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(INDIANAPOLIS) – House Republicans are proposing public opinion can help raise teacher pay:

Republicans’ long-promised bill to steer more money to teachers proposes a goal of putting 85 cents of every educational dollar into the classroom. Their bill wouldn’t force schools to comply, but the state would compile a public report showing every school district’s numbers.

The state average is around 75 cents per dollar. The percentages don’t include items like bus service or construction, which are paid through a separate fund. Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says some school districts have valid reasons for spending a bigger slice of their budgets on administration. But he says showing the spending breakdowns will position schools which do pour money into the classroom to serve as examples for how other schools could do the same.

Bosma says every extra percent of the budget which goes to the classroom would raise teachers’ salaries about a thousand dollars.

Republicans are also proposing a grant fund to let schools create “master teacher” programs where veteran teachers could earn more by mentoring newer ones. Bosma says many teachers leave the classroom for administrative careers because there’s not a career ladder which allows them to earn more while continuing to teach.

Republican leaders have been conferring since last summer with the Indiana State Teachers Association and other education advocacy groups on a plan to boost teacher pay. ISTA president Teresa Meredith calls the proposal a good start, but notes the four-month legislative process is just beginning. She says she hopes the proposal will gain more teeth as it moves forward.

But Meredith says it’s past time for legislators to address teacher pay. She says some teachers are earning less than they were a decade ago, which prompts some to pack up and leave for other states.

The 13-member Indiana Black Legislative Caucus is calling for a more direct approach. Gary Senator Eddie Melton’s (D) bill would add money to state school funding, with a directive to local school boards to spend it on teachers. Republicans, including Governor Holcomb, have said they don’t want to interfere with local school boards’ authority over their budgets.

The teacher pay proposal is the centerpiece of House Republicans’ 2019 legislative agenda. They’re also prioritizing further school safety measures, requiring schools to partner with local mental-health agencies to get help to troubled students, and making it easier for small school districts to apply for the state’s school-security grants. And they’ll try again to cap caseloads for Department of Child Services caseworkers. An existing cap has been routinely ignored.

(Photo: Jetta Productions/Thinkstock)