New state teaching requirements cause uproar

May 18—ANDERSON — Under a new state law, teachers in grades K-5 will be required to complete 80 hours of literacy training by July 1, 2027, in order to renew their licenses.

The new mandate has upset teachers and school officials throughout Indiana, including some locally.

Amy Bair, an Alexandria school board member, took time to address House Enrolled Act 1243, the legislation responsible for the requirement.

She said the new requirements would add to teachers' already-increasing workloads. The state, she said, was "not listening" to teachers and school officials.

The training will be done through various free programs and some paid ones. The state has offered teachers a $1,200 stipend to complete the training, according to an Indiana Capital Chronicle article.

Cory Freihaut, a stay-at-home father of two, said the stipend amounts to $15 per hour. He told the Indiana State Board of Education he could make more than that via his second job.

"I think it's intended," said Alexandria school board member Penny Stevens said Thursday. "I think our legislators want to privatize education."

State officials, however, tell a different story. They see it as an effort to increase literacy rates, which have fallen significantly for more than a decade.

Only one in five third graders in Indiana are considered reading proficient, according to Katie Jenner, secretary for the Indiana Department of Education.

"We know that students first learn to read, and then they read to learn," Jenner told the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

"Data shows a direct link between reading by the end of third grade and future learning."

Stevens and others believe Indiana's requirements for teachers are unprecedented and unfair.

Bair believes the new endorsement is unnecessary as local teachers are already being trained in the new Science of Reading curriculum, another state effort to boost literacy.

The Science of Reading curriculum combines phonics, comprehension and vocabulary. The idea is to help students "decode" words they don't understand.

All Indiana schools are expected to adopt the curriculum by the upcoming school year.

Evidence-based reading curricula like the Science of Reading have been mandated in more than 35 states. Iowa and Maryland are the most recent, according to an article from Education Week.

Follow Caleb Amick on Twitter @AmickCaleb. Contact him at or 765-648-4254.