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6 issues to watch in Indiana education in 2019

Scott Elliott/Chalkbeat

Raising teacher pay quickly became the No. 1 issue in education in Indiana in 2018, setting up intense debates next year about exactly how to achieve higher salaries.

But there was no shortage of other education issues in the news this year, with school safety and virtual education also rising to the top.

Here are the top issues to watch in Indiana education in 2019.

1. Teacher pay

Following national teacher protests over low wages and high work demands, Indiana leaders pledged to find ways to increase teacher pay. But what remains to be seen is how officials can address the issue, how much they can do, and how soon they can get to it.

At the same time, lawmakers will also have to consider the larger K-12 budget and how schools are currently spending state dollars.

Read more: ‘Our teachers have waited long enough’: Educators say Indiana needs to act now on teacher pay

Read more: ‘Indiana’s war on teachers is winning’: Here’s what superintendents say is causing teacher shortages

Read more: As Indiana’s teacher pay debate heats up, some lawmakers say schools spend too much outside the classroom

2. Virtual schools

After nearly a decade of low performance by Indiana’s virtual charter schools, education officials are calling for stronger regulations. The recommendations would most affect two of Indiana’s largest and lowest-performing online schools: Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, which are overseen by the small Daleville school district. But will lawmakers act?

Read more: Indiana education officials call for a crackdown on ‘too big to fail’ virtual schools

Read more: Holcomb: Indiana needs to make virtual charter schools a better option for students

3. Early childhood education

After a push in recent years to make pre-Kindergarten more accessible to 4-year-olds from low-income families, further expansion of the state’s pre-K program could hit a speed bump in 2019.

Read more: Indiana faces a tight budget in 2019, lawmakers say. Will expanding pre-K be in the cards?

Read more: Indiana lawmakers went to preschool. Here’s what they learned

4. Education politics

Indiana education politics reliably delivered fireworks as state schools chief Jennifer McCormick said it didn’t work for her to “play nice.” She blasted political clashes that she said prevented policymakers from making strides on issues. Her decision not to run for re-election could soon change the dynamics of the state’s educational leadership.

Read more: The ‘toxic’ politics behind McCormick’s decision to reject a second term as Indiana schools chief

5. Accountability

After a confusing year in which schools received two A-F grades, Indiana is proposing a different way to measure schools by federal standards. Schools will see another change soon when the state revamps its A-F grading system. Plus, meet ILEARN, the new standardized test that Indiana will roll out in 2019.

Read more: Indiana looks to ditch two A-F grades. Here’s how the feds would measure schools instead

Read more: Shorter, faster, smarter: How officials say Indiana’s new ILEARN test could differ from ISTEP

Read more: Check out some practice questions for Indiana’s new ILEARN test

6. School safety

Indiana was rocked by two school shootings in 2018 that prompted state and local leaders to make school safety a top priority. Even before the shootings, Hoosier students joined students across the nation in protesting gun violence by walking out of school.

A school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in May prompted the city’s voters to pass a $50 million referendum to improve school safety. Gov. Eric Holcomb released a report with several recommendations to make schools safer, including expanding mental health services, requiring active shooter drills in every school, and finding funding for safety initiatives.

A December school shooting at Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond brought the issue back to the forefront as lawmakers prepared for the legislative session that starts in January. School safety is expected to be both a funding request and a topic of discussion.

Read more: Indy teens fighting gun violence are suddenly part of a national movement

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