Indiana State Teachers Association discusses legislative session, next steps

Education

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Four months later and educators are still Red for Ed. The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) believes their efforts to get the attention of lawmakers worked, yet they think there’s still important work to do.

That historic day back in November sparked a movement for the Indiana State Teachers Association, as more than 15,000 teachers and staff rallied on Red for Ed Action Day to show they deserve better. ISTA President Keith Gambill believes lawmakers listened.

“On that day, ISTA asked for action on three priorities,” Gambill explained, “To hold schools and teachers harmless from ILEARN scores, repeal the misguided externship requirements, and put a down-payment toward increasing teacher pay.”

In a room full of supporters on Tuesday, Gambill discussed what’s happened since at the statehouse. The externship requirements have become an option, not a requirement. Lawmakers have also decoupled student data and teacher evaluations, yet Gambill pointed out there are issues that have been left untouched.

“Imagine what could have been done for the students in our traditional public classrooms with that $85 million,” Gambill expressed.

Gambill is talking about the two Indiana virtual charter schools that are under federal investigation. School officials are accused of inflating student enrollment and misusing taxpayer dollars. He also stressed that the teacher pay fight isn’t over.

“Governor Holcomb has made a promise to put Indiana in the top three within our region and we expect him to deliver,” said Gambill.

Christina Smith has two children who attend Indianapolis Public Schools. “I have realized that traditional public schools are being starved out of existence.”

She says there’s still time for action at the statehouse.  Her sights are set on House Bill 1065, which would allow traditional public schools to share referendum dollars with charter schools.

“As a taxpayer and a homeowner, I know when I went to the polls my referendum said IPS, it didn’t say any other charter school. It said Indianapolis Public Schools and that’s what I voted for,” Smith added.

Looking back at what’s happened since the Action Day, ISTA is focusing on the steps that still need to be taken.

“We will continue to work with all support for traditional public education in Indiana,” said Gambill.

This session lawmakers approved a Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission to study the issue of teacher pay. In a statement, the governor’s office said it is looking to see what the current gap is comparative to other Midwestern and neighboring states.

Here’s the entire statement sent by the office of Governor Eric Holcomb:

Throughout his time in office, Governor Holcomb has demonstrated his commitment to improving education and launching innovative initiatives to ensure Indiana attracts and retains top teachers, and our students receive the best education.

In this year’s State of the State address, Gov. Holcomb recommended the General Assembly use $250 million from the surplus in the upcoming budget to prepay the state’s obligations to the teachers’ retirement fund, which will allow $50 million a year to be redirected to teacher pay.

The Governor signed legislation, which was a part of his Next Level Agenda, into law last month that holds schools harmless so test scores do not have an adverse impact on teacher evaluations and schools’ letter grades for the 2018-19 school year. The Governor in August asked the General Assembly to support that legislation, after learning that results of the new ILEARN proficiency test would show a significant decrease in scores. Here’s a link to the Governor’s statement from August: https://calendar.in.gov/site/gov/event/holcomb-statement-on-2018-19-ilearn-results/

Additionally, this year the Governor’s Next Level Agenda included:

  • Supporting the nonpartisan Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission in its work to increase teacher salaries
  • Working with stakeholders in the K-12 community to identify unfunded mandates, burdensome reporting and training requirements for elimination
  • Changing the teachers’ career awareness professional growth plan points from required to optional

The state is in receipt of the results from hundreds of the recently locally bargained contracts, and at the initial look, it appears the highest numbers of local districts raised teacher salary than in recent Indiana history a significant number of teachers received raises. The Governor is looking to see what the current gap is comparative to other Midwestern and neighboring states in addition to what the teacher compensation commission will discover as well. The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission will make additional recommendations in the spring.

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