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Teachers continue to put pressure on lawmakers as session begins

Posted at 11:20 PM, Jan 08, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — Three days into Indiana's legislative session, education is one of the top issues lawmakers are tackling.

That's welcome news for the thousands of teachers from across Indiana who rallied at the Statehouse less than two months ago.

Ben Yoder was one of the more prominent teachers at November's Red For Ed rally at the Statehouse when they asked legislators for policies they said will help them be better teachers.

"We're continuing to try and put pressure on the legislators and keep that momentum going," Yoder said.

One of the first orders of business when the legislative session began Monday was to do something about ILEARN, the state's standardized test, after fewer than half of Indiana's students met the expected achievement level in last spring's exam.

House Bill 1001 would protect teachers from being penalized for their students' ILEARN performance. It would also put in place a two-year delay in using ILEARN scores for school ratings, giving schools time to adjust from the ISTEP exam.

"That is a very positive step in the right direction. We have always said that these tests being coupled to teacher evaluations really isn't fair," Yoder said.

While many teachers are celebrating the ILEARN bill, they know pay raises are more than likely off the table. Yoder, however, remains optimistic.

"Even though this isn't a budget year for us here in Indiana, we still believe there are things that our legislators can do to help ease some of the burdens that we are facing right now," he said.

Yoder said there are thousands of teachers who feel the same way as him. They love their jobs, their students, their community, and they hope legislators consider that commitment.

"We intend to continue to remind them in nice ways that this is something important and this is an investment in our state's future," he said.

Senate Democrats plan to hold a press conference Thursday morning at the Statehouse about their teacher pay bills that will more than likely be shot down by Republicans who control the Senate. Democrats attempted Tuesday to give teachers a one-time bonus of around $4,000 each from $291 million in unexpected state tax revenue.

That idea was shot down by Republicans, who said they agreed with Gov. Eric Holcomb's budget office that it would not be the best use for the money. The funds instead will be used for college campus construction projects.

Holcomb plans to address teacher pay in his State of the State Address next week, but he hasn't shared any details.