Funding education, promoting innovation

Posted by: Kim Heffner  | Friday, March 6, 2015

This session has been declared the session of education, and for good reason. The General Assembly continues to make Hoosier education our top priority, and this year we have reached new heights in our effort to provide the best possible education for every one of our students. The House has already passed many bills geared toward promoting excellence and innovation in education.

The bill that will have the greatest impact on education is the budget, House Bill (HB) 1001. I have already shared about the budget in past columns, but I want to share a few thoughts about how the budget will affect Hoosier education in the coming biennium. Sixty-four percent of Indiana’s $31 billion budget is dedicated to education. The foundation funding, which is the base amount, has been increased by $522 per child over the biennium. This ensures that each child is provided with the resources necessary for him or her to receive the highest quality education available.

Along with the budget, the House passed various other bills that will continue improving Indiana education, some of which are funded through the budget. One bill is HB 1635, which establishes a dual language immersion pilot program in Indiana. It is important that we give students more opportunities to learn other languages in order to be a more lucrative asset in the globally dynamic marketplace that is growing in our nation. As a result, it is increasingly important that our students be prepared to enter a multi-lingual job force. The pilot program offers Spanish, French and Chinese as initial language options with the opportunity to have additional languages approved by the Department of Education. The bill stipulates that the program should begin with Kindergarten or First Grade students, and that at least fifty percent of daily instruction should occur in the chosen foreign language. Young children are especially well-equipped to learn languages, and this program will give Hoosier students a great advantage as they continue their school careers.

The General Assembly is well aware that if we want our students in Indiana to succeed, we must provide teachers with excellent support. One of our bills this year provides support to teachers in a unique way. HB 1005 establishes a tax credit for teachers, enabling them to receive up to a $200 tax credit for purchasing classroom supplies. Teachers provide many supplementary school supplies for their students each year, paying for them out of pocket. This tax credit will relieve the financial burden on Indiana teachers while helping them provide necessary items for their students.

Another initiative geared toward teachers is HB 1009, the Freedom to Teach program. This program allows a group of teachers, a principal, or a superintendent (or a combination thereof) to submit a plan to a school board to designate a school or district(s) as a Freedom to Teach school/district. These zones would be exempt from various burdensome regulations, allowing teachers and administrators the flexibility to be as innovative as possible. The program also provides grants to Freedom to Teach zones, allowing educators in these zones to implement their new ideas. The goal is to promote creativity and innovation in the classroom.

The General Assembly dedicates large amounts of time and energy to Indiana education because we believe it is the path to safeguarding the future of our state. Educating our children ensures the success of the next generation. I am proud of the progress Indiana has made in providing excellent education to our students, and the work of Hoosier teachers is admirable.

I am honored to represent you in Indiana’s General Assembly. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your comments and concerns as the session continues. I can be reached by phone at 317-232-9651 or by email at


Rep. Cherry represents portions of Hancock and Madison counties. He serves as Vice Chairman of Ways and Means. He also serves on the Local Government Committee and the Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee.