In order to perform well at college, a student must do well in high school, and in order for a student to do well in high school, they need effective teachers. As lawmakers, we must provide Hoosier students access to high-quality education by helping schools retain and recruit the best and the brightest educators.
There is no question that great teachers have an impact on the future leaders of our community. That is why in the 2016 session, lawmakers are considering two important bills regarding the evaluation of education in Indiana — one for teachers and one for schools.
From the House of Representatives, legislation that directly affects teacher evaluations passed on Tuesday. This bill will decouple teacher bonuses from the spring 2015 ISTEP scores. Teacher evaluations will only be included if these scores benefit the educator. By doing this, teachers who saw an improvement in their classes’ ISTEP scores are able to receive recognition in their evaluations. During the state’s transition to higher standards, we want to ensure our already great teachers are not unfairly penalized due to this expected drop in scores. House Bill 1003, of which I co-sponsored, will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation coming out of the Senate addresses school evaluations and performance measurements. This bill provides that a school’s new evaluation grade cannot be lower than the state-awarded grade the school received the year before. Any consequences a school could receive based on poor performance cannot be administered unless the school falls into the lowest A-F category for the 2014-2015 school year. By defaulting to the higher of the two grades, we are able to keep accountability in place without unfairly penalizing the school. After passing out of the Senate, the bill was heard by the House Education Committee. Members voted to send it to the full House of Representatives for consideration. I supported and voiced this in public this summer in study committee that this was a path we should take.
This session, I am authoring five bills. One would amend a collective bargaining agreement between a school corporation and the governing body if both parties agree to its terms. Another deals with membership of redevelopment commissions. This bill would require that the commissioner of a redevelopment commission be a member of the school board of a school that includes the redevelopment commission’s taxing district.
I am also focusing on K-12 education funding. This bill would remove deadlines for school money projects. It would also allow a school corporation to use its debt service property tax rate for 2016, while also providing compensation for teachers and personnel after 2016. The next bill deals with teacher salary scales. Under this bill, changes would be made to determine increases or increments in a local salary range. It would also remove an obsolete provision.
Finally, I have filed a bill that endorses Spanish language proficiency in the workplace. It would provide students, who are about to graduate school and join the workforce, the opportunity to have a special distinction on their diploma stating that they are proficient in speaking Spanish.
As a member of the House Education Committee, I will be following these bills. Please contact me with any questions or input at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (317)232-9678.
Rep. Cook (R-Cicero) represents Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Howard, Grant, Madison and Delaware counties.