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Indiana senators agree there’s a lot to learn by tracking student vouchers, and they sent a bill to the House to make it happen

Students eat lunch at the Oaks Academy Middle School, a private Christian school.
Students eat lunch at the Oaks Academy Middle School, a private Christian school.
Dylan Peers McCoy

Today, three fairly simple education bills came before the Indiana Senate — two passed, and one that would have required teachers to include A-F grades on student report cards was defeated.

Here are the bills on vouchers and cursive writing that next head to the House Education Committee, where they’ll be considered for a hearing:

For more education bills we’re watching in the General Assembly this year, check out our full list.

TRACKING STUDENTS

Bill: Senate Bill 30, authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford. The bill passed the Senate 48-1.

Summary: The bill would require the Indiana Department of Education to keep track of and report out to school districts twice a year how many students leave traditional public schools for charter schools, private schools and other traditional public schools outside their home district.

Why the bill was proposed: Koch said he introduced the bill to help a superintendent in his district learn more about why students were leaving. He hopes it can help schools have a better idea of who their competition is and make changes to improve.

Comments: Koch said the bill saw support from a variety of education advocates. “This bill is neither pro- or anti-school choice,” Koch said. “This bill is a data and information bill.”

Mike Brown, lobbying on behalf of State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick and the education department, said he was in favor of the bill, as did representatives from the school choice advocates at the Institute for Quality Education and public school advocates from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

“When I look at students leaving our very rural district, I say to myself … where are they going?” said Laura Hammack, superintendent of Brown County schools who brought the idea for the bill to Koch. “I don’t have the data to answer that question … it is very difficult for me to lead our organization to make the changes needed to bring our boys and girls home, which is ultimately our goal.”

CURSIVE WRITING

Bill: Senate Bill 86, authored by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg. The bill passed the Senate 35-14.

Summary: The bill would require all public and accredited private schools to teach students cursive writing.

Why the bill was proposed: Leising has proposed a cursive bill for years, beginning after 2011, when conversations in Indiana about Common Core standards resulted in making cursive an optional, rather than a required, part of state standards. Leising said she worries students won’t have the skills they need later on in life — signing their name, reading historical documents — if they don’t learn cursive in school.

Comments: Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said he would vote against the bill, and has voted against it in years past. He said it’s an overreach into what should be a local school decision.

“We have stepped in on standards, but curriculum is another issue,” Holdman said. “…That is a matter for local school boards.”

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has long supported the bill as Senate Education Committee chairman.

“We have 1,500 pages of mandates on our public schools in Indiana,” Kruse said. “This is one word that we’ll be adding.”

It’s unlikely the bill will get a hearing in the House. Rep. Bob Behning, the chairman of the House Education Committee, has not previously been supportive of a cursive writing requirement.

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