On Wednesday Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), ranking Republican on the Education Committee, offered a plan that would give school corporations the ability to transfer money to their general operating funds to fully offset the recent budget cuts-up to $300 million.
To gain this financial flexibility, school corporations would only have to agree that they would not lay off teachers.
The compromise was offered as an amendment to Senate Bill 309 and would have given schools access to five times more money than what would be available under a House Democrat proposal (HB 1367) that was passed along a party line vote in the House earlier in the month.
Representative Behning "I am doing everything I possibly can to ensure that our schools are equipped with every possible tool to weather this financial storm. Our proposal offered maximum flexibility, sufficient funds to cover the budget cuts and protected teachers from layoffs, but unfortunately the Democrats blocked its passage."
Despite Republican efforts to reach a compromise, the amendment was defeated along a party line vote.
After voting down the Republican amendment, House Democrats then amended SB 309 to include their original proposal from HB 1367, which gives schools some flexibility in funding but does nothing to ensure that teachers are protected from layoffs.
Under the House Democrat plan, schools are permitted to transfer up to 5% of their Capital Projects Fund to their general operating fund. However, this plan only gives schools access to up to $57 million statewide, which is far less than the $300 million available under the House Republican proposal.
In the end, SB 309 (as amended) passed the House Education Committee along another party line vote.
On Thursday, the committee report for Senate Bill 309 was eligible for adoption by the full House. House Republicans once again offered their compromise language in the form of a minority committee report to Senate Bill 309, thereby allowing all members of the House to consider the proposal. Under House rules, minority committee reports must be considered before the majority committee report. However, Speaker Pat Bauer used his position of power to sidestep the process by refusing to hand down the Senate Bill 309 committee reports for consideration.
"The most important person in a student's life is a highly qualified teacher, and House Republicans do not want to increase class sizes," said Representative Behning. "I am confident that we will reach a compromise on this issue. My goal is to offer much needed flexibility to schools while protecting teachers from layoffs."