Lawmakers: Raise teacher pay by cutting elsewhere

Indiana legislators want to give educators a raise, but they don’t want to pay for it. Their plan: Shame school districts into cutting spending elsewhere so they can target dollars to teachers.

Their tool for doing this is House Bill 1003, unveiled this week by House Republicans and presented Wednesday to the House Education Committee. It would “strongly encourage” districts to spend at least 85 percent of their state funds on instruction; it would subject them to public scrutiny if they don’t.

Indiana StatehouseThe assumption behind the bill is that schools have plenty of money, but they waste it on bloated administrative expenses and frills. But the data don’t support that claim.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said in a news release that many school districts are spending as much as 20 percent of their state revenue on “overhead and operations.” That includes central administration as well as building maintenance, insurance, technology and other costs that districts can’t always control.

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Charter schools legislation moving through Indiana House

Give some credit to Speaker Brian Bosma for keeping a partially open mind on the charter-schools bill that he’s pushing through the Indiana House of Representatives.

Bosma, R-Indianapolis, is co-author of the legislation, which expands sponsors of charter schools to include private colleges and universities, a statewide charter schools board, and mayors of cities of the second class, such as Bloomington. Under current law, only local school corporations, public universities and the mayor of Indianapolis can sponsor charter schools.

The legislation, House Bill 1002, was the subject of a five-hour hearing Wednesday before the House Education Committee. On Monday at 10:30 a.m., the committee is scheduled to consider amendments and then vote to send the bill to the full House for more debate.

There’s a lot to the bill, and it’s worth a careful read – although there may be significant amendments.

It includes the “parent trigger” provision that Gov. Mitch Daniels has touted: If the parents of 51 percent of students in a low-performing school sign a petition, they can convert it to a charter school.

Another provision requires public school corporations to lease unused or “under-utilized” buildings to local charter schools for $1 a year. Continue reading