Indiana lawmakers give a preview of key education topics for upcoming legislative session
The bipartisan interim education committee released its final report on Monday, detailing recommendations for bills and topics during the upcoming legislative session.
Among these changes are recommendations that would streamline certain school data, push for work-based experiences on student transcripts and integrate financial literacy into math coursework.
Concerns brought up during the final vote on the report mainly stemmed from Democratic lawmakers, who feared some of these recommendations would increase mandates on educators.
Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) expressed these concerns about two regulations – one that would integrate financial literacy into math curricula and another that would place work-based experiences on student transcripts.
“Why are we adding instead of taking away?” he said.
Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) echoed these concerns, worrying things like adding financial literacy to already-existing curricula would increase burdens for teachers and pull away their focus.
“I would hate to see us doing something that would add to our math educator’s workload or expectation when really what we need them to be 100 percent focused on is raising our math test scores across the board in Indiana,” Yoder said.
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House Education Chair Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said the committee’s mission with these regulations is to do the opposite.
“It is [the mission] to go through and see if we could reduce the regulatory burden for schools,” he said.
He added that these recommendations contain elements that already exist in schools and would just streamline them.
Another change in the final report was the removal of a recommendation that would make changes to Indiana’s discussion law. Under the discussion law, school employers are required to discuss things such as the selection of curriculum and pupil-to-teacher ratios with a union representative.
The draft of the final report removed a few required discussion topics – including class size or budget appropriations and the pupil-to-teacher ratio discussions.
Several Democratic lawmakers, including Smith, expressed concerns about removing these topics.
“A lot of the improvements in schools have come through the negotiations of the collective bargaining unit with the administration,” Smith said.
As a compromise, Behning removed the changes to the discussion law from the report.
However, “this does not preclude us from having this discussion during session,” he said.
In a statement on Twitter, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) said they “will fight and oppose any changes to Indiana's discussion laws.” They added “lawmakers should be empowering teachers to fight on behalf of their students and profession, particularly now more than ever.”
Other suggested changes include repealing the annual school corporation performance report. This would be replaced with data from the new Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed dashboard. Behning said this would help schools streamline their data, as there is already a “plethora of data.”
There are also suggestions to prepare students for post-secondary education and work with “diploma flexibility,” or tailoring students' diplomas to their unique needs and interests.
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