Aimee’s Public Education Priorities:
- Keep public funds in public schools.
- Ensure the schools have the resources they need to maintain a safe learning environment for our children.
- Improve teacher pay and benefits.
- Hold for-profit schools to the same transparency and financial reporting requirements as public schools.
- Provide a strong system of public higher education with access for the children of working families and decent pay for college and university employees.
- Stop over-testing students and empower teachers to educate based on their expertise and the individual needs of students.
Our communities in Indiana are centered around the successes and investment in our public schools. However, Indiana ranks forty-seventh in the nation for funds allocated per public school student. Our state ranks even lower when considering our Hoosier teachers who are dead last in the country for salary growth since 2002. Although Indiana’s General Fund has grown by twenty-one percent and inflation by seventeen percent, Indiana’s budget for public school personnel has only been increased by thirteen percent. The budget now sits nearly 250 million behind the 2009 school year budget a decade ago when adjusted for inflation. The 2019 school year budget was further undermined as approximately 168 million in funding was diverted from the Tuition Support Budget to the Choice Scholarship Program to fund private school vouchers. Since the implementation of the voucher program in 2011, no additional funding has been added to the budget to fund these vouchers. While the benefits of pre-kindergarten programs have been demonstrated time and time again, our budget has failed to allocate any money for these programs.
The vast majority of Hoosier children attend traditional public schools, and these should be where our priorities lie—not on the private school vouchers with little to no fiduciary oversight. As the funding for the vouchers pulls directly from the Tuition Support Budget, it poses a sharp decrease in the dollars for our public schools. The Choice Scholarship Program cost the Hamilton Southeastern School system alone over two million in the 2019 school year budget.
Hoosiers need a strong investment in our education system that targets money to early learning programs, to smaller class sizes, and to improved teacher quality that education outcomes depend upon. Education funding could easily be brought up both to inflation and beyond with the unutilized money in Indiana’s General Fund. Our elected officials have chosen not to invest in public education time and time again, session after session. Indiana needs lawmakers who will live up to the responsibility to support and properly fund public education. I will serve in the general assembly to challenge the status quo of the past decade and make that change a reality for the next generation of Hoosiers going through our education system.
We have great teachers and great public schools in Indiana. We have to give them a chance to succeed. Indiana’s average teacher pay of $50,218 is lower than each of our surrounding states. We can only attract and maintain quality teachers by paying them a competitive salary. We also need to stop with the constantly changing, high-stakes testing. Teachers should be allowed to inspire their students and teach to the student’s needs, not the needs of a test. Test scores and accountability grades shouldn’t determine how our communities are labeled.
It is in the interest of all Hoosiers that we maintain quality public education for all children. Having high quality, equitable public schools is essential not only for the future of our children, but also to protecting our property values. Many people make decisions about where they want to live based upon whether the area has a high quality public school. If the public schools are not supported, your investment in your home is not protected.