Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration is holding off on releasing a report with recommendations on teacher salaries until after the Nov. 3 election.
The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission was selected in February 2019 to examine long-term solutions for increasing the state’s wages for educators. Initially, a 60-page draft report was expected this summer so lawmakers could review it while devising a new two-year state budget in January.
But it was pushed to the second half of the year because of the pandemic.
Chairman Michael Smith, a retired Indianapolis business executive, said it wouldn’t be fair to release the report because of the state’s fragile economic predicament. The report consists of more than 40 suggestions. Smith told The Journal Gazette that the public will eventually have an opportunity to see it, although he didn’t indicate when.
“Likely not before the election, but it isn’t related,” he said.
Holcomb spokeswoman Rachel Hoffmeyer said the pandemic substantially altered plans, but the commission is still working on a final report to be released before the end of 2020.
“Commission members continue to monitor the financial impact of the pandemic, analyze data and work with stakeholders to develop recommendations,” he added.
Smith said the panel was tasked with confirming a wage disparity with 12 neighboring and benchmark states and providing recommendations that include increased funding, cuts to spending and potential policy changes.
“We would like to have been done now. The pandemic changed lots of things,” he said. “We have to be respectful of what is going on. There are a lot of important issues before the state right now.”
Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said educators face overwhelming pressure and the state needs to find the funds to adequately compensate them.
“We understand conditions have changed and it is going to make it more difficult for the governor and legislators to work to fix that,” he added. “I’m not sure why they are holding back. If it is for political reasons, then I think that’s weak on their part.”
The group had a representative on the commission’s advisory panel but not a voting member.
“In the end, our position remains the same. We know that the overwhelming reason folks leave the profession is due to pay. And if we are going to ever get a handle on the shortage we are facing for teachers and be able to retain the best and to attract folks into the profession we are going to have to do better in pay,” Gambill said.