Dumping Common Core and starting a preschool pilot were the top headlines for the legislature this year, but 2014 also brought a host of other significant education changes to Indiana, from establishing a new state agency to track data to allowing gun owners to bring their weapons into school parking lots.
Lawmakers last week wrapped up a busy year for education bills, especially given that this was a non-budget “short” session, ending in mid-March instead of at the end of April. Most of the education bills that were introduced in committees advanced. About two-thirds of the education-related bills that passed a committee in the House or Senate ultimately made it though to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.
Pence’s personal scorecard did a little better, thanks especially to a late rally that reinstated his top priority — a preschool pilot program — back into a bill from which it had been stripped by the Senate.
In all, six of the eight education bills that were a part of Pence’s education agenda passed, including new supports for dropout recovery charter high schools, a study of career and technical education programs, charter school funding flexibility, changes to the state takeover process for schools and grants and loans for aspiring teachers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Welcome to Chalkbeat
Chalkbeat is an independent nonprofit news organization telling the story of education in America. Learn more.
Education news. In your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter
Education news. In your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter
The two agenda items Pence didn’t get were his “teacher choice” program, to provide stipends to teachers who switch jobs to work in troubled schools, and a bill that would have provided financial supports for teacher expenses and innovative ideas.
Still, at times Pence struggled to get his education bills to gain traction, and his batting average was better on non-education bills (18 of 20) on his legislative agenda.
Here’s a look at where the 45 education bills Chalkbeat tracked during the session ended up:
BILLS THAT PASSED
Senate bills passed and forwarded to the governor for his signature:
- School resource officers. Senate Bill 85 allows grants for law officers in schools to be used for training the officers and requires them to be employed by a law enforcement agency.
- Common Core. Senate Bill 91 voids Common Core academic standards.
- State fair absences. Senate Bill 114 allows excused absences from school for children participating in the state fair.
- 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.
- Athletic concussions. Senate Bill 222 requires a waiting period for student athletes who suffer concussions before they can return to play.
- Guns in school parking lots. Senate Bill 229 allows for guns to be brought to school by licensed owners as long as they remain locked in a vehicle.
- Allergic reaction injections. Senate Bill 245 allows school districts to keep EpiPens and administer them if needed.
- Voucher special education. Senate Bill 282 sends extra special education funding to private schools when students in special education use vouchers to attend them.
- Charter school funding flexibility. Senate Bill 321 gives charter school operators new flexibility to share funds across multiple schools.
- Teacher loan payback. Senate Bill 330 provides grants to part time college students and offers college loan reimbursement to teachers in science, technology, engineering and math.
- Veterans to teachers. Senate Bill 331 eases the transition from military service to teaching.
- School safety division. Senate Bill 344 establishes a school building safety division within the Indiana Department of Education.
- Complexity index. Senate Bill 363 makes changes to the way school poverty is calculated for some school district.
House bill passed and forwarded to the governor for his signature:
- Preschool pilot. House Bill 1004 establishes a preschool pilot program that could serve as many as 4,000 four-year-olds in five counties.
- Indiana Knowledge Network. House Bill 1003 creates a new state department whose leader has been described as a new “data czar” for Indiana and allows education data to be used as part of the state’s workforce development efforts.
- Drop out recovery charter schools. House Bill 1028 requires a study of dropout recovery charter schools, which mostly serve adults, including how to fund them. It lifts a cap on the number of dropout recovery charter schools that can open and specifies that only the state charter school board can approve new ones.
- Day care safety. House Bill 1036 adds health, safety, education and training requirements for day care centers that receive federal aid administered by the state.
- Tax cap fix. House Bill 1062 gives districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid shortfalls that have resulted from property tax caps in some districts.
- Charter School compacts. House Bill 1063 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.
- Career and technical education. House Bill 1064 creates a study of the return on investment of career and technical education programs in Indiana.
- 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.
- Career and technical education. House Bill 1181 makes career and technical centers eligible for state grants and special funds.
- 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.
- Career and technical diploma. House Bill 1213 creates a new career and technical diploma.
- Student athlete health awareness. House Bill 1290 requires training for coaches and others about the risks of sudden cardiac arrest for athletes.
- Bus out of service order. House Bill 1303 requires additional notifications if a bus is ruled out of service during inspection.
- High ability students. House Bill 1319 requires more reporting from schools about students who score in the high ability range on ISTEP.
- Innovation schools. House Bill 1321 allows Indianapolis Public Schools to forge unique partnerships with charter schools.
- Allergic reaction injections. House Bill 1323 allows colleges to keep EpiPens and administer them if needed.
- Bond refunding. House Bill 1340 allows for bonds to be refunded when schools consolidate.
- Teacher preparation program. House Bill 1388 requires teacher education programs to submit data about their graduates to the Indiana Department of Education and establishes a rating system.
BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS
House bills that passed committee but were not advanced:
- School bus safety. House Bill 1042 would have allowed traffic cameras on school buses.
- Excused absences at the state fair. House Bill 1056 was one of two bills addressing this issue, the other, Senate Bill 114, passed.
- Athletic participation. House bill 1047 would have allowed virtual charter school students to participate in sports at their local public school districts.
- Expanded background checks. House Bill 1233 would have required school employees receive an expanded background check every five years. It was defeated in a floor vote by the Senate, 24-23.
Senate bills that passed committee but were not advanced:
- Cursive writing. For the third consecutive year, a bill passed the Senate requiring schools to teach cursive handwriting, and for the third straight year it died without a vote in the House on Senate Bill 113.
- Tax cap fixes. Senate Bill 143 and Senate bill 163 both were trying to give districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid shortfalls that have resulted from property tax caps. A different bill addressing this problem, House Bill 1062, passed.
- Drop Out Recovery Charter Schools. Senate bill 159 would have continued to fund dropout recovery charter schools, which mostly serve adults, separately from the K-12 funding formula. A different bill designed to resolve funding concerns for the schools, House Bill 1028, passed.
- Teacher preparation program. Senate Bill 204 would have required teacher education programs to submit data about their graduates to the Indiana Department of Education and establishes a rating system. A similar bill, House Bill 1388, was passed.
- Teacher choice program. Senate Bill 264 would have made highly rated teachers who take jobs at D- or F-rated traditional public or charter schools eligible for extra pay from state stipends.
- Music curriculum. Senate Bill 276 would have required schools to assure music is part of the curriculum, including ensembles.
- School bus driver physicals. Senate Bill 278 would have required school bus drivers to undergo physical exams.
- Various education matters. Senate bill 284 included provisions that would have made several changes to state law, mostly dealing with issues of unions and their contracts.
- Winter holiday traditions. Aimed at protecting Christmas traditions, Senate Bill 326 would have permitted schools to teach about winter holidays and use holiday symbols.