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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Teacher pay advancing in local districts

There was hope early in the year that action would be taken by the Indiana Legislature to address the issue of low teacher’s pay in this state.

But late in the legislative session lawmakers discovered they would have about $100 million less to work with and scrapped efforts to get teacher pay increases in the new budget. Indiana’s school districts were going to have to deal with the coming school year on their own.

So it has been good to see our local school districts move forward with contracts for their teachers that include higher salaries.

The East Allen County Schools board on Tuesday approved a two-year contract with teachers that includes maximum salaries for new hires of $71,200 and $71,700 for this year and the 2020-21 school year. Those figures eclipse an earlier contract maximum salary of $70,000 for new hires.

Northwest Allen County Schools approved a two-year teacher contract Monday where base salaries for teachers with bachelor’s degrees are $64,000 and those with master’s degrees are $70,125.

Two weeks ago, a new contract for Fort Wayne Community Schools raised teachers’ base salaries 2.5 percent for this year, creating a salary range from $40,078 to $70,891 for the state’s largest school district.

Southwest Allen County Schools officials are currently working with teachers on a contract that will be reviewed by the school board soon.

The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this year that the average pay for teachers is $50,218 in Indiana, $2,000-$10,000 lower than its neighboring states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The National Education Association website says the estimated average salary nationally for teachers in 2017-18 was $60,483. It also showed starting salaries for Indiana teachers averaged $35,943 in 2017-18 compared to the national average of $39,249.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he is worried about Indiana losing teachers because of lagging pay. And Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association agreed, telling The Associated Press earlier this year, “We want to keep them, and we can’t do that just by staying where we are. We’ve got to have some action.”

That’s why it’s good our local school districts have worked with their unions to improve the situation for teachers in Allen County. And it’s also good to know that Gov. Holcomb’s teacher pay commission, which held three meetings in August to seek ideas and solutions to the teacher pay gap in Indiana, plans to deliver its recommendations to the governor and Legislature next year.

Meanwhile, the EACS agreement with the East Allen Educators Association approved Tuesday that affects nearly 600 teachers includes one-time stipends for dual credit instructors. Those teachers will receive $1,000, and those who earn a master’s degree by 2022 will get an additional $2,500. The contract also includes a $1,500 stipend for some special education teachers.

The new FWCS contract with the Fort Wayne Education Association includes a 2.5 percent salary increase for the 2019-20 school year for employees not represented by a collective bargaining group, including central office staff and district administrators. It also includes a two-year pilot plan in which teachers receive $50 for four hours when they cover another classroom during a planning period or when principals place additional students in their classes due to the absence of another teacher.

News-Sentinel.com praises the work of the local districts and their unions in helping our teachers receive better compensation for the dedicated work they do for our children. Let’s encourage our legislators to be prepared to include money in the next budget to help get our state closer to the national averages in teacher pay.

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