7 bad education bills we're tracking, among others
The 2016 session has now been negatively impacted by new bills that take us, once again, down the road to more privatization, top-down mandates, and teacher association attacks.
It is not clear yet whether all of these bills will be heard in this short session.
SB 10 has been heard and will be up for a vote next Wednesday in an amended version. HB 1395 is scheduled for the House Education Committee next Tuesday. The rest are introduced bills.
We will keep you informed and occasionally ask you to contact your legislators. Follow the status of these and other bills via ISTA’s bill watch and learn more about how to engage via advocacy.ista-in.org. Your participation in Indiana’s version of a participatory democracy is needed. Tell your friends and colleagues, too!
HB 1004 – Mandatory School Health Plans/Stipends for a Few Individual Teachers/Defined Contribution Plan
Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis
Mandates that every school district provide a high deductible health plan to employees and then is required to pay all the savings garnered from that plan to those teachers who choose it as additional compensation. Salary and wage-related benefits are mandatory subjects of bargaining for local teacher associations. This proposal further restricts both healthcare decisions and salary and wage items from bargaining. One size does not fit all. Currently, all of this can, and is being bargained. Some districts have negotiated high deductible plans that have been in place for years, but have done so with their own interests in mind—because it worked for them—not because it was state mandated. In these cases, some of the “savings” became part of the funding available for teacher compensation and are part of pay additions made years ago. Due to the way insurance works, those who benefit from a more traditional plan will be saddled with higher insurance costs and less money in his/her pocket. How does this advance the cause of getting more money into the hands of teachers? There is an overall balance that needs to be achieved in terms of district offerings that is best reached through local negotiations, not more top-down, state-driven mandates.
Allows a school corporation to unilaterally offer supplemental compensation in excess of the negotiated salary to a teacher who is, or will be employed in a position that is difficult to fill. Unlike what occurs in private business, salary and compensation matters of individual employees are public matters. Trying to inject private sector principles into such a sensitive area does not work and poisons the school environment. It creates winners and losers. You either believe that the full complement of your district’s teachers bring value to the table or you do not.
Provides a new Defined Contribution (DC) retirement program. Incredibly, this is being proposed as a means to solve Indiana’s teacher shortage, yet this bill does nothing to encourage a teacher to stay in the profession. The rationale offered is that millennials don’t believe they will be in the same job their entire career and so giving them a pension means little. This theory may apply to individuals who work a series of jobs, but certainly does not hold true when referring to a profession. Nobody would contend that millennial doctors expect to switch careers throughout their lives. Nobody contends that millennial pharmacists will change careers. What this theory actually reflects is a disregard for teaching as a profession. People choose teaching because they want to work with kids, make a positive difference in their lives and do so in our schools. So who wins? The state—because if a teacher bites on what would now be a voluntary DC plan, the state no longer bears any financial risk of providing a true pension. Who loses? Students and teachers. Our students deserve committed teachers and teachers deserve a legislators who believe in them. Teachers are worthy of an investment in them for giving a lifetime of service. We call it a pension.
HB 1325 - Early Retirement
Rep. Wes Culver, R – Goshen
The bill would replace the rule of 85 with the rule of 95 thus ending early retirement options for most eligible employees in Indiana’s public retirement system. The bill would impact most any public employee after June 30, 2016—police and fire employees were not included.
The bill gives public employees, including teachers, until July 1 (6 months) to retire under the current Rule of 85.
This legislation deprives employees of an option they have historically been provided.
The fiscal impact analysis on this bill has not been developed yet.
HB 1394 - Education Matters/Expansion of Innovation Network Schools
Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis
Expands Innovation Network Schools (new charter-like entities managed and operated by private, for-profit companies) beyond D and F schools to any school that is under-enrolled or vacant. A school board could enter into an agreement with a charter to reconstitute a school. This is akin to the state’s takeover schools only accomplished by school board action. Existing state takeover schools have a poor track record of performance with multiple years of D and F grades and these innovative network schools are just getting starting. To expand this program without any implementation data is reckless—but reflects the aggressive nature of the agenda of those seeking to privatize public education.
These schools also have restricted bargaining rights for employees and less rigorous licensure requirements.
HB 1395 - ISTEP Rescore
Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis
The Indiana Department of Education would be required to contract with an outside vendor to rescore the results of the 2015 administration of ISTEP – at an estimated cost of $8 – $10 million. The rescore would reset the new baseline measurement for determining the calculation of future school accountability grades. A rescore could give veiled legitimacy to test scores that have a history of flaws and glitches. Is this a case of good money after bad? Surely, there is a better use of the state’s money. Programs to help students? Professional development for teachers? The bill also contains provisions that would establish a new committee to review Indiana’s accountability system to assess available testing options under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
SB 379 - Individual Teacher Contracts
Sen. Pete Miller, R – Avon
Along the same lines as HB 1004 and SB 10, as amended, gives a teacher licensed in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) the option of individually negotiating a separate contract. In addition to fracturing the collective bargaining unit within a school and pitting teacher against teacher. The bill creates winners and losers, which is contrary to the motivation individuals have for entering the profession in the first place and devalues most subject matters and grade-level teaching. To advocate for greater pay for STEM teachers may sound plausible, but it doesn’t work in the real world, nor is it fair. If we start cherry-picking certain teachers to pay more, that means the majority of other teachers will be paid less. Making non-STEM teaching jobs less desirable would no doubt further exacerbate the teacher shortage and further harm students.
Take action on this bill.
SB 10 - Teacher Salaries
Sen. Jeff Raatz, R – Centerville
The original version of the bill would have allowed teachers with fewer than 10 years of teaching experience to factor up to 58 percent of the calculation to determine a teacher’s salary increase or increment. For teachers with at least 10 years of experience, it would become 33 and one-third percent. The bill would have decoupled experience from educational attainment providing an additional factor for salaries. ISTA supported the original bill.
However, a significant amendment Sen. Raatz authored, and pushed by Hoosiers for Quality Education and Stand for Children, turns SB 10 into an entirely new bill in which administrators could choose to pay certain teachers more above the negotiated compensation plan “to attract and retain a teacher as needed.”
SB 10 further makes clear that these supplemental payments are not bargainable.
Worse, the bill mandates that up to 50 percent of the supplemental payment must go into the future base pay of the teacher—taking even more money off the table for compensation packages for all teachers. Incredibly, this is the new answer offered by some to address Indiana’s teacher shortage.
Indiana has a long history of bargaining and with very few exceptions, the process works and engages both sets of stakeholders.
These policies are fueled by an anti-union political agenda and feed into the cynicism and demoralization of school employees everywhere. We heard that loud and clear as ISTA’s government relations team traveled the state last fall.
HB 1311 - Education Savings Account Program
Rep. Tim Brown, R – Crawfordsville
HB 1311 would establish an education savings account granting parents of eligible students the ability to access to public tax dollars diverted from school corporation funding to seek out private education service providers for education expenses – a widespread expansion of voucher-like entitlements to virtually any student statewide that meets income and certain other eligibility requirements.
The money would be provided directly from the state treasurer’s office to the parent to pay outside providers.
In addition to the substantial fiscal cost to the state, the bill would be a major blow to public schools and open the door to financial fraud and abuse, as has occurred in other states with similar programs.
The Senate version of this same idea (SB 397) would offer the same kind of savings account program directed at parents of special education students.