ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - About 11,000 Indiana educators have registered to attend a Red for Ed rally at the Statehouse later this month.
While districts in South Bend and Goshen have canceled classes so their teachers can go, the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation has not.
In fact, P-H-M Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker says the district just marked a lofty teacher pay plateau.
“We're delighted to say that we have the highest teaching salary, around $41,000 for the beginning,” he said.
While there are a lot of ways to recognize educators for a job well done, there’s perhaps one essential way to recognize teaching as a career.
“The difference that it makes is that not only can we attract and retain quality teachers because they make that a profession because then it's a salary at which they can provide resources for their families and they stay in the profession,” Thacker said.
P-H-M’s starting salary of $41,000 as spelled out in a recently ratified contract agreement for the 2019-2020 school year is $2,500 higher than South Bend’s, $4,550 above Elkhart’s, and $6,602 more plentiful that Plymouth’s, according to figures provided by the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board.
Enough P-H-M teachers plan to stay in district on the Nov. 19 Red for Ed Action Day to keep classes running, although the occasion will be marked.
“They're doing some things, just differently,” Thacker said. “Some of the activities they're doing here could be such as wearing red.”
The current teacher pay problem is one P-H-M can attack on its own but is unlikely to solve on its own.
“It doesn't solve the problem simply because we have too few teacher candidates in our colleges and universities in the state of Indiana with a decline of about 35%, that means that not only is this short[age] going to exist right now but as we start looking to the future,” Thacker emphasized.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education previously reported that those graduating with teaching degrees in Indiana fell 37% from 2004 through 2014.
While P-H-M has the highest starting teacher salary in the region, it is not the highest in the state.
At last count, about 30 or so of Indiana’s 287 districts were above the $40,000 mark. Starting teachers in the School Town of Speedway make $47,789.
This year, Indiana made a larger-than-usual contribution to teacher pensions on behalf of local districts. Thacker said he put the entire $457,000 windfall into teacher pay.
The contract also provides teachers with one or more years of experience with salary increases and one-time stipends. For instance, a teacher with one year of experience will receive a pay increase of $900 and a stipend of $500. A teacher with three to 18 years’ experience will receive a $2,200 pay hike and a stipend of $500.
Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation teachers will have a new minimum base starting salary.
An agreement between the P-H-M Teachers Association and the school corporation was approved at Monday night's board meeting.
The new salary range will be $41,000 to just more than $70,000 per year.
The school board says it is the first time the top of the salary range has exceeded $70,000.
The new salaries go into effect for current teachers and new hires in the 2019-2020 school year.