This week Indiana lawmakers had some frank discussions on education matters. Here are the highlights:
House Budget Proposal Eliminates Teacher Bonus Program
The Indiana House of Representatives revealed its first draft of the state budget for the next two years Wednesday, which eliminates the teacher bonus program and re-invests that money into general K-12 spending. The teacher performance grants have been a source of scrutiny, after the formula created large disparities in bonuses. Some teachers received $2,500. Others received nothing.
Senate Pre-K Bill Moves Forward
A bill written to expand state-funded preschool from five to 10 counties is moving ahead. The Senate education committee added an amendment that would open the expansion to any level 3 or 4 pre-K program, regardless of county. This would make the current expansion limit a financial one: the total amount allocated for the program in this legislation is $22 million. The bill is now in the Senate appropriations committee.
House Bill Would Change State Superintendent To A Political Appointment
House Republicans debated their version of legislation this week that would make the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position starting in 2021.
Republicans and Democrats have considered this change over the years. But Republicans have favored it more since Democrat Glenda Ritz’s surprise win over former-superintendent Tony Bennett in the 2012 election.
Yet Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), author of House Bill 1005, says the change is not about who has been elected but to ensure the superintendent is aligned with the governor on policy and budget.
The bill also allows for the governor to appoint anyone – a change from current law that requires the superintendent to reside in Indiana for at least two years.
State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, a Democrat, says that would allow a “national search” for the best candidate.
“This is not about the next four years — it is about the next 50,” he said during his endorsement.
Democrats attempted to amend the bill with a provision that the appointee be an Indiana resident.
Bosma says that would prevent some like education reformer Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools from being appointed to oversee Indiana schools. The amendment failed.
HB 1005 was ordered to go ahead to a final vote.
Failing Private Schools Could Keep Vouchers Under Republican Plan
Private or religious schools that become ineligible to accept publicly funded vouchers to help students pay tuition could receive a new lifeline from a Republican backed plan announced during Thursday’s House Education Committee meeting.
Under current law, private or religious schools in Indiana rated a D or F for two consecutive years in the state accountability system lose the ability to accept more vouchers through the Choice Scholarship Program.
Chairman Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) says that’s not fair.
Behning’s proposal would allow the State Board of Education to decide whether a private school could remain part of the voucher program despite two years of low or failing accountability grades. This would be a similar approach to how the state board reviews failing traditional or charter schools. More here.
Student Journalists Win Committee Support
Student journalists seeking protections from school administrators who want to censor their work passed their first hurdle this week.
House Bill 1130 won unanimous support from the Education Committee despite lingering concerns from some lawmakers that the bill could give young reporters and editors too much freedom. It now heads to the full House.
The legislation is part of a nationwide campaign called New Voices, spearheaded by the national Student Press Law Center and supported by the Indiana High School Press Association.
Diana Hadley, the association’s executive director, attempted similar legislation in the late-1990s but it failed after opposition from some state associations, including those for school principals and school boards.
This week those same groups asked that the bill be struck down. They say the landmark 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier set enough legal precedent for school newspapers.
Union Membership And Teacher Evaluation Bill Fails
A senate bill that would have required schools to publicly display the amount of union membership failed to move ahead. The bill would also have required a change in teacher evaluations. It was stopped in a 5-5 vote.