A strong education system is one of the most important assets a state can have. Effective K-12 schooling lays the foundation for success in higher education and trade industries. This results in a strong workforce, which helps our economy and Hoosier families thrive.
Indiana allots more than half of the state budget to education, making it one of the most debated topics during budget sessions. This year, legislators will be discussing ways to reward Indiana’s best teachers and outline a more effective and fair funding system for our schools.
My colleagues and I are going to make a concerted effort to ensure that high-performing teachers receive better compensation for the tremendous work they do every day in the classroom.
To that effect, Senate Bill 566 was introduced to reward Indiana teachers and encourage more of the state’s best and brightest to enter the teaching profession. SB 566 would expand Indiana’s School Performance Grant Program, with 100 percent of the grant money going toward teacher pay. It would also bring more Hoosiers with high-demand job skills into the teaching profession, and offer local schools more freedom from state mandates by allowing all school corporations to implement the “Innovation Network Schools” model.
Expanding the Innovation Network School model to every school corporation in the state is a way to cut red tape for schools and give local teachers more flexibility to teach using the methods that are most appropriate for their students. This model allows any school corporation in the state to designate its schools as “Innovation Network Schools,” which will allow them to operate with more autonomy.
SB 566 also recognizes that one of the most important aspects of helping children receive a high-quality education is making sure our schools are staffed with great teachers. Under the bill, 50 percent of a teacher’s stipend from a School Performance Grant would become part of his or her base salary, providing a permanent pay increase instead of a one-time bonus.
Discussions on other education-focused initiatives like improving the effectiveness of the State Board of Education (SBOE), turning around low-performing schools and supporting school choice have already begun this year in legislative committees.
Senate Bill 1 aims to ensure that the SBOE is successful in leading Hoosier students and families by seeking to create a more effective and functional governance structure for the board and avoiding some of the internal discord that has plagued board operations over the past two years.
Lawmakers will also tackle an overhaul of the school funding formula and work to create a more equitable basis for directing dollars to our schools. This will be a challenge, but we will do our best to evaluate the different needs of urban, suburban and rural schools, and adequately gauge the appropriate funding foundation level.
As you can see, lawmakers are considering multiple options when it comes to improving education for Hoosiers. While there will be differences of opinion along the way, we all agree that strengthening our schools is in everyone’s best interest, and should be a top priority in the months ahead.
As always, you can contact my office directly with your input, questions and concerns by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov or by phone at 800-382-9467.
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