Hatfield priority in House leadership: improving Indiana public schools

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INDIANAPOLIS – As State Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) begins his work as a member of Indiana House leadership, the lawmaker said he will use that post to advance proposals to improve the quality of schools by helping teachers, students and families.

Hatfield will serve as Assistant House Democratic Floor Leader for the 2019-2020 sessions of the Indiana General Assembly, according to Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta from Fort Wayne, who noted that the Evansville lawmaker has made his mark as an eloquent, forceful spokesman on issues of importance to Hoosiers during his first term in office.

That in mind, Hatfield said he would be offering legislation to improve problems he believes need to be corrected in our schools.

“I am pleased to see there has been a renewed effort to recognize the worth and value of teachers in helping our children,” Hatfield said. “It is no secret that Indiana teachers are either leaving the occupation or the state because they are not paid enough. We need good teachers in Indiana to improve our schools and prepare our students. To have good teachers, we need to pay them the wage they deserve.”

To that end, Hatfield has filed House Bill 1611, which raises the minimum salary for a full-time teacher in Indiana to $50,000.

“In today’s world, teachers are asked to be a lot more than an educator,” Hatfield said. “They are now mentors, protectors and counselors. It’s time Indiana values our teachers and pays them for all the work they do.”

House Bill 1610 would eliminate Indiana’s textbook fees by requiring public schools to provide curricular materials free of charge.

“Indiana is one of the few states in the nation that requires families to pay for the textbooks their children use in our schools,” Hatfield said. “Sometimes these costs run as high as $300 a year. It simply isn’t right for families to pay these costs to ensure their children receive the education to which they are entitled. It creates impossible situations that force both the parents and the schools to make difficult decisions.”

Last year, the Evansville Vanderburgh School corporation sued 500 people for unpaid fees including textbooks and laptop rentals, meals and daycare services. Families sued owed between $21 and $1,400.

“Textbooks are an integral part of education and a student should not be denied the opportunity to learn because of the price of the materials,” Hatfield said. “It should not be the responsibility of the students to provide curricular materials, but the school corporation.”

Hatfield already has seen some success this session, co-authoring legislation (House Bill 1057) that will allow additional magistrates for the Vanderburgh Circuit and Superior Courts to help reduce the caseloads in both venues. The measure was approved earlier this week by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.

Other priorities for the legislator this session include a plan to establish a work sharing unemployment insurance program. Work sharing helps employers during economic downturns maintain their workforce by protecting employees when their hours are reduced due to problematic economic conditions.

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