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.



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.”