Legislative News

Summary of the 2018 Regular Session of the Indiana General Assembly
by Kathy Smith-Andrew, BCRTA Legislative Chairman
March 28, 2018

It might have been easily predicted that the 2018 Legislature would not complete its work by midnight last Wednesday into Thursday, because the House and Senate had 93 Conference Committee bills on their calendars, which the Senate didn’t begin voting on until Wednesday, the last Day of the Legislative Session! Ed Feigenbaum, who writes the legislative newsletter, Legislative Insight, described the end of the 2018 legislative session as, “Snooze alarm sounds Sine Dud.” (This is funny because at the end of each year’s legislative session, the Speaker and the Senate Pro Tem traditionally use the phrase “Sine Die,” as they gavel the session ended. ‘Sine Die’ is incorrectly spelled and incorrectly pronounced Latin for “It is done.”

The Indianapolis Star and each legislator they interviewed as the session ended around midnight termed the process as being “Chaos.” (The Sunday, March 18th edition of the Indianapolis Star has a very realistic and hilarious timeline of the last day of the Legislature called, “Relive the chaotic close of session”.) The Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tem blamed each other for running out of time with several important bills left to consider, a few of which were Gov. Holcomb’s priorities. Therefore, Governor Holcomb has called for a Special Legislative Session to be held in mid-May, after the May 8th Primary Election Day is over.

The Governor has limited the scope of the upcoming Special Session to only a few issues:
School Safety (it was HB1230) Adds $5 million to the Indiana Secured School Fund to make low interest loans to schools for a School Safety Grant allowing school security upgrades. It would have opened up the state’s Common School Loan Fund making $35 million available in low-interest loans for security upgrades. It also required the Indiana Department of Education to audit schools’ Safety plans.

Muncie Community Schools and Gary Schools Takeover by the State because of millions of dollars of over-spending, (HB1315) was proposed. The special Session will only deal with trying to loan/give the necessary funds to each to keep School Board members and/or School Superintendents out of jail. The special session will not include giving the Muncie Community Schools to Ball State University to run. This bill is one that Dr. Vic Smith asked us to contact our Senator and Representative about because of concerns about banishing the local school boards from the schools which have become State-Run school corporations. This issue will not be a part of the special session language of the bill, so we are okay with this limited version.

Several Tax Bills which are needed to put Indiana in line with the passage of the Federal GOP Tax Reorganization legislation. Without the changes in Indiana tax law, one example of problems which would arise is that businesses would have to calculate their federal adjusted gross income tax two times, once for compliance with state law and again for compliance with federal tax law.

THESE EDUCATION-RELATED BILLS HAVE PASSED THE HOUSE AND SENATE, AND HAVE BEEN SENT TO THE GOVERNOR. GOVERNOR HOLCOMB HAS TEN DAYS TO LOOK THEM OVER, SIGN THEM, OR JUST LEAVE THEM ON HIS DESK. BOTH OF THESE CHOICES MEAN THAT THE BILL BECOMES LAW. HIS OTHER OPTION IS TO VETO THE BILL, THEREBY KILLING IT.

Over 900 bills were filed during this 2018 Legislative Session. Of that total, 212 bills have been sent to the Governor,. The Indianapolis Star reports that 212 Bills passed by the Indiana General Assembly is the smallest number of bills sent to the Governor since 2002.

SB024 Students are now allowed to bring sunscreen to school for use before recess without a doctor’s note, and without it having to be locked up in a secure location, which was Indiana law until SB024 passed.

HB1007 Opioid Treatment Centers passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. This legislation allows the addition of nine more Opioid Treatment Centers, so no one needs to drive more than one hour to obtain treatment to break the habit. This bill also expands flexibility for mental health worker licensing; however, HB1007 does not provide any new funding for addiction treatment.

SB172 Computer Science classes in every school This is one of Governor Holcomb’s priorities this year. He proposed this legislation in an effort to get every kid prepared for the jobs of the future, the Governor asked that the bill mandates computer science classes’ inclusion in the school’s curriculum.

