Indiana House Republicans have unveiled their legislative agenda for the 2019 Indiana General Assembly. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the caucus will focus on passing a balanced state budget, strengthening school safety and increasing teacher pay.
The House GOP also plans to focus on increasing protections for Hoosier youth, strengthening the caucus’ commitment to students and teachers, better aligning workforce initiatives and supporting Indiana veterans. State Representative Dale DeVon (R-Granger) has authored House Bill 1003, which will set a target for schools to spend at least 85 percent of state funding on instruction expenses. Bosma said if all public school districts met that goal, it could result in a 5 percent salary increase or more for teachers.
Additional bills are expected to be introduced that will create career ladders to help experienced teachers step into new roles and advance in the profession, and create residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom. Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children – Indiana, says there are three key elements must be addressed in order to reverse the state’s teacher shortage.
"It’s a meaningful investment in compensation to make sure that teachers are seeing a bump so that they’re staying and kids ultimately are seeing benefit from that," said Ohlemiller. "I think it’s investing in career opportunities and career growth for educators. Career ladders are key in order to attract the best and the brightest and keep them in the classroom. Third, it’s investment in teacher preparation and ensursing we’re preparing teachers, that we’re recruiting the tops in terms of talent and keeping them in the classroom. Those three areas are going to require investment if we’re going to solve this critical issue."
Bosma says passing a balanced biennial budget will be the top priority for the session, which will include providing an additional $286 million to the Indiana Department of Child Services. He says that requirement narrows the first fiscal year’s budgetary focus to funding the state’s key priorities, including K-12 education.
"Passing an honestly balanced two-year state budget will take center stage, but we are also focused on passing our aggressive legislative agenda aimed at moving Indiana forward in many key areas, including school safety, teacher pay and our workforce," Bosma said in a news release. "We are hitting the ground running to ensure a productive legislative session, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and Senate, and Gov. Eric Holcomb."
House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) released a statement Monday calling the Republican’s agenda "thunderous in its nothingness."
"The GOP priorities listed are the same ones that have been a part of Republican agendas stretching over the past three administrations: Cut spending at all costs in order to increase the surplus. When in doubt about what to cut, study and delay making any decisions…unless it comes to cutting taxes for big business," GiaQuinta said. "Republicans continue to talk about the same things: Maintaining an honestly balanced budget…as if our state Constitution doesn’t now require it. Education funding…which usually means more experimentation with the education-for-profit industry. Workforce development…which generally leads to additional tax credits for large corporations."