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AVON, Ind. (AP) — A state lawmaker is seeking to move more educators into Indiana's classrooms by allowing them to negotiate their own contract with schools, rather than be subject to collective bargaining contracts negotiated by teacher unions.
Republican state Sen. Pete Miller of Avon said his proposed legislation will aim to address concerns that Indiana is facing a shortage of licensed educators opting to work in the field.
His measure, which would go before lawmakers in their session that begins Jan. 5, would allow schools to hire high-demand teachers in science, math and special education through individual contracts and at a higher pay rate.
Miller contends that he's acting in the best interest of teachers.
"I want teachers to be paid everything they are worth," he told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1V7hMwH ). "... If we are only willing to pay a special education teacher less than market rate, then we shouldn't be surprised that we have a shortage."
The leader of Indiana's largest teachers union quickly denounced Miller's proposal.
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said that if Miller's legislation becomes law it would weaken collective bargaining instead of addressing the teacher shortage.
She said that collective bargaining agreements — a popular target of Republican-sponsored school reform efforts — ensure fairness.
"We are all about making certain kids have high-quality teachers, not just in shortage areas. We want every teacher to be respected and compensated fairly, and that can only happen when there is a check-and-balance system in place," Meredith said.
Miller's teacher-hiring proposal would also establish a mentoring program for beginning teachers calling for administrators to assess their performance and determine if they pass. It also addresses the issue of making sure educators who move in from out-of-state can teach in Indiana classrooms.
His proposal would require the Indiana Department of Education to grant an out-of-state teacher an Indiana license if that educator meets the requirements to receive the credential. Miller said that additional tests shouldn't be required if out-of-state teachers have already taken exams showing their expertise in a subject area.
Educators who have out-of-state licenses and move to Indiana currently receive a one-year permit, said Samantha Hart, a state education department spokeswoman. That permit covers educators while they complete minimum requirements for an Indiana license, such as passing the state's licensing exams, she said.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com
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