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COLUMN: A budget focused on education

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By LLOYD ARNOLD
District 74 State Representative

As a freshman, it has been exciting for me to see the process a state budget goes through to be crafted. Last week, House Bill 1001, Indiana’s biennial budget, passed out of the House with bipartisan support and will be heard in the upcoming weeks by the Indiana Senate.

This is an important time for the legislature to decide the direction we will take as we distribute and designate funds for Indiana’s future.

It is imperative for the House to continue to be good fiscal stewards by using a sustainable approach when handling Indiana’s spending. Striving to keep an honestly balanced budget, despite national economic downturns, is vital in keeping Indiana’s triple-A bond rating.

There are six parts we feel are vital to securing Indiana’s fiscal integrity in our communities. The six main points we focused on implementing in the budget are investing in education, boosting the Hoosier economy, building and maintaining infrastructure, protecting the vulnerable, focusing on fiscal integrity and protecting taxpayers.

Investing in education is and will continue to be a top priority. We want to invest in education because we know the investment will create a strong base to build our growing economy. As a member of the Education Committee, I have heard numerous testimonies in support of the K-12 funding we are hoping to implement this legislative session. HB 1001 will increase school operating funds by $344 million.

This increase in education funding is something that I am very happy about. I have talked with many teachers throughout our community and heard how the decreased funding has impacted them over the last few years. The House has said all session that our focus is on jobs and education, and hundreds of millions of dollars in increased education funding proves we were serious.

The full-day kindergarten grant program, and a pre-kindergarten pilot program created in HB 1004, will be funded under HB 1001. College financial aid will also see an increase. HB 1001 includes a recruitment fund to place science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers in the schools that need them the most.

The General Assembly will continue to work to bridge the skills gap. HB 1001 will restore the adult basic education appropriation to $14 million per year. The bill will also increase funding for the Skills Enhancement Fund to $36 million over the next two years to train and educate Hoosier workers.

It is important we continue to cultivate an environment where the economy can thrive, and proceed in building a quality education system that gives every Hoosier child an equal opportunity to construct their own great future. I am eager to see how schools will incorporate the increased funding.

The House Budget will allow Indiana to continue to better our education system, provide greater and more abundant job opportunities, as well as keeping our proven track record of fiscal integrity intact and thriving.

Arnold represents Perry County in the Indiana House of Representatives.