Message from the ISTA President
Despite the outcomes of this session, I am proud of the work by our members, public education advocates and the coalition of organizations this session.
The final day was chaotic for the budget process. When some lawmakers learned that the vast majority of the schools in their districts would be funded at or below inflation, leaders were forced to write a new budget that included additional funding for K-12 schools. If not for your efforts in the final day, there’s no doubt this would not have happened. While the new budget was an improvement, it still isn’t enough.
Despite our efforts to be heard, the Republican supermajority sided with wealthy donors who seek to privatize our schools and an extremist minority of individuals who are driven by a culture war to destroy public education.
The final budget includes:
- Increases for traditional public schools total 6.7%, but there is a total increase of 87.1% for private school vouchers.
- An expansion of the state’s private school voucher program to wealthy families comes at a cost of $1.1 billion.
- The private school voucher program is now nearly universal with about 97% of families qualifying under the increased income limits, allowing wealthy families already enrolled in private school to continue their private schooling for free.
- The expanded voucher eligibility is expected to increase enrollment into the program by approximately 95,000 students in the next two years.
- Traditional public schools will now have to divert a portion of their property tax referendum with unaccountable charter schools.
- Retirees are also ignored as there is no cost-of-living adjustment or 13th check for retired educators.
- In the final day of session, lawmakers also resurrected language from SB 12 by adding it to HB 1447. School libraries will have further regulations on materials, including a book removal process. Educators could face two and a half years in jail for disseminating matter harmful to minors.
We must take the results of this session as an opportunity to build our power through membership and strengthening ties with our communities. Legislation enacted this session will no doubt hurt Indiana public schools and stall the progress we’ve made on educator pay. However, we cannot give up this fight for doing what is right and standing for schools that benefit and support ALL kids— no matter their color, background or ZIP code. We invite every Hoosier to join us in this fight, and together we will ensure that our educators, and our public schools continue to be a cornerstone of our communities for generations to come.