Low unemployment, higher wages and a call for a hands-free device driving law were topics of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s State of the State speech Jan. 14.

It was what he said about Indiana’s teachers and education, though, that drew the most comments.

“Last year, we devoted an unprecedented increase of $763 million new dollars in K-12 education, including paying down $150 million in the Teacher Retirement Fund, which freed up $65 million more a year for teacher pay increases,” said Holcomb, the son of a teacher.

“... Tonight, I am recommending that in the next budget the General Assembly use an additional $250 million from our surplus and put it toward teacher retirement funds. In turn, $50 million a year will be generated to redirect to teacher pay.

“...And this year, we’ll also work with the K-12 community to eliminate unfunded mandates and unnecessary paperwork. We’ll make optional the requirement that teachers earn career-related professional growth points. We’ll see to it that last year’s ILEARN proficiency test scores don’t adversely affect teacher evaluations and school letter grades.”

State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, made the following statement in response to Holcomb’s 2020 State of the State address:

“This evening, Gov. Holcomb outlined many key issues he is working with the General Assembly to address, such as supporting the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission and holding schools harmless for ILEARN scores.

“As the former chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, I am passionate about Hoosier education. I recognize the hard work of educators across our state, and support the governor’s vision to find sustainable solutions to improve teacher compensation.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to achieve the governor’s goals and make our state better going forward.”

Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said in his response, “I am glad the governor finally decided to listen to the voices of over 15,000 teachers who advocated at the Statehouse for increased pay and other items on Organization Day in November. I am also happy he took a page from the Senate Democrats’ own playbook for the mechanism to raise teacher salaries. While I am glad that these two things happened, I am disappointed that he has doubled down on his commitment to make teachers wait yet another year before seeing substantial pay raises. His plan also does not free up as much money in the teacher pension fund as Senator Tallian’s plan does. Her bill can still get a hearing this year and start getting teachers more money, faster.

“I am also disappointed to see that once again the governor neglected to address the need for redistricting reform in the State of Indiana. We must take action in the 2020 session to create an independent commission charged with drawing state and congressional district maps. It’s time to put the power of choosing legislators back into the hands of the people.”

“...My colleagues in the Senate Democrat Caucus and I will not give up on our efforts to raise teachers’ salaries this year, end partisan gerrymandering, stop preventable gun deaths and decriminalize marijuana.”

Josh Owens, CEO of Indianapolis-based online retailer SupplyKick, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Holcomb in the next gubernatorial election, quickly issued the following statement after Holcomb’s State of the State speech:

“Hoosiers deserved to hear big, bold ideas tonight from Governor Holcomb in his State of the State address. Hoosiers have deserved that from a governor who’s been in a position to take action for three years now. Instead, we got more of the same incrementalism.

“While Governor Holcomb has finally come to see that Hoosier teachers aren’t paid anywhere near what they deserve and that our communities need, he still is offering only half measures and a ‘wait until next year’ approach for real action.”

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