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Unions: Teacher mentoring bill leaves too many out

Despite broad support from educators, advocates and lawmakers for a bill designed to create more opportunities for teachers to gain leadership roles and mentoring, some raised concerns that it won’t serve enough teachers.

House Bill 1005, authored by Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Mishawaka, would give extra pay to teachers who are rated effective and agree to mentor peers. A vote is expected next week in the Senate Education Committee.

The bill would also allow teachers in their first two years of work who are rated in the bottom two categories on Indiana’s four-step rating scale — “ineffective” or “improvement necessary”—  to be eligible for salary raises. Right now low-rated teachers are blocked from earning raises. The bill passed the House 78-17 last week.

“We believe we have some really great teachers in our state who can help out some first-time teachers in our state,” DeVon said.

Sally Sloan, lobbying for the Indiana Federation of Teachers union, said more teachers should be eligible for mentoring, not just those in the specific “career pathways” programs, which districts would create when they apply to the Indiana State Board of Education and Indiana Department of Education for a grant.

“There are parts of this bill that we would support in a different context,” Sloan said. “The elements we support are mentoring — mentoring for all teachers. As the bill stands, mentoring is just in the career pathways program.”

Sloan, along with representatives of the Indiana State Teachers Association and the state education department, said the bill would be better if it included more pieces that applied to all teachers.

But DeVon said he wasn’t open to amending the bill. Adding potential new costs to the bill could doom it, he said.

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said DeVon should be willing to talk about making changes to the bill that Democrats and unions are asking for.

“I’d like to see what we can do to make this legislation palatable, at least, to everybody,” Rogers said. “I think that’s what this process is all about.”

Today’s debate also echoed some recent concerns from union members: the bill doesn’t allow unions to participate in negotiating the extra pay that comes along with those new opportunities.

Sloan said cutting the union out of the process wasn’t a good answer to hiring problems many districts across the state have seen as of late. If the bill also doesn’t allocate any extra funding for the teachers who participate, that means paying them extra would just shrink the pool of money available for other teachers’ salaries.

“It’s already been mentioned that there is not supplemental funding for this supplemental pay,” she said. “So you have teachers who are bargaining and then teachers who are … forming a career pathways school, but it’s the same pot of money.”

The bill, along with five others, is expected to be considered for amendments and a final vote by the senate committee next week:

  • Teacher scholarships. House Bill 1034, authored by Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, would make technical changes to the minority teacher scholarship and change its name in honor of the of former state Rep. William A. Crawford from Indianapolis who died last year. The bill passed the House 95-0.
  • Minority student teaching stipend. House Bill 1179, authored by Rep. Donna Harris, D-East Chicago, would let students from underrepresented ethnic groups who are pursuing degrees to become school administrators receive a stipend from the minority student teaching fund. The bill passed the House 93-0.
  • Workplace SpanishHouse Bill 1209, authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, would allow schools to recognize students who have passed certain Spanish language classes with a special designation on their high school transcripts. The bill passed the House 94-1.
  • High school diplomasHouse Bill 1219, authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, would require all public high schools to offer any diploma approved by the Indiana State Board of Education. It passed the House 93-0.
  • ISTEP rescore. House Bill 1395, authored by Behning, would give the Indiana State Board of Education the power to hire an outside company to rescore the 2015 ISTEP test if decides that such a move is necessary. The bill would also set a get rid of the ISTEP testing program by July 2017 and create a committee to study new testing options and review Indiana’s current A-F accountability system. The bill passed the House 86-11.