Here's How Lawmakers Are Talking About Education Funding, Teacher Pay For 2021

Dec 28, 2020

Lawmakers say they are committed to fully funding schools, but aren't expecting an increase in education funding this year.
Credit (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

With the upcoming legislative session rapidly approaching, lawmakers are gearing up for a series of major decisions – including how much money to send to schools. But lawmakers also plan to look at the way money gets to schools, and supporting teachers as the pandemic continues.

At a legislative preview conference this month, House Education Committee Chair Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said part of his priorities for the upcoming session is for teachers to get more resources and training for remote learning.

"Especially if there's going to be more opportunities for virtual education, we need to do a better job of supporting educators and giving them supports to improve their performance – improve the students’ performance in the classroom," he said. 

Lawmakers will also navigate the dozens of recommendations issued by the governor's teacher compensation commission this session, after years of pressure to take action on teacher pay. One of those recommendations focuses on local referendum measures schools use to raise local tax revenue.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana’s Legislative Session? Here’s Your Guide To Demystify The Process

But Behning said he takes issue with referendums increasing funding gaps among school corporations – specifically charter schools that can't access those dollars, and school corporations in communities that aren't able to or are hesitant to increase property taxes.

"I have always said that operating referendums worry me a little bit because of the lack of equality across all school districts," he said. 

Behning said House Republicans are also interested in expanding school choice options.

Lawmakers from both chambers also want to improve broadband access and affordability for both schools and communities still struggling to connect. 

State budget and education leaders have also expressed interest in reviewing the state's school funding formula – specifically the complexity index, which determines how much funding goes to schools serving students with the greatest needs.

The legislative session begins Jan. 4. 

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.