DACA Immigrants:
Reversal of prior Indiana law which stated that DACA Immigrants were prohibited from receiving or renewing over 70 professional licenses in Indiana, The old law: The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency was directed by the Legislature and Governor Holcomb to change its license application form to be able to pick out DACA individuals who try to obtain a license to work at their profession in Indiana. Even if they had successfully completed course work and internships under a practicing professional, they were prohibited from earning a decent wage because they weren’t born in the United States. They were also turned away if they wanted to renew their professional license through the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.

Before the 2018 Legislative session began, our Senators and Representatives realized that the law was discriminatory in the highest degree. The 2018 bill reversed the anti-DACA application process, to now allow all qualified Hoosiers to obtain and/or renew their Professional Licenses. The bill easily passed both the House and Senate.

SB065 Sex Education Parents will have two opportunities to opt their children out of Sexual Education classes in school. SB065 mandates schools send notices home to parents, allowing them to opt out their student(s). It also requires schools to give parents a summary of the content and nature of the instruction.

School Funding Gap: During the 2017 “Long” Legislative Session, the legislature passed the Biennial State Budget, to fund government responsibilities for two years. Because of increases in the enrollment numbers of public school students, the budget appropriation needed to be increased. The school funding gap is projected to be near $25 million dollars this year, and $75M next year. The bill, which was one of the Republicans’ top priorities this legislative session, was necessary because in Indiana, the money follows the child; therefore, each extra student had to have the same dollar amount “behind” them as the students for whom they had planned. The dollars per student is calculated by the attendance numbers at each school on an early date in the school year.

HB1315:THIS EDUCATION-RELATED BILL DIED, AND THE TOTAL ORIGINAL BILL, IS NOT BEING CONSIDERED FOR ADDITION TO THE AGENDA OF THE MID-MAY SPECIAL SESSION 2018. ONLY A PART OF THE BILL HAS TO BE PASSED, SO THAT FUNDING FROM THE STATE CAN BE RELEASED TO PAY CREDITORS THE AMOUNTS THEY BARGAINED FOR BEFORE THE 2018 LEGISLATURE BEGAN:
PORTIONS OF HB1315 containing information about deficit spending by the Muncie and Gary, Indiana School Corporations, will be kept in the bill. Both School Corporations have been mandated to be taken over by the State because of their debts, which exceed millions of dollars. (Certain sections of this bill were opposed by Dr. Vic Smith of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE) in his January 15, 2018 Newsletter, and in almost every newsletter after that until the end of the Regular Legislative Session.) The sections with which we disagreed came under the philosophical banner of the loss of local control in governing Muncie and Gary Schools. The original bill insists on banishing the existing school boards from both school corporations because they allowed deficit spending to grow to an enormous level. Presumably, education decisions would likely be made for Gary by a school board appointed by the Indiana Department of Education and located in the Indianapolis area. Presumably, no members of the Board of the Gary School Corporation would reside inside the school corporation boundaries.

The Muncie school corporation is to be governed by Ball State University, who might have Board members living within the school corporation’s boundaries, but those members would be swayed to the university’s view of educational personnel or curriculum decisions. Governor Holcomb has specified certain sections of the bill to be re-considered in the 2018 Special Session, and he did not include the others which we opposed. So, the wholesale Loss of Local Control language will not be included in the Special Session version of the bill. This bill is the only one left that we followed throughout the legislative session, and we only disagreed with some of the sections in it.

MY SUMMARY:
I have been happily surprised that issues about which we were the most concerned before the session began, such as legislators not being willing to appropriate the money to pay for public schools’ enrollment increases, were not a struggle at all. In fact, that $25M to $75M enrollment support was one of the top issues that Republican lawmakers wanted to address. With all the disagreements we have had about their voucher funding of religious and/or Public Charter Schools in the past, it is gratifying that Governor Holcomb and his Super Majority Political Party in the House and Senate, stepped up to the plate, and totally funded the amount needed for increased public schools’ enrollment. Therefore, I believe that the 2018 Regular Session of the Indiana General Assembly was one of the more positive ones we have had.

