After proposing more than 100 education bills, lawmakers face a key legislative deadline next week. House lawmakers proposed fewer education-focused bills than the Senate, but only about a dozen made it through to the session’s next half.
Legislative leaders prioritized the so-called “hold harmless” bill to not penalize schools for a drop in student scores on the state’s new ILEARN test. Both chambers have approved identical pieces of legislation on hold harmless, but either the Senate or House bill has to proceed through the opposite chamber before the governor signs it into law.
In what’s being hailed as a massive win for the state’s educators, House lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that would no longer require schools to include test scores as part of the teacher evaluation process. Schools still could decide to include test scores at the local level, but this bill removes language from Indiana law that requires test scores to “significantly” inform teacher accountability measures.
This bill, dubbed the “school freedom bill” by author Rep. Jack Jordan (R-Bremen), would let schools submit waivers to the Indiana State Board of Education, to work around curriculum or other related school laws if the schools prove it will benefit students. The bill received broad support, but some lawmakers and education advocates remain concerned about the possible legal questions that could come into play if schools propose waiving certain statutes.
This bill covers a lot of ground in the education arena. It would make foster children automatically qualify for the state’s school choice program and require the Indiana State Department of Education to post more information about teacher workforce needs and permits.
The bill also says schools have to accept students who want to enroll in a district outside of their legal boundaries if their parent works for the school corporation. Under the bill, schools can also provide students with more information about autism-related behaviors and how to work with students on the spectrum.
Charter schools brought into an innovation network could limit enrollment to students previously enrolled at the school or siblings of those students during the first year it operates as an innovation school under the bill. It also says a student’s former school corporation has to provide discipline records to the student’s new school if requested, and the records are related to the safety of other students.
It also requires schools to provide information on immunizations, causes and resources for families about meningococcal disease.
This legislation would require the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to align the state’s workforce training programs with the state’s other education agencies. The cabinet has received some pushback, particularly after recommendations from the cabinet resulted in the infamous career awareness licensure renewal requirements HB 1003 made optional.
Rep. Dale DeVon (R-Granger) filed this bill to increase teachers’ awareness and response to student trauma. He says the bill will push teacher preparation programs to better train future educators about students’ adverse life experiences, and how to respond when those students act out in the classroom.
“Just to be clear this is not anything new on teachers, it’s a teacher preparation,” he says.
This bill was created with schools with large Amish communities in mind. Rep. Christy Stutzman (R-Middlebury) filed the legislation to help graduation rates remain steady even if students who leave school for religious reasons pursue more years of high school but leave before graduation.
Teacher and Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) received widespread support for her so-called workforce bill. It would require the state to send information on additional education and training options for special needs students who left high school without a diploma, to earn their high school diploma.