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Message from the ISTA President

The 2021 legislative session has ended, and I want to personally thank you for advocating for educators, students and public education – you made a difference!

With your help, the funding increases in this budget for public schools are the largest ever and will allow and empower our local associations to meaningfully address increasing teacher pay.  

Budget highlights:

  • 9.1% total statewide average tuition support increases.
  • $1.2 billion in new funding for traditional public schools over the biennium which is more than enough to meet the Teacher Compensation Commission report’s recommended annual amount of $600 million.
  • Guardrails for schools on teacher pay that require a minimum starting teacher salary of $40,000 and requiring at least 45% of their tuition support to be used for full-time teacher salaries.
  • Teacher Appreciation Grants are funded at $37.5 million in each of the next two years.
  • $150 million for a learning recovery grant program to fund programs aimed at accelerating lost learning time for students during the pandemic.

While the two-year budget was ISTA’s priority this year, we also had other important items to fight for this session. You can read ISTA’s legislative summary below for a detailed list of education bills passed this session. Be on the lookout for a special digital edition of the ISTA Advocate magazine dedicated to the legislative session.

ISTA and our local associations now play an important role through the collective bargaining process to ensure these funds will meet the legislature’s goals for teacher pay. Our fight to keep and maintain these funding gains will continue, as well as the need to restore our bargaining rights for working and learning conditions.

Stay connected and active! We’re stronger together.

In solidarity,

Keith Gambill
ISTA President

SCHOOL FUNDING

HB 1001 (Rep. Tim Brown, R – Crawfordsville)
Biennial Budget
The budget invests an historic $16 billion in K – 12 funding. This includes $1.2 billion in new funding for traditional public schools over the biennium – a record 9.1% increase. Find a school funding formula simulation on our website. In a rare moment, the biennial budget passed both chambers with bipartisan support – passing 96 – 2 in the House and 46 – 3 in the Senate.

TEACHER PAY

With this level of funding, the budget meets the Teacher Compensation Commission’s report recommending an annual amount of $600 million. The report projects this level of investment will likely allow schools to achieve a starting teacher salary of $40,000 and an average teacher salary of $60,000.

There are guardrails included in the budget bill that were part of the Commission’s report.

  • Beginning with the 2022 – 23 school year, if a school district is unable to establish at least a $40,000 salary for its full-time teachers, the district must report the inability to meet the threshold to the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).
  • If a school district receives more tuition support from one year to the next, the district may not spend less than their salary funding floor from the preceding year as it relates to its full-time teachers.
    • Teacher appreciation grants are not included in this and if a district is in the habit of awarding stipends over base salary increases, after two consecutive years of stipends, the lower stipend amount must be added to the district’s funding floor.
  • Beginning with the 2021 school year, a district shall spend no less than 45% of their tuition support for full-time teacher salaries. There are waivers available to districts should they be able to cite and demonstrate a fiscal inability to meet these goals.

CATEGORICAL FUNDING AND GRANTS

  • Complexity funding, which is additional funding schools receive based on students from low-income families, increases from $100 per student, from $3,675 to $3,775.
  • Moderate, severe and preschool levels of special education grants receive a 5% increase in the first year and 10% in the second year. Grants for students with communications issues remain the same.
  • Career and technical education course funding was restored from the previous House version of the budget. All courses remain funded at the same level.

RETIRED 

Retired public employees and teachers will receive a 1% cost-of-living adjustment. This year’s budget does not include a thirteenth check.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Brick-and-mortar charter schools see an average funding increase of 11.5% in 2022 and 7.4% in 2023. The Charter and Innovation School Grant increases from $750 per student to $1,250 by 2023.

Virtual charter schools receive an average funding increase of 6.4% in 2022 and 8.6% in 2023. Virtual charters continue to receive 85% of tuition support, as opposed to the House budget which funded them at 100%. The IDOE is required to maintain daily attendance records for virtual attendance (this includes traditional public schools as well). 

PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS

The income to qualify for a voucher increases to 300% of free and reduced lunch, equating to a family of four earning $145,000. The amount of the voucher is now at 90% of the funding formula amount, rather than tiers of amounts based on income. This expansion begins in the next school year.

EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

The budget established an Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program, although much smaller in scope than as initially proposed. In a positive move, ESAs are funded separately from all other K – 12 schools as its own grant program. The budget provides $3 million for startup costs in 2022 and $10 million for grants to students in 2023.

