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Weekly Statehouse Update: Holcomb's Teacher Pay Plan, DCS Changes

statehouse-winter-rt.jpg

(Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)

Gov. Eric Holcomb unveiled a teacher pay proposal in his State of the State. A Department of Child Services bill cleared committee. And House Republicans then rebuffed an effort to strengthen that bill.

Get full coverage of the session online every day

Teacher Pay

Holcomb wants to spend state surplus dollars to fully fund a teacher pension fund. Doing so would reduce, by $70 million a year, the amount districts statewide have to pay. Holcomb wants schools to use that savings to give teachers a pay raise – though his plan doesn’t force them to.

All four leaders of Indiana’s legislative caucuses – Republicans and Democrats – say they support the governor's idea.

DCS Changes

House lawmakers unanimously advanced a bill out of committee this week to make changes at the Indiana Department of Child Services. Some of the changes give DCS caseworkers more time to begin and end their initial assessment after a report of a child in imminent danger. And the measure eliminates poverty as a reason why a child can be removed from a home.

But GOP legislators then rejected Democrats’ attempt to amend the bill. State law establishes how many cases, on average, DCS workers should have at one time. But a state Supreme Court decision says those standards are unenforceable. Democrats’ proposal would compel DCS to hire more caseworkers if the caseload limits aren’t met. But Republicans contend there’s already enough oversight of the agency.

Juvenile Attempted Murder

Current state statute does not allow 12- and 13-year-olds charged with attempted murder to be sent to adult court – on Tuesday Indiana lawmakers introduced a bill that would change that.

The bill was filed, in part, as a response to last year’s shooting at Noblesville West Middle School where a student shot a teacher and classmate.

Some who oppose the bill say children can be rehabilitated and should stay in the juvenile system, which is more tailored towards mental health programs and families.

The bill includes an amendment that would prevent released juveniles from buying a gun until they are at least 26-years-old.

Holcomb Uses ‘State Of The State’ To Highlight Hate Crimes

The governor used his yearly address to re-emphasize the need for a hate crimes law. And he sent a clear signal to lawmakers what he’s looking for in such a bill.

“I look forward to working with the General Assembly to achieve this goal so that our state law reflects what’s already my administration’s employment policy,” Holcomb says.

That policy includes a list of victim characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

House Republican leader Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has spoken positively about a different hate crimes approach, one that doesn’t include any victim characteristics. Bosma says he doesn’t think Holcomb ruled that out.

“He stated his preference. I didn’t hear a line being drawn or say ‘my way or the highway,’" Bosma says. "That’s not Governor Holcomb’s style.”

Voucher Schools Discrimination

Some lawmakers want to keep state money out of schools with openly discriminatory policies, in response to the ongoing controversy over Roncalli High School putting an employee on administrative leave because of her marriage to a woman.

Roncalli High School received nearly $1.5 million in state money through vouchers last year.

Both the House and Senate education committee chairs, Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) and Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville) have said they’ll consider any bill assigned to them. But the two chairs have also not been clear if they will give legislation focused on discrimination in voucher schools a hearing.

Verbal Screening Targets Infant Mortality

A new bill would require pregnant mothers go through verbal substance use screenings. It also establishes a pilot program to address Indiana’s high infant mortality rate.

Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. The Indiana State Department of Health, or ISDH, has identified drug use as a factor.

Virtual Schools Oversight

Lawmakers proposed new rules for Indiana’s poorly-rated virtual schools after years of failing letter grades and calls for them to improve. A measure heard in a House committee Wednesday would help, but many say it’s just a start.

The bill doesn’t include all of the state board’s policy recommendations, made last month.

Instead, it mainly focuses on orientation for virtual school families.

But the bill would also move oversight of statewide virtual charter schools away from districts like Daleville. A change made to the bill in committee means only statewide authorizers can oversee virtual charter schools.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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