Education issues a common theme on opening day

Kurt Darling
Network Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — As state lawmakers gaveled in the 2023 legislative session on Monday lots of topics were on everyone’s mind, but the topic that dominated opening remarks from both parties was funding for education in Indiana.

For Republicans, one of the priorities is getting teachers paid.

“We’ll continue to try and fund that at a level that makes them as effective as possible and to try and make sure those dollars get into the hands of men and women who are in the classrooms teaching our children,” said Senate President Rod Bray.

Republicans also prioritize doing away with textbook fees for families who send their kids to public schools. Democrats are in agreement with Republicans for the most part on those issues. However, they also want significant consideration of a universal Pre-K system throughout the state.

That is essentially state-funded preschool so that Hoosier parents will not have to pay to send their kids to preschool in the years leading up to kindergarten.

“It’s not time to reinvent, it’s time to reinvest in our schools,” said Indiana House Minority leader Phil Giaquinta. “It is statistically proven that children who enroll in Pre-K have higher graduation rates and are more likely to go to college.”

On the subject of Pre-K, Gov. Eric Holcomb remained open to the idea but said that he would instead like to expand on programs that already exist as opposed to rolling out a brand new system.

Other subjects touched on by both parties were healthcare and pot legalization. On the subject of pot, Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said it’s “unlikely” they will take up any legislation on decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana use in Indiana this session.

Holcomb, though staunchly against legalizing pot while it’s still illegal on the federal level, said Monday that he is “very happy” to have a discussion with lawmakers on pot. He said that he believes simple possession “up to certain amounts should not derail someone’s life.”

This week, lawmakers will hold hearings in the Ways and Means Committee to start the process of molding a two-year state budget.