Minimum teacher salaries reach $50,000 for majority of Marion County districts

An adult with long blonde hair sits at a desk full of students in a room with desks full of students.
First graders at Winding Ridge Elementary in the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township work on a writing assignment earlier this school year. Lawrence Township is one of eight districts in Marion County with a starting salary of at least $50,000 for teachers. (Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat)

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Teachers’ starting salaries for a majority of Marion County’s 11 school districts reached at least $50,000 for this school year, following the latest round of contract negotiations completed last month.

Notably, Indianapolis Public Schools no longer touts the highest starting salary for teachers in Marion County. That designation belongs to the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, which offers a minimum salary of $52,500. After the latest round of talks, an additional five of the 11 Marion County districts now offer a starting teacher salary of at least $50,000, a threshold that leaders hope will keep them competitive in the local labor market.

The salary adjustments come on the heels of increased funding for traditional school districts in the two-year state budget adopted earlier this year. They also reflect ongoing efforts to make teaching a more attractive career, as schools grapple with hiring challenges that intensified during the pandemic.

The average teacher salary in Indiana for the 2022-23 school year, the latest year available, fell about $1,500 short of the $60,000 figure supported by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year. However, most Marion County districts reported average salaries above $60,000, and districts in the county have used different approaches to boost base teacher pay.

“We are absolutely thrilled to realize the $50,000 entry salary benchmark,” said Beech Grove Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack, adding that the figure is a significant milestone.

Wayne Township’s new starting teaching salary, meanwhile, isn’t just the highest in Marion County — it’s one of the highest starting salaries in Indiana.

“There’s a couple of schools of thought that we need to consider,” Wayne Township Superintendent Jeff Butts said about teacher compensation. “One is for brand new teachers coming into the profession. They’re going to look at that starting salary — they don’t necessarily look at the average salary or the top end salary. We want to be competitive.”

Raises vary based on education, experience, other factors

State law dictates that increases to base salary depend on five factors, including years of experience, performance rating, and the academic needs of students. Teachers who received a rating of “needs improvement” or “ineffective” in the prior year are ineligible for a raise.

For example, a highly-rated teacher in the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township with six years of experience would be eligible for a $2,000 increase for performance and another $2,000 for experience. The same teacher could earn an additional $2,000 base salary increase if they earn a master’s degree in their content area for a total pay bump of $6,000, according to the contract.

Some districts, including Lawrence Township, also provide additional stipends on top of base pay increases for remaining with the district, earning National Board Certification, and several other factors.

In its new teacher contract, Perry Township schools, for example, offered a $500 stipend for those who worked in the district last year and returned this year.

Superintendent Patrick Spray said Perry Township’s new starting salary of $50,000 represents a significant acceleration over the last five years, and is more in line with the local cost of living.

“I think that the difficulty right now is just the available number of new teachers or teachers entering the field,” Spray said. “So we do have to be responsive to that.”

Districts have also tried to maintain adequate pay raises for mid-career teachers.

For 2023-24, eligible Wayne Township teachers will receive a $3,500 increase to their base pay, and those with four to 16 years of experience will receive an additional $2,000.

Wayne district leaders also want its teacher salaries to be competitive with those in districts outside of Marion County. Hendricks County is where the highest percentage of Wayne teachers live, Butts said.

“So those are also districts that we look at when we’re thinking about our negotiations,” Butts said.

While the state’s average teacher salary still sits below Holcomb’s $60,000 target, eight of Marion County’s 11 districts report an average salary above $60,000 for 2022-23. For full-time teachers in Wayne Township and Speedway schools, the average salary is more than $70,000.

Franklin Township Community Schools, which has Marion County’s lowest starting salary in 2023-24, still had an average salary last school year of $62,873 in 2022-23— higher than five other Marion County districts.

There are 305 bargaining units in the state, including those for school corporations and special education centers that provide services to multiple districts.

But not all public school educators are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. No charter schools in the state had a teacher bargaining unit for the 2022-23 school year. And the state legislature ended collective bargaining for Muncie Community Schools in 2018, when Ball State University took control of the district.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org.

Eric Weddle is the education editor at WFYI. Contact Eric at eweddle@wfyi.org.

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