Indiana Senate Democrats said they will push for $150 million in wage hikes for teachers as part of their agenda in the 2019 legislative session when the state’s next two-year budget will be set.
Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, and Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville, unveiled their priorities in a Friday afternoon press conference where they discussed their ongoing commitment to passing a hate crimes bill and redistricting reform.
But boosting teacher pay was one of the major initiatives they will pursue next year as Melton described how Indiana teachers are drastically underpaid for the work they do.
Calumet High School teacher Daniel Brugioni, president of his local education union, described how pay for him and his colleagues has failed to keep up with inflation over the past decade. Today, the average teacher in the Lake Ridge School District where Calumet is located makes about $45,000.
“We’re getting great teachers into our districts, then they realize that their salary isn’t going anywhere,” Brugioni said. As a result, school districts like his see teachers leave for better-paying jobs just as they gain experience in the classroom.
“We need good teachers to have good schools,” he added.
In addition to the teacher pay issue, Lanane said his members will also propose legislation to legalize medical marijuana and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions from losing access to health insurance.
Lanane noted that 33 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana and it’s time for Indiana to make it available as an alternative treatment for conditions such as cancer, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s time for Indiana to join the list,” he said, calling it a safe and effective treatment option.
In a recent Ball State University survey, about 80 percent of Hoosiers said they support some kind of marijuana legalization—42 percent said they favored medical marijuana only.
Senate Democrats have little power in the General Assembly—they have 10 seats in a 50-member chamber. Lanane said they hope to find Republican allies as they work to pass their legislative priorities.
Janet Williams is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students