Who Is In Charge

Education in the 2014 legislature: What's passed, dead and still waiting

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
On the last day of the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers move ahead with plans to ditch ISTEP.

Entering February, Chalkbeat was tracking 43 education-related bills had passed either the House or Senate. Now it’s down to 36 education bills that are moving toward final adoption at the statehouse. The bills that still have yet to pass both houses have until today in the House and tomorrow in the Senate to make it through. Then lawmakers have until March 14 to iron out the differences between bills passed in the House and Senate and to approve the final versions of all bills.

So here’s where everything stands.

These bills have passed both the House and Senate, with both houses agreeing on the same version so they will not need to to a conference committee. They only need Gov. Mike Pence’s signature:

These bills have passed both the House and Senate, but amendments mean the versions differ. One side of the legislature can agree to the other side’s version. Or the bills can be considered by a conference committee, made up of members of both the House and Senate, to work out the differences. The final versions then must again be passed by the House and Senate:

These bills are expected to face a final vote today by the full House:

  • Tax cap fix. Senate Bill 143 would give districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid shortfalls that have resulted from property tax caps in some districts.
  • Drop Out 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.
  • Charter school accountability. Senate Bill 205 would limit 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 would require a waiting period for student athletes who suffer concussions before they can return to play.
  • Guns in school parking lots. Senate Bill 229 is a general firearms bill that had language added by an amendment that would allow for guns to be brought to school by licensed owners as long as they remain locked in a vehicle.
  • Various education matters. Senate bill 284 includes several education provisions, mostly dealing with issues of unions and their contracts. Added to this bill was language to study Pence’s proposal to make 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. That bill, Senate Bill 264, did not advance.
  • School safety division. Senate Bill 344 would establish a school building safety division within the Indiana Department of Education.
  • Complexity index. Senate Bill 363 would make changes to the way school poverty is calculated for some school districts.

These bills will be considered today by the Senate and could still be amended:

  • Indiana Knowledge Network. House Bill 1003 would allow education data to be used as part of the state’s workforce development efforts.
  • Day care safety. House Bill 1036 would add health, safety, education and training requirements for day care centers that receive federal aid that is administered by the state.
  • School bus safety. House Bill 1042 would allow traffic cameras on school buses.
  • Charter School compacts. House Bill 1063  would allow 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.
  • School transfers. House Bill 1079 would allow 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 would make career and technical centers eligible for state grants and special funds.
  • Immunity for health issues. House Bill 1204 would give 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 would create a new career and technical diploma.
  • Student athlete health awareness. House Bill 1290 aims to educate coaches and others of the risks of sudden cardiac arrest for athletes.
  • Bus out of service order. House Bill 1303 would provide for additional notifications if a bus is ruled out of service during inspection.
  • Innovation schools. House Bill 1321 would allow Indianapolis Public Schools to forge unique partnerships with charter schools.
  • Teacher preparation program. House Bill 1388 would require teacher education programs to submit data about their graduates to the Indiana Department of Education and establishes a rating system.

These bills did not advance:

  • 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 appears the bill will die without a vote in the House on Senate Bill 113.
  • Teacher choice program. The concept behind Senate Bill 264, to make 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, would instead by studied over the summer under language that was amended into House Bill 284.
  • Athletic participation. House bill 1047 would have allowed virtual charter school students to participate in sports at their local public school districts.
  • 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, continues to advance and will be considered in the Senate today.
  • 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.
  • Winter holiday traditions. Aimed at protecting Christmas traditions, Senate Bill 326 would have permitted schools to teach about winter holidays and use holiday symbols.
  • 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.

 

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.