AUDIO: Indiana House GOP Has Idea To Raise Teacher Pay; No Mention Of Hate Crimes Legislation In Priorities

Listen to our interview with local State Representative Randy Frye.

Indiana House of Representatives

(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Republicans in the Indiana House may want to get more money to the state's teachers by shifting it away from local school administrators.

House GOP members on Monday unveiled their priorities for the 2019 legislative session, which began January 3. The party enjoys a supermajority in the House and Senate again this year.

“Passing an honestly balanced two-year state budget will take center stage, but we are also focused on passing our aggressive legislative agenda aimed at moving Indiana forward in many key areas, including school safety, teacher pay and our workforce,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

House Bill 1003 would set a target for local schools to spend 85 percent of their money from the state on teachers and classroom costs. Bosma said many school districts are short of that mark because of ballooning overhead costs, but he could not say exactly how many.

According to a news release from House Republicans, “This new target percentage would not impose any new administrative requirements on school corporations because this analysis is already being reported to and tracked by the state. Bosma said if all Indiana’s public school corporations meet this goal, we anticipate over $350 million in new resources for classrooms – enough for a 5 percent salary increase or more for teachers.”

Nothing would be mandated, though Republicans say local schools should produce a report that explains how they spend their money.

Democrats in the House are with Republicans in calling for better teacher pay. They are adamant that salaries be increased this year.

“We must raise education funding to allow for an increase in teacher pay,” said House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne). “It is our responsibility to address this crisis. And we need to do it now. We do not need to discuss the issue for another year…or two years…or three years.”

Despite anticipated 2.5 percent revenue growth for the next two years, new funding for teachers may be harder to come across in the state budget because of growing Medicaid expenses and millions more dollars needed to improve the troubled Indiana Department of Child Services. DCS will annually require an additional $286 million over the next two fiscal years.

House Bill 1006 filed by State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) would implement many of the DCS improvement recommendations made by a consultant who analyzed the agency last year. The legislation aims to reduce family case manager caseloads, all collaborative care for foster youth, and independent living programs for youth into their early 20s.

Southeastern Indiana State Representative Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) said there is consensus among lawmakers in the Senate and House to increase education and DCS funding in the state budget to be approved this session.

LISTEN TO EAGLE COUNTRY 99.3'S INTERVIEW WITH STATE REP. RANDY FRYE.

Frye has filed a bill which could lead to the creation of regional jail facilities. Criminal sentencing reform carried out several years ago have led to some local jails being overcrowded now that they must house low-level felony offenders after conviction.

“We’ve got about 44-plus counties in Indiana which are dealing with jail overcrowding. Some of them like Dearborn County have already taken a step to build bigger jails, but some haven’t, like Jennings County, for instance, or Ripley County is another one that is struggling,” said Frye.

When local jails reach capacity, the Indiana Department of Corrections-run regional facilities would house inmates until there is room or they complete their sentence, Frye said. The per diem cost per inmate kept at a regional facility would be $35.

The House Republicans legislative priorities press release included no mention of a hate crimes bill. With Indiana among only five states with hate crimes legislation on the books, Democrats have been pushing for it to happen.

“Not only is this the right thing to do, our failure to act is bringing us the kind of ‘undue national attention’ that cannot help but impact our efforts to attract new businesses and investments to our state,” GiaQuinta said.

Democrats are also calling for insurance protections for Hoosiers with pre-existing medical conditions as litigation carries on concerning the federal Affordable Care Act.

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