Who Is In Charge

Here are the 43 education bills still alive in the Indiana legislature

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

The Indiana Senate’s approval of Senate Bill 91, which would void national Common Core standards that the state adopted in 2010, is probably the biggest education story of the legislative session so far.

But at the halfway point of the legislature’s 2014 “short” session (an off year between biennial budget-making odd years) that isn’t the only education story. In fact, despite some lawmaker predictions that this would not be a big year for education bills, there are quite a lot of education issues advancing to the legislature’s second half, when bills approved by the House and Senate are sent across the statehouse for consideration in the other chamber.

Chalkbeat will be tracking 43 education bills as they head to committees for consideration beginning next week. Here’s a look at them:

Data security

In a bit of a surprise this week, two of three bills dealing with the oversight of education data died in the House and Senate. One bill did make it through:

Early Education

Preschool is the big early education bill this session, but it’s not the only one related to early learning:


A bill that would have made ISTEP optional for private schools receiving publicly funded tuition vouchers was ultimately dropped, but one other voucher bill made it through:

  • Voucher special education. Senate Bill 282 would send extra special education funding to private schools when students in special education use vouchers to attend. It passed the Senate 31-16.

Charter schools

Six bills related to charter schools are still moving through the legislature. Among them:

  • Innovation schools. The most controversial charter school bill is House Bill 1321, which would allow Indianapolis Public Schools to forge unique partnerships with charter schools. Unions have opposed a provision that would allow the charter school groups to hire teachers separate from the IPS union contract even if they worked at an IPS school. The bill passed the House 54-37.
  • Charter school compacts. While House Bill 1321 applies just to IPS and allows charter school operators to run IPS schools, House Bill 1063 applies a similar concept to the entire state but has a more straightforward focus. It allows districts to trade building space or services to charter schools in return for the ability to count test scores from charter schools in the district averages. It passed the House 97-0.
  • Dropout recovery charter schools. Senate bill 159 would continue to fund dropout recovery charter schools, which mostly serve adults, separately from the K-12 funding formula. It lifts a restriction against opening new dropout recovery charter schools but also creates a new approval process for them. The bill passed the House 92-0. House Bill 1028, which requires a study of the schools, passed the Senate 49-0.
  • Charter school accountability. Senate Bill 205 limits charter school contracts to seven years and requires sponsors to close schools that don’t meet minimum standards. The bill also establishes a means for determining if schools stay in state takeover. It passed the Senate 48-0.
  • Charter school funding flexibility. Senate Bill 321 gives charter school operators new flexibility to share funds across multiple schools. It passed the Senate 35-13.
  • Athletic participation. House bill 1047 allows virtual charter school students to participate in sports at their local public school districts. In one of the the closest votes of the session, it passed the House 51-44.

School safety

Nine bills that address questions related to the health or safety of children include:

  • School bus cameras. Similar to red light cameras, House Bill 1042 would allow cameras placed on school buses to capture images of cars that violate traffic laws by passing school buses that are stopped with their lights flashing. It passed the House 71-21.
  • Expanded background checks. House Bill 1233 requires school employees receive an expanded background check every five years. It passed the House 93-0.
  • Bus out of service order. House Bill 1303 provides for additional notifications if a bus is ruled out of service during inspection.
  • Allergic reaction injections. Senate Bill 245 allows school districts to keep EpiPens and administer them if needed. It passed the Senate 49-0. House Bill 1323 has a similar goal for colleges. It passed the House 90-0.
  • School resource officers. Senate Bill 85 allow grants for law officers in schools to be used for training the officers and requires them to be employed by a law enforcement agency. It passed the Senate 47-1.
  • School bus driver physicals. Senate Bill 278 requires school bus drivers to undergo physical exams. It passed the Senate 40-8.
  • School safety division. Senate Bill 344 establishes a school building safety division within the Indiana Department of Education. It passed the Senate 48-0.
  • Immunity for health issues. House Bill 1204 gives school districts immunity for incidents that arise from student health conditions that were not previously disclosed to the district. It passed the House 96-0.
  • Student athlete health awareness. House Bill 1290 aims to educate coaches and others of the risks of sudden cardiac arrest for athletes. It passed the House 87-9.


Several bills deal with what is taught in schools, when students can be excused, who teaches or how students are credentialed when they graduate. Among them:

  • Common Core. After it passed the Senate 36-12, Senate Bill 91, voiding Common Core standards, now heads to the House.
  • State fair absences. Two bills would allow excused absences from school for children participating in the state fair. House Bill 1056 passed 93-0 and Senate Bill 114 passed 28-21.
  • Career and technical education. House Bill 1181 makes career and technical centers eligible for state grants and special funds. It passed the House 92-0. House Bill 1064 creates a study of the return on investment of career and technical education programs in Indiana. It passed the House 94-0.
  • Career and technical diploma. House Bill 1213 creates a new career and technical diploma. It passed the House 92-0.
  • Cursive writing. For the third consecutive year, a bill passed the Senate requiring schools to teach cursive handwriting. Senate Bill 113 passed the Senate 39-9.
  • Veterans to teachers. Senate Bill 331 is designed to ease the transition from military service to teaching. It passed the Senate 46-0.
  • Teacher preparation program. Senate Bill 204 requires teacher education programs to submit data about their graduates to the Indiana Department of Education and establishes a rating system. It passed the Senate 48-0. A similar bill, House Bill 1388, passed the House 95-0.
  • High ability students. House Bill 1319 requires more reporting from schools about students who score in the high ability range on ISTEP. It passed the House 95-0.
  • Teacher choice program. Senate Bill 264 makes highly rated teachers who take jobs at D or F-rated traditional public or charter schools eligible for extra pay if the legislature approves money for stipends in next year’s budget. It passed the Senate 34-14.
  • Music curriculum. Senate Bill 276 requires schools to assure music is part of the curriculum, including ensembles. It passed the Senate 40-8.
  • Teacher contracts. Senate Bill 284 sets 14 days before the start of work as the deadline by which a teacher is bound by the contract they have signed with a school district and cannot sign another valid contract. It passed the Senate 48-0.
  • Winter holiday traditions. Aimed at protecting Christmas traditions, Senate Bill 326 permits schools to teach about winter holidays and use holiday symbols. It passed the Senate 48-0.

