The Indiana General Assembly addressed important concerns of the state’s public school teachers during the 2020 legislative session.

Yet lawmakers put off until next session discussion and action on higher pay for Indiana’s licensed instructors.

Two objectives of teachers were passed in 2020:

Schools will be held harmless from ILEARN test scores, meaning last year’s test will not adversely impact school grades or teacher evaluations.

And student test scores will no longer be a mandatory part of teacher evaluations, although schools can choose to use them.

Those two actions suggest legislators recognize what the results of an annual survey by Indiana State University has made obvious since 2015: There’s a teacher shortage in Indiana. Low pay, too much emphasis on testing, a sense of disrespect for the profession and no influence in policy decisions are getting in the way of recruiting new teachers.

If these perceptions persist, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which teaching becomes one of the least desirable professions in Indiana.

Why would someone headed to college set a goal of getting a job where they will feel undercompensated, unappreciated, stifled and unimportant?

Increasing compensation won’t clear the cloud of negativity, nor will it change the atmosphere in which accountability is everything and inspiring a new generation of thinkers is put on the backburner. But lawmakers appear to finally appreciate this fact.

That’s why their actions to untie teacher pay from job performance evaluations was such an important step.

The best teachers choose their careers out of a desire to make a difference in children’s lives, not because the pay is so much better than in other sectors. So, when the bad parts of the job start to outweigh the good ones, teachers are forced to examine their own happiness and make a tough choice.

If the declines continue, it’s possible there will be a problem in the future.

There’s still time this session for state budget negotiators to explore pay premiums or student loan forgiveness for instructors working in schools with high percentages of low-income students, while still finding a way to improve the overall pay of our public school teachers.

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