The Indiana State Teachers Association is pressing forward on demands for lawmakers to send more funding to schools for better teacher pay despite most legislative leaders saying big budget asks have to wait until 2021.
ISTA announced its full legislative agenda for 2020 Tuesday, building off of demands made during the Red for Ed rallies at the statehouse in November. Those priorities include removing a career awareness training requirement for teachers, more funding for schools to support teacher pay and holding schools harmless for a drop in state test scores.
Officials have already agreed to hold schools harmless for the drop in scores. But ISTA President Keith Gambill also says the state should separate test scores from teacher evaluations for good. He says teachers who help students make up for being years behind aren’t recognized for their successes under the current system if the student still fails the exam.
“The teacher that moved a child a year and a half is not considered effective because they didn’t pass the test,” he says.
Legislative leaders have said they likely won’t open the state budget this year, but ISTA is also pressing for at least $75 million in surplus funding to go to schools.
Gambill says without an immediate “good faith” investment this year, the state will have a harder time offering competitive teacher salaries in the region as surrounding states raise their own teachers’ pay.
“And to think that we can wait a year and we’re going to be closer to meeting that goal is short-sighted,” he says.
Lawmakers have pointed to cutting back school administration costs as a possible solution to free up more money in school budgets. Gambill says it could free up some dollars in different school corporations. But he says more regulations and an increased amount of testing have likely made new administrative duties and roles necessary for schools to operate.
“You have to look at some of the mandates that are placed on schools that have created the addition of some of our administrative positions,” he says.
ISTA also wants more freedom for teachers’ collective bargaining rights, something Gambill says would be a welcomed addition to any deregulation measures lawmakers may consider.
Other issues the union plans to focus on include increasing the number of school counselors in the state to support students, accountability for all schools receiving state funding, and figuring out the best funding formula for schools with large populations of at-risk students.