Somebody really wants the Indiana legislature to pass a law that will let school superintendents give raises to favored teachers outside the bounds of union-negotiated contracts. Somebody with clout. Otherwise the supplemental-pay measure would have died last week when the state Senate, responding to overwhelming opposition from teachers and their supporters, refused to pass it.
But it didn’t. House leaders kept the idea alive Monday when they breathed new life into Senate Bill 10, which lawmakers had previously said wasn’t going to become law.
The controversial Republican-sponsored legislation lives again.
Both chambers had approved versions of the same bill – House Bill 1004 and Senate Bill 10 – which would, among other things, let superintendents award higher salaries to certain teachers. The votes were close: 57-42 in the House and 26-24 in the Senate (where Republicans have a 39-11 majority).
The extra-pay language in the Senate bill is actually worse, in the eyes of teachers’ unions, which strongly oppose both. It would let superintendents award higher pay “to attract or retain a teacher as needed” while the House bill would allow extra pay only to hire for a position “that is difficult to fill.”
Also, the House bill would require the superintendent to present justification for additional pay to the school board in a public meeting. The Senate bill would let that happen behind closed doors.
Supporters – primarily the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the anti-union Hoosiers for Quality Education — say letting superintendents negotiate higher pay for individual teachers would provide flexibility for hiring teachers in shortage areas like math, science and special education. They also say the raises could be used to retain star teachers who would otherwise leave for better-paying jobs.
But opponents say it would undercut collective bargaining by elected teacher representatives. They say the approach is a throwback to the pre-union days when superintendents could play favorites and pit teachers against each other, and when male high-school teachers and coaches were paid more than female elementary-school teachers, who were expected to work for pin money.
Lawmakers had indicated that HB 1004, the less egregious of the bills, was the one that they intended to pass. But it hit a wall in the Senate when teachers and their supporters ramped up their opposition. Senate President David Long admitted defeat, claiming the bill’s intent had been “misperceived.”
“The Senate Republican Caucus has decided that we will not proceed with House Bill 1004 or any similar legislation this year,” he said in a statement.
That should have been that. But Rep. Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, picked up the supposedly dead SB 10 and waltzed it through the committee by a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday, the final day for committee action. It now goes to the full House.
Expect Behning to block any attempt to amend the bill. Any change would send the bill back to the Senate, which has said it won’t pass the measure again.
And it’s highly likely the House will approve SB 10 and send it to Gov. Mike Pence to sign into law. The 29 House Democrats will vote no. So will a few Republicans, but most will fall into line.
If they waver, someone will remind them who supported their 2014 election campaigns. According to state campaign finance records, Hoosiers for Quality Education contributed over $400,000 that year to GOP legislative campaigns and the Chamber of Commerce gave about $300,000.
And if that’s not enough, they may recall who supported their opponents. The Indiana State Teachers Association PAC gave nearly $1 million in 2014, almost all of it to Democrats.