Indiana used to have a reputation for paying its public school teachers reasonably well. Not today. Hoosier teachers have seen some of the biggest pay losses in the country over the past 10 years.
That’s according to the 2014-15 “Rankings and Estimates” report published this month by the National Education Association. The report tracks data for the U.S. schools and the education workforce.
One figure really jumps out. Indiana teachers are making 13 percent less, adjusted for inflation, than they did a decade ago. That’s the second-worst record in the nation, ahead of only North Carolina, where real wages have fallen by 17 percent.
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said stagnant pay adds to challenges that teachers face from state-mandated evaluation systems, limits on collective bargaining and increased scrutiny for student test scores.
“It kind of feels like we’ve taken huge steps backward in time in a lot of things,” she said. “And compensation is just one of them.”
Meredith traces some of the salary deflation to the property tax caps that Indiana adopted in 2008. Responsibility for school funding shifted from local to state taxes, and state revenues took a big hit with the recession. In 2010 Gov. Mitch Daniels cut K-12 education funding by $300 million.
Other states faced similar fiscal problems, so it’s a bit surprising that Indiana teachers have fared so much worse than others. However, the NEA report shows Indiana to be a low-tax state where per-capita earnings trail the national average. Put those factors together, and it makes sense that Indiana underfunds schools – along with police and fire services, prisons and its roads.
According to the NEA report:
- Average pay for Indiana teachers in 2013-14 was $50,289, ranked 27th in the country and well below the national average of $56,610.
- Indiana ranked 40th for per-capita income in 2012. Hoosier per-capita income was 86 percent of the national average.
- Indiana ranked 45th for growth in per-capita income over 10 years.
Indiana also was 45th in per-capita spending by state and local governments. And it was 48th in per-pupil spending on K-12 education, the report says, spending just 71.8 percent of the national average.
In recent years, Meredith said, some school districts have boosted salaries for beginning teachers in an effort to attract candidates to the profession. But pay hasn’t kept pace as teachers advance through the ranks. Meanwhile experienced teachers are rushing to retire because of uncertainty about the future.
If the data tell us anything, it’s that state legislators are staging the wrong debate when they argue over whether to give more money to growing suburban school districts or to urban and rural districts with stable or declining enrollments. They should be increasing funding for all of them.