Investing in Indiana's education system

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 20, 2015

One of my top priorities this legislative session is to strengthen our investment in Indiana’s education system. With the second half of session underway, and with several critical deadlines behind us, I wanted to highlight a few of the bills we passed in the House that continue to support Hoosier teachers while also making sure our students are receiving the tools and resources they need to succeed.

House Bill (HB) 1001, our state’s biennial budget, allocates more than $16 billion to K-12 education, which is the largest investment in our state’s history. This accounts for over half of our entire budget and a $469 million increase from the past two years. In addition, our budget would appropriate $5 million each year for STEM teacher recruitment to schools that need them the most.

We also passed legislation that would support Hoosier teachers who go above-and-beyond for their students. The goal of HB 1005 is to put money back into the pockets of educators who spend their own money on classroom supplies by providing them with a $200 tax credit. This would allow teachers to provide quality resources for their classrooms without straining their finances.

In order to give teachers more flexibility, I supported HB 1009 which would allow a governing body of one or more school corporations to establish a Freedom to Teach (F2T) school, zone or district. Teachers in a F2T school or district would have the ability to create an optimal learning environment for their students by focusing on improving student outcomes. Also, schools will receive waivers from burdensome state rules and regulations, allowing them to allocate more resources to the classroom and provide hard-working teachers with salary increases.

It is also important that we promote legislation that supports students who have special needs or disabilities. Special needs students are sometimes awarded a certificate of completion instead of a high school diploma. Without a diploma, it is difficult for these individuals to find employment even though they possess useful skills that translate to the workforce. HB 1194 would address this issue by providing the opportunity for students with learning disabilities to create an action plan to earn their diploma.

Dyslexia, which is a language-based learning disability, impacts an individual’s ability to read, write and spell words. It is estimated that one in five people in the United States experience some form of dyslexia. HB 1108 would provide teachers with more training on identifying the disorder and best practices for educating students with dyslexia. This legislation also ensures that teachers are better able to instruct every student in their classroom.

We have made great strides to improve the quality of our state’s education system, and I am proud that we have continued to build upon that progress this legislative session. I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts or concerns regarding these or other issues concerning our community and state. I can be reached at (317) 234-9447 or h63@iga.in.gov.

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Rep. Braun (R-Jasper) represents portions of Daviess, Dubois, Pike and Martin Counties. He serves on the Roads and Transportation Committee and Ways and Means Committee.