McNamara: Making education a top priority

Posted by: Jessica Baker  | Thursday, February 4, 2016

Education is an area that I continue to dedicate a majority of my time to, and I believe it is imperative that our students obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in today’s global economy.  Working in education, I understand how important it is to provide students with the best programs in order to prepare them for their careers. This session, I have supported legislation that focuses on keeping talented teachers in Indiana classrooms.

House Bill (HB) 1004 seeks to improve the state’s recruitment and retention of education professionals. This bill would allow educators with out-of-state teaching licenses to work in Indiana, offer more flexible retirement plans and allow schools to offer a salary anywhere on the pay scale for teachers who work in difficult-to-fill positions, while continuing to provide for local control. These incentives will allow Indiana to attract more experienced teachers and with that improve Indiana schools.

Another piece of legislation that works to retain our qualified teachers is HB 1005. If enacted, this bill would establish a career pathways and mentorship program. New teachers are paired with experienced instructors and are allowed to move up on the pay scale during their first two years. This allows new educators to gain experience and knowledge that cannot always be acquired through schooling. It provides the opportunity for instructors to focus specifically on teaching. This program also incentivizes the more experienced teachers by compensating them for their mentorship. HB 1005 gives educators the ability to develop professionally, while staying in the classroom.

Ensuring our students are receiving the best education possible is one of my permanent goals, and keeping dual-credit classes in our schools will help achieve that. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) announced new standards for dual-credit teachers this past spring. The HLC now requires educators to hold at least a master’s degree and 18 graduate credit hours in the subject they are teaching in order for them to teach dual-credit courses. This new requirement could force 1,200 qualified teachers to stop teaching dual-credit courses. HB 1370 addresses this problem by having state schools work with universities to waive all or part of tuition fees for a teacher who has a master’s degree, but still needs the additional credit hours to meet the HLC requirements. If the new standards are not resolved we will lose dual-credit teachers and our high school students will be the ones who ultimately suffer. Dual-credit courses offer students the chance to become college and career ready, as well as the ability to cut future tuition costs. If we eliminate these teachers from this program, those students will no longer have the opportunity to get a head start on their college education and their careers. Education is an indispensable resource and we must work with our schools to address the problems federal rules and regulations cause.

Education is something that I have always been passionate about, and making sure that Hoosiers receive a high quality education will remain a priority of mine. However, I understand that there are many issues besides education that need to be addressed. As always, please contact me at h76@iga.in.gov or by phone at 1(800)-382-9841 if you have any questions or input.

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 Rep. McNamara (R-Evansville) represents portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.