INDIANAPOLIS –State Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) has authored a number of proposals as a part of his 5 E’s for Indiana agenda. His bills will focus on issues related to education, equality, the economy, the environment, and election reform. Sen. Ford started to tackle his agenda by filing the following bills:

Resident tuition

Sen. Ford filed Senate Bill (SB) 335 that would allow resident tuition rates for undocumented students that live in Indiana and attend high school within the state. Indiana is one of only three states in the country that specifically makes immigrant students pay the more expensive out-of-state tuition rate, which deters students from pursuing higher education. This proposal would not be an added expense to the state, but would rather promote education as a vital tool in establishing an informed community.

Statewide pre-k program

In an effort to ensure that children are prepared for academic success, Sen. Ford filed SB 346 which would expand Indiana’s prekindergarten pilot program from 20 counties to all 92 counties in Indiana. The current prekindergarten pilot program has been largely successful, so expanding this program would benefit young children across our state. Indiana is one of the few states that does not require students to attend school until they are seven, so this bill will help build an early educational foundation.

Equality in Indiana schools

Some schools that receive Indiana Choice Scholarship funds have recently been found to have discriminated against their staff, teachers or students. To combat this problem, Sen. Ford proposed SB 344 to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability, race, color, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or ancestry within schools involved in this program. If an eligible school has been found to have discriminated against a staff member, teacher or student, the school will no longer be eligible to receive Choice Scholarships from the State of Indiana. Discrimination is harmful to all those involved, and this bill would ensure that our schools are places of safety and inclusion.

Implicit bias training

Sen. Ford filed SB 347 which would require members of the General Assembly to complete a minimum of one hour training on implicit bias, similar to the training provided to law enforcement officers and educators. This bill would educate legislators to recognize when they may be exhibiting implicit bias, and in turn promote diversity and inclusion.

Automatic voter registration

Every eligible Hoosier should be able to exercise their right to vote. SB 349 ensures most Hoosiers get automatic access to that right by allowing an application to obtain or renew a driver’s license, driver’s permit or identification card to serve as a voter registration application unless the applicant opts out. This bill protects the integrity of our elections by requiring the county voter registration office to check applications for eligibility.