Will Rogers famously said that “it’s better to have termites in your house than the legislature in session,” and the Indiana General Assembly looks to be well on its way to proving him right again, at least when it comes to education. Among the bills that have been posted in advance of the 2013 session:
// SB 102 bans release time for union activity by public employees, including teachers. Like right-to-work and the forthcoming effort by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce effort to bar schools from collecting union dues with paycheck deductions, it’s another attempt by the state to dictate what employers and employees can agree to. Authors are Sens. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.
// SB 120 requires public and state-accredited schools to teach cursive handwriting as part of the curriculum. Author is Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg.
// SB 189 allows high-performing schools districts – i.e., those serving mostly students from upper-income families – to be exempt from many state rules and regulations. Lead author is Sen. Mike Delph, R- (where else?) Carmel.
// SB 191 bars schools from starting the academic year before Labor Day or extending it past June 10 (with exceptions for year-round school and balanced calendars). Lead author is Delph.
// SB 193 would force Indiana to withdraw from the national Common Core Standards initiative, which the State Board of Education agreed to join back in 2010. Author is Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis.
The bill that’s been getting a lot of attention is SB 23, which would let schools require students to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the start of the school day. Folks, this is not worth getting worked up about, regardless of what you think of the idea. The bill’s author, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, may chair the Senate Education Committee, but he knows full well this would be unconstitutional. He essentially admitted as much in a statement, saying his intent was to “foster a conversation about religious liberty,” not to change law.
Anyway, Senate Speaker Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, assigned the bill to the Rules Committee, which is a pretty good sign it’s not going anywhere. And if the Senate won’t block it, well, House Speaker Brian Bosma may be deeply conservative and highly partisan, but he has more sense than that.
Kruse has also said he plans to introduce a “truth in education” bill that would require teachers to provide evidence if they teach “controversial” theories like evolution. This one doesn’t appear to be posted yet. If it does get filed, it’s also unlikely to go anywhere. But some of the other right-wing measures – especially the anti-union bills and the attacks on Common Core – could get substantial support from the Republican-dominated House and Senate.
Kruse may be an extreme conservative and a fundamentalist Christian, but he’s long had a knack for listening to other people’s viewpoints and working with lawmakers who don’t share his world view. It would be nice, actually, if more state lawmakers had that mindset.