Only students with a disability qualifying for special education are eligible. The income eligibility mirrors the same requirements as vouchers. The amount awarded to ESAs will be 90% of the foundation amount and 100% of the special education grant, should the student not receive those services from their public school. ESA funds may only be spent on services, not goods.

ISTA PRIORITY BILLS

SB 2 (Sen. Jeff Raatz, R – Richmond)
Funding for Virtual Instruction in Public Schools
This bill ensures all modes of teaching and learning provided through our public schools qualify for 100% funding for the entire 2020 – 21 school year. Without legislative action, traditional public schools were at risk of receiving only 85% of their funding due to conducting classes virtually in response to the pandemic.

HB 1008 (Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R – Fort Wayne)
Accelerated Learning Assistance
This bill establishes a $150 million Student Learning Recovery Grant Program to fund programs aimed at student learning recovery. Entities applying for grant funding are required to submit an accelerated learning plan for students. It is important to note that the federal government in it stimulus packages also include funding for public schools to provide accelerated learning opportunities.

OTHER ENACTED ENACTED PRIORITIES AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

HB 1514 (Rep. Tony Cook, R – Cicero)
Testing and Accountability
This bill includes a hold harmless provision for the 2020 – 2021 school year with regard to student testing and repeals state takeover of public schools for consecutive grades of F. It creates a dashboard of school performance data including locally determined metrics that allow school districts to highlight their strengths. The bill also repeals some additional state interventions and consequences. A school is required to administer a level I dyslexia screening within 90 days if the student is determined to be at risk for dyslexia.

ENACTED EDUCATION BILLS 

SB 1 (Sen. Mark Messmer, R – Jasper) / HB 1002 (Rep. Jerry Torr, R – Carmel) 
Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19 
Combined, these bills provide civil immunity to entities, including schools, for damages related to COVID-19. The bills aim to discourage frivolous lawsuits resulting from the pandemic. The bills do provide exceptions for gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

SB 55 (Sen. Michael Bohacek, R – South Bend)
School Referenda
Requires the Department of Local Government and Finance to examine school districts’ revenue spending plans to ensure that plans are in line with the purposes of a referenda tax levy. District spending plans must be presented at a public meeting. Prohibits a superintendent from receiving a bonus or incentive as the result of a school district passing a local referendum. ISTA worked to reduce any additional burdens the original bill would have created for passing referenda.

SB 93 (Sen. Phil Boots, R – Crawfordsville)
Tuition for Qualified Nonresident Veterans
Allows a qualified nonresident servicemember of the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard to pay resident tuition rates at a state educational institution if the servicemember enrolls no later than three years following the date of discharge or separation from service.

SB 101 (Sen. Jeff Raatz, R - Richmond)
Higher Education Matters
Aligns a student’s graduation plan to graduation pathways and removes the requirement for a student to have a graduation plan beginning in sixth grade. Allows eligible students seventeen years of age to apply for the Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarship. Requires postsecondary proprietary institutions in Indiana to provide student records to an archive if the institution closes operation.

SB 196 (Sen. Jeff Raatz, R – Richmond)
Education Matters/CORE 40
Requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules allowing an organization to offer CORE 40 credit toward graduation through work-based learning or alternative, non-school educational experiences. The credits may replace required or elective courses. The original bill would have moved forward the course access program, which students may take via online providers at a cost per course to the district.

SB 205 (Sen. Linda Rogers, R – Granger)
Alternative Teacher Licensure Pathway
Establishes a ninth alternative pathway to teacher licensure via a completely online vendor with no track record in Indiana, no accreditation by an independent accrediting entity, no GPA requirements of its candidates and no faculty (the program is entirely self-paced and self-taught). The bill was amended to add some mentoring and pedagogy requirements for candidates who complete the program along with exposure to special education via a one-year clinical period. An individual receiving this alternative initial practitioner license cannot teach a special education course or be the teacher of record for special education students and must be at least 26 years old.

The original bill would have required trauma-informed instruction training at the pre-service level in teacher preparation programs (an ISTA legislative priority) but was stripped of all trauma language. ISTA opposed the bill on the grounds that Indiana already has at least eight existing alternative licensure pathways, and this new out-of-state program is questionable in quality. The mentoring requirements in the bill also create more work for teachers who are already licensed through traditional routes. ISTA advocated that this bill does not solve the teacher shortage, which is far more about working conditions and pay than barriers to licensure.

