Who Is In Charge

Education changes still in process as legislature nears end

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Lawmakers begin the 2018 session Jan. 3.

As Gov. Mike Pence found out with when the preschool program he strongly endorsed was knocked off course in the Indiana Senate after strong support in the House, there are no guarantees in the lawmaking process.

At least the Pence-backed House Bill 1004, which was rewritten by the Senate Education Committee to drop the preschool program in favor of a summer study committee on the subject, got a hearing. The authors of other education bills that have inflamed some passion, such as one that would require cursive writing instruction (Senate Bill 113) and one designed to make it easier for schools to celebrate Christmas (Senate Bill 326) are still waiting to see if either will get a committee hearing or if they will die before they ever reach the House floor.

Time could be running out for those bills. The legislature’s 2014 session is moving quickly toward its March 14 adjournment date. To become law, bills under consideration must be passed and approved by both the House and Senate by March 4, a little over a week away.

Bills originating in the House need approval first by a committee, then by the full House. Then they move to the Senate where again approvals must come from a committee and the full Senate. The process is the same for bills that originate in the Senate. Those that make it through both the House and Senate may need a further conference to resolve any differences that arise between the House and Senate versions. Finally, they need the governor’s signature.

In all, 43 education-related bills have passed either the House or Senate. It’s likely that not all of those will win approval from both chambers. Here’s a looks at where education bills that are moving toward approval stand.

There are no education bills that have passed the House that have also passed the Senate yet. Bills already passed by the Senate that have now passed the House include:

These bills have passed the House Education Committee that are awaiting action by the full House:

Bills that are still being considered by the House Education Committee:

These education-related bills have budget implications and therefore are awaiting consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee:

  • Teacher loan payback. Senate Bill 330 would provide grants to part time college students and offer college loan reimbursement to teachers in high demand fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Complexity index. Senate Bill 363 makes changes to the way school poverty is calculated for some school districts.

House bills that have passed the Senate Education Committee, or another committee, and are awaiting action by the full Senate include:

  • Preschool study. House Bill 1004 once contained a preschool pilot program, but it was dropped by the education committee and replaced with a plan to study the issue over the summer.
  • Drop out recovery charter schools. House Bill 1028 requires a study of dropout recovery charter schools, which mostly serve adults. The schools prefer to be funded via the K-12 funding formula. State law currently funds them separately and limits and new schools from opening.
  • Career and technical education. House Bill 1064 creates a study of the return on investment of career and technical education programs in Indiana.
  • Expanded background checks. House Bill 1233 requires school employees receive an expanded background check every five years.
  • High ability students. House Bill 1319 requires more reporting from schools about students who score in the high ability range on ISTEP.
  • Bond refunding. House Bill 1340 allows for bonds to be refunded when schools consolidate.
  • Allergic reaction injections. House Bill 1323 allows colleges to keep EpiPens and administer them if needed.
  • Tax cap fix. House Bill 1062 is similar to Senate Bill 143, aimed at giving districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid shortfalls that have resulted from property tax caps in some districts.

This bills are still being considered by the Senate Education Committee:

Education-related bills being considered by other Senate committees include:


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

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.”