INDIANAPOLIS -- Many legislators in both parties and in both chambers at the Indiana Statehouse might agree there needs to be a bias crimes law, fixes to the Indiana Department of Child Services and increases in teacher pay.
Getting there will take months with the current session to wrap up by the end of April.
The final round in presenting legislative agendas came Monday with announcements by Republicans in the Indiana House and by the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, which consists of both state Senate and House members.
House Republicans focused on education, youth, workforce initiatives and veterans.
For teacher pay concerns, House Bill 1003 encourages, but does not mandate, local schools districts to shift dollars to classrooms. The goal would be for districts to use 85 percent of funding for instructional expenses. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said if all Indiana’s public school corporations met the target, it could provide at least a 5 percent salary increase for teachers.
The Indiana Department of Child Services will annually require an additional $286 million over the next two fiscal years, which Bosma said limits budgetary focus to funding the state’s key priorities, including K-12 education, which accounts for over half of the state’s $32 billion biennial budget.
Bosma said many schools currently spend about 80 percent of state funding on instructional expenses. But some districts' operational costs have soared. House Republicans said that, overall, only $57 of every $100 of state, local and federal resources spent on K-12 education makes its way to Hoosier classrooms.
"There's still some work to do to flush out details, but we're at least at a place where we're having good conversations. It appears they're very supportive and wanting to take some action," Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said.
In response, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said, “House Republicans unveiled an agenda so out of touch, it’s like we’re living in two different states. Statehouse Republicans’ teacher pay scheme is like moving a dollar from your left pocket to your right. It might feel good, but it isn’t having a real impact."
The 13-member Black Legislative Caucus urged study of violent crime and a hate crimes law that defines classifications such as race, gender identity and disability.
The caucus also announced a bill to provide amnesty to Hoosiers who have had their driver's licenses suspended because of unpaid financial obligations.