The General Assembly gave final approval to a bill this week that pressures schools to spend more money on teachers.
House Bill 1003 aims to keep schools from using funds intended for classroom expenses – like teacher pay – to address other operational needs.
The bill says if schools transfer more than 15% from their classroom spending account, they have to tell the state why and how they might avoid doing it in the future.
The requirements aren’t technically punitive, but some Democrats, including Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) say it seems like a tool to shame school districts instead of addressing state school funding levels.
“I got the sense that this bill is kind of more about messaging and advancing the narrative that, if there’s a problem with teacher pay, perhaps it resides down at the local level,” he says.
The bill also requires the state to create an annual report on teacher compensation, and include data on the number of newly-hired and retiring teachers. It also requires more information on pay for different types of employees, and comparisons to surrounding states.
Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers), one of the state’s lead budget writers says that data will give a clearer picture on teacher pay, and where progress is being made.
“You know, we have reports that show us anywhere from in the top 10 to the bottom 10, so let’s get the real comparison that looks at all those factors, and that’s what House Bill 1003 does,” he says.
Some educators and officials who support the bill say it will help improve accountability in local spending.
Lawmakers plan to finalize the state’s next two years of school funding by Wednesday night.