Supporting Hoosier teachers

Posted by: Kim Heffner  | Monday, March 23, 2015

Education has long been a high priority for the General Assembly and this session is no different. We made it our focus to improve education not only for students, but for teachers as well. Hoosier teachers work tirelessly to make sure our students receive an excellent education, and the General Assembly has proposed several bills to help them be as effective as possible in the classroom.

The House Republicans’ highest priority bill this session, House Bill (HB) 1001, is the budget. It will fund our state for the next two years. Within the budget, there are many provisions that serve teachers; one is increased funding for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers. The budget dedicates $10 million over the next two years to recruit STEM teachers for schools that need their expertise the most.

In addition, the budget allocates $2 million each year to reward teachers who are ranked as effective or highly effective in priority and focus schools. Another budget item is an increase in Indiana’s General Fund contribution to the Pre-1996 Teacher’s Retirement Account. This increase is outlined in HB 1481 and accounts for the cost of living increases that have occurred in recent years. Both present and past teachers receive well-deserved support from this year’s budget.

Another bill that supports teachers, which I authored and have shared about before, is HB 1009. This bill, called “Freedom to Teach,” grants teachers and school administrators more freedom to apply innovative teaching methods in the classroom. Freedom to Teach gives teachers and other education professionals the opportunity to submit a plan to a school board to designate their school, group of schools or district as a Freedom to Teach school/district.

Within this zone, certain state regulations are lifted which will allow teachers to apply their creativity more often in classroom. Additionally, HB 1009 would also establish the Career Pathways Pilot Program to reward excellent teachers, who assume additional leadership roles, with pay raises. Indiana teachers have dedicated extensive time and effort to honing their teaching skills, and Freedom to Teach allows them to more easily apply their skills and implement new methods in their classrooms. By encouraging teachers and providing them more flexibility and resources, I am confident Hoosier students will receive many benefits.

HB 1005, the teacher tax credit, is a practical piece of legislation that addresses a difficulty many Hoosier teachers face. Though parents provide many of their children’s school supplies, teachers also provide many classroom supplies for their students. Often, teachers spend their own money on these supplies, which is money that belongs to them or their families. In order to offset this burden, this legislation gives Hoosier teachers a tax credit of up to $200 for classroom supplies. Although this might not cover the total amount teachers spend, it is a step in the right direction and our way of giving back and supporting Indiana’s educators.

If we want to continue our tradition of excellent education in Indiana, we must provide Hoosier teachers with the support they need. These bills and others are designed to help teachers be as effective as possible. I value your feedback on these and other matters concerning our state. I can be reached at 317-232-9643 or h91@iga.in.gov.

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Rep. Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Marion and Hendricks counties. He also serves as Chairman of the Education Committee.