Balanced budget, school safety & teacher pay among top House Republican priorities

Posted by: Erin Reece  | Monday, January 7, 2019

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 7, 2019) – House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) joined several House Republican members today to release their top legislative priorities for 2019, including passing a balanced state budget, strengthening school safety and increasing teacher pay.

“Passing an honestly balanced two-year state budget will take center stage, but we are also focused on passing our aggressive legislative agenda aimed at moving Indiana forward in many key areas, including school safety, teacher pay and our workforce,” Bosma said. “We are hitting the ground running to ensure a productive legislative session, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and Senate, and Gov. Eric Holcomb.”

Bosma said the top priority this session is to pass a balanced state budget while maintaining healthy reserves and the state’s coveted AAA credit rating. The Indiana Department of Child Services will annually require an additional $286 million over the next two fiscal years, which Bosma said narrows the first fiscal year’s budgetary focus to funding the state’s key priorities, including K-12 education, which accounts for over half of the state’s $32 billion biennial budget.

Other priorities include increasing protections for Hoosier youth, strengthening the House Republicans’ commitment to students and teachers, better aligning workforce initiatives and supporting Indiana’s veterans.

“We join Governor Holcomb and Senate Republicans in sharing many of the same priorities for this legislative session, and I’m confident we will continue to work closely together to take them across the finish line,” Bosma said.

Increasing Protections for Hoosier Youth

In response to the Child Welfare Group’s comprehensive evaluation of DCS over the summer of 2018, State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) authored House Bill 1006 to implement the legislative recommendations needed to help reform DCS and improve the outcomes of children in the child welfare system. The bill aims to provide better balance to family case manager caseloads, allow foster youth to receive collaborative care and participate in independent living programs into their early 20’s, and give caseworkers greater flexibility in both their reporting and in how they prioritize cases in order to reduce court involvement.    

Despite being recognized as a national leader in school safety policies, Bosma said it’s clear Indiana must do more to protect school children in light of two recent shootings in Noblesville and Richmond. State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) authored House Bill 1004, which would implement recommendations from Holcomb’s school safety report to improve physical security at schools and mental health resources for students.

House Republicans will continue their focus on reducing Indiana’s infant mortality rate, which is currently ranked 7th highest in the nation. State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove) authored House Bill 1007, which would help engage at-risk expecting mothers in early prenatal care, and require medical providers to give verbal substance use screenings to pregnant women to improve and increase referrals to addiction treatment.

Strengthening Commitment to Students and Teachers

To help direct more dollars toward teacher compensation, and recruit and retain high-quality educators, House Republicans worked alongside the Indiana State Teachers Association, Teach Plus Indiana and Stand for Children Indiana to craft several new policy initiatives.

While teacher pay decisions are made entirely at the local level through collective bargaining and budgeting, House Bill 1003 would strongly encourage schools to shift more existing and future dollars to Hoosier classrooms. Bosma said while many schools currently spend about 80 percent of their state funding on instructional expenses, other schools’ operational and overhead costs have ballooned – taking critical dollars away from teachers. According to the latest figures, only $57 of every $100 of state, local and federal resources spent on K-12 education made its way to Hoosier classrooms. This legislation, authored by State Rep. Dale DeVon (R-Granger), would set a target for public schools to spend at least 85 percent of state funding on instructional expenses. This new target percentage would not impose any new administrative requirements on school corporations because this analysis is already being reported to and tracked by the state. Bosma said if all Indiana’s public school corporations meet this goal, we anticipate over $350 million in new resources for classrooms – enough for a 5 percent salary increase or more for teachers. 

According to the National Education Association, Indiana’s average public school teacher salary was $54,308 in 2017, and when adjusted for cost-of-living, Indiana’s teacher pay ranked 9thhighest in the nation. Bosma said this year’s renewed emphasis on classroom expenditures coupled with coming increases to the K-12 school funding formula will begin the process of lifting statewide teacher compensation over the next biennium and beyond.  Bosma added HB1003 is a significant first step toward making collective progress on these widely shared goals and House Republicans will continue working with their education partners to get more dollars into Hoosier classrooms.

In an effort to attract and retain high-quality teachers, State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) authored House Bill 1008, which would establish career ladders to help experienced educators step into new roles and advance in the profession. DeVon also crafted House Bill 1009 to provide critical support for new educators by creating residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom.

Aligning and Promoting Workforce Initiatives

In 2018, Indiana had its second consecutive, record-breaking year for economic development with businesses committing to an additional 31,112 new Hoosier jobs and $7.38 billion in new investments over the coming years. While Indiana’s pro-growth policies and economic performance are ranked among the best in the nation, the state remains among the bottom third of states in most human capital and workforce rankings.

To strengthen Indiana’s workforce and talent pipeline, State Rep. Holli Sullivan (R-Evansville) authored House Bill 1002 to encourage early and continuing career exploration and navigation, reinvigorate career and technical education courses and encourage completion of certifications or postsecondary credentials. In addition, the bill would prioritize funding for workforce programs with proven results and provide additional flexibility for schools to partner with employers in order to establish work-based learning opportunities.

Supporting Hoosier Veterans

House Republicans will continue efforts to bolster the hard-earned benefits and pensions of Indiana’s veterans by phasing in an income tax exemption for military retirement pensions, along with ratcheting up the assessed value eligibility cap for the disabled veterans property tax exemption. Working in coordination with Holcomb, State Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) authored House Bill 1010 to help honor those who served while incentivizing them to stay and put their skills to work in Indiana.