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Red for Ed Action Day

Indiana State Teachers Association president Keith Gambill delivers a speech Nov. 19 at a statewide Red for Ed Action Day rally at the Indiana Statehouse.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Teachers Association doesn't want lawmakers to wait to address teacher pay.

The state's largest professional organization of educators announced its goals for the coming legislative session Thursday morning, encouraging lawmakers to invest $75 million of the state's surplus to increasing teachers' base salaries.

The association's 2020 agenda comes following last month's statewide Red for Ed teachers rally, which saw more than 15,000 educators take to the Indiana Statehouse to advocate for salary increases, fewer standardized tests and a repeal of unpopular professional growth point requirements needed for teacher licensing renewal.

"Educators expect legislators to demonstrate real change this session in state education policy and make our public schools the top priority," ISTA President Keith Gambill said in a news release. "Our students and educators cannot wait for action."

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced his own 2020 agenda on Tuesday, detailing his priorities in education, including support of legislative action to hold educators harmless for low ILEARN scores and making professional growth point requirements optional.

Holcomb highlighted the state's "record investment" this year in K-12 education and encouraged continued support of the state's Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission, which is expected to submit recommendations for increasing teacher pay in the 2021 budget session. But many public education advocates, citing education salaries lagging behind the rest of the Midwest, have rallied lawmakers to reopen the state's budget in 2020.

"While we await the governor's teacher compensation commission report, the legislature must act on teacher pay this session," Gambill said. "Indiana's teacher pay gap with neighboring states will only get bigger if we do nothing this session."

ISTA is also calling on lawmakers to allocate surplus funds in a three-year, $10 million investment supporting reimbursements for educators' dual-credit course training, as well in creating a $16 million multiyear grant program designed bring more school counselors to Indiana students.

The association is pushing for a complete repeal of professional growth point requirements it calls unnecessary, and wants to see a study committee dedicated to exploring ways to improve equity in school funding.

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ISTA is joined by many in its call this session to quickly pass "hold harmless" legislation following the state's new ILEARN exam, and adds that lawmakers should work to end the use of standardized test scores in determining teacher evaluations and salary.

The association also wants additional qualifications written into law for the state's next superintendent of public instruction, which becomes a governor-appointed position after elected Superintendent Jennifer McCormick finishes her term next year.

ISTA is asking that legislators add requirements ensuring the next school chief has both held teacher, principal or superintendent's licensure in their career and has at least five years of experience working as an educator in a public school.

The association adds that Indiana should move back to an elected state board of education. The board is now comprised of the superintendent of public instruction and 10 other members appointed by the governor or leaders in the general assembly.

"In 2021, Indiana will begin a new era of education leadership when the state superintendent of public instruction moves to a governor-appointed secretary of education," ISTA writes in its agenda. "Indiana voters deserve to have a voice in the state leadership for education."

For the association's full list of 2020 priorities, see the ISTA website at ista-in.org/our-advocacy/legislative-platform.

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.