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Following the conclusion of the 2018 Indiana General Assembly, ISTA prepared a review of education-related bills from the session. 

Thank you to the public education advocates who took action this year. Your voice made a difference on key pieces of legislation. For more information on ISTA's advocacy efforts, visit ista-in.org/our-advocacy

DEAD BILLS

HB 1315 (Rep. Tim Brown) Loss of Teacher Rights
Control of Muncie Community Schools would have been handed over to Ball State University (BSU) allowing BSU to appoint a new, unelected school board for which only four of the seven members would have had to reside in the Muncie school district. The newly appointed school board would have been able to waive most Indiana Code Title 20 education laws impacting student learning and teacher employment. The bill would have punished Muncie teachers by stripping them of their right to collectively bargain wage issues, discuss student learning issues and work under a teacher contract. 

Under the final conference committee report prior to the session’s adjournment, teachers would only have had bargaining rights if the BSU-appointed school board granted them, and then, only within schools the school board authorized. For all other teachers in the state, the bill would have held classroom teachers responsible for the state of a school districts' finances by specifically calling for the termination of up to five percent of teachers midyear, if the school district had been designated as being in fiscal distress. These actions no doubt would have impacted student learning, student academic goals, class offerings and class sizes in the middle of a school year.

Because the bill did not pass, Muncie schools remain designated as fiscally distressed. The school district is still being led by an emergency manager engaged by the state’s distressed unit appeals board (DUAB), and it still must make payments on a $10 million general obligation bond, which was misspent. HB 1315 would have provided an interest-free loan from the common school fund that would have enabled Muncie to pay off the loan over a longer period and under favorable conditions.

The future of this bill is uncertain, but its proponents have several options. The General Assembly could call a special session later this year to try to push through the bill. DUAB may be able to administratively make BSU the emergency manager. However, without legislation, no laws can be unilaterally waived, which preserves bargaining and contract law for Muncie teachers. One thing is clear, Muncie educators will continue to serve and educate their students and will work with the emergency manager to ensure that Muncie schools remain on the road to fiscal viability.

HB 1230 (Rep. Wendy McNamara) School Safety
The bill began as legislation on cyberbullying and human trafficking training, but expanded into a comprehensive school safety bill that included a $5 million appropriation for school safety grants. It also would have provided a $35 million advance from the common school loan at a low interest rate.

It also would have required the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) to provide a link on its website providing information on resources or best practices for bullying prevention, including cyberbullying. The State Board of Education and each school corporation would have also been required to include the link on their websites. The websites would also have included a link to information about the identification and reporting of human trafficking. Certain school employees would have been required to complete at least one-hour of in-service training every two years on human trafficking.

The bill would have required that IDOE conduct a statewide needs-based assessment survey on trauma-sensitive care for students. Provided that the school safety specialist training curriculum included information on identifying, preventing and intervening in situations where an individual is on school property with the intent to harm another person. Charter and accredited non-public schools would have been able to elect to comply with laws on school safety specialists, school safety plans and safety committees. However, charter and accredited non-public schools would have been required to adopt a school safety and emergency plan.

The bill would have required the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to conduct an audit of each school’s safety policies. School employees would have been permitted to barricade doors temporarily in the event of an unplanned fire alarm or active shooter situation. The School Safety Board would also have been asked to conduct a periodic review of safety policies.

ISTA succeeded in including the trauma-sensitive care needs-based survey language, which was part of ISTA’s legislative agenda.

The bill died for failure to meet the statutory deadline. It passed in the Senate, but did not have time to go through the House.

HB 1039 (Rep. Wes Culver) 529 Plans/HB 1316 Omnibus tax bill
The bill began as an option to frontload taxpayer contributions into a 529 college savings plan by removing the annual caps, and thereby, providing a longer period for interest to accrue on beneficiary accounts. However, due to changes in federal law the bill was potentially a vehicle for taxpayers to immediately withdraw funds after receiving a credit to pay for private K – 12 tuition expenses.

