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Indiana teachers push lawmakers for more money for schools

Some Indiana teachers don't believe the latest Republican-backed state budget plan does enough to support public schools — and legislative leaders are warning that they might even be faced with tightening up that spending proposal.

Posted: Apr 17, 2019 9:49 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Some Indiana teachers don't believe the latest Republican-backed state budget plan does enough to support public schools — and legislative leaders are warning that they might even be faced with tightening up that spending proposal.

Scores of red-wearing teachers spent Tuesday at the Statehouse talking with lawmakers ahead of an afternoon rally calling for additional education money. The rally was coming just hours after the state Senate voted mostly along party lines to advance a budget plan boosting base school funding by 2.7% next school year and 2.2% for the following year.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders have touted the importance of addressing Indiana's lagging teacher salaries, but education advocacy groups estimate a 9% funding increase is needed to boost average teacher pay to the midpoint of Indiana's neighboring states.

"You can say that you want to help us, and we appreciate that. But we are still behind other states and where we were years ago," said Amellia Dusch, a middle school English and social studies teacher in New Albany. "I think there is a lot of lip service."

Senate Republican leaders say that besides the $535 million in additional base school funding over the next two years, their plan would give school districts $30 million more for one-time bonuses to teachers and aims to free up district money by paying off $150 million in future teacher pension obligations.

But Democrats argued those steps were inadequate to give teachers significant pay raises. Senate Republicans rejected Democratic budget proposals aimed at making additional education money available by cutting private school voucher growth and increasing cigarette taxes.

Unrest over teacher pay has roiled legislatures across the country since walkouts began in West Virginia in early 2018. In Kentucky, recurring "sickouts" for teacher protests forced schools to cancel classes earlier this year, and a six-day teacher strike in Los Angeles ended with a 6% pay hike and commitment to smaller classes.

Indiana state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who has split from fellow Republicans on many education policy issues, told the couple hundred teachers at Tuesday's rally that Statehouse leaders had given a "false promise" of significant teacher pay raises. "We have to do better than that," she said to loud applause.

Indiana Republican legislative leaders are warning that cuts might be needed in the $34.6 billion, two-year budget after a new state tax revenue forecast is released Wednesday. Leaders say they expect revenue growth will be less than what economists projected in December.

"I expect there's going to be significantly less funds. I don't know if that's $50 million or $250 million," GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said. "But it's not going to be more dollars."

Senate and House negotiators face a late April deadline for reaching agreement on a budget plan.

Senate budget writers say they have prepared for the prospect of tighter revenue projections by leaving $2.2 billion, or 12.5% of annual state spending, in cash reserves at the end of the budget in July 2021. That's more than the $1.8 billion, or 11%, proposed by the governor in January.

The head of the state's largest teachers union blamed low pay as the leading reason why 30% of Indiana teachers leave the profession within their first five years. Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith urged those at the rally to keep up pressure on legislators.

"When the increase for public school funding doesn't even reach inflation, that's not OK," Meredith said.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
St. Joseph30361514
Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
Clark12079182
Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
Wabash333976
Ripley328062
Adams326349
Jasper319343
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261732
Wells259175
Scott252150
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings216944
Washington213327
Sullivan203839
Fountain202842
Starke190051
Owen184254
Fulton179937
Jay178828
Carroll176919
Perry174136
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161543
Franklin160135
Tipton150041
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96832
Brown95340
Crawford92613
Benton92513
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

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