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Legislative Update, April 14

Action in the legislature this week focused on the Senate and House concurring or dissenting on bills being returned to their original chamber. Conference committees began meeting this week to find consensus on dissented bills.

The legislature is on track to finish the session early next week. We have several action items on our advocacy site. Please take a moment to contact your representatives and senators.

Below are the top education-related bills ISTA tracked this week. For updates from the Statehouse, read our posts on Twitter at @ISTAmembers.

HB 1001 (Rep. Brown, R - Crawfordsville) Biennial Budget/School Funding Formula
This is the state's biennial budget, which also contains the state school funding formula.

ISTA appreciates the Senate's version of the budget, which would increase overall statewide funding levels. We ask that legislators continue to work to provide more funding, including the restoration of $80 million for teacher compensation. ISTA remains concerned about the rapid transition in how career and technical education (CTE) funding will evolve.

On Wednesday, Indiana's revenue forecast team presented an updated revenue forecast to House and Senate budget leaders. Per estimates, Indiana should expect to receive an additional $200 million over the biennium from the prior December 2016 forecast. The overall economic outlook both for the state and nation leaves room for cautious optimism.

A conference committee for HB 1001 met Wednesday following the revenue forecast to take testimony on the House and Senate budget bills. ISTA testified in favor of the overall funding levels in the Senate version of the HB 1001, but also asked for additional funding for K - 12 tuition support.

TAKE ACTION: Please tell your representative and senator to fairly fund public schools.

Status: A conference committee led by Rep. Tim Brown (R - Crawfordsville) and Sen. Luke Kenley (R - Noblesville) will largely continue the work on the budget behind closed doors and part of the puzzle involves coming to agreement on the major roads bill (HB 1002).

HB 1003 (Rep. Behning, R - Indianapolis) Student Assessments
This bill would extend the replacement of ISTEP until June 30, 2018, when a new statewide test, known as Indiana's Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN), would take its place.

The bill would continue to base teacher evaluations and school accountability grades on standardized test scores - a concept several legislators realize is the wrong direction for teacher evaluations. The bill also does not go far enough to reduce student testing time or provide a meaningful assessment for teachers to improve instructional practices in the classroom or tailor instruction.

At a conference committee Wednesday, members discussed the possibility of decoupling teacher evaluations from test scores.

Committee member Sen. Jean Leising (R - Oldenburg) supported the idea.

"I don't see how we can judge a teacher's performance on a test most of us don't believe is accountable," said Leising.

ISTA, along with school superintendents and the American Federation of Teachers-Indiana testified in support of at least temporarily removing test scores from teacher evaluations.

A lobbyist with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce was the only witness who testified against the proposal.

TAKE ACTIONPlease tell your representative and senator to get testing right!

Status: We expect a committee report and final vote in the House and Senate next week.

HB 1004 (Rep. Behning, R - Indianapolis) Pre-K Expansion
HB 1004 would expand the state's pre-K education pilot program to any eligible provider in the state. The bill would conservatively increase spending on the pilot program, totaling $16 million. However, $1 million of that would be set aside for a virtual pre-K program. This funding was included in the Senate version of HB 1001.

A conference committee met Wednesday where conversations centered around leaving out voucher expansion, as well as concerns of the virtual pre-K pilot currently in the bill.

TAKE ACTION: Tell legislators to expand pre-K, not Indiana’s costly voucher program

Status: We expect a committee report and final vote in the House and Senate next week.

HB 1007 (Rep. Cook, R - Cicero) Education Course Access Program 
This bill would create a course-by-course voucher program to enable students to pay for online courses. Funded through the monies attributable to a student's public school district's education program. In effect, the operation of this bill would force school districts to contract some of their educational services at a student's request. This is a model bill being promoted by the controversial organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

For-profit, online or virtual charter schools have a disastrous record of failing students and avoiding accountability, not just in Indiana, but around the country. ISTA opposes any further fund diversions from community public schools to pay for these experiments. School districts already arrange alternative courses for students when authentic needs arise relative to course offerings. This bill is part of a national agenda promoting the privatization of public education.

Status: The House voted to concur with Senate amendments, passing the bill, 61-11. It is now headed to the governor for approval or veto.

HB 1463 (Rep. Carbaugh, R - Fort Wayne) Teacher DC Plan
HB 1463 would setup a voluntary defined contribution (DC) plan for newly-hired teachers. A member who does not elect to participate in the DC-only plan defaults to the current defined benefit/annuity (DB) hybrid plan.

ISTA opposes DC plans because members would lose significant retirement benefits, per extensive research. A career teacher who elects this DC plan could expect to receive a fraction of benefits expected under the DB hybrid plan.

A full career teacher opting into this new DC-only plan will likely see a retirement benefit from the state that is little more than one-half of what that teacher would receive had he/she chosen the long-standing DB hybrid plan.

A conference committee met Wednesday, but no testimony was taken. Rep. Carbaugh, the bill's author advised the committee that he would like to reinsert language into the bill that would allow a three-year window for members of the new DC-only plan to change their mind.

Although ISTA opposes this bill, allowing this three-year window is supported.

TAKE ACTION: Please contact your representative and senator to oppose this bill.

Status: We expect a committee report and final vote in the House and Senate next week.

HB 1537 (Rep. Gutwein, D - Francesville) Thirteenth Check
Would provide for  thirteenth checks in 2017 and 2018 for certain members of the teachers' retirement fund and public employees' retirement fund.

Status: The House voted to concur with Senate amendments, passing the bill, 82-0. It is now headed to the governor for approval or veto.

SB 567 (Sen. Kenley, R - Noblesville and Sen. Melton, D - Gary) Distressed School Districts
Originally, this bill was drafted to assist the Gary Community Schools with some extreme financial issues.

However, in a last-minute move, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Tim Brown (R - Crawfordsville) pushed through amendments to the bill in committee, which would add Muncie Community Schools (MCS) as a distressed school district requiring state takeover under the direction of an emergency manager.

This extreme step was taken despite opposition from Muncie school and community leaders, as well as area legislators.

Read more about the bill and its impact on ISTA's blog.

ISTA strongly opposes the inclusion of MCS and other changes made to SB 567. TAKE ACTIONPlease contact your representative and senator to oppose this bill.

STATUS:  The Senate dissented from House amendments on Wednesday, setting up the need for a conference committee. As of the writing of this update, a committee meeting has not been announced.



HB 1009 - School Financial Management

HB 1079 - School Employment and Teacher Licensure

HB 1043 - Referendum Process and Remonstrance Process

HB 1006 - Mental Health Matters

HB 1382 - Charter Schools

HB 1384 - Various Education Matters

SB 337 - Study of Ethnic and Racial Groups Course