The bill was amended to prevent an individual from receiving a tax credit for money withdrawn for K – 12 expenses. The withdrawal in such cases would have been considered a nonqualified expense. The bill would also have established a study committee for 529 plans.

The bill failed to advance by the deadline. The language on K – 12 expenses was going to be added to HB 1316, an omnibus tax bill, but that bill also failed to meet the deadline.

BILLS THAT PASSED

Finance

SB 43 (Sen. David Long) Racial Balance Levy Fund The bill repeals provisions regarding the racial balance levy and fund (an obsolete provision following HEA 1009). It requires that any money in a corporation’s racial balance fund on Jan. 1, 2019, be transferred into the operations fund. The bill was intended specifically for Fort Wayne but applies to all corporations.

HB 1001 (Rep. Sally Siegrist) School Funding  This bill provides relief for schools facing cutbacks due to a school funding shortfall based upon erroneous estimates. This correction was featured in ISTA’s legislative agenda, and ISTA testified in support. State estimates now show that the shortfall could be as high as $60 million next year. The bill makes the additional funding for this year up to $25 million and for the second-year caps it at $75 million. The bill also sets the ADM count date for kindergarten on Aug. 1 to align with enrollment deadlines.

HB 1167 (Rep. Tony Cook) School Corporation Financial Management Permits money in a corporation’s operations fund at the end of the year to be transferred into the rainy-day fund. Combines levies into a single operations levy fund beginning in 2019. Sets out specific items included in a capital projects plan. Requires that an appeal to increase or adjust the maximum operations levy for a year be filed prior to Oct. 20 of the preceding year. Allows a school board to transfer amounts that are levied for debt service to cover unreimbursed costs for certain curricular materials to the curricular materials rental fund or the education fund.

School Governance

SB 354 (Sen. Dennis Kruse) Freeway Schools The State Board of Education (SBOE) must waive certain educational benefit requirements for a period no longer than three years upon request by the freeway school. The waiver shall only be granted one time, with the intent of requiring schools to undergo one of the seven traditional paths to accreditation moving forward and phasing out freeway school accreditation. Urges the legislative council to provide a summer study of accreditation processes.

HB 1398 (Rep. Bob Behning) School Coalitions  This bill creates a new governance model under a pilot that would allow four to eight school corporations, charter schools and/or private schools to form a coalition with business in an undefined geographic region. The bill eventually allows up to 30 districts to participate in a single coalition. The final version phases in membership until the cap is reached. A member school within the coalition can suspend a variety of statutes and rules, including curricular and calendar requirements, accreditation procedures or any other statutes. Collective bargaining was preserved in the introduced bill and laws dealing with regular teacher contracts were amended back into the bill — both positive moves.

ISTA epxressed concerns about expanding yet another governance model with little evidence to support it.

Teaching and Licensing 

SB 387 (Sen. Andy Zay) Teacher Licensure/Compensation  The bill began as a temporary fix providing opportunities for teacher candidates to receive a waiver if they failed the licensing exam – an exam that in some content areas had disproportionately low pass rates.

The bill will provide for a study of the teacher licensing exam to review the validity of the test, consider selecting a new test vendor, look at reciprocity with other states, study pass rates in other states and whether the teacher candidate should be responsible for the cost of the exam.

A component of the bill that would have allowed up to 10 percent of unlicensed teachers in public school classrooms was removed. ISTA thanks its advocates for responding to the call to action, which resulted in legislators removing the language.

The bill allows for differentiated pay to be bargained, undoing the previous Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB) ruling that pay increments must be equally distributed. These decisions are made through the collective bargaining process. The 2017 IEERB ruling was problematic for both administrators and teachers, and this clarification is welcome.

