The following bills on education issues have gained Senate approval and proceed to the House for its review:

SB 29 (Vote: 47-3) Requires schools to provide an elective course on Indiana studies. If fewer than 15 students enroll in the course, the school may offer the course as an independent study course.

SB 30 (Vote: 48-1) Student school information. Requires the Department of Education, for each spring semester and each fall semester, to distribute to each school corporation the: name of each eligible school in which an eligible choice scholarship student who has legal settlement in the school corporation is enrolled; number of the eligible choice scholarship students who are enrolled in each eligible school for the school year; and certain information regarding the number of students who have legal settlement in a school corporation and attend a public school maintained by another school corporation or a charter school. Allows the department to post the information on its Internet web site.

SB 34 (Vote: 49-1) Background checks for school employees. Provides that schools shall require an expanded criminal history check and expanded child protection index check on each employee every five years. Provides that the employee is responsible for costs associated with obtaining the background checks unless the school agrees to pay the costs.

SB 85 (Vote: 44-4) Funding school transportation and public transit. Permits a redevelopment commission outside Marion County to provide revenue on an annual basis to a school corporation or public transportation corporation from property taxes allocated to the redevelopment commission in a tax increment financing allocation area. Specifies the amount of property taxes that may be transferred by the redevelopment commission. Requires a joint public hearing of the legislative body of the unit that established the tax increment financing area, the redevelopment commission, and the governing body of the school corporation or public transportation corporation and the adoption of substantially similar authorizing resolutions.

SB 86 (Vote: 35-14) School curriculum. Requires each school corporation and accredited nonpublic elementary school to include cursive writing in its curriculum.

SB 87 (Vote: 15-34) Report cards. Requires that each public school and accredited nonpublic school issue letter grades on report cards for students in grades 3 through 12.

SB 117 (Vote: 39-6) United States history courses. Requires that each high school U.S. history course must include the study of the structure of state and federal governments. Requires that all students enrolled in a U.S. history course must take the U.S. Civics Test prepared by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Allows school corporations to determine whether a passing score on the test is required to receive credit for the course.

SB 182 (Vote: 42-8) Superintendent contracts. Provides that a contract entered into or renewed after June 30, 2017, between a governing body and its superintendent is subject to the following conditions:

  • Contract must, with an exception for an extension, be for a term of at least 1 year and not more than 3 years.
  • If the contract contains a provision that establishes an amount the governing body must pay to the superintendent to buy out the contract, the amount may not be more than the an amount equal to the lesser of the superintendent’s salary for any one year under the contract, or $250,000.

SB 249 (Vote: 44-6) Teacher hiring. Provides that a school corporation and a charter school shall adopt a policy requiring the school employer of the school corporation or charter school to contact references and, if applicable, the most recent employer provided by a prospective employee, before the school corporation or charter school may hire the prospective employee.

SB 355 (Vote: 49-0) Authored by Mrvan:  Child abuse education and policies. Requires the Department of Education to make available model educational materials, response policies and reporting procedures to assist schools with the implementation of child abuse and sexual abuse education programs in kindergarten through grade 12. Beginning in 2018, the bill requires, not later than October 15 of each year that schools provide age appropriate instruction on child abuse and child sexual abuse to all students.

SB 392 (Vote: 39-10) Emergency medication in schools. Defines “emergency medication” as epinephrine, albuterol, or naloxone. Expands definition of “emergency medication” to include epinephrine, albuterol and naloxone to treat severe allergic reaction, asthma attacks, and drug overdoses respectively. Current law allows for schools to only distribute epinephrine in the form of an EpiPen. Provides for certain immunities from liability.

SB 409 (Vote: 49-0) Collective bargaining. Provides that formal collective bargaining between a school corporation and an exclusive representative may not begin before September 15. Provides that before September 15 of the first year of the state budget biennium, the Department of Education (DOE) shall provide the parties with an estimate of the general fund revenue available for bargaining in the school corporation from the school funding formula. Provides that if the parties do not receive a certified estimate from the DOE within 30 days after the fall count of ADM, the parties may use the school corporation’s estimate of the general fund revenue available based on the school corporation’s fall count of ADM. Provides that a factfinder must conduct a public hearing not before November 15, and the hearing must be completed by February 15 of the calendar year after the start of formal collective bargaining.

SB 447 (Vote: 46-3) Including numerous provisions pertaining to the Department of Child Services, this bill also requires child abuse and neglect training for school employees.

SB 567 (Vote:  49-0) Gary Community School Corporation. Creates a Fiscal Management Board to develop a financial plan for the school corporation. The board would also provide information, technical assistance and grants as tools and resources the district needs to become financially solvent and academically successful.

State budget plan moving through House

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced HB 1001, legislation including a $31.4 billion two-year state budget plan. Included in the current plan is a modest $2.8 percent, or $273 million over two years for K-12 education. Changes are expected as this bill moves through the process. Upon House passage, the bill will proceed to the Senate for its consideration.

Expansion of state prekindergarten program

Several bills are moving through the process that take different approaches for expanding the state’s successful prekindergarten pilot program currently in place in five Indiana counties – Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh. Some lawmakers are calling for additional funding so more eligible children within those counties can participate, while others would like to see the program expanded to additional counties. SB 276 passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week by a vote of 8-3. The introduced bill called for an annual appropriation of $20 million – the bill was amended this week and the appropriation was increased to $22 million. The amended bill would allow eligible providers in all 92 counties to participate in the Pre-K pilot program. In the current program, eligible families must have an income at or below 127 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). SB 276 would keep these income eligibility requirements. Currently, the income guidelines are estimated at $31,000 for a family of 4.

The prekindergarten bill that gained House approval by a vote of 61-34 is included in HB 1004. The bill would extend the program to 10 counties and expand eligibility guidelines from the current $31,000 for a family of four to $67,432. However, the most contentious part of this legislation is that it would provide yet another pathway for students to be eligible for vouchers in grades K-12.