Behning: Legislative session ends with big win for education

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, May 3, 2019 1:47 pm

The legislative session began with a promise to students, teachers and schools that they would have the necessary tools and resources to drive student success. As our official business concluded at the end of April, it was clear education remained a top priority for lawmakers. With record investments in K-12 funding and innovative programs to help elevate the teaching profession, our schools can continue educating young Hoosiers.

Our top priority this session was enacting a responsibly balanced state budget. Indiana’s next two-year budget maintains prudent reserves while providing more than $763 million in new funding for K-12 education, with traditional public schools set to receive more than 93 percent of the total tuition support. To directly benefit teachers, we increased funding from $30 million to $37.5 million per year for Teacher Appreciation Grants to reward effective and highly effective educators. Thanks to a $150 million payment to an unfunded pension liability for Hoosier educators, schools can save an estimated $70 million annually, and are strongly encouraged to direct their savings toward increasing teacher pay. 

In some schools, only 60 percent of funding makes it to the classroom. To help ensure every dollar possible directly supports students and teachers, I co-authored a new law urging local schools to dedicate at least 85 percent of their funding to their classroom expenses. If traditional public schools meet this goal, teachers statewide could see a 5 percent salary increase. These budgetary guidelines can help local schools prioritize their funding and reduce costly overhead expenses.

Along with ensuring schools have the resources to be successful, we also worked to establish innovative programs to help educators grow. A new law establishes teacher residency pilot programs, providing opportunities for college students pursuing a teaching degree to receive training from a veteran teacher. Aspiring educators who participate in this pilot will spend a year in a Hoosier classroom under the guidance of an experienced teacher. This program offers students critical training, while also giving them and their mentors a stipend.

To encourage great teachers to continue directly meeting the needs of students, I authored a new law providing grant money for schools to implement career ladders and mentorship programs. Too often, we lose highly qualified teachers to positions outside the classroom, and educators who leave the profession within the first five years often cite lack of support. Veteran teachers who mentor their peers will be able to earn more while growing in their career, and these mentor programs could help close the gaps that current professional develop programs do not meet. 

Local schools are an integral part of our community and are instrumental to the success of young Hoosiers. Many of our efforts this year were part of a collaboration between lawmakers and teacher organizations like the Indiana State Teachers Association, Teach Plus and Stand For Children. By working together, we found solutions and took significant steps to support education across the state. 

To stay up-to-date with new laws and other issues I will continue working on in the coming months, sign up to receive my e-newsletters at www.in.gov/h91. I am also available to answer questions and listen to concerns at h91@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9648.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 91,

which includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.