Under this bill, new supplemental pay (stipend) provisions for STEM teachers and special education professionals remain outside of bargaining. Several of ISTA’s amendments to require these supplements to remain bargainable failed. The concern here is that a select few teachers would receive these stipends from the available funding for all teachers — further limiting authentic raises in base pay. This bill never specifically funded the new stipends, so this stipend authority ends up pitting individual teacher against individual teacher.

Finally, the bill will allow someone without a bachelor’s degree, but who has at least 10,000 hours of experience in a particular content area in the preceding seven years and who has passed a content exam and received pedagogy training, to be permitted to teach under Indiana’s career specialist permit. ISTA fought to include a minimum bachelor’s degree requirement into this permit, but the authors continued to believe that most candidates will still have the bachelor degree. 

HB 1399 (Rep. Robert Behning) Content License at Elementary Level  This bill makes a content license for elementary teachers an option and not a requirement of the SBOE. ISTA was neutral since this new content license is not mandatory.

General School Policy 

SB 24 (Sen. Liz Brown) Student Possession and Use of Sunscreen This bill allows a student to possess and use topical, non-aerosol sunscreen while on school property or a school-sponsored event or activity without being required to have a doctor’s note or prescription. It allows the student to store the product in a specific location if the product is regulated by the FDA for over-the-counter use. School personnel may assist the student in applying the sunscreen if the school has written permission from the student’s parent or guardian. The bill provides civil immunity for school corporations, schools and personnel for any action taken to comply.

SB 50 (Sen. Doug Eckerty) Career and Technical Education SB 50 began as a further expansion of and comprehensive changes to Career and Technical Education (CTE) following last year's comprehensive and expansive measure (SEA 198). The bill would have created entirely new levels of government oversight of CTE and workforce training programs, which are dominated by employer group representation at the expense of meaningful K – 12 educator representation.

This bill was significantly reduced in scope before final passage, but it still contains several provisions primarily concerning the governor’s workforce cabinet, which have implications for CTE programs:

  • Changes the membership of the governor’s workforce cabinet to include at least 21 members.
  • The cabinet shall serve as the state advisory body required under federal law. The cabinet’s role is to advise the governor on education and training programs, direct the implementation of the strategic plan, review and approve regional workforce development board plans and design and implement a comprehensive review of workforce funding and college and career funding.
  • The cabinet may employ professional, technical and clerical personnel necessary to fulfill its duties.
  • The cabinet is subject to financial oversight by the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Repeals state workforce councils and assigns the council’s duties related to postsecondary proprietary institution accreditation to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and all other duties to the cabinet.

SB 65 (Sen. Dennis Kruse) Instruction on Human Sexuality  This bill began by prohibiting a school from providing instruction on human sexuality unless parents sign a consent form. ISTA opposed the bill, because it stipulated that unless a parent affirmatively consented to a student receiving instruction of this nature, the school could not provide it.

An amendment changed the bill to require a parent to have two opportunities to complete a form consenting or opposing to a student receiving human sexuality instruction. If a parent fails to complete the form on those two chances, the student automatically receives the instruction unless a parent at any time thereafter opts-out. The bill also requires that a student who does not participate in the instruction must receive alternative instruction during that period.

This is not the direct “opt out” stance that ISTA and many groups believed is the common-sense approach to this issue, but it was a move in the right direction and reflects the version that passed.

SB 135 (Rep. Michael Bohacek) DCS Notification to Schools Requires the Department of Child Services (DCS) to notify the individual designated as the contact for a child’s school if the child is removed from a home. Provides civil immunity for a guardian ad litem, court appointed advocate program and employee or volunteer for a program when a child is placed on a waiting list for services.

SB 172 (Sen. Jeff Raatz) Computer Science Establishes the Next Level computer science grant program and fund to award grants after June 30, 2019, to eligible entities for teacher professional development and training for teaching computer science. Requires IDOE to administer the grant and fund and develop in consultation with the governor’s office guidelines for awards. Requires the superintendent of public instruction to enter into a contract no later than Aug. 1, 2018, for professional development services.

