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Lawmakers will talk of schools

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By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

With the Indiana General Assembly nearing the halfway point in its session, the Indiana School Boards Association is monitoring more than 180 different bills.

On Saturday morning, Fayette County School board members and the public have an opportunity to meet with three lawmakers who represent the county and ask where they stand on those proposals. The occasion is a regional Legislative Breakfast organized by Leslie Jacobs, school board president. The session had to rescheduled after weather canceled the original event in January.

Jacobs, who serves on the ISBA Legislative Committee, has commitments to attend from Sen. Jean Leising, Sen. Jeff Raatz and Rep. Cindy Ziemke, she said. All are Republicans.

The breakfast will start at 9 a.m. in the Whitewater Career Center restaurant, 1300 Spartan Drive. 

Prior to the January date, Jacobs had said teacher pay was an important issue before the General Assembly.

“... Indiana ranks 36th on spending for education in our nation, with teacher salaries ranking at 30th out of the 50 states. Given inflation, teachers earn 16 percent less than they did two decades ago,” Jacobs wrote.

She also said the school calendar start date might come before legislators, with a push to move the start date to after Labor Day.

“There will also be discussion of funding preschool, particularly for at-risk student populations and in communities such as ours, which have high free and reduced lunch populations,” Jacobs wrote.

According to a Feb. 1 legislative update on ISBA’s website, “Many K-12 education bills are on the move, either through hearings and votes in committee, second reading, and some have already cleared the third reading hurdle in the house of origin.”

Terry Spradlin, ISBA executive director, wrote that he had testified about the state budget before the legislature, asking for a 2.5 percent increase in tuition support to help provide more funding for better teacher pay. He said that while the state’s general fund budget has grown by 20.96 percent since 2010, the tuition support budget grew only 12.12 percent. 

He also asked for increases in funds available for school safety.

Sen. Raatz has authored a bill that would have school boards establish better accountability for virtual learning. 

Among the plethora of legislative issues being monitored by ISBA are ones that would allow students who have enrolled in the military to wear the dress uniform of their service branch to commencement and another that would increase the penalties for passing a school bus when it is stopped with its stop arm extended. 

Another group that closely monitors education issues is the Indiana State Teachers Association, a union. Its top issue this year is to improve teacher compensation and advance the teaching profession. Another goal is to restore collective bargaining rights for teachers.