SB 251 (Sen. Phil Boots, R – Crawfordsville)
Dues Deduction
Creates a new set of burdensome, state-driven regulations for the exclusive representative to deduct member dues from a school employee’s paycheck. This bill is a clear and blatant anti-union move. The bill singles out school employees and was driven by out-of-state interests. School employees must now reaffirm their membership each year to pay union dues through payroll deduction. ISTA strongly opposed the bill.

SB 260 (Sen. Greg Walker, R – Columbus)
Elections
This omnibus election bill includes provisions that allow a student who is 16 or 17 years old to act as a precinct election officer without the written permission of the principal if the school is not in session for an instructional day on the day of the election. The bill also allows a school to provide a virtual instructional day or an in-person instructional day if the school meets certain safety requirements when the school is used as a polling place on Election Day.

SB 352 (Sen. Erin Houchin, R – Salem)
Broadband Development
Requires the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to establish a process for grant applications from the rural broadband fund with the purpose of improving connectivity access. HB 1001 includes $250 million for broadband expansion.

SB 358 (Sen. Linda Rogers, R – Granger)
School Buildings/Vacant Buildings
This is a follow-up from the previously enacted law that allows charter schools to access a vacant public-school building for lease or purchase for $1. This bill adds compliance and penalties through the Indiana attorney general. It requires a school to receive certification from the attorney general and make the building available for purchase or lease by a charter school or state postsecondary education institution prior to selling, leasing, demolishing or holding a public-school building. The attorney general may investigate situations of noncompliance and enact penalties where the proceeds of a settlement are awarded to the charter school.

SB 359 (Sen. Scott Baldwin, R – Noblesville)
Broadband Projects
Requires the Indiana Department of Transportation to create a broadband infrastructure program to manage installation and maintenance of broadband corridors along certain highways. HB 1001 includes $250 million for broadband expansion.

SB 377 (Sen. Andy Zay, R – Huntington)
Broadband Development
Creates the broadband connectivity program to increase access to services and an online portal for individuals to report instances of slow internet speeds. Provides grants to internet providers to improve services. HB 1001 includes $250 million for broadband expansion.

SB 413 (Sen. Jeff Raatz, R – Richmond)
Education Matters
What began as the Senate version of voucher expansion and would have required charter schools to share in a portion of school district referendum and operating revenue, the bill became an omnibus vehicle for numerous miscellaneous provisions. However, these provisions were removed in conference committee, and the final version includes a single provision that establishes a study panel for the purposes of examining charter school funding and building utilization.

SB 414 (Sen. Jeff Raatz, R – Richmond)
Various Education Matters
Like SB 413, this bill included a wide range of provisions, but ultimately creates a student data tracking system to provide information regarding on-track graduation. The bill includes the following:

  • An option (may provision, not a mandate) for local districts to implement an early warning data system for students beginning as early as elementary grades.
  • Requires school corporations to adopt an internet use policy and provide software that blocks material considered harmful to minors.
  • Requires a spring ADM count for career and technical education grants for informational purposes only.

HB 1040 (Rep. Tim Wesco, R – Osceola)
Student Cardiac Arrest
Adds safety precautions and measures regarding student athletes and cardiac arrest. Requires IDOE to provide guidelines and information about cardiac arrest on its website. Establishes protocols for the removal of a student athlete from play in circumstances of suspecting symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest. Allows a licensed athletic trainer or other individual to evaluate a student for symptoms. Requires certain training for coaches and other necessary individuals. Requires parental notification and permission prior to the student returning to athletic activity. Provides civil immunity for coaches and other individuals except for in the case of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

HB 1123 (Rep. Matt Lehman, R – Berne)
Emergency Powers
Allows the General Assembly to convene in situations of state emergency declared by the governor. Establishes procedures, timelines and limits for a special legislative session. The governor vetoed this bill, but the legislature voted to override his veto. This bill is likely to be litigated in court as to its constitutionality.

HB 1266 (Rep. Ed Clere, R – New Albany)
School Efficiency
Requires IDOE to submit a request for information proposals regarding ways in which a school corporation may improve efficiencies of noninstructional services. The original bill focused largely on building and transportation services and posed a threat for the contracting out services, particularly aimed at education support professionals’ job functions. ISTA opposed the original notion of outsourcing services.

HB 1271 (Rep. Dan Leonard, R – Huntington)
Department of Local Government and Finance
This lengthy omnibus bill contains a provision impacting school corporations in which a county auditor must determine the estimated average percentage of property tax increases to be paid to the school corporation.

