INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI)- Governor Eric Holcomb along with other state leaders laid out the latest update to the state budget. 1.9 billion dollars in new funding will go to K-12 education. Lawmakers are making sure that money goes to teachers' pay in three ways. The first way is that the budget will suggest schools start teachers off with a salary of $40,000 a year.
If a school doesn't pay that salary to a teacher starting out they have to send an explanation to the department of education as to why the pay is lower. Indiana leaders say this will help highlight where the state would like teachers to pay to be.
Also, 45 percent of the funding the schools receive will have to go towards teachers' pay. The third way is that school will not be able to drop their teacher's salaries below the point that it was in the previous year.
State Senator and President Pro-Tem Rodric Bray said if a teacher retires the money a school district is using to pay them would have to stay in the budget for teachers' salaries.
"That pay scale is lower if you've got younger teachers making a lower salary," said President Pro-Tem Bray. "Sometimes there is the temptation to put those dollars elsewhere in the school's budget. This would help keep those funds in that teacher salary budget if it can't be lower than it was in the previous year."
The budget also expands school choice by expanding income eligibility to 300 percent. Speaker of the House Todd Huston says the salary cap in this budget plan for a family of four to qualify for vouchers is at $150,000 a year. The Senate had amended that salary cap to $95,00 a year.
Already the salary cap for families to qualify for school vouchers is facing criticism from Democrats. The Indiana Democratic Party sent out a statement saying in part. "It should not be lost on anyone that instead of providing a full investment to public schools, Republicans are choosing to give more dollars to a partisan voucher system that Republican State Senator Vaneta Becker even described as being a ‘tool for the rich to educate their kids for free."
However, the plan is gaining praise from Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner. She said in part.
“In Indiana’s budget, all Hoosier kids win,” said Secretary Jenner. “With a historic $1.9 billion in new K-12 education dollars over the biennium, Indiana’s school funding increases are enabling Indiana’s schools to strategically invest in our students as well as our educators. This transformational funding increase, in addition to the influx of more than $3 billion in emergency federal funding, puts our schools on solid footing to accelerate beyond the challenges of the last year and ensure each and every Hoosier student is prepared for lifelong success."
This plan still has to be voted on and signed before it becomes permanent. The budget also lays out a pay raise for Indiana state police and several other education, infrastructure, and health care initiatives. It also restores some funding to higher education and the unemployment fund. To read the breakdown click here.