There is a lot of work and time that goes into teaching, yet, at the end of the day, teachers are rewarded with a low salary and an inadequately funded classroom.
To build a successful environment, teachers are expected to create lesson plans, grade assignments and gather materials. This would be fine if adequate time and funding were provided, but educators tend to do these tasks with their own time and money.
Teachers are paid during their contracted hours, but most educators dedicate many additional hours to their jobs. Despite this, teachers receive little to no additional compensation for the work they do outside of contracted hours.
Being paid for time worked is not the only issue that teachers face, lack of adequate funding for needed supplies is also an issue. Other than the basic classroom materials such as desks, chairs, textbooks and projectors, teachers have to pay for other classroom materials out of their pockets. The average general budget for Warren in the 2018-2019 school year was $91 million, yet only 1 percent of the budget was used for general classroom supplies. It is irrefutable that schools are grossly underfunded, so districts can not always provide educators with the resources they need to be successful.
It is common in Indiana for schools to be underfunded and according to ISTA, Indiana State Teachers Association, 7 out of 10 Indiana voters agree that schools need more funding, and 8 out of 10 voters believe the funding should be put into classrooms rather than administration. At Warren, the general fund is supported by the state through the Basic Grant Formula, and the school receives a certain amount of money per student, which makes up 99 percent of the budget. Sixty-three percent of that budget is used for certified teachers, and 22 percent is used on support staff employees’ salaries and benefits expenditures. The average salary for teachers in Indiana was around $50,614 in the 2017-2018 school year, which is lower than the surrounding states. Indiana is the 51st in the country, including U.S. territories, for salary raises in the last 15 years, and 71 percent of teachers here are underpaid.
Organizations like ISTA are dedicated to the protection and well-being of educators in Indiana. They provide resources and opportunities for educators’ voices to be heard. On Nov. 19, ISTA hosted the Red for Ed Action Day. Red for Ed was an opportunity for educators and community members to gather outside the Statehouse and protest for the good of education.
Red For Ed’s main goals were to have an investment from the state in teacher pay, having the new professional development requirement changed, and for lawmakers to promise that test scores will not harm schools.
For starters, the average teacher salary in the 2017-2018 school year was around $50,600, but according to ISTA, a study found that it would take over $650 million to bring teachers’ pay to the regional average. But school district budgets are set by lawmakers, and half of state spending is on education. However, the money is distributed unequally.
Another demand is the repeal of the professional development requirement The requirement makes teachers complete 15 hours of professional development for license renewal. Professional development sounds like a great idea on paper, but lawmakers do not consider that this is just one more unnecessary thing being piled onto educators’ already-overfilled plates. Repealing this would help teachers save time because they already have to spend hours outside of school preparing things for their classes and students, and attending these classes from another company will ultimately harm their efficiency.
Lastly, testing impacts schools greatly. Since ILEARN was introduced to Indiana last spring, test scores dropped significantly, and those scores are used against schools and teacher evaluations. The scores also affect the state’s grade, which dropped due to low scores. Some educators argue that these standardized tests do nothing but set students up for failure. Testing companies gain more money from students that have to constantly retake tests they failed in previous years. The government looks at these tests as something that accurately measures a student’s knowledge but chooses to ignore the fact that each student learns differently, and not everyone is academically on the same level. Standardized testing could greatly be improved, but there is little hope of change being made.
Realistically, the demand for teachers is only increasing, but due to the current laws and low salaries, not as many people are looking to be a part of the career. To add to the issue, nationally, 50 percent of teachers leave within their first three to five years of teaching. With the Red For Ed rally taking place, the first steps to change have been taken, and many are hoping to see those changes in the 2020 legislative session. As a community, we have the power to make change and we need to support our educators. ISTA has resources on their website that allows the community to take action by sharing individual teaching experiences, or sharing how parents and families are impacted by this. We can even send a direct message to legislators and Indiana’s government officials to persuade them to act on the demands made on the day of the rally.
Organizations such as ISTA will continue to look out for educators in Indiana, and with their help, the community’s opinions were, and will continue, to be heard. All we can do now is hope they listen.