Indiana teachers union calls lawmakers to address shortages

Indiana’s largest teachers union is calling on state lawmakers to address educator burnout and ongoing teacher shortages during the next legislative session that begins in January.

The state is “slowly making progress” on teacher pay, but additional action is needed to attract and retain teachers, Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said during a news conference Monday. Teacher workload and burnout already issues before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Gambill said, but the onset of the virus has since worsened the state’s teacher shortage.

“It is important now more than ever, to retain our current teachers,” Gambill said. “We are now going into the third consecutive school year impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Our educators, already overburdened, are facing unsustainable levels of stress and stress-related illness.”

The shortage of teachers—compounded by a substitute shortage—has meant more educators are required to work longer hours without time off or time for classroom planning, Gambill continued. For some of ISTA’s teachers, Gambill said that’s included working 12-hour days or longer, on top of second or third jobs.

Gambill added that educators cite a lack of professional respect as a contributing factor in the state’s lack of teachers. In response, he said the union is calling on the legislature to restore teachers’ ability to bargain contracts that include health and safety conditions, class sizes and prep periods for teachers to prepare lessons and grade work.

“Our kids have experienced significant academic impacts during the pandemic. And everyone seems to agree that we need to get them back up to grade level,” Gambill said. “However, this important work is hampered by overworked staff and growing class sizes. We must do better for our kids and our educators.”

ISTA additionally debuted a statewide map Wednesday to track school districts that have lifted starting teacher salaries at or above the union’s goal of $40,000.

Since 2018, when ISTA began the Red For Ed movement that mobilized thousands of teachers across Indiana to demand better pay from the Republican-dominated state government, the number of districts meeting the increased starting teacher salary jumped from 79 districts to 212, according to the new online tracker.

“Clearly, we are making good progress … and we remain steadfast in ensuring this progress doesn’t slow over the coming years,” Gambill said.

Gambill said the teachers union will release its full legislative priorities next month, ahead of lawmakers’ return to the Indiana Statehouse for the start of the 2022 legislative session that begins in January.

In April, Indiana lawmakers, led by Republicans, approved a two-year budget that included base K-12 school funding increases of 4.6% in the budget’s first year and 4.3% in the second. The bill directed school districts to submit explanations to the state if they aren’t able to set a minimum teacher pay of $40,000 a year.

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3 thoughts on “Indiana teachers union calls lawmakers to address shortages

  1. Anybody going to college for 4 years and going into debt to do it for a $40k salary is making a financial mistake. That’s why it’s so hard to find good teachers.

  2. Difficult to understand burnout for those employed part-time … 180 days a year by ISTA contract. Just returned from a job in Texas where skilled craft workers … pipe fitters, welders, riggers, electricians, mechanics, etc. are working 12 hours a day 7 days a week and have been since May. For those that failed to grasp the fundamentals of math after leaving school, that is 84 hours a week … with no days off. What teachers really need is a “grit standard”. “Grit is a construct that is said to summon both passion and perseverance in service of a long-term goal. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as they say. In other words, gritty people put in sustained effort over time to achieve a high level of success in their chosen domain.”

    1. Are those pipe fitters, welders, riggers, electricians, and mechanics paid hourly or on a salary. I thought most of those roles were based on an hourly or per job rate and thus the more they work, the more they get paid. Also – If you truly believe teachers only work 180 days, then I’d like to know what teachers those are. While teachers have a contract for 180 days in most states, I do not know a single teacher that only works 180 days. For fun – I suggest you do a comparison of the hourly rate of those “180 days” for a teacher and compare it to the hourly rate of those skilled craft workers you mention and see how they compare. I wouldn’t be surprised if the skilled worker hourly rate is 2 to 3 times that of the starting teacher salary in Indiana.

      Also – The work of a skilled laborer is tough. I won’t question that, but they aren’t dealing with the constant barrage of parents and politicians belittling. Dealing with unreasonable parents and vocal member communities belittling you and your profession on a constant basis is mentally draining. Skilled laborers don’t have people sending them nasty emails or regularly posting on national news what a pathetic job they are doing.

      I also imagine that the skilled craft workers working 84 hours a week are getting burned out as well, but at least they are generally getting paid for the extra hours and don’t likely have the media and community telling them how pathetic they are.