CHESTERFIELD – Raising teacher pay in the Hoosier State to attract educators from surrounding states is the hope of Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Holcomb was in Madison County on Saturday for the annual Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner.

“We’re taking a two-step approach to this,” Holcomb said during an interview with The Herald Bulletin. “We’re addressing it immediately and long term. 

“Every two years during the budget discussions we talk about how we can systemically change the system to pay our teachers an attractive wage,” he said.

During his annual State of the State address in January, Holcomb proposed a 2 percent increase in the first year and another 2 percent in the second year of the state’s two-year budget cycle.

He said the state would provide the funding for the 4 percent salary increase that would be directly sent to the school corporations.

The local school systems will make the final decision on how those funds are distributed among teachers.

According to the National Education Association website, the average teacher was paid $50,715 in Indiana in 2016. A 4 percent raise over two years would raise the average to $52,763.

“Because we’re in such good financial shape,” Holcomb said, “we have about 12 percent in our cash reserves and need 11 percent to protect our AAA credit rating.

“I have proposed drawing down $150 million and send it directly to the schools to pay off a pension liability they currently have,” he said.

Holcomb said that will “free up” additional funding for local school systems to use toward teacher salaries.

The state does not pay teacher salaries — the school systems do — which is where the collective bargaining takes places on contracts, he said.

Holcomb said Indiana spends more than 50 percent of the state budget on education.

“I’ve pulled together a task force to look at all the state and federal dollars that go into our K-12 education system,” he said. “How do we change the system to make our state in an enviable position of having teachers move to Indiana from other Midwestern states?"

“There is a teacher shortage all over the country,” Holcomb continued. “Because the economy is growing, teachers are attractive to business because they are educated, trusted and trainable.”

Commenting on efforts the past few years to establish a redistricting commission comprised of citizens, Holcomb said he is keeping an open mind.

The Indiana General Assembly has been considering legislation to create a redistricting commission; although it has some support among Republicans, it has failed to get a hearing in the Indiana House.

Lawmakers will be tasked with creating the congressional and Indiana General Assembly districts in 2021 for the 2022 election cycle.

“This has long been the jurisdiction of the legislature,” Holcomb said of driving the district lines. “I’m very open-minded if we can make the system truly fair. I want to see that proposal.”

Holcomb said around the United States commissions have been created but haven’t accomplished the desired results.

“We can try to get some non-partisan folks to draw the lines,” he said. “Show me that non-partisan person. You can name judges or university presidents, but some of these have a political heritage.”

Holcomb said the state has to determine how computers can help to ensure the district lines are drawn fairly by keeping communities together and pass constitutional muster. 

“I want to see more evidence of where our legislative districts are gerrymandered,” he said. “How is it that Republicans have 89 percent of the county commissioners and the GOP has a majority of county sheriffs, a majority of statewide elective offices,” he said. “Those are not gerrymandered.”

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