Huston: Education continues to be a top priority

Friday, November 22, 2019

As we move closer to the start of the 2020 legislation session, I have talked with Hoosiers in our community on a variety of issues. Recently, education has been a topic at the forefront of many conversations. As I listen to educators and parents, I am encouraged by the progress and leadership our local schools have demonstrated in many areas, including raising teacher pay.

Our outstanding educators play a vital role in shaping Indiana’s next generation, and their work does not go unnoticed. This year, more than 80% of school districts gave teachers and staff a well-deserved pay bump, including our own. Hamilton Southeastern educators can expect an average increase of 5.7% in 2020 and 3.3% in 2021. This comes after the state paid down $150 million in local schools’ teacher pension obligations, which freed up more than $70 million for districts to pay teachers more. This payroll savings will continue for several years. The current two-year state budget sustained Indiana’s commitment to K-12 education, appropriating over $17 billion, including $763 million in new dollars – a historic investment. Indiana ranks third in the nation for the highest percentage of state expenditures dedicated to K-12 education. 

While the state went all in for education, I welcome continued dialogue as I continue to prioritize our students, teachers and schools.

This year, both students and educators had to adjust to a tougher, new standardized exam called ILEARN. Because of this, the governor along with House and Senate leadership have already called to hold teachers and schools harmless from these transition-year test scores, ensuring educators are not unfairly penalized. Legislators will take immediate action when session reconvenes in January.  

The impact teachers have on our students expands beyond the walls of our school buildings as they prepare students to enter the workforce or college. An update to teacher licensing requirements focused on workforce development has drawn criticism. 

When educators renew their licenses, they have four different options. They can complete six hours of college coursework, participate in the National Board Certification process, count other educational requirements from other concurrently held licenses toward the professional educator license, or develop a Professional Growth Plan. If a teacher chooses the PGP option, they must earn 90 professional growth points or hours over the course of five years.

Under a new law, 15 of these 90 professional growth points must relate to a teacher’s community or the state’s workforce needs. This is a result of a recommendation by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, which worked with educators, counselors, business leaders, parents and the Indiana Department of Education to bring employers and educators together. These 15 points can be earned through existing or new professional development opportunities like webinars at their school and conferences provided by the state, or through more intensive experiences like business partnerships or externships. Teacher externships are already commonplace around the state. What opportunities qualify for PGP points is a decision made by a teacher’s school. This change in law does not require teachers to earn additional points or dedicate more time for licensure renewal.

Knowing the thoughts of you and your family is very important to me. Please contact my office at H37@iga.in.gov if you have any input to offer, so I can continue to serve our community. 

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State Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) represents House District 37, 
which includes portions of Hamilton County.
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here to download a high-resolution photo.