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Alan Petersime

Pence-backed teacher choice bill derailed

A plan to offer extra pay to teachers willing to work in high need schools — another of Gov. Mike Pence’s education legislative priorities — appears headed to a summer study committee, not into law.

House Bill 264 was designed to make highly rated teachers who change jobs to teach at D- or F-rated traditional public schools or charter schools eligible for extra pay. But in today’s House Education Committee meeting, Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said that bill would not move forward. It had passed the Senate 34-14 and was awaiting a vote of the full House.

Instead, Huston offered an amendment to Senate Bill 284, which deals with the deadlines by which a teacher is bound by a contract, to add the teacher choice program to other education ideas that will be studied this summer.

It was another setback for Pence’s education agenda. His top education priority — creating a state-paid preschool pilot program — was routed toward a summer study committee last week. On Monday, an effort to amend the preschool bill, House Bill 1004, to revive the pilot program was turned backed. That bill could be voted on by the full Senate this week.

The “teacher choice” proposal was designed to provide an incentive for teachers to take jobs at low-scoring public or charter schools. As an incentive, Pence proposed that the state offer additional pay to supplement teachers’ salaries at their new schools.

The program would have particularly helped charter schools, which typically pay far less than traditional public schools. For example, in 2012 the average salary of an Indianapolis Public Schools classroom teacher was $53,910. The average pay for a charter school classroom teacher in the city, meanwhile, was $39,055. The lowest-paying charter school that year paid $20,900 less than IPS on average.

As with preschool, the concern about the bill was its potential long term cost. To address that issue, the bill was crafted only to create the framework of the program, but leave up to the legislature the amount of funding to commit to the program during the 2015 budget-making process. The preschool bill was similarly designed to limit costs before 2015, but in both cases that approach did not persuade enough lawmakers to approve the bills without changes.

Pence’s plan would have covered a portion of that difference in salary for a teacher who changed schools during a transition period, after which it would have been up to the school to determine if it should keep the salary at the higher level.

Pence’s education advisers said they hoped the program would create an effective incentive, especially for teachers who are motivated more by a mission to serve needy children than by money.