INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Just how much additional money will go toward Indiana schools is a top
unanswered question as the General Assembly nears the end of this year’s
wrap up the session as early as Wednesday but negotiations on the new
two-year state budget and other issues could delay completion of its
business until as late as April 29.
Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders touted improving teacher pay as a
top priority this year, but Democrats and education advocacy groups have
said Republican proposals for less than 3% increases in base school funding
House and Senate
members are also seeking agreements on funding public subsidies for
renovating the Indiana Pacers arena in Indianapolis and a bill allowing new
casinos in Gary and Terre Haute, along with legalizing sports betting.
A look at some top
issues still up for debate:
The only business
that the GOP-dominated Legislature must complete before its adjournment is
reaching a state budget agreement.
plans have proposed increases between 2% and 2.7% in base funding over the
next two years for K-12 schools, while education advocacy groups estimate a
9% funding increase is needed to boost average teacher pay to the midpoint
of Indiana’s neighboring states.
teachers have attended Statehouse rallies calling for greater funding
increases, while Republican state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick
said GOP Statehouse leaders had given a “false promise” of significant
teacher pay raises. Republicans budget writers say they’re giving school
districts more flexibility for increasing teacher pay and have rejected
proposals from Democrats for additional education money by cutting private
school voucher growth, tapping the state’s $1.8 billion in cash reserves or
suspending corporate tax cuts.
School funding will
get close attention from all legislators, said Senate Appropriations
Committee Chairman Ryan Mishler of Bremen. “They all want to make sure their
schools did OK. I think that’s probably at the top of our list of what we
discuss over the next couple of days.”
item is Holcomb’s request for $572 million over the next two years toward
allowing the state’s troubled Department of Child Services to keep hundreds
of new caseworkers. Several local officials are trying to reverse the
proposed cut of a $3 million annual state subsidy for Amtrak’s Hoosier State
passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago.
proposal would allow the owner of the two Gary casino boats on Lake Michigan
to build a new casino along heavily traveled Interstate 80-94 in the city,
after paying a one-time $50 million state fee. It also sets up a competitive
process for casino operators to be picked for opening a casino in Terre
The question of
whether Indiana will allow sports betting by mobile devices is still up for
debate- as the House voted to limit such wagering to casino sites and the
Senate backed online bets. Some lawmakers who oppose mobile device wagering
call it a significant expansion of gambling that could lead to traditional
casino games moving online.
Many details remain
unsettled over the bill, including whether lawmakers will move up the
state’s 2021 date for permitting table games with live dealers at the horse
track casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.
A deal for the
Indiana Pacers to stay at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for 25 more years hinges
on legislators approving a plan for the bulk of $295 million in public
subsidies toward an arena renovation and expansion project. No new taxes
will be imposed under the proposal, but the state and local income and sales
tax revenue generated by several nearby downtown Indianapolis hotels would
be diverted from the state, city and local schools.
Another part of the
bill would set up a similar tax-subsidy district toward construction of a
planned $150 million stadium by the Indy Eleven soccer team in Indianapolis.
The team’s owner has proposed a development including restaurants, shops,
offices and apartments surrounding the stadium, with tax revenue generated
by the project going toward helping pay for the stadium.
attacks last year in Noblesville and Richmond, Republicans are advancing a
bill that would allow Indiana school districts to seek state money toward
providing gun training for teachers and sets up requirements for a 40-hour
objected to what they see as encouraging more guns in schools. State law
already allows school districts to authorize non-police staffers to be armed
on school grounds, but only a few do so.
would allow police agencies to use projectiles during active-shooter
training for school staffers as long as they have written permission from
lawmakers backed off banning the practice that drew attention after police
instructors shot some teachers with plastic pellets at a northern Indiana
elementary school this year to make it more realistic. Teacher groups and
GOP state school Superintendent Jennifer McCormick have denounced the
projectile use as inappropriate.