HB 1313 (Rep. Ed Clere, R – New Albany)
Students with Disabilities
Requires the Management Performance Hub to work in coordination with the Department of Workforce Development and other state agencies to identify and provide information to former students with disabilities about further educational and employment opportunities. The bill’s intent is to assist students who may not have completed their diploma or other certificate for numerous reasons.

HB 1384 (Rep. Tony Cook, R – Cicero)
Civics Education This bill requires students to complete one semester of a civics education course in middle school. It also establishes a civics education commission to make ongoing recommendations for civics education courses as well as any policies.

HB 1405 (Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R – Fort Wayne)
Insurance Matters
This omnibus insurance bill includes a provision affecting schools whereby a school corporation may seek Medicaid reimbursement for certain school-based medical services mandated by federal or state law. 

HB 1437 (Rep. Tony Cook, R – Cicero)
Electronic Meetings
Allows certain governing bodies of political subdivisions to meet via electronic format and sets guidelines and procedures for electronic public meetings. An entity must adopt a written policy for electronic meetings, provide for public attendance and at least fifty percent of members of governing body must be physically present.

HB 1438 (Rep. Tony Cook, R – Cicero)
Course Access Program
The bill moves along the Indiana Course Access Program, which consists of online providers who offer courses to students virtually. Clarifies roles of IDOE and State Board of Education related to the program and establishes an appeals process for students denied enrollment. Through the program, the school district must pay the provider on a per course basis from the student ADM for a particular course. While the bill itself does not make major substantive changes from current law, ISTA opposes the concept because it further outsources and diverts public tax dollars away from public districts to benefit private companies. These providers are also questionable in terms of quality and teacher licensure rates.

HB 1531 (Rep. Dale DeVon, R – South Bend)
DCS and the Education Community
Allows a worker from the Department of Child Services (DCS) to interview a student at the school site if there is reason to believe there is a safety concern affecting the student. Students in homeschools are exempted from the requirement. Provides for certain confidentiality assurances.

HB 1549 (Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis)
Education Matters
This bill became another vehicle for numerous miscellaneous provisions including:

  • Extending the enrollment period for the pre-K pilot program.
  • Requiring that a school corporation entering into a contract with an outside virtual education program vendor submit the contract to IDOE prior to establishing a partnership.
  • Expanding eligibility for participation in the pre-K pilot program.
  • Requires IDOE to provide information and resources on its website for the identification of students impacted by trauma.
  • Giving preference in charter school admissions to students who were enrolled in another charter school that previously closed.
  • Establishing the Cambridge International Program as an optional program for school districts in lieu of other Advanced Placement programs and allows IDOE to provide funds for students to take up to three Cambridge courses.
  • Establishing a postsecondary learning assessment clearinghouse.
  • Expanding the availability of data to the MPH.
  • Creating a school-based enterprise as a work experience learning opportunity for students located within the school.
  • Requiring that any virtual instruction must be of equal rigor as in-person instruction.
  • Requiring a school that closes to take appropriate safety measures to ensure the transfer of school memorabilia.
  • Requiring a school corporation to notify IDOE of reasons why a student was denied enrollment in a class offered through the course access program.
  • Allowing any interim, formative or benchmark assessment to be aligned to the nationally recognized college entrance exam for grades 8 through 10.
  • Allowing a collective bargaining ratification meeting to occur electronically. If such a meeting occurs virtually, both parties must certify to the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board that the meeting took place.
  • Prohibiting a school board from increasing debt service levies to pay interest unless the school board adopts a resolution at a public meeting.
  • Exempting certain education program providers from having to receive a childcare center license (this is due to the pods created during COVID-19).
  • Allowing school corporations greater flexibility to provide differentiated pay (ISTA supports this provision for freeing up pay flexibility beyond solely reasons of academic needs).
  • Requiring a school board to adopt curricular materials prior to a superintendent establishing procedures.
  • Prohibiting a school corporation from entering into a transportation agreement with a company; allowing a student with an individualized education program to receive transportation by an appropriate vehicle (e.g., Uber/Lyft). Requiring the State Board of Education to adopt rules regarding appropriate vehicles for student transportation.
  • Requiring an assessment vendor to enter into a data sharing agreement before the State Board of Education may approve of an assessment.
  • Requiring the Management Performance Hub to collect income data on student graduates and report aggregate median income of graduates on the IDOE website.
  • Allowing a charter school that receives an advance from the charter and innovation grant program to renegotiate contract terms of the advance with the state treasurer’s office.
  • Allowing a voucher to be used for tuition and any fees to enroll in an eligible course at a voucher school.
  • Requiring the Commission for Higher Education to compile reports on a) the cost of higher education and business models; b) free speech on college campuses; and c) protections against foreign governments regarding sensitive data and research.
  • Requiring a study of learning loss/learning disruption due to the pandemic.
  • Making date changes for certain nursing program clinical courses.
  • Removing the requirement for a student who fails to pass the graduation examination to keep retaking the exam if the student could not take the exam due to COVID-19.
  • Requiring IDOE to conduct a study of complexity and adequate K – 12 student funding.
  • Allowing an individual to practice speech-language pathology in Indiana if licensed in another state with a reciprocity agreement.
  • Allowing the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to develop a course catalogue of work-based learning and apprenticeships and allows providers to receive workforce-ready grants.
  • Allowing students to replace certain CORE 40 courses with eligible STEM alternative courses.
  • Requiring a charter organizer with more than one non-virtual charter school located within a city or town to conduct at least 50% of the board meetings publicly within the city or town in which the non-virtual charter is located.
  • Allowing a school board to enter into a public-private agreement for the construction of new school buildings.

