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Teachers in Wealthy Districts Get Bulk of Indiana's Performance Payouts

The Indiana Department of Education has announced how it will divvy up $40 million that state lawmakers set aside in 2015 to reward teachers who are rated effective and highly effective. Those bonuses will disproportionally go to teachers in wealthy districts, a fact that has many in the state up in arms.

Carmel Clay Schools, where just 9 percent of their 16,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, will get the most— $2.4 million or roughly $2,422 per teacher. Another well-off Indianapolis suburban district, Zionsville Community Schools, where fewer than 5 percent of students qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program, will receive about $2,240 per teacher. Meanwhile, Indianapolis, the state's largest district will receive just around $330,875, or $128.40 per educator. So teachers in those wealthy suburban districts will get bonuses nearly 20 times larger than effective and highly effective educators in Indianapolis.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith calls it a "flawed" system.

"While educators at well-resourced schools performed well and received a much-deserved bonus, the educators teaching in some of the most challenging districts where socioeconomic factors can negatively impact student and school performance, were left out," she said in a statement. "We need high-quality educators to teach at our most-challenged schools, and this distribution of bonuses certainly won't compel them to do so."

There seems to be political will to revisit the formula. Currently, districts are doled out the money based on student test scores and graduation rates. That money is then given to teachers who earned high ratings on their annual evaluation.

State House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, told The Indianapolis Star that he hopes to make changes to the system.

"It seems that we do need to take a look at the distribution formula for those funds," he told the newspaper. "The original concept was to recognize outstanding teachers, not just outstanding districts. So we'll work it through and hopefully be able to make it equitable."

And it looks like he'll get support from across the aisle. House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath argues that the current system is only exacerbating inequalities.

"What it does do is channel even more money to those school corporations that already get the largest slices of the financial pie," he told The Star.

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