Behning: Prioritizing Hoosier education

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Tuesday, January 19, 2016 12:00 pm

Prioritizing Hoosier education 

With session in full swing, education has become my main priority. I am personally committed to constantly improving our system for students, teachers and families. I cannot stress enough the amount of time that House Republicans have dedicated toward enacting policies that improve teacher recruitment and retention. This remains a very important, ongoing task. By the end of session, I hope to have legislation passed that attracts the best and brightest to the education profession and encourages them to remain in Hoosier classrooms.

As the chairman of the Education committee, I am dedicated to ensuring students receive an education that prepares them for college or a career. Crucial to that goal are good teachers—the single most important factor in a student’s achievement. My priority is to treat our educators as professionals and empower them in the classroom.

One of our caucus agenda goals is to pass a scholarship program specifically designed for the next generation of Indiana educators. Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) is the author of this important legislation, and I intend to fully support it as it comes through my committee. The scholarship would be available to top-performing high school graduates who have enrolled at an Indiana college of education. Applicants must either be in the top 20 percent of their graduating high school class or in the top twentieth percentile of the ACT or SAT. The competitive award will be limited to 200 students each year and provide up to $7,500 annually over the course of four years of undergraduate study. The key obligation of the scholarship is that recipients graduate, obtain a teaching license and then teach at least five consecutive years in an Indiana classroom.

In addition to recruiting the best and the brightest to the education profession, we must also examine how we can keep current educators in our classrooms. I have worked on legislation that will give schools flexibility in their health care and retirement plan options as well as the ability to offer supplemental pay for hard-to-fill positions. If our schools cannot compete for scarce skillsets, they will always be at a disadvantage in the wider economy. My committee is also looking forward to hearing a bill that would give schools the tools to design and implement mentorship programs for new teachers and career development programs for experienced teachers. Studies clearly demonstrate mentored teachers are more likely to remain in the profession and succeed in the classroom, whereas veteran teachers want opportunities and recognition for additional responsibilities.

Over the past several months, I have heard from many teachers, parents and school administrators concerning the spring 2015 ISTEP scores. I want you to know that those concerns have been heard and acted upon. We have worked tirelessly these first two weeks of session to discuss and vote on legislation that will hold both schools and teachers harmless from the spring 2015 ISTEP scores. Already, two bills have made it half way through the legislative process. Legislation I authored, House Bill 1003, decouples ISTEP scores from teacher evaluations, while Senate Bill 200, a bill I sponsored, will prevent schools from receiving an A-F grade lower than their 2013-14 grade. I am pleased to see both the House, the Senate, the governor’s office and Department of Education working together, and I expect to see both bills sent to the governor’s desk by the end of this month. During this transition to higher academic standards, educators and schools should not be unfairly penalized.

As the session continues, I would like to hear from you on all issues, not just education. As your state representative, it is my responsibility to be your voice at the Statehouse. Please contact me at h91@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9643 to share your opinion with me.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents

portions of Marion and Hendricks counties.