A vehicle bill in the Indiana General Assembly is one that contains no text, but is available to be amended at a later time. HB 1367 fits in that category this time around, and the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) hopes to drive its suggested school budget cuts through the House Education Committee (via 1367) on Monday.
The ISTA plan: gut the progress made last year (scholarship tax credit and virtual charter school pilot programs), eliminate some testing (really ?), spend rainy day funds and any reserves above 8%, and allow more money to be transferred from capital funds to general operating funds.
The Indiana Chamber, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and about any other group interested in education policy are prepared to oppose this effort. IDOE previously released a Citizens’ Checklist that prioritizes items that should be considered before any cuts are made that affect classroom instruction and learning. And while the ISTA does not propose the feared mass teacher layoff, putting the clamps on the much-needed scholarship and voucher school initiatives would be detrimental to students and their learning opportunities.
The checklist emphasizes that school districts look at some of the same changes many businesses have been forced to implement during the economic downturn. These include freezing pay (or rolling back previous increases) and closely reviewing health plans (with inclusion in the state program an option that would save money for many). These two items alone could account for much of the projected $300 million cut in education funds.
At the same time that judiciously saving money should be the top priority, a questionable $200 million mandate on school counselors passed the House committee last week. While the Chamber said "no, you have to be kidding," or something a little more professional, it was the only one to speak up and the measure somehow had the support of ISTA and associations representing superintendents, school boards and counselors.
Finally, education leaders and those same groups are also saying that if you want us to teach young people to read (SB 258), we’re going to need more money. Since when is reading NOT included in current education efforts.
Let’s hope a little common sense begins to prevail — starting today.