NewsPublic Affairs / February 5, 2020

It's Halftime For The Senate. Which Education Proposals Are Moving On?

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The Senate chamber. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Senate chamber.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Lawmakers proposed more than 100 education bills but the number still alive has dwindled to just about two dozen.

Now the House and Senate will consider the opposite chamber's legislation before the session ends in early March. Here's a quick look at the bills coming out of the Senate after the first half of session has come to a close.

SB 2: Hold Harmless

This bill went to the governor after the House approved the bill Monday. It’s identical to the House version of the bill, but because of the legislative process, one bill needs to go through both chambers for it to make it to Gov. Eric Holcomb. 

Now that the bill is on the brink of being signed into law, state letter grades for the next two years won’t really reflect how schools are doing in real time; they get to use letter grades from the 2017-2018 school year for 2019 and 2020 letter grades. Letter grades from 2019 have been on hold so the hold harmless legislation could make it through the General Assembly. 

But federal ratings will continue to be used, and the results from 2019 – the first year of ILEARN – shows more than half schools are on track. 

SB 12: Resident tuition rate for active duty personnel

This bill will let active duty military and their families pay in-state tuition at Indiana's universities and colleges. Federal law says military families stationed in Indiana can get in-state tuition, but under this bill, the in-state tuition benefits extend to military families who enroll in Indiana's universities before being stationed overseas or out of state, as long as they enroll within a year of being accepted to that school and stay enrolled.

SB 131: National motto in schools

This bill reinforces something already possible under Indiana law: schools can display posters with the phrase “In God We Trust,” alongside the Indiana and United States flag. Originally, the bill’s sponsor, former Senate education committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), wanted it to require schools hang posters with the phrase and flags, but it received pushback in committee and ultimately members turned the word “shall” into “may.”

Kruse proposed a similar bill last year.

SB 195: Career and Technical Education (CTE) clusters

This bill aims to increase the availability for students to pursue classes focused on utilities and energy, like gas, electricity, and water. As Indiana bolsters workforce-focused education, lawmakers, including the bill's author, have expressed concerns about an aging workforce in those fields, and a lack of opportunities for students to explore their interest in those areas.

SB 223: FAFSA

This bill would require students to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before they can receive their high school diploma. Some scholarships in the state are only available to students who file FAFSA, and the bill's author Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) has said she doesn't want kids who might not know about those opportunities to be left behind.

SB 244: Teacher supplemental pay

This is the only education-committee vetted bill that's still alive and explicitly focused on addressing teacher compensation this year, after thousands of teachers rallied at the statehouse in November to demand more comprehensive compensation, among other things. 

The bill would let schools give teachers who are rated as "improvement necessary" on their evaluations a pay boost the following year. It would also let schools give bonuses to highly credentialed teachers, or teachers in charge of special subjects and classes, like special education, STEM, dual credit or Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

SB 263: Gun training for teachers

This bill has caused quite the stir in the Senate Education and Career Development Committee. Many concerns about teachers being able to carry guns at all have come up in those discussions, but this bill doesn't change current law that says districts can arm teachers if they want to. Instead it outlines the type and amount of training teachers need in order to carry a gun in school. If the bill becomes law, teachers who do carry guns would have to receive 40 hours of training and renew it with 16 hours of training every year.

SB 266: Teacher training

Sen. Stacey Donato backed this bill. It would require the Indiana Department of Education to explore how many teacher training requirements in the state, if any, could be included in teacher preparation programs or tied to the licensure renewal process. It also tasks the department with taking a look at how to streamline or reduce those trainings, and report back its findings no later than Oct. 1 of this year.

SB 295: CTE, Child abuse and trafficking, computer science, bus tape

This "various education matters" bill covers several areas. It strengthens language around child abuse and trafficking teaching requirements for schools, and requires IDOE to report the availability of high school computer science courses around the state.

It also repeals a requirement for black reflective tape to be placed on school buses, and requires the Department of Workforce Development to give the state's career explorer program an upgrade. 

SB 319: Career awareness requirements for teacher licensing

This bill is another attempt to make the controversial career awareness teacher licensure renewal requirements optional. It also includes more options for how teachers might fulfill the career awareness professional growth point brackets if they choose to. A bill passed by the House also addresses the career awareness requirements by making them optional. Lawmakers in both chambers will ultimately decide which version they prefer.

SB 346: Test accommodations for students with disabilities

This bill would require the State Department of Education to offer test accommodations to students with a disability that match the student's Individualized Education plan (IEP). Supporters, and the author of the bill, focused on questions that have come up about accommodations for kids with dyslexia on the reading portions of the state's standardized test the ILEARN.

Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem) is backing the bill. It's not her first bill to champion kids with reading disabilities; she authored a bill in 2018 to require schools screen students for the reading disability after her son was diagnosed with dyslexia. 

SB 398: High school equivalency, youth organizations, citizenship test reporting

This is another "various education matters" bill that covers a lot of ground.

The legislation would create a pilot program in a handful of school districts for students who are credit deficient to earn a high school equivalency diploma, and, if they complete other career or service-related requirements aligned with the new graduation pathways, they can be included in the school's graduation rate.

Part of the bill would require schools to let youth organizations, like the Boy Scouts, speak to kids at the school outside of regular instruction time. It also requires IDOE to report on how many students pass the citizenship test each year, something Sen. Kruse (R-Auburn) pushed to be included in high school government classes during the 2019 session.

The legislation would also remove the topic of high ability students and curriculum from lawmakers summer study agenda in 2021. But it would add robotics classes to the summer study agenda for this summer.

Contact Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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