It has been a busy few months for Indiana lawmakers, but they are finally hurdling toward the end of their annual legislative session.
As the “education session” draws to a close, a number of crucial measures remain on the table, including testing, the state’s biennial budget and a controversial bill that could shift power on the State Board of Education.
Take a brief look at some of the biggest school-related bills still up for passage:
- HB 1001: The state’s two-year budget. The most important education element contained within: Indiana’s school funding formula. The future of the Education Roundtable could also be at stake. As expected, it will be up to a conference committee – including both budget architects (Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville) – to craft final language.
- HB 1009: This is a tricky one. The measure originally started off as a bill establishing Gov. Mike Pence’s “Freedom to Teach” initiative – a grant program to fund designated districts, schools and teachers. As it currently stands, the bill now calls for a replacement of the current statewide ISTEP+ with a nationally crafted test. Why such a drastic change? Sen. Kenley had a different ISTEP+ bill on the books early on in the session (see SB 566 below) – after that effort fell through, he used his seat as Senate Appropriations chair to rewrite this bill to include his testing language.
- HB 1194: Establishes study about the need for changes to Indiana diploma types to accommodate students in special education and career & technical education programs.
- HB 1637: Changes an existing law requiring students who score poorly on state tests to be identified for remedial help.
- SB 1: Quite possibly the most contentious measure the General Assembly has seen this session: the remaining measure seeking to restructure the State Board of Education. The most contested point in the bill removes the state superintendent from the board chair position – a move many lawmakers and voters say is politically motivated, since current Superintendent Glenda Ritz is a Democrat among board members all appointed by Republican governors. Changes made to the original bill also call for adding two more members to the board, and tweaking who makes board appointments.
- SB 566: Another measure whose purpose changed as the session progressed. This was Kenley’s original bill intending to replace the ISTEP+ with a national testing program beginning in the 2016 school year. It has since done a 180-degree turn: current language prohibits Indiana from adopting a nationally constructed standardized test. Should this measure pass alongside HB 1009, the legislature may have a problem on its hands.
See our full legislative tracker here, including measures no longer up for consideration.
Any and all measures still remaining have moved past the point of debate on the House and Senate floors – they are either up for signature or have reached the conference committee stage. This means a group made up of two members from each chamber (typically one from each political party) will consult one another to reach an agreement they can return to both chambers for approval.