Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

From School Prayer To Regional Campuses, Four Indiana Ed Bills To Watch

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A statue in the hallway of a South Bend private school.

We got our first look Thursday at more than 150 of the proposals members of the Indiana Senate plan to bring up when the General Assembly officially kicks off its session next week.

Not all of them will make it out of committee, but a few of the education proposals are worth highlighting on their own:

  • Regional Campus Governance: Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said over the summer IPFW’s administrative masters at Purdue treat the Fort Wayne regional campus like a “stepchild” — even dangling the idea of splitting off IPFW from IU and Purdue. Now another Fort Wayne-area senator, Columbia City’s Jim Banks, wants to give more autonomy to the regional campuses of Indiana and Purdue universities. Among other things, Sen. Banks’ SB 98 would permit regional campuses to more directly interface with the Commission for Higher Education, require flagship campuses (West Lafayette, Bloomington) to include regional campus faculty leaders in their faculty leadership, and provide a way for regional campuses to opt out of participation in “system-wide administrative tasks.”
  • School Prayer: Kruse, who chairs the Senate’s Education committee, proposed a measure allowing a school board to “require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day.” Under SB 23, students could choose not to participate. But Doug Masson, an attorney who used to work for the state’s Legislative Services Agency, blogs Kruse’s proposal, “is clearly unconstitutional and would burden a participating school with court mandated legal fees.”
  • Cursive Writing: Sen. Jean Leising is re-introducing a bill she co-authored last year requiring all Indiana schools to include cursive writing instruction in their curriculum. Almost the exact same bill squeaked out of the Senate by a 27-23 vote, but the House never took it up. As we wrote last year, Indiana Department of Education officials are no longer requiring Hoosier students learn cursive. We spoke to one expert who says handwriting is important, and another who’s skeptical that teaching cursive and manuscript is worth the time spent in the classroom.
  • Sale of Public School Buildings: School districts can’t sell vacant buildings for four years after they fall into disuse under current law. That’s because charter school operators have four full years to claim the building and buy it for $1. As of January 2012, just under 50 school buildings had been reported as vacant. Kruse proposed legislation to shorten that waiting period to two years, and create a process through which a district could ask the state to waive the waiting period altogether.

The General Assembly hasn’t posted any House bills as of this posting. Senators have until January 11 to file bills. Members of the House have until January 14.

A few other proposals to mention in brief: a “Combat to College” program, law enforcement animals in schools, an early childhood literacy pilot program… and one non-education bill that caught our eye:

SB 104: Wild animals on airport runways. Allows the manager of a public use airport, or the manager’s designee, to chase or take at any time, without a hunting license, a wild animal that is located on the airport’s property that contains the runway or apron.


  • Kate Gladstone

    Handwriting matters … But does cursive matter?
    Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citations appear below.)

    When following the rules doesn’t work as well as breaking them, it’s time to re-write and upgrade the rules. The discontinuance of cursive offers a great opportunity to teach some better-functioning form of handwriting that is actually closer to what the fastest, clearest handwriters do anyway. (There are indeed textbooks and curricula teaching handwriting this way. Cursive and printing are not the only choices.)
    Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read ordinary print. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.
    (In other words, we could simply teach kids to read old-fashioned handwriting, and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to write that way too … not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing well.)

    Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don’t take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)


    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub.
    1998: on-line at


    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer.
    1998: on-line at

    (NOTE: there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way.
    Shouldn’t there be more of them?)

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

  • Dr. Lalison

    what a fantastic service to the state. For a state that overwhelmingly believes in competition, why should the central campuses not have some regional competition? they keep all major events, festivals, celebrations, teams, sports budgets, and new programs in the main campus? They have split engg and medicine between purdue and IU stupidly? Do they really think that a science student in medicine in IU not need biological training anda engg student in Purdue never have interest in medicine? for major universities this is a huge negative. state universities in none of our neighbouring states have these artificial barriers. it is time to free all campuses from the control of “main campuses”.

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