All is not flowers and candy; however, because some important legislative decisions about public and private schools, which passed in previous legislative sessions, have strained our belief in the legislature’s commitment to really listen to public school advocates, and to trust their first- hand, experienced concerns about some proposed rules or legislation. A case in point: Last year the legislature, the appointed State Board of Education, and the Governor decided to give the I-STEP test for only one more year. After that last year of I-STEP, they would decide whether to replace it with the SAT or the ACT national tests. (Teachers, students, parents, and school administrators were ecstatic about this news!) This year they have decided to give the I-STEP test for two more years, and then decide which of the two national tests to give the following year.

Here’s the problem: The ACT is the only test of the two that is an assessment of student achievement. The SAT is an educated guess about the student’s likelihood to successfully complete their freshman year at a post- secondary institution. I think “the powers that be” in Indianapolis want to measure the success or failure of each school corporation by seeing the achievement scores of their students, so they should pick the ACT. I know that State Supt. Jennifer McCormick and the members of the Indiana Department of Education know the differences in the purposes of these two tests. So I have to conclude that these non-educator legislative leaders and the Governor are not listening to our State Superintendent, or to what the educators in their home districts are telling them.

My Concerns About Not Having an Educator’s Voice
Leading the Discussion in Education Decisions in the Future

I have one major concern which ICPE hasn’t recently addressed. Important education decisions were made this year (and in past years), which really impact our public schools. Those decisions were made by non-educators in the legislature with the blessing of a non-educator Governor. It may not mean much in a state that is so heavily controlled by one political party, as is Indiana. It doesn’t mean a great deal to legislators who have allowed Indiana to become the top Voucher state in the nation. And it really isn’t a partisan issue because a Democrat candidate for Secretary of State was the first major candidate to come up with the idea of retiring the office of Secretary of State if he was elected. Indiana Democrat Governor Frank O’Bannon was one of the first political figures to propose doing away with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, someone else’s office, as a money saving step . After the Governor’s untimely death, Governor Joe Kernan was up front with each person he asked to run for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. He told them that they would vacate the office after they were elected.

Governor Pence tried his best to do this while he was locked in a battle with Supt. Glenda Ritz and the teachers state-wide who supported her. The Legislature passed Governor Pence’s proposal to eliminate the office in 2016, so both candidates, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Jennifer McCormick, knew that if they won their election, they might be the final elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Why do I care about voting for the State Supt. of Public Instruction? One main reason is that I want my vote to matter for this office that governs my profession. I want future State Superintendents to remember every day that they work for a majority of voters in Indiana, not just for the person who happens to be our Governor.

How have the Power and Responsibilities of Indiana’s State Superintendent for Public Instruction Changed Since Democrat Glenda Ritz was Elected?

The State Board of Education used to be staffed by the Indiana Department of Education, and its meeting Agendas were prepared by the State Supt. and the IDOE. Its meetings were Chaired by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In order to curtail her control of education policy and rules, these duties were publicly taken away from State Supt. Glenda Ritz and the IDOE by the GOP controlled Legislature and the GOP Governor, Mike Pence. The Governor
maintains that he and his appointed State Board of Education can work very well without a State Superintendent. It is unclear what his plans are for the Indiana Department of Education

(The following information was taken from the State of Indiana’s website under the title, “The State Board of Education.”)

