. However, Holcomb has said the issue needs to be studied first before adding more money to the budget, which probably won’t happen for two years and Gov. Eric Holcomb has called for But Meredith said that it doesn’t take two years to find out what everyone already knows—that Indiana’s teachers are underpaid. “This means we need to pay competitive wages, to not only attract quality teachers, but to keep them,” Meredith said, adding that she expects action from the General Assembly in 2019. “Teachers need to be valued, respected and paid as professionals,” Meredith said. “Everyday that we don’t improve teacher compensation, another student gives up on their dream of becoming a teacher.” Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, chair of the House Education Committee, said he has been in discussion with the teachers’ union for the upcoming legislative agenda. “We are in sync in terms of what they are looking for,” Behning said. “So, starting with more money to teachers, creating true career ladders for teachers and education and residencies are all ways, I think they believe, and I do, to uplift the profession.” ISTA also wants the legislature to restore collective bargaining rights for teachers, strengthen school safety and secure retirees’ future on their 2019 agenda. Future priorities for ISTA include holding charter and virtual schools accountable, focusing on trauma-informed care, eliminating barriers to dual-credit licensing and improving staff training. The 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 3. James Polston is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.