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Political Radar: State legislators talk education

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FORT WAYNE, Ind (WPTA21) -- Education is a hot topic in the Hoosier state, especially on the heels of a massive rally by teachers at the statehouse late last year.

In the latest edition of ABC21's "Political Radar" we spoke to Indiana House minority leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) and State Sen. Justin Busch (R-Fort Wayne) about the future of Education in the State of Indiana.

Justin Busch (R) IN-16

Busch, a relative newcomer to the state legislature, graduated from Carroll High School and IPFW before moving on to roles within The White House and working for three U.S. Senators.

When asked about teachers' concerns with the ILEARN standardized test impacting their job performance and students, Busch says, " I think there's some complexity to it. I've actually had a parent show me one of the scores and I quite couldn't couldn't figure it out as well. The first thing we did this session is what they call the "hold harmless." Which means that none of the teachers or educators with those test scores are not going to affect their grades as a school or the teachers' performance."

Busch goes on to say " I think maybe that we need to look at a simpler test. It's over complicated. We hear from educators. We hear from parents. We hear from students how difficult it is. The test is necessary. We receive about a billion dollars from the federal government in education funding every year. One of the reasons we get that, one of the ways that they say to get that money (is) we have to have a test."

Jeff Neumeyer asks about the call for a teacher pay increase, Busch said " Well, you know last year was my it was my first session as well. We found additional -- well over three-quarters of a billion dollars. I think it was $760 million we gave them. We also found some money to pay down the teacher pension fund which opened up two percent of the budget in every school corporation in Indiana. We did not mandate it but we told school administrators and school board's that we'd like to see that go to a teacher raise."

Phil GiaQuinta (D) IN-80

GiaQuinta, the Democratic leader in the Indiana House of Representatives, is a vocal supporter for education reform and took part in the "Red for Ed" rally at the statehouse.

GiaQuinta in the past said Republican polices are responsible for a crisis in public education. Brien McElhatten asks if he still stood by that statement.

GiaQuinta responds " Oh yeah. There were 15 to 20 thousand teachers on organization day. That's a crisis. We had, we have, Dr. Jennifer McCormick said over 35 percent of teachers are leaving the profession in the first five years. We have teachers that have been teaching longer than that that are leaving the profession."

"Leaving for other states or leaving the profession entirely?" McElhatten asks.

GiaQuinta says " Leaving the profession altogether. They're going into other businesses because they can't make it as a teacher and the policies that have been put into place over the years have taken all the joy, all the creativity out of teaching. The teachers tell me, it's just not fun anymore. We got into this to be able to teach, to get the best out of children and we can no longer do that because frankly we have to teach to a test."

The ILEARN test scores are used in part to grade teachers and schools on their performance, but last year's grades were so bad, lawmakers agreed to hold the teachers and schools harmless for that year.

"If the test scores are that bad and you're talking about not holding teachers and schools accountable for that, what does that say about the test, the test process or the vendor that scores the test what are we getting out here?" McElhatten asks.

"First of all, I'm accountable, you're accountable, we're all accountable at our job. Teachers are reviewed, principals, superintendents are reviewed by school boards -- so there is accountability. I tend to want to rely on experts in the field. With doctor Jennifer McCormick, I believe we should get folks in the room and discuss what is the best way to do this? What is the best way to have a test that's fair, that kids aren't going to stress out about because it's clearly not working." says GiaQuinta

Ian Hoover

Ian Hoover is the Content Manager of Fort Wayne’s NBC and ABC21. His focus is managerial oversight of content including working with reporters on elements for their stories and with producers for deeper content in newscasts; long-range planning and content development; editorial meeting oversight; and special projects management.

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