Requires the SBOE to assume the IDOE’s duties for administering the grant and fund if IDOE fails to do so. Beginning July 1, 2021, each public school is required to offer computer science as a one-semester elective course at least once per year as part of the high school curriculum. Requires computer science to be included in the curriculum for a public school’s K – 12 students.

SB 217 (Sen. Erin Houchin) Dyslexia If a multidisciplinary team determines a student is eligible for special education and related services or has characteristics of dyslexia, the bill requires the team to include information about dyslexia in a student’s educational evaluation. Information about dyslexia must be discussed with the student’s case conference committee and included in the student’s Individualized Education Program if the case conference committee determines that the information should be included. A school corporation’s and charter school’s reading plan must include indicators to screen for risk factors of dyslexia using a tool developed by IDOE.

Requires school corporations and charter schools to use the response to intervention process to address needs of students who have characteristics of dyslexia. Parental consent must be obtained prior to administration of a dyslexia screening. Schools must report annually to IDOE the number of students who were screened and determined at risk. A school corporation and charter school must include information on their websites about dyslexia. IDOE must employ after July 1, 2019, at least one reading specialist trained in dyslexia. A school may receive a waiver from employing the specialist in certain cases. Requires IDOE to develop a dyslexia resource guide and provide teachers with professional awareness information.

SB 230 (Sen. Randy Head) Suicide Prevention The Division of Mental Health and Addiction must develop and provide research-based training for health care providers regarding suicide assessment and prevention that is recommended by the Indiana Suicide Prevention Network Advisory Council. Requires emergency medical technicians to complete a training program. Requires teachers and certain school employees to receive at least 2 hours of suicide awareness and prevention training.

SB 297 (Sen. Jeff Raatz) Employability Skills Curriculum The DWD must establish standards for students to provide career and college planning resources under the Career Explorer program. Requires each school no later than July 1, 2019, to include interdisciplinary employability skill standards established by IDOE in coordination with DWD and approved by SBOE. The Career Explorer pilot program must be expanded to at least 15 additional schools if the pilot is determined to be expanded. Establishes the work ethic certificate program.

SB 303 (Sen. Jeff Raatz) Omnibus  This omnibus bill includes a wide range of provisions on various topics.

ISTA advocates successfully removed language from the introduced bill that included “minimum” hours contract requirement, which could have potentially led to expanded work hours without limits. The original version had a provision regarding the establishment of a uniform, online staff performance evaluation that would be provided for a school district to be used voluntarily. The evaluation information would then have been reported in a non-identifiable manner to the Commission on Higher Education or purposes of recommending specific professional development. This language was also amended out, leaving collection of evaluation data to local districts.

The bill addresses the following additional issues:

  • A school corporation will be able to offer online summer school via the course access program.
  • Makes changes to the child protection index check as part of school employees’ criminal history background checks where an Indiana history is conducted. In other states, the check is now a may provision given the short time frame under which this must be completed prior to employment.
  • Makes changes to reporting dates for the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in an alternative education program and home school student counts.
  • Establishes requirements for the transportation of foster students to and from a school of origin.
  • Makes clarifications to depth perception requirements or school bus drivers.
  • Requires a minimum GPA for students who are eligible to receive a tuition and fee exemption due to their status as a child of a veteran.
  • The bill included several school safety provisions that were moved into HB 1230. However, HB 1230 failed to meet the deadline for passage. 

HB 1002 (Rep. Todd Huston) Workforce Funding and Programs The final version of this bill was significantly reduced in scope from its original version.

