Behning: Accomplishing education priorities

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, March 18, 2016 9:17 am

Accomplishing education priorities

Last week, the Indiana General Assembly adjourned Sine Die, meaning we have completed our business for the 2016 legislative session. Supporting educators and schools was one of the top priorities for House Republicans. Several issues were addressed, including a fix for last year’s ISTEP scores, the test’s future and improving teacher recruitment and retention. As the chair of the House Committee on Education, it was an extremely busy session for me as I worked to address the concerns that students, parents and educators have expressed. 

Within the first month of session, two bills had already been signed into law to prevent negative repercussions from the 2015 spring ISTEP test scores. Last year, Indiana transitioned to new, more rigorous academic standards. Teacher performance evaluations and school A-F ratings were decoupled from the test scores under House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1003 and Senate Enrolled Act 200, respectively. I was proud to see these bills move through the legislative process quickly with near unanimous support.

We also took a hard look at the current ISTEP test. If enacted, HEA 1395 would repeal ISTEP on July 1, 2017. Over the next few months, a commission—comprised of mostly educators—will examine our current accountability metrics and find the best possible replacement. I am confident that Indiana’s next generation of academic assessment will meet the needs of students, while ensuring they exemplify our new, higher academic standards. 

In order to attract top-performing high school seniors to the teaching profession, House Speaker Brian C. Bosma authored legislation that would establish the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship. Those who study at a teacher’s college and commit to teaching in Hoosier classrooms for at least five years upon graduation could receive up to $7,500 per year to cover tuition under HEA 1002. Not only will this program improve teacher quality, but reducing the tuition debt load of newer teachers should greatly help their transition to the classroom.

Keeping the best and the brightest educators in our classrooms is essential to a student’s success. This session, I worked with legislators to improve teacher recruitment and retention. Under HEA 1005, school corporations would have the opportunity to devise and implement their own Career Pathways and Mentorship Program, which would recognize and reward teachers who take on extra roles and leadership positions. While experienced teachers crave multiple and flexible career development pathways, newer teachers often thrive when they have access to mentorship programs. Additionally, by cutting red tape, educators with out-of-state teaching licenses could be more easily hired to teach in Indiana if they still meet our content area qualifications.

House Enrolled Act 1005 would provide school corporations with the option to offer more money to teachers who teach advanced placement courses, an option already given to dual credit teachers. The Dual Credit Teacher Stipend Matching Grant Fund was also established for schools transitioning to new, more rigorous dual credit accreditation standards. It is important that our schools are able to offer advanced placement and dual credit classes, as they allow students to enter into higher education with their degree partially completed.

Throughout session, I strived to ensure that everything we do is in the best interest of students. If enacted, HEA 1005 would give students the opportunity to enroll in a different voucher school in the second half of the year—just like public schools. This second enrollment date would benefit students by giving them a second chance to find a school that best fits their needs—academically and socially. This legislation also aims to keep our children safe while they are at school by strengthening teacher background check requirements.

As you can tell, this was an extremely busy session for the House Committee on Education. Every session, I am impressed with the amount of work House Republicans are able to accomplish to benefit Hoosiers. I look forward to the coming months, when legislators will begin meeting for interim study committees. I will continue to be a voice for you, and I encourage you to share your opinions with me at 317-232-9643 or h91@iga.in.gov.

 

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents

portions of Marion and Hendricks counties.