Vic’s Statehouse Notes #341

by | Feb 5, 2020 | 2020 Legislative Session, ICPE News, Indiana Legislature, Statehouse Notes, Teacher Pay

In This Issue:

  • Teacher pay: Are they listening?

  • Four theories on why Gov. Holcomb, Speaker Bosma and Republican Leadership team decided to ignore teachers’ pleas after the largest education rally the statehouse has ever seen.

  • Two things you can do: Come to our Rally For Public Education on 2/17 at 2pm and let your legislators know Indiana’s underpaid teachers need a bonus in pay NOW.

Dear Friends,

It’s the elephant in the room.

Consider the teacher pay issue. Then come to the rally for public education on Monday, February 17 at 2 p.m. in the Statehouse.

At the half-way point in the short session of the General Assembly, proposals for a teacher pay bonus have been ignored by the Republican supermajority, with the message: wait until next year.

Over 15,000 teachers came to the Statehouse in November, a record-shattering number for an education issue. Their message: they need a pay increase to keep going.

Legislators had excess money from a good economy to hand out: $291 million. Did they give a little part of that for a teacher bonus?

No.

HB 1007 was passed quickly through both houses and has already been signed by Governor Holcomb giving all the extra money to pay cash for higher education buildings, rather than borrowing to build them as planned in the 2019 budget. This quick action guaranteed there would be no last minute attempt to fund teacher bonuses in the short session.

Democrats tried to amend the bill to spend the money on teacher pay. The amendments failed.

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick expressed disappointment in delaying new money for teacher pay in an interview on Channel 8 after Governor Holcomb’s State of the State speech, accurately commenting that “the Governor’s speech highlighted great things in the state, but teacher pay is not one of them.”

The supermajority priorities are clear here: buildings over teachers.

Why?

Why have Gov. Holcomb, Speaker Bosma and the Republican leadership team decided to ignore the plea of Indiana’s underpaid teachers for a bonus this session? Why have teachers been told to wait for another year?

I see four theories which may add to your own analysis.

Theory 1: Perhaps the Governor and Republican leaders have concluded that underpaid and angry teachers will not defeat them in the November election so there is no political need to provide a quick bonus now.

If Governor Holcomb was worried that teachers would rise up to block his re-election, he would have chosen to get on the good side of teachers with a bonus in the current session. Press reports prior to his State of the State address made it sound like he might help teachers now, but if he temporarily felt so inclined, he chose to fall in line with Republican legislative leaders who clearly did not want to add a teacher bonus in the short session. Instead, he announced a $250 million transfer in 2021 from the surplus to pay for local teacher pension payments, a move which he said would free up $50 million each year for extra teacher pay in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.

It is highly unusual to announce budget details more than a year in advance. Obviously, it assumes his re-election.

It is not clear how teachers will respond to this “wait another year” treatment.

Theory 2: Perhaps the Governor and Republican leaders believe they gave enough to K-12 in the 2019 budget, despite the pleas of teachers that the teacher shortage is still a huge problem due to low pay.

Republican leaders keep referring to the $763 million added to the 2019 budget, apparently thinking that was enough for the biennium and teachers shouldn’t be asking for more in a non-budget year.

Here’s how Republican leaders get to the $763 million figure:

Keep in mind that when counting new money, the new money for the first year must be repeated in the second year as the base for an additional increase. Thus, the new money in the 2019 budget was $178 million for a 2.5% increase in the first year plus $178 million to match that increase for the second year, plus $183 million to raise the second year by 2.5%.

That totals to $539 million. Compare this figure to $710 million new dollars added to the 2007 budget and $616 million new dollars (which then included property tax) added to the 1997 budget. Adding $539 million in the 2019 budget was not a historic high for K-12 tuition support.

Then the Governor’s 2019 plan to reduce pension payments by $150 million over two years was enacted.

Adding $150 million to the $539 million raised the 2019 total to $689 million.

Then categorical funding for specific programs like the Teacher Appreciation Fund received $74 million in new money.

Adding $74 million to $689 million raised the 2019 total to the number you have heard: $763 million.

Governor Holcomb has now clarified that his pension payment of $150 million last year freed up $65 million in each year of the biennium for teacher pay. Interestingly, that adds up to $130 million and the mantra of $763 million has apparently been reduced by $20 million. The Governor did not explain the $20 million discrepancy.

These are not numbers for a satisfied victory lap. The 2019 budget did not provide teacher pay increases that would keep teachers from moving to higher paying jobs in neighboring states or in another career.

