Gov. Eric Holcomb unveiled his priorities for the 2020 legislative session Tuesday, and one item on his education agenda has been on teachers’ minds for most of this year helping spur protests at the Statehouse – and it isn’t higher pay.
A new career awareness training requirement for teachers prompted a wave of pushback this year, with thousands of teachers rushing to renew their licenses before the new requirements went into effect this summer.
Lawmakers have said they’ll consider changing those rules in 2020. But the governor has a more specific suggestion: he wants lawmakers to just make the career awareness training optional for teachers – not required.
“I want the schools to still have it, it’s just I don’t believe that the teacher needs to be that first point of contact, I think the school corporation needs to be,” he says.
He says schools and community chambers of commerce should be responsible for making those connections, and have the capability to do so.
Repealing the new requirements was one of several items on the agenda for teachers as they rallied at the Indiana statehouse last month. But Holcomb says his push to make the new career awareness rules optional wasn’t a response from the “Red for Ed” day of action, just a difference in opinion.
“This was something that I had just a different take on personally,” he says. “This item was not a result of anything that was shared that day.”
Holcomb says he’s also on board with measures to hold schools harmless for a drop in student scores as the state transitioned to the new ILEARN test this year. But he says he’s hesitant to push for moving test scores away from teacher and school accountability in the long term – another item on many teachers’ wish lists.
“We have to know at a minimum what students know and what they don’t know, and testing is about the best way that I know to measure that,” he says.
Holcomb has already made clear he plans to hold off on big teacher pay proposals until the next state budget writing session in 2021. But the work from his Teacher Compensation Commission also prompted him to focus on another hot button issue for teachers: unfunded mandates.
He says his 2020 plan includes a more pointed effort to figure out what unnecessary and unfunded state requirements are asked of schools, with proposals to eliminate those in 2021.
“There are some common themes that have been coming in from day one, and I’m convinced that because of those common themes we’ll be able to rally the support to make a lot of progress this session and next,” he says.
The 2020 legislative session begins Jan. 6.