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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Will governor act on teacher pay sooner?

Is Gov. Eric Holcomb changing his tune on the urgency of increasing teachers’ pay?

More than a month ago Holcomb said that while he supported getting the state’s teachers to salary levels that ranked in the top three in the Midwest, that teacher pay couldn’t be addressed in the 2020 session.

News-Sentinel.com responded at the time that it didn’t seem the governor or state lawmakers were in any hurry to address teachers’ concerns. If they were, they would be making special efforts to take steps long before 2021.

On Monday, the governor made a statement hinting at potentially boosting school funding and teacher pay this year. “Stay tuned,” Holcomb said. ‘You’ll hear more from me at the State of the State address.”

The governor made his remarks on the opening day of the Legislature’s 2020 session that will continue through early March. Holcomb’s State of the State address will be Tuesday.

Holcomb has previously said he would wait for recommendations later this year from a teacher pay commission he appointed in February. He and leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature have repeatedly defended the 2.5% per-year increase in school funding included in the two-year state budget approved last spring and have insisted further steps on teacher pay would have to wait until the next state budget is put together in 2021.

But Monday Holcomb told reporters since state tax revenues are growing faster than expected, that might change. The governor didn’t offer any details as to what he would propose.

House Democratic leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne told AP on Monday, “Republicans tout the amount in their budget for education but avoid the uncomfortable and tragic truth. The budget shortchanges traditional public schools, while diverting millions of dollars to failed for-profit and out-of-state charter and virtual charter schools along with private voucher programs.”

Giaquinta and teachers union leaders say the state has the money to give more to schools now.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said he spoke with the governor about his pending proposal. “I don’t think it is going to impact our proposal on how to use the surplus at this point,” Bosma said. “I think it is talking about the future.”

Another distracted driving incident

Perhaps the governor will also address another issue in Tuesday’s State of the State address he said last month is high on his agenda – distracted driving.

While a law making it illegal to type, transmit or read e-mail or text messages on a communication device while driving in the Hoosier state has been in effect since 2011, the governor said last month, his 2020 legislative agenda includes plans to expand the list of distracted driving violations.

We wrote in a December editorial that there are plenty of other ways motorists become distracted while driving besides using their hand-held devices. The signs you are being distracted while driving is if you are not looking at the road, even for mere seconds, your hands aren’t on the wheel and you are not focused strictly on driving.

Whether you agree with efforts to enforce laws against distracted driving or not, the problem is a fatally serious one as was demonstrated in an accident northwest of Indianapolis Sunday morning.

A Michigan trucker who said he was looking down to put his coffee mug away while driving on Interstate 65, plowed into slowing traffic, hitting eight cars, according to an AP report. The crash killed three people, including a toddler, and sent 14 others to the hospital.

The truck driver was jailed after being charged with three counts of reckless homicide.

Sheriff Mike Nielsen said he believes distracted driving contributed to the crash.

How many times must we be warned?