Theory 3: Perhaps Republican leaders believe their own faulty analysis that local school boards are at fault for low teacher pay because they are spending too much on “overhead” and not enough on “classroom” spending.

Speaker Bosma’s response to the enormous teacher rally in November was to say that local school boards have had the money to pay teachers but are not spending it correctly on the classroom. He cites the statistics on classroom spending which say 58% of education dollars are spent on “the classroom.”

Public school advocates should know that the statistics he cites give a misleading and bogus narrative to the teacher pay issue.

“Dollars to the Classroom” has been a mantra of Republicans since a controversial 2006 law passed narrowly by the House 51-49 allowed Gov. Daniels to say: “We can’t keep shoveling money into a system where 40 cents off the top of every dollar goes to what is not essential.” (Jan. 18, 2009, Indiana Lawmakers, WFYI-TV)

Creating these misleading statistics was only designed to allow sound bites such as that from Governor Daniels above. It is completely unfair to criticize local school boards for non-classroom spending without knowing the circumstances of the district. Many essentials including facilities and debt are defined as “non-classroom” spending. Growing districts have to build new buildings and carry higher debt. That would lift their non-classroom spending and lower their percentage.

The classroom spending statistics are a cover for legislative leaders who have not put enough into K-12 education over the last decade to keep up with surrounding states.

What are the “overhead” spending categories defined in accordance with Indiana Code 20-42.5? Here is a complete listing of what Speaker Bosma thinks can and should be trimmed to boost teacher pay: (Numbers are from the chart of accounts)

23100 Board of Education
23200 Executive Administration/Superintendent Office Services
25100 Fiscal Services/Business Manager
25200 Purchasing Services
25300 Printing Services
25200 Planning, Research, Development and Evaluation
25600 Public Information Services
25700 Personnel Services
25800 Technology Services
25900 Other Support Services
26000 Maintenance Services
27000 Student Transportation
30000 Noninstructional Services (including food services)
40000 Facilities Acquisition and Construction
50000 Debt Services
60105 Donations to Foundations
60700 Scholarships

That’s the complete list for “non-classroom” spending. All other categories are called “classroom” spending and are then figured as a percentage of total spending, giving politicians the opportunity to criticize schools that fall below the arbitrary standard of 65%.

Pressure from Speaker Bosma and others to lower “operational, non-classroom” spending is egregiously wrong on two points:

1) Safe schools – Spending on safe schools, both on hardening buildings and on training, is an obvious priority in Indiana in the past two years, but it is considered “non-classroom” spending. It is wrong for Speaker Bosma and his supermajority leaders to pressure local leaders to spend less on school safety.

2) Public information and parent information – School choice requires schools to inform parents and to market their school to the community. If they don’t, their school will die from dwindling enrollment. Spending on parent information and marketing is categorized as “non-classroom” spending. If Speaker Bosma pressures local school districts to spend less on marketing in order to pay teachers, he is pushing for them to risk the very existence of the school which depends on parent information for enrollments. He can’t support school choice and simultaneously support cutting the money spent on marketing the school to parents.

Theory 4: Perhaps Republican leaders don’t see low teacher pay and the resulting teacher shortage as a big problem. They think it can wait. If teachers leave the classrooms of our public schools, then private schools look better and students may transfer to private schools, which some Republican leaders who want to privatize all of our schools would favor.

The step by step privatization of all public schools is the goal of those who favor the policies of Milton Friedman and libertarians like Charles Koch. To this faction, destabilizing traditional public schools with severe teacher shortages and teacher turnover will help bring about the deconstruction of public education and lead to the privatization transition they want.

Consider these four theories and let your legislators know you are concerned about teacher pay.

Two Things You Can Do

1) Communicate with your legislators to let them know you think teachers need a bonus in pay now, not next year. Too many schools are having real problems with teacher shortages and teacher turnover when teachers go for higher paying positions in other states or in other careers.

2) Come to the “Rally for Public Education” sponsored by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education to speak up for better K-12 funding for teacher pay and for other needs:

When? Monday, February 17, 2020, 2 p.m.

Where? The North Atrium of the Indiana Statehouse

Bring friends! Bring posters! Bring your voices! Wear RED for PUBLIC ED!

Check out rally details HERE.

Thank you for your strong support for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith vic790@aol.com

Vic Smith, ICPE Founder & Board Member

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is representing ICPE extremely well in the 2020 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana. In April of 2018, I was honored to receive the 2018 Friend of Education Award from the Indiana State Teachers Association.