A proposal that would give school districts authority to negotiate higher pay with individual teachers faces an uncertain fate in the Indiana Legislature after the Republican Senate leader pronounced it dead Thursday amid widespread opposition from teachers' unions and school administrators.
We "decided that we will not proceed with (the bill) or any similar legislation this year," Republican Senate leader David Long said in a written statement, adding the intent of the bill "was misperceived by some as something that would be harmful to teachers."
But whether efforts to move a similar idea forward this year will actually cease remains to be seen because a similar measure that was already approved by the Senate is currently before that GOP-controlled House, which could vote to send the measure to Gov. Mike Pence's desk for signature.
GOP House Education committee Bob Behning has scheduled the measure for a committee hearing Monday. He could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
The debate comes as state officials and local school leaders have considered steps to address possible teacher shortages as the number of first-time teaching licenses issued by the state Department of Education has declined by 33 percent over the past five years. Teachers in the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math—as well as special education, are the ones in highest demand.
Senate education committee Chairman Denis Kruse, an Auburn Republican, has said school districts should have more flexibility to fill their teacher vacancies.
He echoed Long's comments Thursday, saying in a statement: "The contents of the bill were offered with good intentions of supporting Hoosier teachers, but the effects of the bill have been misperceived by some teachers."
Democrats and unions have argued that salary matters for teachers should be part of district-wide contract negotiations with the teacher unions.
Leaders of the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, maintain that individual deals would cause division among teachers.
Representatives of the ISTA could not be reached Thursday evening. An office receptionist said no one would be available to comment until Friday morning.
School administrators have said the proposal is cumbersome and would require more staffers in the district's personnel office to handle contracts for individual teachers. They also don't think it would help much in teacher recruitment.