The Indiana Senate’s approval of Senate Bill 91, which would void national Common Core standards that the state adopted in 2010, is probably the biggest education story of the legislative session so far.
But at the halfway point of the legislature’s 2014 “short” session (an off year between biennial budget-making odd years) that isn’t the only education story. In fact, despite some lawmaker predictions that this would not be a big year for education bills, there are quite a lot of education issues advancing to the legislature’s second half, when bills approved by the House and Senate are sent across the statehouse for consideration in the other chamber.
Chalkbeat will be tracking 43 education bills as they head to committees for consideration beginning next week. Here’s a look at them:
In a bit of a surprise this week, two of three bills dealing with the oversight of education data died in the House and Senate. One bill did make it through:
- Indiana Knowledge Network. House Bill 1003 would allow education data to be used as part of the state’s workforce development efforts. It passed the House 90-6 and is headed for the Senate.
Preschool is the big early education bill this session, but it’s not the only one related to early learning:
- Preschool pilot. One of Gov. Mike Pence’s signature legislative initiatives is to institute a preschool pilot program. House Bill 1004 would create a program for about 1,000 low income children to attend preschool in five counties. It passed the House 87-9. But the real battle is ahead in the Senate. A similar pilot program could not garner enough support last year in the Senate Education Committee to make it intact to the Senate floor.
- Day care safety. House Bill 1036 adds health, safety, education and training requirements for day care centers that receive federal aid that is administered by the state. It passed the House 71-24.
A bill that would have made ISTEP optional for private schools receiving publicly funded tuition vouchers was ultimately dropped, but one other voucher bill made it through:
- Voucher special education. Senate Bill 282 would send extra special education funding to private schools when students in special education use vouchers to attend. It passed the Senate 31-16.
Six bills related to charter schools are still moving through the legislature. Among them:
- Innovation schools. The most controversial charter school bill is House Bill 1321, which would allow Indianapolis Public Schools to forge unique partnerships with charter schools. Unions have opposed a provision that would allow the charter school groups to hire teachers separate from the IPS union contract even if they worked at an IPS school. The bill passed the House 54-37.
- Charter school compacts. While House Bill 1321 applies just to IPS and allows charter school operators to run IPS schools, House Bill 1063 applies a similar concept to the entire state but has a more straightforward focus. It allows districts to trade building space or services to charter schools in return for the ability to count test scores from charter schools in the district averages. It passed the House 97-0.
- Dropout recovery charter schools. Senate bill 159 would continue to fund dropout recovery charter schools, which mostly serve adults, separately from the K-12 funding formula. It lifts a restriction against opening new dropout recovery charter schools but also creates a new approval process for them. The bill passed the House 92-0. House Bill 1028, which requires a study of the schools, passed the Senate 49-0.
- Charter school accountability. Senate Bill 205 limits charter school contracts to seven years and requires sponsors to close schools that don’t meet minimum standards. The bill also establishes a means for determining if schools stay in state takeover. It passed the Senate 48-0.
- Charter school funding flexibility. Senate Bill 321 gives charter school operators new flexibility to share funds across multiple schools. It passed the Senate 35-13.
- Athletic participation. House bill 1047 allows virtual charter school students to participate in sports at their local public school districts. In one of the the closest votes of the session, it passed the House 51-44.
Nine bills that address questions related to the health or safety of children include:
- School bus cameras. Similar to red light cameras, House Bill 1042 would allow cameras placed on school buses to capture images of cars that violate traffic laws by passing school buses that are stopped with their lights flashing. It passed the House 71-21.
- Expanded background checks. House Bill 1233 requires school employees receive an expanded background check every five years. It passed the House 93-0.
- Bus out of service order. House Bill 1303 provides for additional notifications if a bus is ruled out of service during inspection.
- Allergic reaction injections. Senate Bill 245 allows school districts to keep EpiPens and administer them if needed. It passed the Senate 49-0. House Bill 1323 has a similar goal for colleges. It passed the House 90-0.
- School resource officers. Senate Bill 85 allow grants for law officers in schools to be used for training the officers and requires them to be employed by a law enforcement agency. It passed the Senate 47-1.
- School bus driver physicals. Senate Bill 278 requires school bus drivers to undergo physical exams. It passed the Senate 40-8.
- School safety division. Senate Bill 344 establishes a school building safety division within the Indiana Department of Education. It passed the Senate 48-0.
- Immunity for health issues. House Bill 1204 gives school districts immunity for incidents that arise from student health conditions that were not previously disclosed to the district. It passed the House 96-0.
- Student athlete health awareness. House Bill 1290 aims to educate coaches and others of the risks of sudden cardiac arrest for athletes. It passed the House 87-9.
Several bills deal with what is taught in schools, when students can be excused, who teaches or how students are credentialed when they graduate. Among them:
- Common Core. After it passed the Senate 36-12, Senate Bill 91, voiding Common Core standards, now heads to the House.
- State fair absences. Two bills would allow excused absences from school for children participating in the state fair. House Bill 1056 passed 93-0 and Senate Bill 114 passed 28-21.
- Career and technical education. House Bill 1181 makes career and technical centers eligible for state grants and special funds. It passed the House 92-0. House Bill 1064 creates a study of the return on investment of career and technical education programs in Indiana. It passed the House 94-0.
- Career and technical diploma. House Bill 1213 creates a new career and technical diploma. It passed the House 92-0.
- Cursive writing. For the third consecutive year, a bill passed the Senate requiring schools to teach cursive handwriting. Senate Bill 113 passed the Senate 39-9.
- Veterans to teachers. Senate Bill 331 is designed to ease the transition from military service to teaching. It passed the Senate 46-0.
- Teacher preparation program. Senate Bill 204 requires teacher education programs to submit data about their graduates to the Indiana Department of Education and establishes a rating system. It passed the Senate 48-0. A similar bill, House Bill 1388, passed the House 95-0.
- High ability students. House Bill 1319 requires more reporting from schools about students who score in the high ability range on ISTEP. It passed the House 95-0.
- Teacher choice program. Senate Bill 264 makes highly rated teachers who take jobs at D or F-rated traditional public or charter schools eligible for extra pay if the legislature approves money for stipends in next year’s budget. It passed the Senate 34-14.
- Music curriculum. Senate Bill 276 requires schools to assure music is part of the curriculum, including ensembles. It passed the Senate 40-8.
- Teacher contracts. Senate Bill 284 sets 14 days before the start of work as the deadline by which a teacher is bound by the contract they have signed with a school district and cannot sign another valid contract. It passed the Senate 48-0.
- Winter holiday traditions. Aimed at protecting Christmas traditions, Senate Bill 326 permits schools to teach about winter holidays and use holiday symbols. It passed the Senate 48-0.
Five bills address questions of how schools are funded:
- Tax cap fix. Property tax caps have begun causing budget shortfalls in some districts. House Bill 1062 and Senate Bill 143 together would give districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid those shortfalls. House Bill 1062 passed 94-0 while Senate Bill 143 passed 49-0.
- School transfers. House Bill 1079 allows the siblings of a student who has transferred from one district to another to have preference for making the same transfer. It passed the House 97-0.
- School referendum language. Senate Bill 207 makes changes to the ballot language schools use when they ask their communities to pass referendums for new tax money. It passed the Senate 49-0.
- Complexity index. Senate Bill 363 makes changes to the way school poverty is calculated for some school districts. It passed the Senate 48-0.
- Bond refunding. House Bill 1340 allows for bonds to be refunded when schools consolidate. It passed the House 94-0.