It has been almost eight months since the House Republicans introduced our agenda for the 2015 legislative session. Being an odd-numbered year, we knew that crafting the state’s biennial budget would be the biggest task before us. However, we also vowed to make this an education session.
One of the cornerstones of the American way of life is that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, which begins by having a quality education system. This sets the stage for student success and is absolutely critical to move our state forward.
This session, in order to provide the kind of quality education that every Hoosier student deserves, House Republicans made the largest increase to K-12 funding in state history. This $474 million increase will provide each and every school district in our community with a net increase in funding over the biennium.
In addition to increasing funding, we also wanted to reduce regulatory burdens and allow schools to focus more time and resources on the classroom. The volume of state regulations for public schools has grown for years, and as a result, schools spend far too much time and resources on completing reports and worrying about maintaining compliance. This diverts money and resources away from the students.
To address this, we passed legislation which repeals obsolete, duplicative and burdensome regulations impacting Hoosier schools. Examples of these regulations include a requirement that schools report their absence policies, a requirement that school libraries stock free material for student and parent use as well as a requirement that schools follow certain procedures regarding the distribution of obsolete textbooks and curriculum material.
This legislation, which received bipartisan support, was the product of over a year and a half of work by 27 school districts, large and small, from across Indiana. These schools identified and provided direct input on the areas of education law which were unnecessary and restrict local leadership and control. Together, we worked to reduce these burdens without removing or weakening accountability or transparency.
To further strengthen our education system and those who keep it functioning, we also developed a $100 tax credit for teachers who dip into their own family budget to purchase school supplies for their classrooms. These teachers work tirelessly every day to support our students, and by providing a tax credit for the first time, we were able to give them the support they deserve.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s future leaders, and our education system must reflect that. I am extremely proud that we were able to work together this session to create a variety of new laws that benefit students, parents and teachers alike. I am confident that these laws will provide welcome relief to many schools in our district.
I am thankful for all of your valuable feedback this session and appreciate all of the phone calls, emails and those who attended town hall meetings in an effort to make Indiana an even better place. Now that session has adjourned, I am already enjoying being back home in District 67, and I hope to see you out and about in our community!