Average teacher salaries in Indiana have declined by over 15 percent in the past 15 years after adjusting for inflation. That’s according to an interactive analysis produced last week by Alvin Change of Vox, drawing on data from the National Education Association.
Indiana’s pay cuts, Chang writes, are “worse than the nation as a whole, where teachers have had their pay cut by an average of 3 percent when we adjust for inflation. And since 2010, teachers in Indiana had their pay cut by 9.7 percent.”
They’re also worse than in West Virginia, where low pay and a lack of raises touched off a two-week teacher strike that pushed state officials to approve a 5-percent raise for educators. Clearly, lagging teacher pay is an issue across the country. The West Virginia strike could be a harbinger of things to come. Kentucky or Oklahoma could be next.
Chang quotes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to explain what has happened:
Most states cut school funding after the recession hit, and it took years for states to restore their funding to pre-recession levels. In 2015, the latest year for which comprehensive spending data are available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008.
In Indiana, you can add to the mix the decline in the manufacturing industries that once provided strong financial support for schools, the weakening of teachers unions and the rise of charter schools and private-school vouchers that compete for funding with public schools.
I wrote about this topic three years ago, citing an NEA report that found Hoosier teachers had seen some of the biggest pay cuts in the country. And the trend has continued, according to the most recent NEA data. Between 2015 and 2016, average teacher pay in Indiana fell by 0.3 percent, the second-worst result in the U.S. – after West Virginia.
Indiana’s per-pupil funding — $7,538 – was among the lowest in the country and was 36 percent below the national average, according a 2017 NEA report.
Average teacher pay in Indiana was just over $50,000, ranking 31st in the nation. According to the Vox analysis, that’s a cut of nearly $10,000 since 2003, adjusted for inflation. It’s not surprising Indiana schools struggle to fill teacher vacancies.
The state legislature’s fix for the teacher shortage is to let schools hire unlicensed teachers for up to 10 percent of their teaching positions. Under Senate Bill 376, schools also could reallocate the same pot of money so math, science and special-education are paid more than others.
That doesn’t seem to be the most straightforward way to solve the problem.