Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission will hold three meetings in August for ideas on how to raise teacher pay, bringing criticism from local educators for the timing.

So far, public meetings are planned for Monday, Aug. 19, in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 24, in Evansville and Tuesday, Aug. 27, in Elkhart.

All of the dates fall after school is back in session, Portage Association of Teachers President Deb Porter said, making it difficult for many educators from Northwest Indiana to attend.

“(Holcomb) is not seeking any teacher input on this,” she said. “Obviously, no Region input. He’s had many months, he could have scheduled it earlier in the summer when we were available.

“He has said time and time again he is walking towards us,” she said. “I don’t see this. I see this as putting up barriers to any interaction with policy making.”

Specific locations and times will be released later, Holcomb spokesman Alec Grey said in a statement. The commission is looking for “ideas and solutions, and listen to issues and concerns.”

The commission is tasked with making policy recommendations by the 2021 legislative session - when lawmakers will put together the next two-year state budget.

Local educators have long criticized the 14-person commission for only having a single teacher among business, nonprofit executives, and school superintendents.

Duneland Teachers Association co-President Bobbi Hall agreed with Porter’s assessment.

“Gov. Holcomb would not host an event in the Region - we don’t support his public (education) views,” she said via email. “He scheduled the Elkhart meeting for a Tuesday when school is already back in session. We will be doing what we can to get educators there AND we will continue our #RedForEd walk-ins. Our students, educators, and taxpayers deserve to be heard. We deserve better.”

Grey said additional meetings may be added. The Elkhart meeting is scheduled for the evening and there is also a website where folks can submit ideas, he said.

Earlier this year, Holcomb announced plans to pay off $140 million in teacher pension obligations owed by school districts over the next two years. The Republican governor says 100 percent of that money should go toward teacher pay raises.

In practice, officials from local school systems like Hammond and Griffith, have said it they plan to fold those savings into tightening budgets.

Holcomb’s teacher pay commission includes Indiana Parenting Institute COO Jena Bellezza, representing Gary.

The commission is led by former Mayflower Group chairman and president Michael Smith. The remaining members are: Melissa Ambre, director of the Office of School Finance for the Indiana Department of Education; Tom Easterday, an ex-Subaru of Indiana Automotive executive; Rebecca Gardenour, Albany-Floyd County school board member; Marianne Glick, chair of the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Family Foundation; Emily Holt, a Westfield High School math teacher; Dan Holub, Indiana State Teachers Association Executive Director; Katie Jenner; a senior Holcomb education advisor; Bob Jones, Old National Bancorp chairman and CEO; Nancy Jordan, Lincoln Financial Group senior vice president, Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, Muncie Community Schools Director of Public Education and CEO; Denise Seger, Concord Community Schools (Elkhart) Chief HR officer; David Smith, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. superintendent.

“He’s not getting any input from people on the ground doing work,” Gary Teachers Union President GlenEva Dunham said, adding she has “not a lot of stock in what they say.”

“He appointed them, he feels their voice is important to education,” she said.
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