Indiana GOP holding off teacher pay action in 2020 session

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb wants to wait for recommendations later this year from his teacher pay commission rather than have lawmakers take action during their session that’s set to last until early March.

Posted: Jan 5, 2020 10:47 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Top Indiana Republicans are inclined to wait another year before further boosting school funding despite a Statehouse rally by several thousand teachers and state tax revenues growing faster than expected.

Members of the Republican-dominated General Assembly will return Monday to the Statehouse in Indianapolis for their 2020 session, during which they will face continued calls from teacher unions and Democrats for better teacher pay and less reliance on standardized student test scores for evaluation of schools and educators.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb wants to wait for recommendations later this year from his teacher pay commission rather than have lawmakers take action during their session that’s set to last until early March.

Legislators are expected to quickly approve proposals to delay penalties to schools and teachers from lower 2019 student scores on the state’s new ILEARN standardized test.

Holcomb also wants them to enact a statewide ban on drivers using handheld cellphones.

A look at some of the top issues:

CASH CLASH

Several thousand teachers surrounded the Statehouse for a November rally that prompted the closing of more than half of the state’s school districts, calling for increases to Indiana’s lagging teacher pay and more respect from Republican lawmakers.

Teacher union leaders and Democratic legislators maintain the state has money to give more to schools now — pointing to about $300 million in unexpected tax revenue that the state collected last budget year and nearly $250 million, or 4%, that’s come in beyond projections since July 1.

Holcomb wants legislators to direct about $300 million toward paying cash rather than borrowing money for several planned construction projects, such as a new veterinary hospital at Purdue University and building plans at Ball State University, the University of Southern Indiana and Ivy Tech State College in Columbus.

The governor’s request includes $50 million for replacing a nearly century-old structure at the Indiana State Fairgrounds — a project panned by Democrats as showing greater priority for a swine barn than teacher pay or other neglected needs.

Holcomb sticks by the Republican argument that the state budget’s 2.5% increase for K-12 schools for this school year and next represents “historic, unprecedented progress.”

He says more needs to be done to make Indiana teacher pay more competitive with other Midwestern states but will wait on the report from the teacher pay commission he appointed in February 2019.

“We are going to do it methodically. It’s going to be formulaic,” Holcomb said.

The state’s largest teachers union is asking for $75 million that it says could provide a 1% across-the-board raise for teachers as a “down payment” so the pay gap doesn’t grow larger.

“Let’s face it — the governor isn’t going to get us into the top three in the region by suppressing Illinois’ pay scale,” Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said. “They are going to have to lift the salaries of Indiana teachers. And to think that we can wait a year and we’re going to be closer to meeting that goal is short sighted.”

Education advocacy groups estimated last year that a 9% funding increase was needed to boost average teacher pay of about $50,000 a year to the midpoint of Indiana’s neighboring states, while GOP state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick cited a study showing Indiana as the state with the lowest teacher salary increases since 2002.

STUDENT TESTING

Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders are backing a one-year delay in using the student results from the spring 2019 ILEARN exam so they don’t hurt teacher evaluations or the A-F ratings for schools.

That comes after language arts and math results released in September showed about 48% off students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded proficiency standards in those subjects.

Those are both more than 10 percentage points lower than the passing rates in 2018 under the now-discarded ISTEP exam.

Teachers want to suspend the use of those student test results on teacher evaluations and in determining pay raises, saying the “high-stakes tests” don’t accurately demonstrate teacher performance.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who has long supported the use of student scores for evaluating teachers, said recently lawmakers should take a “hard look” at ending that practice.

“Maybe that doesn’t make as much sense as it seemed to 20 years ago,” Bosma said.

SMOKING ISSUES

Holcomb and Bosma both recently backed raising the state’s minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21, but with Congress voting in December to make that the national age it is unclear what, if any, steps the Legislature will take on the issue.

The governor and top GOP lawmakers, however, are firm in their opposition toward legalizing the use of marijuana.

That’s even as recreational marijuana sales have started recently in Illinois and Michigan and medical use is allowed in Ohio.

