The governor’s teacher pay commission announced Monday a series of public meetings next month to solicit ideas for how to raise teacher salaries in Indiana. 

The commission did not specify venues or times but did announce the dates and cities: 

  • Monday, Aug. 19 — Indianapolis 
  • Saturday, Aug. 24 — Evansville 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 27 — Elkhart 

The commission is also taking comments online at in.gov/gov.

So far the commission has only met privately, stirring controversy among the public — and especially among the educators most affected by the commission’s work to remedy what’s shown to be a divisive debate around teacher pay. But because the group doesn’t have the authority to directly affect public business, it isn’t subject to the same open-door laws as other public entities, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt told Chalkbeat in May. 

Commission Chairman Mike Smith has defended the commission’s private meetings as giving members an opportunity to review information to best equip themselves for public hearings. Smith called public input “absolutely essential” to the commission’s work and said the private meetings aren’t “secretive.” 

The governor-appointed group, formally called the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission, also faced criticism for its makeup. It includes no teachers but is filled with former corporate executives, a philanthropist, and non-profit leaders. Its six-member advisory council includes only one teacher. 

While Smith said the groups are working together as one entity, the seven-member commission, not the advisory council, is responsible for finalizing the recommendations to lawmakers. 

Indiana has consistently ranked among the lowest states in teacher pay, lagging so far behind neighboring states that it would cost nearly $658 million to increase teacher salaries to competitive levels, a report by Stand for Children Indiana and Teach Plus Indiana found.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports Indiana teachers made an average salary of $50,554 in 2016-17, although some of the state’s lowest-paid teachers make closer to $30,000 a year. 

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb introduced the commission during his January State of the State address as a vehicle for analyzing plans to improve teacher salaries. The commission is expected to submit recommendations to the state legislature by its next budget-writing session in 2021.