Cook: Transformative budget makes historic investments in Hoosier students, teachers

Posted by: Andi Sommers  | Friday, April 30, 2021

As Hoosiers roll up their sleeves to get their COVID-19 vaccinations and head back to work, Indiana's economy is bouncing back from the pandemic faster than most states in our region. Much of this is thanks to nearly a decade of fiscal responsibility as we lived within our means and saved for rainy days. Our state has proved that conservative leadership matters and now lawmakers are able to make historic investments in our students and educators, pay down debt, and set us up for future tax cuts and reforms.

This session, lawmakers passed the state's next two-year state budget with a primary focus on funding our priorities, including K-12 education, which is set to receive $1.9 billion in new money over the next two years. This includes $600 million annually to increase teacher pay, which exceeds the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission's recommendations. In the budget, we strongly recommend schools use this money to raise minimum starting teacher salaries to $40,000 per year. We also require schools to dedicate at least 45% of their tuition dollars to teacher pay. While we know some of our local schools already meet this standard, all districts need to meet this benchmark. Schools that do not meet these requirements will report to the Indiana Department of Education or request a waiver. For some students, teachers have the most profound impact on their lives. Because of the important role they serve, we must support our educators. I believe this historic investment helps us continue this commitment.

Our budget also works to address issues many of our students face throughout their educational journey. Learning loss is a problem young Hoosiers often encounter when they come back to school in the fall after summer break. However, the pandemic has further exacerbated this problem as many spent months learning from home without some of the resources they typically get in the classroom. This budget invests $150 million to establish the Student Learning Recovery Grant Program to help students who have fallen behind in class, scored below academic standards or are at risk of falling behind.

Our next biennial budget also continues to strengthen our commitment to young Hoosiers with other strategic investments, including increasing special education grants by 5% and 10% in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 respectively, and raising the complexity grant $100 over what schools received during fiscal year 2021.

Indiana's history of fiscal prudence has put our state in a better position to further invest in our young Hoosiers and educators, which will help us push through this last leg of the pandemic. If you have any questions about Indiana's two-year budget or how I can better serve our community, please reach out to my office at H32@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

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