Ubelhor: Making education a top priority

Posted by: Jessica Baker  | Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Education is a topic that we all have varying opinions on. However, one thing we can all agree is that having the highest quality education system is critical to our future. I know, personally, I have put education first as your representative and look forward to building on that progress this session.

It takes teamwork to move our education system forward, and I have enjoyed working with members, on both sides of the aisle, to ensure that our policies not only exceed the national norms, but that they benefit students, teachers and parents alike. We recognize that in order for Indiana’s future leaders to succeed, they need a strong educational foundation, which requires good leadership, sound policy and financial support.

One of the main issues we vowed to address this year is to fix the school funding formula. First off, it is important to note that our state’s two year budget is still in the process of being reviewed and debated in order to best serve Hoosiers. In fact, many factors that determine how much money each school is appropriated, like the student count and the April revenue forecast, have not yet occurred.

Unfortunately, the budget that was proposed did not increase funding for the rural schools in my district. Although it was just the first draft, if the budget passes in its current form, five out of eight schools in my district would lose money. This is why I chose to vote against the budget and the proposed funding formula when it was up for vote in the House.

However, there were many aspects of the formula that I did agree with. For example, the budget increases education spending by $469 million, making the largest investment in state history.  We also provided $31 million over the biennium to expand and improve Career and Technical Education programs.

I was also proud to co-sponsor legislation that would provide teachers that purchase classroom supplies a $200 tax credit. Every year, countless teachers spend their hard-earned dollars on classroom supplies, and whether it is on decorations, tissues or markers, that money should be going into to their pockets or to their families. Although this legislation might not cover all of the cost, it certainly is a step in the right direction.

Our state has some of the best educators in the nation, and the more flexibility they have in the classroom, the more students will reach their full potential. That is why I was proud to support HB 1009, known as the Freedom to Teach Bill. This initiative 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. It provides teachers with higher pay and greater flexibility to improve educational performance and students outcomes.

The goal of this bill is to empower Hoosier teachers. A recent Washington Post article mentioned that 70 public schools in 15 states, which are led by teachers, are not only redesigning the learning process to better engage students, but through their ideas, improving student performance as well. On top of that, these schools are retaining more teachers. It is vital to the growth of Hoosier students that we allow teachers to adapt their classrooms to meet the needs of Hoosier children, and I was proud to support this bill.

As these bills continue to make their way through the legislative process, I look forward to working for our community and, once again, making education a priority this session. While it is important to ensure that we live within our means, as your representative, it is my hope that the final version of the budget will benefit the schools in our community. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these bills, please contact me by phone at (317) 232-9863 or email h62@iga.in.gov.

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Rep. Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) represents the majority of Greene County and portions of Monroe, Martin and Daviess counties. He serves as a member of the Ways and Means, Public Policy and the Natural Resources committees.