School funding

Five bills address questions of how schools are funded:

  • Tax cap fix. Property tax caps have begun causing budget shortfalls in some districts. House Bill 1062 and Senate Bill 143 together would give districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid those shortfalls. House Bill 1062 passed 94-0 while Senate Bill 143 passed 49-0.
  • School transfers. House Bill 1079 allows the siblings of a student who has transferred from one district to another to have preference for making the same transfer. It passed the House 97-0.
  • School referendum language. Senate Bill 207 makes changes to the ballot language schools use when they ask their communities to pass referendums for new tax money. It passed the Senate 49-0.
  • Complexity index. Senate Bill 363 makes changes to the way school poverty is calculated for some school districts. It passed the Senate 48-0.
  • Bond refunding. House Bill 1340 allows for bonds to be refunded when schools consolidate. It passed the House 94-0.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”

Civil action

Detroit school board to protesters: Please remain civil. Protesters to school board: You’re naive

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore speaks with her supporters from the stage at Mumford High School. Her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to the meeting's abrupt ending.

A day after the Detroit school board abruptly ended a meeting that was disrupted by protesters, the meeting is being rescheduled, while the board president is making an appeal for civility.

“The board is extremely disappointed that the regularly scheduled meeting tonight was adjourned early due to extreme disruptive behavior from several audience members,” school board president Iris Taylor wrote in a statement issued late Tuesday, several hours after the meeting’s chaotic end.

“It is our hope moving forward that the community will remain civil and respectful of the elected Board and the process to conduct public meetings. We must be allowed to conduct the business the community elected us to do.”

The drama Tuesday night came from a large group of parents and community members, led by activist Helen Moore, who packed the board meeting to raise concerns about a number of issues.

Moore had sent the school board an email requesting an opportunity to address the meeting Tuesday on issues including her strong objection to the news that Taylor and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti had attended a meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan and leaders of city charter schools to discuss the possibility of working together.

The mayor, in his state of the city address last week, discussed the meeting, calling it “almost historic,” and said district and charter school leaders had agreed to collaborate on a student transportation effort, and on a school rating system that would assign letter grades to Detroit district and charter schools.

When Taylor told Moore during the meeting that she would not be allowed to give her presentation Tuesday night, saying she had not gotten Moore’s request in time to put it on Tuesday’s agenda, Moore and her supporters angrily shouted at the board and proceeded to heckle and object to statements during the meeting.

The meeting was ultimately ended during a discussion about the Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, a school whose classes are being relocated to other district buildings for the rest of the year because of urgent roof repairs and the possibility of mold in the building.

As Moore shouted over Vitti’s discussion about the school, Taylor ordered that the 81-year-old activist be escorted from the Mumford High School auditorium where the meeting was being held. That triggered an angry response from her supporters and ultimately brought the meeting to a close.

The current Detroit school board came into existence a little over a year ago when the state returned city schools to Detroiters after years of control by state-appointed emergency managers.

The board’s swearing-in last January was heralded as a fresh start for a new district — now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District — that had been freed from years of debts encumbered by the old Detroit Public Schools.

Since then, meetings have been interrupted by the occasional heckler or protester, but they’ve largely remained orderly, without a lot of the noise and drama that had been typical of school board meetings in the past.

In her statement Tuesday night, Taylor lamented that the new school board wasn’t able to get to most of the items on its agenda.

“Detroiters have fought long and hard to have a locally elected board to govern our schools,” Taylor wrote. “It would be shameful to have our rights revoked again for impediments. It sets a poor example for the students we all represent, and it will not be tolerated by this Board.”

Wednesday morning, Moore said she plans to continue her vocal advocacy, even if it’s disruptive.

“If that’s the only avenue we have to get our point across, when they don’t allow us to speak, then we must take every avenue,” Moore said. “Time is of the essence with our children. And they spend too much time with distractions, listening to the mayor, listening to the corporations, and not listening to people who have children in the public schools.”

Moore, who is active with an organization called Keep the Vote/No Takeover Coalition and with the National Action Network, said she fought for years for Detroiters to again have a locally elected school board. City residents did not have control of their schools for most of the last two decades.

“We worked like crazy,” Moore said, but she asserts that most school board members are “naive.”

“They don’t know the history,” she said. “They need to be educated and that goes for Dr. Vitti too. We need to educate them and that was a first start.”

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 12:30 p.m. Thursday at its Fisher Building headquarters where it can return to its unfinished business from Tuesday.

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore waved to her fellow activisits from the stage at Mumford High School. She returned to the room after her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to a school board meeting’s abrupt ending on March 13, 2018.