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School officials oppose HB 1005

Fear bill will reduce funds for teachers’ salaries
School officials oppose HB 1005 School officials oppose HB 1005
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

A bill that could make an impact on Harrison County schools is making its way through the Indiana legislature and does not have the support of any of the county’s three superintendents.

The bill, HB 1005, authored by Republican State Rep. Bob Behning, whose district includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties, passed in the Indiana House of Representatives 61-36 and moved to the Indiana Senate on Feb. 16. It is being described as the “school choice matters” bill. If passed, it would allow that, after June 30, 2022, there would be an Indiana education scholarship account program.

That program would extend eligibility to receive vouchers to families who have a household income of $145,000, about two times Indiana’s median income. Vouchers are state-funded scholarships for students who want to attend private school. To fund the scholarships, the voucher and educational savings account programs would pull from funds originally dedicated to traditional public schools.

At Lanesville Community School Corp.’s most recent board meeting, school trustees unanimously passed a resolution opposing the bill. In the resolution, it expressed how members believe the passing of this bill would “erode the financial support to Indiana’s public schools, which serves over 90% of Indiana’s students, and divert resources away from improving Indiana public school teachers’ salaries.”

Steve Morris, superintendent of LCSC, said his fear is state money that would normally support Lanesville schools would go toward charter schools, none of which are in Harrison County.

HB 1005 was introduced following a 2020 report conducted by a state commission, which said an additional annual investment of about $600 million would be needed to make Indiana teacher salaries competitive. Indiana teachers receive one of the lowest salaries in the region and the lowest amount of salary growth in the country.

Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of the South Harrison Community School Corp., said he agrees with the Lanesville school board in opposing the bill. He also said he was afraid that, because this could impact any raise teachers could hope to see in their salaries, it would discourage students to pursue being educators in the future.

“I was really pleased and proud when the governor recommended we increase teachers’ compensation but, if this bill passes, I don’t believe our teachers will ever see that funding,” Eastridge said. “It seems the semantics of those conversations are getting lost in the halls of our legislature, and this could trickle down much further than I think representatives realize.”

Dr. Lance Richards, superintendent of the North Harrison Community School Corp., said his school board also intends to pass a resolution similar to Lanesville’s opposing HB 1005 at a special March meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at North Harrison Middle School in Ramsey.

Lanesville school board members encouraged community members to reach out to state representatives with questions or concerns regarding this bill.