The State Board of Education

“The State Board of Education was established by the Indiana General Assembly. The State Board of Education oversees K-12 educational policy -making in the state of Indiana. The bi-partisan board is composed of eleven members, including the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Eight members are appointed by the Governor and must include:

  • At six appointees with professional experience in the field of education
  • Not more than one appointee from a particular Congressional District
  • Not more than five appointees belonging to the same political party
  • The remaining two board members are appointed by the Speaker of the Indiana House Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana Senate respectively.” **

** It is difficult for me to understand how eleven Board Members can be picked without one of them coming from the same Congressional District, when Indiana only has ten CD’s. Also, how can eleven appointees be chosen with no more than five coming from the same political party? Is the 11th one a libertarian? Also, remember that ‘professional experience in the field of education’ can mean someone who has completed student teaching and decided that working with kids isn’t for them, or someone who never taught school, but who is an administrator in a College or a Charter School, or someone who is making money by owning a for-profit chain of schools, or someone who is or was a school nurse, or who is an architect for schools, or a publisher of textbooks for schools, or a parent who home schools their kids and has a professional degree in accounting, etc. (I got carried away with these possibilities!)

I still believe that many of the Governor’s hand-picked friends and/or campaign supporters will be among their ten appointees to the eleven-member State Board of Education. The 11th member of the Board, who has no appointees to name, is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. She or he is the only state-wide official who was elected because a majority of the voters in Indiana agree with her/his ideas about education and about the best practices to prepare our students to become all they can be. Not only is her role as the top k-12 education leader in the state diminished by the Governor and his political choices for the State Board of Education, but all educators are diminished by the lower esteem and importance the Governor and Legislative leaders have shown us.. The members of the State Board of Education will elect their Chair instead having the State Supt. of Public Instruction automatically serve as the Chair of the Board as in decades past When you read the duties of the State Board, (below) you may be as concerned as I am about a well – meaning non-educator understanding the issues and leading the Board.

Here is Indiana’s Administrative Code which outlines the titles of the duties of the State Board of Education:
-IR- Database: Indiana Administrative Code
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Indiana Administrative Code
TITLE 511 INDIANA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
Latest Update: March 14, 2018
Rules filed before February 24, 2018
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ARTICLE 1. ADMINISTRATION; INFORMATION COLLECTION PROCESSING; SCHOOL FINANCE; GENERAL PROVISIONS ( PDF -WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 2. SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 3. REORGANIZATION OF SCHOOL CORPORATIONS ( PDF -WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 4. PUPIL PERSONNEL SERVICES; STUDENT HEALTH TESTING; FOOD AND NUTRITION PROGRAMS; EXTENDED SERVICES ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 5. ACHIEVEMENT TESTS ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 6. DRIVER EDUCATION; GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS; NONSTANDARD PROGRAMS; HIGH ABILITY STUDENTS; POSTSECONDARY ENROLLMENT ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 6.1. SCHOOL ACCREDITATION ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 6.2. SCHOOL PERFORMANCE AND GROWTH; ACCOUNTABILITY ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 6.3. ADULT HIGH SCHOOL PERFORMANCE AND IMPROVEMENT; ACCOUNTABILITY ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 7. SPECIAL EDUCATION ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 8. VOCATIONAL EDUCATION ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 9. TEXTBOOK ADOPTIONS (EXPIRED) ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 10. TEACHER TRAINING AND LICENSING: REQUIREMENTS FOR EDUCATION BEGUN AFTER ACADEMIC YEAR 1977-78 ( PDF -WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 10.1. TEACHER TRAINING AND LICENSING ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 11. ADULT EDUCATION ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 12. SUMMER SCHOOL PROGRAMS ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 13. ACCREDITATION OF TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAMS ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 14. INITIAL PRACTITIONER AND PRACTITIONER LICENSES (PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 15. SCHOOL SETTINGS AND LICENSE CONTENT AREAS ( PDF -WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 16. ISSUANCE AND REVOCATION OF VARIOUS LICENSES AND PERMITS ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 17. WORKPLACE SPECIALIST LICENSES ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 18. EDUCATIONAL INTERPRETER PERMIT ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 19. ENDORSEMENT OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS AS INDEPENDENT PRACTICE SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS ( PDF – WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 20. CERTIFICATE OF MULTILINGUAL PROFICIENCY ( PDF -WordPerfect )
ARTICLE 21. TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM ( PDF – WordPerfect )

These aren’t easy, run of the mill areas to understand unless you have extensive coursework, degrees, and experience in education to tackle them.