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What lawmakers plan to do in response to teacher concerns

Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 19:36:51-05

INDIANAPOLIS— State lawmakers are vowing to take action in response to teacher concerns raised at the statehouse Tuesday including compensation and ILEARN test results.

RTV6 spoke with Republicans and Democrats, as well as members of the House and Senate.

Lawmakers RTV6 spoke with said they support holding teachers harmless for ILEARN test results and dropping any requirements for teachers to complete 15 hours of externship to renew their teaching license.

Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), has already announced he plans to file a bill in the 2020 legislative session that would repeal the externship requirement.

“We need to let teachers do what they do best: teach our students,” Ford said. “It has been made abundantly clear what teachers think of these new licensing requirements since the bill’s passage in the spring. They feel like the state is imposing more ridiculous regulations on them that they must carve even more of their limited time outside of the classroom to complete.”

House education chair Rep. Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) told RTV6 the externship was added late in the session as an option for teachers, not as a mandate.

“There’s some confusion out there regarding licensure,” Behning said. “We are not trying to make it a burden. We’re trying to make it another opportunity, so I’m sure we will have further discussion about it.”

Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute), a teacher of 27 years, said she supports not penalizing teachers for ILEARN test results.

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“That’s the very least we can do,” Pfaff said.

Pfaff said legislation is also needed to address teacher pay.

“There’s a lot in inequity,” Pfaff said. “I teach next door to a first-year teacher that makes $35,000 and down the hall there’s a teacher who has been teaching six years and makes $36,000. We are having trouble recruiting and retaining in this profession.”

The upcoming legislative session is not a budget year, so allocating additional compensation for teacher raises and public education will be difficult.

“It’s a lot more difficult when we’re not spending money,” Behning said.

State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) said this session he plans to establish a fund where dollars can be directed in the future toward teacher salaries.

“When the budget opens back up, then we can start appropriating,” Melton said. “We have to create that process and we can do that this session.”

Some lawmakers took exception to allegations that the legislature has done nothing to help teachers or to help fund education.

“It was a historic $763 million that went to school districts this past year,” Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville) said. “To categorize we haven’t done anything wouldn’t necessarily be right.”

Both Raatz and Behning said local school districts still have control over how to spend their money, including whether to spend it on teacher raises.

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“I would definitely say people should be talking to their school boards,” Behning said.

“The General Assembly shouldn’t shirk our responsibility but neither should the local superintendent, the administration and school boards,” Raatz said.

The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is expected to issue some preliminary recommendations that would be discussed in the 2020 legislative session, Behning said.