There were some notable strong successes on pro-teacher/pro-student issues during the 2016 Indiana legislative session. The Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship (HB 1002) allows the Commission for Higher Education to award college scholarships for up to 200 of the best and brightest future teachers. These students must have graduated in the top 20% of their class and received the top 20th percentile scores on the SAT/ACT exams. Upon graduation, scholarship recipients have the requirement to teach in Indiana for five consecutive years.
While the administration set up the program in HB 1002, the Legislature appropriated $10 million in HB 1001. The Chamber advocated for this program to assist with the potential teacher shortages moving forward. We believe that this legislation is a great first step in recruiting strong teachers into the field as well as helping to raise the profession. Strong teachers lead to strong students, which will eventually lead to strong and talented employees.
Also in the good bucket column is HB 1005, which also sought to assist in the teacher shortage issue by providing career pathways and mentorship opportunities for teachers in Indiana schools. The Chamber stressed that mentorship opportunities can help teachers during their beginning years and have significant application for other professions as well. Mentorship is a key tool in attracting and retaining strong employees in the workforce and it is something that the Chamber thinks could and should be utilized to help with teacher
shortages in specific areas such as STEM and special education.
We also supported language in the bill providing supplemental pay for teachers that take on leadership roles in their schools. Another teacher incentive contained in HB 1005 was the creation of a Dual Credit Teacher Stipend Matching Grant Program for eligible educators who teach dual credit courses and are in the process of obtaining or have finished their master’s degree in that subject area. No appropriation was made this year (likely next year during the budget process).
During conference committee time, Chamber-supported language from SB 334 was added into HB 1005 that would allow for a second application period for voucher students. This way if a student were to change schools during the year, it would ensure that the money truly followed the child – specifically during the second semester. Under previous law, should a student change to a different voucher school (for any reason, including parent’s job relocation, divorce, dropout, expulsion or simply to provide a better educational opportunity or fit for that child), they lose that voucher for the remainder of the school year. By contrast, if a traditional public school student were to transfer to a different traditional public school, the money follows the child for the second semester. The Chamber strongly advocated that no child should be treated any differently based on their school choice.
Opponents argued feebly that the bill was an expansion of the voucher program, but the Chamber stressed that it was merely providing students with fair access to funding for their education and did not change any eligibility requirements. Should a child need to transfer schools – for whatever reason – they should have a right to be educated and have funding follow them appropriately. Language from SB 334 regarding background checks and student safety was also added to the bill calling for a child protection index check requirement to the current system of background checks for new employees of school systems.
Specifically, the language requires that the Department of Child Services must notify a school employer if a potential employee has ever been the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect, and states that confidentiality agreements between teachers and employers moving forward can no longer protect a former employee regarding any substantiated report of child abuse or neglect.