HB 1553 (Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis)
Higher Education Matters
Makes changes to the application criteria for the Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarship with the purpose of expanding eligibility to students. Lowers the GPA requirement to a 3.5/4.0 scale and prioritizes students from lower income backgrounds as well as those candidates pursuing a teacher shortage subject area.

HB 1564 (Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis)
Secretary of Education
Makes technical changes for the position of Indiana secretary of education as a replacement for the previous office of superintendent of public instruction.

RETIREMENT BILLS

SB 94 (Sen. Phil Boots, R – Crawfordsville)
Pension Matters
This is the Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS) agency bill that mostly enacts clean-up language for obsolete policies and administrative changes. Changes the definition of retired participant for purposes of administering the medical benefits account. Removes the requirement that INPRS make actuarial estimates of the retiree health benefit trust fund every two years. For retiree members of the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund and Teachers’ Retirement Fund, if an overpayment of benefit occurs, the member may be required to pay only 25 percent of the monthly benefit towards the overpayment. This overpayment amount only applies to the previous six years if an error in payment occurred. Allows the budget agency to transfer appropriations from federal or dedicated funds to the retiree health benefit trust fund.

DEFEATED BAD BILLS

HB 1005 (Rep. Bob Behning, R – Indianapolis)
Voucher Expansion/Privatization
As introduced, this bill would have cost the state more than $200 million, with most of that cost coming from a massive ESA program estimated at more than $131 million in just the first two years. The bill was passed out of the House but was never heard in the Senate. Although eventually trimmed down, this bill became too controversial thanks to the advocacy of ISTA members and other supporters. The language ended up being put in the budget bill likely to ensure its passage. Thankfully, the scope of these privatization efforts was scaled down, particularly the ESA program.

SB 124 (Sen. Dennis Kruse, R – Auburn)
School Start Date/Calendar
As introduced, this bill would have prohibited public schools from beginning before Labor Day. ISTA opposed this bill under the argument of local control. The bill was amended to have school calendars be a topic of a study committee but died on the House side after not receiving a committee hearing.

SB 288 (Sen. Jim Tomes, R – Evansville)
Censorship/Material Harmful to Minors
This bill would have prevented public schools and libraries from using a long-standing defense which recognizes that material can be made available for educational purposes against allegations of exposing minors to harmful material. The bill died on the Senate floor after the author decided not to call the bill for a final vote.

SB 353 (Sen. Erin Houchin, R – Salem)
Absentee Ballot Applications/Elections
This bill would have made voting by absentee more difficult by requiring an individual to provide their Indiana Driver’s License number or last four digits of a Social Security number before an applying online for an absentee ballot application.

SB 412 (Sen. Brian Buchanan, R – Lebanon)
ESAs
This started as the Senate’s version of an ESA bill. The bill did not make it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with the chairman saying ESAs will be addressed in the budget bill. Like HB 1005, this bill became too controversial to stand on its own.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES BY LAWMAKERS

EDUCATOR VOICE
The legislature failed to make improvements to teachers’ working conditions by restoring bargaining rights on issues such as hours, days, prep time and class size. ISTA helped author bills (SB 56 and SB 85) as well as amendments that would have provided expanded bargaining rights. ISTA will continue to fight for this important issue. Learn more and share our video on the importance of expanding bargaining rights.