  • Requires the Legislative Services Agency to conduct an annual review of workforce programs including cost and effectiveness.
  • Requires all high school students to participate in the career coaching program.
  • An emancipated student or parent of a student enrolled in a CTE course may voluntarily provide information to potential employers for recruitment.
  • If the SBOE establishes an apprenticeship program as a graduation pathway, the program must be registered under the National Apprenticeship Act or another federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Requires that at least 25 percent of General Assembly appropriations for adult education or the Work Indiana Program be used to reimburse an adult education provider for eligible employees in need of a high school diploma or equivalency, or adult education grants to employers.
  • Establishes the Next Level Jobs Employer Training Grant program to provide grants for the reimbursement of training costs to employers for newly trained employees. The grant is administered by DWD, which may allocate up to $10 million for CTE innovation beginning in FY 2018.
  • The Commission of Higher Education must prioritize applicants classified as independent when demand for high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grants exceeds the appropriation.
  • A part-time student in a postsecondary program may participate in the employment aid readiness program (EARN Indiana).
  • Makes changes to the appointment, number and terms of trustees on the state board of trustees for Ivy Tech. Changes Ivy Tech regional boards to campus service areas.
  • Requires the Family and Social Services Administration and the Indiana Department of Transportation to study funding for transportation related to workforce programs.
  • Urges the Legislative Council to assign a study committee with the topic of whether the state should use a combined state plan instead of a unified state plan to the U.S. Department of Labor during submission of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plan.

HB 1024 (Rep. Ron Bacon) Heat Preparedness Training for Coaches Requires that head and assistant coaches of interscholastic sports or intramural sports complete a certified coaching education course that includes prevention and response for heat-related medical issues. 

HB 1047 (Rep. Tim Wesco) Education Benefits for Veterans For purposes of determining eligibility for need-based financial aid for veterans, certain benefits are excluded from the formula to provide a greater financial benefit. Students who are members of the National Guard, reserves or Armed Forces and on active duty may receive a tuition refund or credit or reenrollment due to active duty status.

HB 1074 (Rep. Holli Sullivan) Various Higher Education Matters Makes changes to the renewal of 21st Century Scholars program scholarship recipients. Makes changes to scholarship requirements for recipients of the primary care shortage scholarship. Establishes membership requirements for a student nominating committee. Sets criteria for eligibility for the high-value workforce or credit-bearing grant.

Modifies the procedures a state educational institution must follow to dispose of real estate.

HB 1242 (Rep. Jim Baird) Resident Tuition for Serving on the USS Indiana Certain individuals who serve, or served, on the USS Indiana are eligible for resident state tuition in state educational institutions after June 30, 2019.

HB 1314 (Rep. Dale DeVon) Students in Foster Care Requires the SBOE to collaborate with IDOE and DCS to prepare an annual report of foster care educational outcomes. Requires IDOE to develop a remediation plan for foster care youth. Requires that information for foster care students be included in a school corporation’s annual performance report. Requires DCS to share with IDOE at least once per month disaggregated data for foster students to identify trends.

HB 1356 (Rep. Greg Porter) Bullying A school corporation is not required to report the number of incidents of bullying in the annual performance report. The number of incidents must not be included in the calculation of a school corporation’s school improvement grade. Requires IDOE to send notification annually to each school corporation on the obligation to report the number of bullying incidents. IDOE may conduct an audit of a school corporation to ensure that incidents are accurately reported. Requires IDOE to conduct a statewide survey on the improvement of school corporations to report bullying incidents.

HB 1420 (Rep. Behning) Omnibus This is the House’s version of a “Christmas tree” bill, which had numerous provisions tacked on throughout the session.

