It is hard to believe that we are rapidly approaching the end of the 2015 legislative session. Looking back on some of the major pieces of legislation that have passed out the House, I wanted to highlight some of the strides we made to advance our education system. It is my hope that students, teachers and parents all across the state will benefit from these initiatives.
Education has always been a top priority of mine, and as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, it is important to me that our budget reflects that. As it passed out of the House, the state’s two year budget, House Bill (HB) 1001, makes the largest investment in K-12 education in Indiana’s history. In fact, over 50 percent of our budget is dedicated to K-12 funding. It also increases the foundation amount, or the minimum guarantee, that each school would receive per student.
However, I truly believe that success in the classroom begins with teachers. They work tirelessly to prepare the next generation of Hoosier leaders and understand what works best for each student. We must ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to be successful, without spending their hard-earned dollars out of pocket. This is why our budget includes a $200 tax credit for teachers who purchase classroom supplies. Additionally, the House budget also rewards effective and highly effective educators by allocating $60 million in teacher performance grants.
Our state has some of the finest, education pioneers in the nation, and the more flexibility they have over classroom instruction, the more students will reach their potential. That is why I was proud to support HB 1009, known as the Freedom to Teach bill. This measure allows a group of teachers, a principal or superintendent to submit a plan to create an environment in which innovative education systems can be developed, implemented and assessed. In other words, it provides teachers with greater flexibility to improve educational performance, student outcomes as well as ways to increase teacher salaries.
Recently, an article published in the Washington Post referenced 70 public schools in 15 states, headed by teachers, who are not only restructuring the learning process to better inspire students, but through their ideas, catapulting student performance as well. Additionally, teacher retention is less of a problem at these schools, which is one of the main goals of this bill, and I was proud to support it.