Every two years, the Legislature is tasked with crafting the state’s biennial budget. I have now been through three budget cycles, all of which have stayed firm to our commitment to fiscal integrity and living within our means.
This year, I am particularly proud of our efforts to not only protect our state in the event of future economic decline, but also significantly increase our investment in education. Although we need to be prudent and good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we must also keep in mind that an investment in education is an investment in our students’ futures.
Indiana has prided itself on the fact that over 50 percent of the state’s budget is dedicated to education. This year, House Republicans went one step further, appropriating the most dollars ever spent for K-12 education. We also raised the foundation amount, which is like a minimum guarantee that each school receives per pupil, by an estimated 11.4 percent. These increases will provide much needed relief to our local school systems.
In total, an additional $469 million, which equates to a 4.7 percent increase, would be allocated to education over the biennium. This unprecedented investment will benefit students of all ages and all needs. For example, previous tuition support formulas only counted kindergarten students as a half student and provided a flat grant to fund the second half of the day. However, for the first time, our proposed budget provides that kindergarten students will be counted as full students within the formula.
The budget also aims to expand programs which I have outspokenly supported in the past, including career and technical education programs. More than $30 million has been allocated for the expansion and improvement of these programs, which help prepare Hoosier students for life after high school.
This investment will incentivize schools to develop stronger and clearer pathways for career readiness. Funding for adult high schools would also see an increase of nearly $5 million over the biennium, resulting in more second chance opportunities for those who did not finish high school.
When it comes to improving Indiana’s education system though, we must also look beyond the student. We have to commit to supporting teachers as well. To illustrate this, our budget provides teachers who purchase classroom supplies out of their own pocket with a $200 tax credit. It also continues to reward effective and highly effective educators by allotting $60 million in teacher performance grants.
After months of crunching numbers, I am pleased with the much needed assistance this budget would provide schools across our community. I truly believe that this investment cements education as Indiana’s highest priority and sends a message to both students and teachers that Indiana not only supports them, but is committed to their success.
For more information on the 2015 House budget, please visit: iga.in.gov.