Had Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb stood astride the stage addressing all of the teachers in the state and raised his two middle fingers to them, it would be considered crass.

What he actually did in his State of the State address was worse — it does actual damage to teachers.

First the state announced pay raises for state employees earlier in January of between 2% and 6% based on performance.

Except for teachers.

Instead — despite a surplus of $2.3 billion — Holcomb announced he’d stick with legislative Republicans and address teacher pay in 2021.

He will gladly pay teachers Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Where we find actual harm is in failing to give a minimum bump to cover cost of living increases, which the last few years has averaged about 1.8% in Indiana. Teacher take-home pay will essentially be decreased by the governor’s vindictive policy as the costs of everyday living increases and teachers make the same as last year.

And not just the same as last year.

A report from the Rockefeller Institute released last year showed that Indiana ranked 51st in the country in teach compensation since 2002. Hoosier teachers averaged an increase of just $6,900 between 2002 and 2017.

Does Holcomb plan on running this year on the platform of “Make Indiana Last Again”? Even if he does, and I doubt he has the honesty, he’ll still win.

The Rockefeller Institute implies more damage. Our best and brightest educators, at least those who are mobile, move to other states where they will be justly compensated. As the legislature and a series of three Republican governors have choked teacher pay, the smallest raise in states contiguous to Indiana has been $14,000 — more than double for Hoosier educators.

Republicans will defend their record over that period of time, saying it’s everyone else’s fault but theirs. The school district, the teachers, the parents.

But looking at the facts and figures, given how the legislature and governors have spent taxpayer money, it’s easy to determine how little they value our teachers. Other states that struggle with educational attainment — Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia — rank higher than our last-place ranking. Even the District of Columbia surpasses Indiana, which is how we rank 51st out of 50 states.

The governor shows further that of all state employees, he and the GOP-controlled legislature value public teachers less than all other state employees. The others will receive raises this year. Those who teach our children will receive an IOU.

Holcomb’s speech reminded me of the song “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie”

The sun’ll come out

Tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar

That tomorrow

There’ll be sun!


For the children of the Hudson Street Orphanage, life is so miserable that the next day can only be better.

I think, though, our teachers know better.

Yet, many teachers stay because families are here and roots are here, and they’re committed — they work their butts off. Despite low pay, despite the hard work, despite the absolute lack of respect from our elected leaders.

I know the stories about lazy teachers, or those who don’t know their subjects, or calling it in.

The thing is, I’ve never met one. I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms in my career, 11 newspapers in five states, and I’ve never met a lazy teacher.

Bad teachers are largely culled from the herd. Besides, basing policy on the anomaly of bad teachers only makes bad policy.

As a side story, I once spoke to kindergartners in Richmond, Indiana, I was trying to explain to 6-year-olds what a newspaper editor does. “I read and write for a living,” I said, trying to make it simple for them. A boy raised his hand and I called on him. “Someone pays you to do that?” he asked in wonder.

That remains an epiphany for me to this day about how lucky I am. In order for a child to move beyond third grade, he or she has to be able to read and write.

I have the job skills of a third-grader.

Even if legislators and the governor stopped spending wasted tens of millions of dollars on standardized tests, that money could be shifted to teacher salaries. But no. Those people in power continue the folly of the idea that children in Bloomington and Bedford and Richmond and San Pierre and Gary and Richmond and Indianapolis and Monon and all the other 60 Indiana counties I’ve been in are standard and the same. Of course they’re not and the teachers are the first to realize it.

It should make every Indiana citizen wonder: What’s the end game for Holcomb and the Indiana GOP?

Is it to ensure you have a populace that continues to buy your BS?
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