Next to parents, teachers are the most important factor in a student’s success. We all appreciate and respect our hardworking Hoosier educators, and Indiana’s lawmakers backed this up with the single largest increase in K-12 education funding in our state’s history – to the tune of $763 million. Indiana went all in, and invested over $17 billion in K-12 education over the next two years, which is over half of the state’s budget.
Despite these achievements, teachers are vocalizing frustrations about more funding needed in Hoosier classrooms and new licensing requirements focused on workforce development. With so much misleading information being circulated, let’s take a look at what’s true or false.
TRUE: More state funding needs to reach Hoosier classrooms
Before jumping into the data, my nonpartisan sources include the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and Indiana’s Legislative Services Agency.
In 2018, the average 23-student classroom in Indiana received roughly $232,200 in local, state and federal funding, but the average teacher salary was $54,846. From 2007 to 2016, the number of teachers and students in Indiana declined about 3% while the number of central office administrative staff and principals grew by 31%. It’s important to know that “administrative staff” specifically includes district-level staff, like superintendents, in addition to principals and assistant principals, not guidance counselors, bus drivers and cafeteria staff. Indiana’s share of full-time, K-12 staff serving as teachers is the third lowest in the nation. Interestingly, we are the third best in the nation for the highest percentage of state expenditures dedicated to public education.
FALSE: The state budget doesn’t include additional money for teacher pay
First, the General Assembly provides funding for our schools to instruct students but does not set teacher pay. Second, teacher pay is entirely a local decision between school leaders and collective bargaining units. However, state lawmakers used reserves to pay down $150 million in teacher pension obligations for local schools, freeing an additional $70 million a year for them to increase teacher pay. In addition, we increased funding from $30 million to $37.5 million per year for Teacher Appreciation Grants to reward effective and highly effective educators. A new law also strongly encourages local schools to dedicate at least 85% of their state funding to classroom expenses like teacher pay, and publicly track and report their progress.
FALSE: Teachers have to complete an externship to renew their license
When educators renew their licenses, they have four different options. They can complete six hours of college coursework, participate in the National Board Certification process, count other educational requirements from other concurrently held licenses toward the professional educator license, or develop a Professional Growth Plan. If a teacher chooses the PGP option, they must earn 90 professional growth points or hours over the course of five years.
Under a new law, 15 of these 90 professional growth points must relate to a teacher’s community or the state’s workforce needs. This is a result of a recommendation by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, which worked with educators, counselors, business leaders, parents and the Indiana Department of Education to bring employers and educators together. When teachers understand workforce needs, they can better prepare our students for career opportunities. These 15 points can be earned through existing or new professional development opportunities like webinars at their school and conferences provided by the state, or through more intensive experiences like business partnerships or externships. Again, externships are not required for teachers to renew their licenses, but they are an option. What opportunities qualify for PGP points is a decision made by a teacher’s school. This change does not require teachers to earn additional points or dedicate more time for licensure renewal.