  • Makes changes to the nomination process for members of the commission on seclusion and restraint.
  • Allows a student with special needs, who has a special service plan or choice scholarship educational plan, to attend the Indiana School for the Deaf or Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
  • Prohibits a student at a virtual school who is withdrawn for failure to participate from reenrolling in the same virtual charter school for that school year.
  • Includes supplemental pay for a teacher who teaches a Cambridge International course, as an assessment a student may voluntarily take in grades 10 through 12, as a curriculum model for high school students, as a replacement for certain high school courses on a transcript, as a student’s credits for graduation, as placement for a student who is a child of a military family that transfers and for purposes of determining eligibility for higher education scholarships. Requires IDOE and the SBOE to count a Cambridge course towards fulfilling diploma requirements.
  • Requires a party who brings a claim against a public school to provide written notice of the alleged violation of law and proposed remedy before the party may initiate a civil action. If written notice is not provided, the action must be dismissed.
  • Urges the Legislative Council to assign a study committee reviewing the topic of litigation against school corporations and charters.
  • Allows home school students to receive an employment certificate and establishes work hours allowed for students.
  • Makes the teaching of cursive writing a “may provision.”
  • Includes last minute language to allow students in Purdue’s hospitality program to serve alcohol at 18 years old (otherwise state law is 19 years old).

HB 1421 (Rep. Robert Behning) School Discipline  This bill began with the intent of reducing student suspensions and expulsions as exclusionary policies, which often disproportionately and negatively impact minority students. However, the original version would have severely limited teachers’ control and professional judgment in their classrooms when dealing with disciplinary issues. The final bill improved the balance between the ability of a teacher to control the classroom learning environment for all versus the need to keep disruptive students in classrooms learning.

The bill also adds teachers and education support professional organizations (originally only parent groups and state educational institutions) to the collaboration with IDOE in the implementation of schools’ discipline and behavioral improvement plans. Language on cyberbullying was also added.

HB 1426 (Rep. Robert Behning) Diplomas  The bill changes the state diploma to establish a single diploma in Indiana (based on CORE 40) with extra certifications: 1) Core 40; 2) General; 3) Core 40 with Honors; 4) Core 40 with technical honors. It also requires an alternate diploma for students with severe cognitive disabilities. The bill’s intent was to meet new requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and to prevent Indiana from having a significant and artificial drop in graduation rates based on changes in reporting criteria.

HB 1426 also made corrections in the language to reinstate current graduation waiver provisions where a student within a cohort before July 1, 2023, will be eligible for new or current graduation requirements. It also removes science as a requirement of statewide assessments but a high school could administer science as part of a nationally recognized college entrance exam.

Much of the bill simply puts the new graduation pathways, adopted by the SBOE, into state code. Students may receive a waiver from graduation pathways requirements under certain circumstances. There will be flexibility for Algebra 2 requirements allowing a student to take an applied math course. Many students who cannot obtain a Core 40 diploma are restricted by the Algebra 2 requirement.

The bill does away with End-of-Course Assessments and replaces them with either SAT or ACT exams. The exam will not be required for graduation, but must be taken by all students and will count toward satisfying one of the graduation pathways if a student chooses that route. It repeals the Accuplacer assessment for remediation identification.

Allows charter schools that have a focus of serving low-income students to prioritize admissions for those students.

Urges the Legislative Council to assign a study committee on issues regarding a school corporation’s ability to provide adequate career counseling.

Retired SB 373 (Sen. Greg Walker) Post-Retirement Benefits  This bill creates a new pre-funded avenue to strive to provide cost-of-living increases for public employee retirees on a regular basis. ISTA supported this bill as a credible attempt to regularize post-retirement benefit increases.

HB 1109 (Rep. Martin Carbaugh) Various Pension Matters  Sets the default investment option for the legislators’ defined contribution plan as a target date fund. Removes a provision that only active members of PERF and TRF may make rollover distributions into annuity savings accounts. Allows an Indiana Public Retirement System (PERF) or Teachers’ Retirement Fund member who terminates employment and is not currently employed in a covered position to suspend membership in the fund, retain creditable service and withdraw all or part of the money in the annuity savings account prior to retirement. Changes the purchase of death benefit coverage from quarterly to annually. Changes the effective date of participation by a political subdivision joining PERF.

BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS

SB 205 (Sen. Aaron Freeman) School Choice Scholarships The bill would have allowed a voucher student who leaves a school during the school year to transfer those dollars to a new voucher school during the same school year.

