Making key investments in Hoosier priorities
Lawmakers have worked on numerous bills to help improve the lives of Hoosiers everywhere, especially in Southern Indiana. One of our main tasks this session included passing an honestly balanced, fiscally responsible budget that wisely invests taxpayer dollars.
With increased revenue projections, our two-year budget reduces taxpayer-funded debt by over $1 billion, positions the state to make future tax cuts and reforms and makes substantial investments in K-12 education and broadband expansion.
An additional $1.9 billion in new funding will be invested in K-12 education over the next two years. This includes investing $600 million annually to increase teacher pay, which fulfills and exceeds the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission recommendations to keep educator salaries competitive. With this historic increase, more local schools should be in a strong position to invest in their teachers.
K-12 schools are recommended to set the minimum starting teacher salaries at $40,000 and required to dedicate at least 45% of their tuition support to teacher pay. If a school does not meet these benchmarks, they must report to the Indiana Dept. of Education or request a waiver.
In addition to these record state investments in education, $2.8 billion in federal pandemic recovery funds are going to Indiana schools.
Within this budget, we are also addressing student learning loss by dedicating $150 million to create the Student Learning Recovery Grant Program to help students who are falling behind. We’re also increasing most special education grants by 15% over the biennium, funding for career and technical education programs and appropriating $37.5 million each year for Teacher Appreciation Grants to reward effective and highly effective educators.
Another part of the next two-year state budget will greatly impact Crawford, Dubois, Orange, Perry and Spencer counties. Legislators invested $250 million for broadband expansion, especially in rural communities. Many in our area do not have access to reliable internet service. In our budget, we increased funding to helping unserved and underserved areas establish quality, affordable internet access. We also passed legislation bolstering the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, which prioritizes the needs of schools, rural health clinics, K-12 students and families in our area.
This is great news for Indiana, bringing a return of $3 to $4 for every dollar invested in broadband.
I was excited to support our next two-year budget, which received broad bipartisan support because it pays down our debts and makes strategic investments in Indiana’s future. More information about our next state budget can be found at IndianaHouseRepublicans.com.
In the coming weeks, I will share more information about new laws that move our state in forward. Please reach out to my office with any thoughts or comments by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-317-232-9802.
Editor’s note: State Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty, represents House District 74, which includes portions of Crawford, Dubois, Orange, Perry and Spencer counties.