INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House Republicans unveiled a new proposal Monday meant to help give raises to tens of thousands of Indiana teachers.
But moments after the news conference ended, Democrats called the list of GOP priorities “thunderous in its nothingness.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said education funding and teacher pay would be a heavy focus for lawmakers during the 2019 legislation session, which officially started last Thursday.
Education officials have long cited data showing Indiana teachers making less than their counterparts in neighboring states, adding teachers are leaving Indiana for better-paying jobs.
“I think most teachers at the end of the day would like to make more in their take-home today than they made last year,” Teresa Meredith said, the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “Some of our teachers are making less than they made nine, 10, 11 years ago.”
The 85% proposal
One of the proposals unveiled would strongly encourage schools to send more money to the classroom and teacher’s bank accounts as opposed to administrative costs. The new goal (with the help of the state) would be for every school to spend 85% of money from the state education fund on classroom expenses and just 15% on administrative costs. The proposal, though, comes with no mandate to do so. Some schools have already far exceed the 85% goal.
“If we can increase that percentage significantly, this is one way we can use our current dollars and get more dollars into teachers hands,” Bosma said. “Are we aware that comes with challenges? Of course we are. No school purposely overspends on administration, but we need to have best practices in place.”
Meredith, who attended Monday’s news conference, called the proposal “just the beginning of the conversation.”
“We need to have highly qualified teachers in our classrooms and they are leaving right now,” she said. “We know that. So we want to keep them, and we can’t do that just by staying where we are. We have to have some action, and I think this at least makes a good attempt.”
Bosma said House Republicans will also focus on school safety, adequately funding the Department of Child Services through a balanced state budget, promoting workforce developments initiatives and several bills focused on helping Indiana veterans.
What was left out (and typically is) was any reference to what could become controversial issues like hate crime legislation and proposals to legalize medical marijuana.
“Will any of this help Hoosiers?” House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said in a statement. “As we have seen in recent years, those who are in charge find it better to talk about such things, instead of working to find pragmatic solutions to real issues.”
Black caucus prioritizes
The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus also unveiled its legislative goals Monday.
Calling it an “ambitions 2019 agenda,” the group will push for a hate crime law, increased teacher pay and a statewide study of violent crime. State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) said homicide rates in part of the state constitute a state health concern, even outpacing deaths of certain diseases.
“They are going to be aggressive,” she said. “We are going to push it. We are also going to push it with the help of the community behind us so you will see an advocacy piece coming with these.”
Hate crime law push
More backing will come for supporters of a hate crime law on Tuesday.
House Republicans didn’t make it a bullet-point item on their agenda despite Gov. Holcomb saying it’s one of his priorities.
Business and community leaders will join lawmakers at the Statehouse to launch a new campaign called Indiana Forward, meant to put public pressure on lawmakers. The group said nearly 700 supporters have signed onto its cause.