Lawmakers to push partisan school board elections

Republican legislators said their goal was to “take politics out of education” when they voted in 2017 to replace Indiana’s elected superintendent of public instruction with an appointed state education leader. Now those same folks are poised to put politics back into education at the local level.

Expect the Indiana General Assembly to seriously consider legislation to make local school board elections partisan in its 2022 session, which starts in January and ends in March.

Indiana Statehouse dome. (Indiana General Assembly photo).

“I’ve heard there are more than a handful of legislators that support or intend to file bills of this nature,” Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, told me. “I think there is certainly going to be a bill that moves.”

Reportedly some GOP lawmakers were already talking about this idea in the spring, during the final weeks of the 2021 legislative session. But it gained momentum over the summer and fall as school board meetings became hotbeds of conflict over race, COVID-19 precautions and other issues.

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Low pay, child care and the labor shortage

U.S. Sen. Todd Young lamented the current “massive labor shortage” last week in a discussion hosted by the Ellettsville, Indiana, Chamber of Commerce.

“We had 120,000 available jobs in August; we’re up to 150,000 right now,” Young said, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times. “I don’t know where everyone is. What do they do with their time?”

Maybe they’re busy looking for jobs that pay enough for them to live on. Or maybe they’re tried to find jobs like that and concluded they aren’t available.

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Have standardized tests lost their luster?

The story in Education Week carried a provocative headline: “State test results are in. Are they useless?”

So, are they? The story doesn’t go so far as to declare standardized tests a waste of time, but it cautions against using the latest results to evaluate schools and keep track of student performance.

It quotes testing experts and consultants to the effect that you shouldn’t compare spring 2021 test results with those from previous years. In spring 2020, Indiana and most other states canceled their tests. In spring 2021, many schools were online, and test participation was uneven.

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