Indiana House minority leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, talks with The Herald Bulletin editorial board on Friday. Don Knight | The Herald Bulletin
Indiana House minority leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, talks with The Herald Bulletin editorial board on Friday. Don Knight | The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Education issues will be a priority for Democrats in the Indiana House during the upcoming 2020 legislative session.

Minority leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, and Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson met Friday with the editorial board of The Herald Bulletin.

“Teacher pay is at the top of the agenda,” GiaQuinta said. “The average increase was 2% around the state. It wasn’t enough money to give teachers the pay raise they deserved.”

He said for teachers with the Anderson Community Schools, the increase was 1.6% in the first year and 1.7% in the second year.

“There is not enough money in the system to provide adequate pay raises,” GiaQuinta said. “We proposed last session minimum pay for starting teachers at $40,000 in one bill and $50,000 in another.”

He said there are ideas that can be put forward to increase teacher pay.

GiaQuinta said that although funding for pre-K was expanded, it wasn’t enough money to pay for more programs.

Austin said although the pre-K program was expanded to include additional Indiana counties, the amount of state funding was not increased.

Both lawmakers said there will be a lot of discussion about student testing in 2020.

GiaQuinta said there is agreement that teachers should be held harmless when it comes to test scores for students and the possible impact on a salary increase.

“We’re spending $45 million on the ILearn tests and we’ve seen over the course of the last nine years, educators are basically teaching to a test,” he said.

“There are so many teachers that tell me it’s just not fun anymore,” GiaQuinta said. “There are so many things that are tied to the outcome of the tests that it has taken the creativity out of teaching.”

He said that’s why teachers are leaving the profession and the number of students entering teaching has decreased.

Austin said that recently, the president pro tem of the Indiana Senate said that there were only three days mandated for testing.

“When I talk to teachers and principals and they show me their calendars for the year, it’s far more than three days,” she said.

“We have spent hand over fistfuls of money in regards to one testing program after another,” Austin said. “We don’t even have trends anymore where you really gauge long term. Every time you start a new test you can’t hold the results against the previous results.”

Austin said through all the policy changes at the state level, chaos has been created in public education.

“No one is sure what the rules and changes are,” she said. “Over the past four years there have been 116 policy changes. Educators can’t keep up with the changes.”
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