HB 1037 (Rep. Wes Culver) Early Retirement of Public Employees/Rule of 95 The bill would have eliminated the Rule of 85 and replaced with a Rule of 95, essentially removing the early retirement option for public employees after July 1, 2018. 

HB 1038 (Rep. Wes Culver) Default Retirement Plans The bill would have automatically placed a public employee into a default Defined Contribution (DC) plan unless the individual actively elects to remain in the Defined Benefit (DB) plan after June 30, 2018. The bill would have put an additional burden on public employees. DC retirement plans, which are similar to private 401 K-style plans, offer significantly lower benefit payments to retirees. ISTA supports the existing hybrid pension model, and Indiana’s plan is by all accounts in good fiscal health, as well as considered a national example for its strength.

HB 1166 (Rep. Tony Cook) Teacher Evaluations The bill would have repealed the existing statewide teacher evaluation system and replaced it with a similar, but new system, with a greater emphasis on student standardized test scores and more punitive consequences for teachers. Under the bill, evaluations would have been based only on, "statistically verifiable measures," which appears to be indicating nothing other than standardized tests. All classroom observations seemed to be removed along with other locally-determined measures.

Some teachers would have received a short reprieve from annual evaluations by calling for one every two years. However, the bill did require annual evaluations for:

  • Any teacher in a school identified as needing comprehensive support and improvement for two consecutive years under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (5 percent lowest-performing schools in the state).
  • A probationary teacher in the initial three years (and any combination of needs improvement or ineffective ratings in those first three years could result in termination).
  • Any teacher who voluntarily elects to receive an annual evaluation.
  • A teacher who transfers schools or districts.
  • A teacher who is determined by an administrator for any reason to need an annual evaluation.

ISTA has advocated for a decoupling of test scores from evaluations and a reduction in the reliance on these snapshot measures. This bill was proposing a move in the opposite direction. It also could have deterred teachers from working in hard-to-staff schools.

HB 1214/SB 33 (Rep. Bill Friend/Sen. Jack Sandlin) Guns in Churches This bill originally dealt with issues related to CBD oil, but that language was stripped in conference committee and language was inserted allowing individuals with a license to carry a firearm to do so in churches and school property, if a house of worship is located close to a school. This language appeared in SB 33, which died on the House floor for failure to advance by 3rd reading deadline. The bill mostly impacted private churches and parochial schools, although the language does not specifically omit churches that lease property inside public school buildings. The bill would have provided a provision that allows a lease agreement between a public school and church that rents space on public school property to explicitly prohibit the carrying of firearms, regardless of whether the church had a policy allowing firearms. To take effect, the prohibition would have been required to be stated in the lease agreement. This bill also failed to advance by the deadline despite its resurrection in conference committee.

HB 1264 (Rep. Tim Brown) Competency-based High School Education The bill would have created a pilot grant program enabling school districts to introduce competency-based instruction and assessment that would allow a student to progress through grade levels by demonstrating skills on a series of mini-tests rather than the traditional route of grade progression. This format would require more individualized instruction and testing irrespective of time or place, which has the potential to disrupt curricula and instructional practice.

The pilot would have begun in 2019, but as pilots generally go, expansion would require the funding to become part of the formula in 2020 (1/10 of the foundation) rather than a stand-alone item. This would have diverted even more tax dollars and divided the single pot of school funding into yet more programs. This mode of instruction, given the self-paced format, likely would have increased virtual education, which has an abysmal track record in Indiana. It also had the potential to significantly increase standardized testing through weekly or daily mini-tests.

ISTA opposed the bill on the basis that it would result in more upheaval in schools with an entirely new mode of instruction, overhaul how courses are completed, transform long-held time structures, come at a large expense to Hoosier taxpayers, divert more public dollars from the funding formula and expand online instruction.

The bill also contained more punitive measures against students who do not graduate under the program. Schools would have been required to pay the money back to IDOE as a penalty for students who fail to complete the program.