Who Is In Charge

Education changes still in process as legislature nears end

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Lawmakers begin the 2019 session in January.

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:

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.

Asking the candidates

How to win over Northwest Side voters: Chicago aldermen candidates hone in on high school plans

PHOTO: Cassie Walker Burke / Chalkbeat Chicago
An audience member holds up a green sign showing support at a forum for Northwest side aldermanic candidates. The forum was sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

The residents filing into the auditorium of Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School Friday wanted to know a few key things from the eager aldermanic candidates who were trying to win their vote.

People wanted to know which candidates would build up their shrinking open-enrollment high schools and attract more students to them.

They also wanted specifics on how the aldermen, if elected, would coax developers to build affordable housing units big enough for families, since in neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Hermosa, single young adults have moved in, rents have gone up, and some families have been pushed out.

As a result, some school enrollments have dropped.

Organized by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Friday’s event brought together candidates from six of the city’s most competitive aldermanic races. Thirteen candidates filled the stage, including some incumbents, such as Aldermen Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st  Ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), and Milly Santiago (31st Ward).

They faced tough questions — drafted by community members and drawn at random from a hat — about bolstering high school enrollment, recruiting more small businesses, and paving the way for more affordable housing.

When the audience members agreed with their positions, they waved green cards, with pictures of meaty tacos. When they heard something they didn’t like, they held up red cards, with pictures of fake tacos.

Red cards weren’t raised much. But the green cards filled the air when candidates shared ideas for increasing the pull of area open-enrollment high schools by expanding dual-language programs and the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Related: Can a program designed for British diplomats fix Chicago schools? 

“We want our schools to be dual language so people of color can keep their roots alive and keep their connections with their families,” said Rossana Rodriguez, a mother of a Chicago Public Schools’ preschooler and one of challengers to incumbent Deb Mell in the city’s 33rd Ward.  

Mell didn’t appear at the forum, but another candidate vying for that seat did: Katie Sieracki, who helps run a small business. Sieracki said she’d improve schools by building a stronger feeder system between the area’s elementary schools, which are mostly K-8, and the high schools.

“We need to build bridges between our local elementary schools and our high schools, getting buy-in from new parents in kindergarten to third grade, when parents are most engaged in their children’s education,” she said.

Sieracki said she’d also work to design an apprenticeship program that connects area high schools with small businesses.

Green cards also filled the air when candidates pledged to reroute tax dollars that are typically used for developer incentives for school improvement instead.

At the end of the forum, organizers asked the 13 candidates to pledge to vote against new tax increment financing plans unless that money went to schools. All 13 candidates verbally agreed.

Aldermen have limited authority over schools, but each of Chicago’s 50 ward representatives receives a $1.32 million annual slush fund that be used for ward improvements, such as playgrounds, and also can be directed to education needs. And “aldermanic privilege,” a longtime concept in Chicago, lets representatives give the thumbs up or down to developments like new charters or affordable housing units, which can affect school enrollment.

Related: 7 questions to ask your aldermanic candidates about schools

Aldermen can use their position to forge partnerships with organizations and companies that can provide extra support and investment to local schools.

A January poll showed that education was among the top three concerns of voters in Chicago’s municipal election. Several candidates for mayor have recently tried to position themselves as the best candidate for schools in TV ads.