Bills have been filed to end possible prison sentences for possession of small marijuana amounts and permit some medical marijuana use in Indiana, but similar proposals haven’t received committee hearings or votes in previous years.

Anti-smoking advocates want the state to boost its cigarette tax and start imposing a tax on vaping liquids, but that is another matter GOP leaders say they won’t take up until the 2021 session when a new two-year state budget is written.

CELLPHONE BAN

The governor wants legislators to prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones.

State law prohibits texting while driving, but officials say that law has proven unenforceable.

The governor’s office says 20 other states already have similar cellphone bans and that the crash risk is 3.5 times greater when a driver is using a handheld device.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 109683

Reported Deaths: 3495
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20510758
Lake10095315
Elkhart6268107
St. Joseph593596
Allen5849198
Hamilton4589109
Vanderburgh322728
Hendricks2617120
Monroe230036
Johnson2236122
Tippecanoe214213
Clark208156
Porter201144
Cass19239
Delaware182460
Vigo173822
Madison154675
LaPorte135137
Floyd128661
Howard126163
Kosciusko117417
Bartholomew114257
Warrick109335
Marshall97524
Boone94046
Dubois92718
Hancock89842
Noble86932
Grant85833
Henry74224
Wayne73614
Jackson7279
Morgan68538
Shelby66129
LaGrange62911
Daviess62827
Dearborn61628
Clinton59012
Harrison55124
Putnam5159
Lawrence50028
Montgomery49521
White47514
Knox4689
Decatur45039
Gibson4444
DeKalb43111
Miami4223
Greene41335
Fayette41213
Jasper3752
Steuben3577
Scott35010
Sullivan32612
Jennings30712
Franklin29325
Posey2910
Clay2885
Orange28124
Ripley2788
Carroll26713
Wabash2588
Washington2511
Wells2462
Starke2457
Whitley2446
Jefferson2383
Adams2343
Fulton2292
Tipton21522
Huntington2123
Spencer2074
Randolph2037
Perry19914
Newton16711
Jay1660
Owen1641
Martin1570
Rush1494
Pike1341
Vermillion1240
Fountain1152
Pulaski1131
Blackford1092
Brown993
Crawford990
Parke932
Benton880
Ohio767
Union760
Switzerland670
Warren381
Unassigned0225

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 142596

Reported Deaths: 4608
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin25658603
Cuyahoga16981643
Hamilton12622307
Montgomery7402151
Lucas7051356
Butler550899
Summit5056248
Marion305447
Mahoning2981279
Warren287648
Stark2706168
Pickaway262344
Lorain223886
Delaware209320
Fairfield198350
Columbiana191480
Trumbull1841131
Licking183562
Clark170438
Wood164671
Clermont159420
Lake155849
Medina141238
Allen135367
Miami132649
Greene131326
Portage105666
Mercer103317
Tuscarawas90819
Wayne89366
Erie88044
Ross84822
Richland77518
Madison77012
Darke75239
Belmont70427
Geauga70147
Hancock6469
Ashtabula63848
Athens5812
Lawrence58118
Shelby5599
Auglaize5559
Sandusky55220
Putnam52823
Huron5207
Union4742
Ottawa46430
Scioto4556
Seneca42914
Preble41513
Holmes3697
Muskingum3652
Jefferson3184
Henry29012
Logan2883
Champaign2853
Perry2839
Knox27715
Clinton27613
Defiance27610
Brown2722
Hardin24813
Morrow2472
Washington24223
Coshocton23011
Fulton2281
Fayette2236
Jackson2234
Highland2193
Ashland2164
Crawford2136
Wyandot20012
Williams1953
Gallia17912
Meigs1689
Hocking1599
Guernsey1557
Carroll1497
Pike1440
Adams1194
Van Wert1113
Monroe10618
Paulding1010
Harrison601
Morgan470
Vinton453
Noble250
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 39°
Angola
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 37°
Huntington
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 37°
Decatur
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 36°
Van Wert
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 36°
Cool, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events